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An archaeologist may have discovered Dracula’s dungeon in a Turkish Castle. Vlad Tepes was a real person and played an important role in history. The Wallachian prince is both a hero for keeping invading Muslim forces at bay and infamous for the methods he used on his foes. The dungeon where the Turks may have held Vlad as a child has possibly been uncovered in an archaeological excavation of Tokat Castle.
Archaeologist Ibrahim Cetin was working on the restoration and excavation of Turkey’s Tokat Castle when he came across secret, underground tunnels all around the structure. The tunnels link the castle to other areas such as a military shelter and the Pervane Roman baths. He also discovered two hidden dungeons. He is sure that Vlad III and his younger brother Radu were at times imprisoned here during their five years as hostages of the Ottoman Turks.
In the early 15th century Vlad II ruled Wallachia, which is part of present day Romania. The area was vital in preventing Muslim empires from taking over Europe. Vlad II joined the Christian military group the Order of the Dragon and became known as Dracul, the Romanian word for dragon. His son Vlad III was nicknamed Dracula, or son of the dragon. In 1442 Vlad II travelled to the Ottoman Empire to request aid in defending his kingdom against his southern neighbors in Transylvania. The Turks agreed, but in return they demanded he pay an annual tribute and that he leave behind his two younger sons, Dracula, 11 and Radu, 9. The boys were held as hostages until their father and older brother were killed by hostile Transylvanians in 1447.
The Ottoman Turks retained the boys as surety while they had the uneasy treaty with Wallachia. The boys were held at Tokat Castle in Turkey, a lovely citadel high atop a rocky precipice. They were tutored in science, philosophy and the arts. In addition, they learned how to ride horses and fight. However, they more than likely also spent time in the dungeons as prisoners.
During his time in captivity Vlad III nursed a growing hatred for the Turks. After he was released he assumed the throne briefly in 1448, then again from 1456 to 1462. He unleashed his fury against the Ottomans and local enemies in brutal fashion. His name means Vlad the Impaler because that was his favorite modus operandi of terror. It is reported that he once ate dinner amid a forest of impaled enemies. He used guerrilla warfare and scorched earth policies against his enemies; burning crops, poisoning wells and sending infectious diseases. His victories were celebrated by Europeans but he also earned a dark reputation. His enemies told stories of torture, beheading, sadistic punishments, burying people up to the neck, boiling people alive and, of course, the impaling. It is estimated that Dracula killed 80,000 enemies. 20,000 were impaled and displayed at one time in the city of Targoviste.
Vlad’s reign took place during the fall of Constantinople (1453) and the conquest of the Balkans. While alive, he represented a small island of a free Europe. Then he was betrayed by his ally, the King of Hungary, ambushed, captured and held as prisoner once again. More than ten years passed before he was released and then his third ascension to the throne lasted only two months. Mystery swirls around Vlad Tepes’ death along a lonely forest path in 1476/77, but it is certain he died. His head was cut off, preserved in honey, and eventually sent to his mortal foes in Istanbul. His body was buried unceremoniously in an unknown location. Historians’ best guess is that he lies under the Comana monastery he founded.
The new discovery of the dungeons provides a glimpse into the past and a focus on Vlad III just as a new movie is about to be released. Dracula Untold opens in theaters Friday, Oct. 10. It is part horror, part adventure fantasy and a tiny part history. The movie portrays Vlad as a fierce protector of the land against an invading force. His leadership kept the Turks from taking over that part of Romania for many years. His reputation for sadistic tortures inspired Bram Stoker’s supernatural horror novel Dracula and seems exaggerated in this film as well.
Romania remains one of the best preserved areas of medieval Europe. The remote mountain region was not developed to any great extent and is still full of beautiful castles. In fact, one of Vlad’s bases, Bran Castle, is on sale. Bran Castles was built in 1388 to defend the southeastern border of Transylavania. Anyone with $80 million can step back in time and reside in the picturesque fortress. With Vlad’s history, the new owner should not be someone susceptible to gory ghost stories. This is the castle the provided the setting for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, although Poenari castle was his primary lair.
While excavating Tokat, an archaeologist may have discovered Dracula’s dungeon in the Turkish castle. Vlad III was held by the Turks throughout his teens. A childhood of resented captivity could have turned him into the brutal warrior and killer characterized by history. Finding the dungeons allows people to glimpse the past and understand a bit more about this complex hero/villain and fascinating time period.
By: Rebecca Savastio