Thursday, March 26, 2015

Dracula’s Armies

Mircea the Elder, grandfather of Vlad Tepes, accepted the suzerainty of Poland in 1387 and of Hungary in 1395.

Mircea’s reign strengthened the power of the state. New offices were organized, increased economic development moved ahead and trade with the merchants of Poland and Lithuania flourished. With the increase revenue, Mircea was able to flex his military power and fortify the Danube citadels. Renewal of treaties with Hungary and Poland ensured focus on the common threat, the Ottoman expansion.

Mircea’s intervention, supporting the Bulgarians, brought him in conflict with the Ottomans. Sultan Beyazid (the Thunderbolt) crossed the Danube with 40,000. With less than 10,000 troops, Mircea used guerilla warfare to maximum effect. On October 10, 1394, the armies clashed at Rovine, a forested and swamp area which inhibited the Ottomans from fully utilizing their superior numbers.

Despite a glorious victory, Mircea was forced to fall back to Hungary as Vlad Uzurpatorul had seized the throne. While exiled in Hungary, her monarch called for a Crusade against the Ottomans. Contingents from as far away as France, the Holy Roman Empire, Genoa, Venice and Bulgaria assembled and crossed the Danube. The Battle of Nicopolis ended any hope of the Crusade flourishing.

In 1397, with the help of Hungary, Mircea defeated Vlad the Usurper and stopped further Ottoman encroachment across the Danube. Further expeditions by the Ottomans met with no further success. The summer of 1402 began a period of anarchy when Sultan Beyazid met defeat by Tamerlane at Ankara.

Subsequent campaigns further strengthened Mircea’s power and toward the end of his reign, the Ottomans settled a treaty with tribute to halt any further attempts to make Wallachia a province of the Ottoman Empire.

Vlad the Impaler was a medieval Romanian prince famed for his brutal torture techniques and vicious lust for battle. His family name was Draculea, meaning ‘son of the dragon’. In legend, he is said to have turned against God after the death of his wife, becoming the evil undead. This myth lead to the modern interpretation of Count Dracula and other Vampire stories. In reality, Vlad was not a count but a prince. Whilst he was born in Transylvania, Vlad was Crown Prince of Wallachia, a country in the south of present day Romania, bordering Transylvania. He frequently made attacks on Transylvania, which was a contested region, and slaughtered many there for not accepting his authority.

Whilst Dracula is commonly associated with evil he is sometimes seen as being somewhat of a Christian hero. He was a member of the ‘order of the dragon’, an order of Hungarian knights sworn to protect Christian lands from the Muslim Ottoman Empire. Located between Christian Hungary and the huge Ottoman Empire, Wallachia was on the front line in the Ottoman expansion into Europe. Vlad’s barbarous torture techniques have earned him a place in history but they were not altogether unusual in medieval Europe. They may also have been exaggerated by his enemies. Impalement was supposedly his preferred method of execution, but this was common practice at the time. Reports that he burned entire villages to the ground are also unsurprising. In Western Europe, however, tales of Vlad’s attacks across the Balkans led to him being branded a ‘bloodthirsty’ tyrant. In Russia, on the other hand, stories of his brutality were equally rife, but most portrayed him as being a strong ruler and justified in his actions. These Russian accounts tell that he nailed hats to ambassadors’ heads.

The idea that Dracula was immortal may be derived from his own propaganda or that of the Ottomans, who found it difficult to put an end to his insurgency. When he finally was killed in battle, the Ottomans removed his head and placed it on display as proof of his death. It was impaled on a spike in a final twist of irony.

WALLACHIAN 1330 AD - 1504 AD
Rich boyars
Lesser boyars or viteji
Armoured voynuks with pole arms
curteni archers
Other rustici with spears, javelins, axes, halberds, flails, maces and scythes
Only Wallachians:
Moldavian allies
Hungarian allies
Ottoman allies
Wallachians after 1455 AD:
Ditch and earth bank to protect artillery

This covers the Wallachians from their independence from Hungary in 1330 until they became vassals of the Ottomans in 1476 after the death of Dracula (Vlad Tepes, "Vlad the Impaler", 1456 - 1462 and 1476), The boyars were the nobility. Viteji were landowning peasants; many were promoted to the gentry by Dracula for bravery on the battlefield - and given the wealth of boyars he had impaled or otherwise inventively eliminated. The curteni were the standing army of cavalry and infantry. An Italian traveller of the mid-15th century described the Wallachian army as "ranking among the most valiant in the world". Wallachians sought to fight in mountain defiles, woods or marshy ground to restrict enemy cavalry. Some boyars wore partial plate armour and fought with lances, but others were of Lithuanian origin and may have fought in Lithuanian style. The Wallachians preferred a more mobile battle, launching sudden attacks from ambush and under Dracula indulging in night surprises and atrocities that established a complete morale ascendency over the Turks, who at night huddled terrified behind their camp defences. The so-called "Crusaders" were Italians and Bosnians and Croats in Italian armour and were actually paid mercenaries.

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