Researchers have announced they have discovered a grave that they believe to be that of Dracula but in Italy, rather than the Romanian Transylvanian Alps as would be expected.  Dracula was based on a historical figure called Vlad III, 15th century Prince of Wallachia who was nicknamed Vlad the Impaler after his death due to his extreme cruelty.

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Vlad the Impaler

History knows Vlad the Impaler from the writings of his enemies, the Ottomans.  He was born in 1431 into a noble family who were part of the Order of the Dragon.  These were aristocrats dedicated to protecting Christianity in the east of Europe from the Ottomans who were expanding in that direction.  His father was named Dracul, meaning dragon so his son became known as Dracula, simply meaning son of Dragon.

Vlad disappeared in 1476 in a battle while is daughter, Maria, was brought to the court of Naples whose family were allied with her own.  She was later adopted by them and married a nobleman in the city.

Rewriting history

Scholars from the University of Tallinn, who have released the new discovery, have found evidence that suggested Vlad was actually taken prisoner then ransomed to his daughter once she was in Italy.  When he died, he was buried in a church in Naples.

The headstone in Naples’ Piazza Santa Maria la Nova is believed to mark his final resting place, near that of his daughter and son in law.  The stone is covered with images and symbols of the House of the Transylvanian Carpathians meaning it is not the tomb of an Italian nobleman.  Medieval scholar Raffaello Glinni also confirmed he believed the tomb to date from the 16th century.

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One of the most important symbols on the headstone is that of the dragon.  Opposite it are two sphinxes that was a way of representing Thebes, also known as Tepes.  The two images together mean Dracula Tepes.

Inspiration for a Classic

During his life, Dracula was the type of person to inspire a terrible character such as the one invented by Bram Stoker.  While he didn’t drink blood directly, a 15th century manuscript stated that he dipped chunks of bread into the blood of people he had killed.

He was also a vengeful sort, who executed numerous people who he thought were involved in his father’s imprisonment.  His father has spent a number of years in a Turkish prison after being betrayed by his own people and was finally buried alive by Hungarians.

He was officially said to have died in 1476 on a battlefield near Bucharest, though this recent discovery in Italy may cast some doubt on this theory.