||"dawnbreak in the west"|
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Vlad III, failed Charlemagne of the Balkans
Among Netflix's exclusives this year is an American-anime based on Castlevania, itself a game based on the Dracula cycle. I figure it's worth a post here. But first I want to get into the Dragon of the Romanians himself as I understand him.
I always liked the story's villain; and I mean "always" near-literally, from an extreme early age, when it was first parodied on Sesame Street as the muppet Count. I think it was that the draculya had found a way to turn his loneliness into a gothic charisma. On the distaff side, Disney managed the same feat with the Snow Queen. (This was the part of the movie I liked.)
As far as I know, the Dracula story was first told well by Bram Stoker. He noted that the monster had once been human; he chose Vlad III "Tepes" as his base. The historical Vlad certainly acted like an antihero.
Vlad's base lay within a horrific neighbourhood: the Moesian theme, after the Moslems had neutralised the great Balkan citadel of Constantinople (to the extent the city itself was still there, it no longer controlled the crossing). Every tribe in that naturally disunified region then had to decide if they were to accept their new Ottoman masters, or else to throw in with one of the European powers - the khans of the Pannonian Plain being the most likely. In short the Ottoman seizure of Thrace had thrown the Balkans into the Dark Age of Henri Pirenne.
Vlad's people were what Germans called "wallaces", or Vlach - the Celto-Latin peasant stock left over from Rome. It was Vlad's thought that he could hold Wallachia against both powers, the Turks and the Hungarians. To do that Vlad had to unify his own realm. This meant politically, against his own scheming boyars; and perhaps religiously, against outside Islam(s) and the various non-Romanian national churches. Although I haven't read that the latter was as salient for him as the former (we're getting to that next).
Back in the Dark Ages out west, when state-creators went about their work, they sometimes did it the hard way. Charlemagne, for a start, had shed the blood of the Saxon man. There were those in Romania who admired the Great Karl and named cities "Cârlomăneşti" (I know not if before or after Vlad).
So that's what Vlad did, except without Karl's imperial ambitions. Vlad has got worse press than Karl's got, for basically incidental reasons: some of Vlad's victims (like Karl's) were ethnic Germans with friends back home; his time was almost in the printing-press era; and he didn't succeed to the point his descendants could print a counter-narrative, until recently.
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