The sultan was busy on Asian war front, so Vlad did not suffer immediate consequences for refusing to pay tribute in 1459. But in early 1461, the sultan could focus onWallachia.
Fearing it would not take long until he would have to face him on the front and knowing Vlad`s temper, at first Mahomed tried to lure him to his court, using the same trick his father used on Vlad Dracul .
Hoping that history would repeat itself, Thomas Katabolenos was sent to bring Vlad to Constantinople [later renamed Istanbul]. He put his faith in the Greek`s diplomatic talent and planned for one of his subjects [Hamza, who ruled the territory near the border with Wallachia] to meet Vlad while they would cross the Danube.
Katabolenos was supposed to collect 10,000 gold coins – three years tribute plus interest.
Vlad pretended to obey the sultan and left Targoviste with only a few men, leaving personal instructions to his personal army that they were to follow remaining on the inner roads known only to them [forests covering half or more of the country as I stated in a previous article].
He did not hesitate to massacre the men sent to capture him and launched a campaign on the Turkish bank of the Danube. He burned all the settlements he found in his way and killed all the pagans [including women, elders and children].
Following an ingenious strategy, a group was dressed in Turkish robes and simulated a withdrawal to the [fortified] city of Giurgiu. When defenders of the city opened, the group turned against them and the rest of Vlad’s army took advantage of the confusion General and slaughtered the enemy troops without suffering many casualties.
Vlad took a lot of victims and ordered the lifting of the famous Forest of the Impaled, reserving a silver stake for Hamza [the prince that was supposed to capture him and take him to the sultan], so that he could ‘admire’ his subjects freely.
Contrary to urban legend, the forest was not built palace near Targoviste, but on a nearby road.
Some say that the count of 20,000 stakes is probably exaggerated in pamphlets, but even Vlad gives us the number of corpses in a letter to Matthias Corvinus in early 1462 – he counted 23,884. So the forest that stretched nearly 3km and and was about 1km wide is in fact a historical reality!
† Vlad the Impaler
† Count Dracula
In 1457 Vlad helped his cousin take Moldavia, thus ending an alliance with Stephen the Great. History proves, however, that Vlad was to be betrayed by his cousin in one of the hardest moments.
In an attempt to help Wallachian merchants increase their income, he decided to close the roads for the foreigners that enjoyed free pass until then. He allowed them to participate with their goods [but only in large volumes] in three exhibitions at the border; called in documents “store cities” : Targoviste, Campulung and Targsor.
Hence commerce in Wallachia would be made only by local vendors.
Accustomed with frequent changes of rulers, of which in fact they were not estranged, the Germans decided to ignore these orders, so Vlad sent his personal army on their trail.
This type of army was something new and represented the Wallachian prince’s personal guard. Because he had noticed how those in job for the sultan acted, he adapted this new form of organization and hired mercenaries that answered directly to him. These soldiers were hardened in the “art” of war and made up the military elite. To ensure that it will not betray him, Vlad allowed them to steal from the enemy when they attacked settlements at his command.
The Germans captured on Wallachian roads were impaled and their possessions confiscated.
Shortly after this episode, Matthias received letters from the desperate Saxons of Brasov and Sibiu; they complained that they had been attacked by Vlad. What they “forgot” to mention, however, is that he had previously asked them to stop aiding the pretenders to his throne. In fact he was banished himself from Brasov in 1452 because of the same reason.
The refusal to have his opponents banished led to raids in a couple of regions near Brasov and Sibiu! There were many casualties and property damage.
Vlad continued to pay tribute up until 1459 when the sultan asked for 500 of his young for his contingents of janissaries.
This was unprecedented for the Romanian Country because this requirement was specific only to regions under Turkish occupancy and Wallachia retain its autonomy. Vlad paid only a sum calculated according to annual production.
If he had “delivered” the young boys it would have been equivalent to him accepting the integration into the Ottoman political and administrative structures – so occupation.
But even if Wallachia paid tribute it kept its internal autonomy, landowners had the right to choose the ruler, and people practice their own religion without restriction. The Turks had no right to settle permanently [by in possession of houses, buy land or build mosques on the territory]. The only foreigners were tolerated Catholics, but they lived in closed communities and were forbidden to practice any religious rituals in public. Instead, the Orthodox were welcome. Gypsies had slave status and adopted the religion of the majority.
Three years would still pass until the outbreak of war between Vlad the Impaler and the Conqueror of Constantinople.
† Vlad the Impaler
† Count Dracula