Dracula v. The Ottoman Empire: Geography's Role (Part I)

This story explores how physical geography led to a showdown between Dracula (yes, he was a real person) and the fearsome Ottoman Empire. 

Wallachia c. 1390

Encroaching Danger
In the mid-fifteenth century, few names struck as much fear into European hearts as did the Ottoman Empire.  In 1453, Constantinople, thought to be impenetrable, was overrun by Ottoman forces.  The capital of the Eastern Roman Empire had fallen.  Psychologically devastating, the defeat also gave the Ottomans a foothold in Eastern Europe.   One of the first territories set upon by Ottoman invaders was the relatively small territories of Transylvania and Wallachia (parts of modern-day Romania).  These territories served as the birthplace and kingdom of Vlad III (Dracula).

Land of Plenty
Though small, the region is surrounded by rivers that create abundant agricultural fields.  Mountains help create natural defensive barriers and their valleys were used as crucial trade routes between northern Europe and the Black Sea. The Ottoman Empire needed the agriculture to support its growing empire and feed its far-flung military.  The Ottomans, like all empires, needed to constantly expand their treasury and controlling those vital trade-routes would ensure financial gains.  To control the land, the Ottomans would have to strike down a former prisoner.

Vlad III and his younger brother had spent about five years of their childhood as the Ottoman Empire's political prisoners.  Their father, Vlad II had been forced to leave the children in Ottoman isolation after he turned to the empire for help fighting a neighbor.  The children served as political capital to make sure their father didn't betray the Ottomans. However, shortly after the brutal murder of Vlad II at the hands of his own nobility, Vlad III and his brother were allowed to return to their homeland.  It was a decision that set the stakes for future bloodshed between two legendary powers.

Continued in Part 2

Thanks for reading.

Enjoy learning about legendary figures, try this article on Saint George.

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