Notes: Episode 38, Vlad The Impaler (Part 2)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


6:57 – This rule of three to one in warfare isn’t some newfangled idea, either. Anthropologists and primatologists have witnessed chimpanzees using a similar rule-of-thumb when attacking other groups of chimpanzees, suggesting that we have likely understood this rule for millions of years. It checks out practically as well as mathematically, and we didn’t exactly need a Sun Tzu to teach it to us as a species – we already knew.

21:22 – To be honest, I’m a little suspicious of this. I haven’t been able to find anything yet that contradicts the narrative of 20,000 corpses on pikes, but I have a very hard time believing that not only was Vlad’s own estimate of his kill count corect, but that he and his small group carried that many corpses back to Tsergoviste over the course of about four months of raids. Were there bodies on pikes lining the road? Almost certainly. Were there 20,000? I highly doubt it. Might some of them been criminals, elderly, or diseased Wallachians that were made to look like Turks? Why not? But I have yet to see anything that doesn’t list the number as 20,000 and the identities as Ottoman. It just doesn’t pass the smell test for me.

23:33 – Despair. The word I want to say this entire time is “despair”. L’esprit d’escalier – look it up because I’ve got it bad right now.

24:47 – Radu being Vlad’s brother, not Mehmed’s. That was an unclear use of pronouns. Radu was indeed younger than Vlad by four years.

26:26 – Pictures of Vlad and Radu for comparison.

41:29 – Yes, Mehmed II was still the ruler of the Ottomans at this time. He was surprisingly young when he took Constantinople, and despite only living to 49, still outlived Vlad III by a full four to five years.

44:31 – For those not closely following Canadian politics, or listening long enough after this is posted for the issue to have faded somewhat, there was quite a bit of rhetoric during the Canadian federal election in October 2015 surrounding the right of Muslim women to keep their face covered with a niqab (full face veil) while voting. The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that they are allowed to do so, and indeed, it is possible for anyone to vote in Canada without photographic identification provided they meet a number of other criteria. The fact that it’s constitutionally acceptable to vote in a ski mask but a niqab is under scrutiny raises questions of whether the issue is a coded disenfranchisement of Muslim women – the message being either expose their faces in defiance of their religion and as an act of assimilation into Western culture, or refuse to expose it and be barred from full civic life and participation as a true Canadian citizen. A number of political parties have spoken against this ruling in the past (the only major one that has not is the New Democratic Party), but in 2015 it was a hallmark of the unsuccessful campaign by the incumbent Conservative Party of Canada and seen by some as an appeal to fear and lower education, as well as an example of islamophobia in Canada. These reactions seem to be highest in Quebec, which tends to be quite socially conservative due to its status as a minority social group in a predominantly English society, but it is prevalent throughout Canadian society as it is in so many countries today. Current perceptions of religious clothing is certainly not part of the purview of history, but I think the parallel to the story of the messengers and their turbans is fairly clear.

45:25 – The title I was trying to remember was “The Story Of A Hothead Named Dracula Of Wallachia”, which a) is an extremely compelling title in my opinion, and b) completely buries the lead in terms of just how hot-headed Vlad truly was.

49:51 – The quote “a single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic” is regularly attributed to Joseph Stalin, although it may have originated elsewhere.

59:45 – By “Western countries”, I of course meant “Allied countries”. Just a slip.

2 thoughts on “Notes: Episode 38, Vlad The Impaler (Part 2)”

  1. Maile Delgado says:

    I actually just stubbled upon your podcast today! I truly enjoyed as vlad the impaler is my favorite person to talk about in history! Now to make things short I have decided to write a book on the representation of True evil through out history and I thought he would be a good subject to talk about! Big question here do you think he is a truly evil person or did he just do evil things in order to make a statement! Please I would like to know what you really think!?

    1. Adam says:

      Hey Maile,

      You aren’t kidding – that is a big question! It’s also a question that I would consider outside of what history is equipped to answer. I think the idea of “true evil” and other questions about human nature are much more philosophical than historical. Vlad certainly had his reasons for brutality (as opposed to violence for no discernible reason), and I personally think he saw them as justified for protecting his people. I also think he was spun as more of a villain than he deserved, though that doesn’t mean he wasn’t a villain at all. Whether his justifications are good enough, or if they’re simply attempts by an evil man to convince himself of the righteousness of his own actions, isn’t one I can answer for you. It would be a fascinating one to explore for a book though! Good luck with writing it!

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