Ethnographic Arms & Armour

Ethnographic Arms & Armour (
-   European Armoury (
-   -   Wallachian Swords of the 15th Century: What Types? (

Jim McDougall 11th July 2009 06:41 PM

Wallachian Swords of the 15th Century: What Types?
Recently I received a query concerning interest in what type of sword might have been carried by Vlad III, who is of course more recognized for his inspiration for the fictional character of Bram Stoker, Dracula.

In trying to learn more on this, I decided that the title I have used might keep things more focused on the topic of the weapons, without being drawn into the psuedo Gothic pop culture perspective more commonly associated with this historical figure.

Apparantly Vlad (1431-1476) was the son of Vlad Dracul, whose name 'Dracul' derived from his appointment to the somewhat secretive fraternal Order of the Dragon in 1431. This rather elite organization for rulers and high officials was essentially derived from and in league with other military orders such as the Tuetonic Knights, Hospitallers et al. and apparantly begun by the Hungarian Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund in 1408.
The appointment of Vlad (the senior) to Dracul took place in Nuremberg.
It should be noted that Wallachia in these times was profoundly settled by Saxons, and trade activity was accordingly with German merchants in its major cities.

It would seem that it would be most likely that the swords of the Wallachian forces would likely have come from the weapons producers of Germany, and consisted of knightly weapons associated with heavy armored European style warfare. Also, the swords of Byzantine Bulgaria may have also been prevalent. However, the question seems to be, would Vlad III, Dracula, the son, have used a sabre?

While the Ottomans had taken the Bulgarian regions, it seems important to try to establish when the sabre became prominantly in use by the Ottomans, and would Vlad III have adopted its use. So far I have found that the form was 'recognizable' by the end of the 15th century, and that Hungarian sabres, whose form derived from Ottoman sabres were not actually seen until the 16th century.

I have not found any evidence of any sword attributed to Vlad III, although we have had visits to museums in Transylvania and others shared here it seems in past years.

I'd like to know what others think on this, and of anyone is aware of any sword in any museum attributed to, or if the type possibly used, by Vlad III.

All best regards,

kronckew 11th July 2009 09:01 PM

did we not have a discussion about regional sabres, ie. hungarian (magyar) ones existing in the 9th c.? i seem to recall seeing some museum exhibits of the same. i remember as i have a couple of modern repro magyar sabres
from the 9c & 16c. & the 9c museum ones looked much like corroded versions of mine...which actually came from hungary and made by a hungarian swordsmith.

vlad would likely have had a bit fancier one i suspect. the yelmanned one at the bottom was supposedly an early 16c magyar, so would only have been a few decades after he was killed, there must have been some transitioning style in between.

the man himself:

as he was incarcerated by the king of hungary, only to wind up marrying one of his daughters as his second wife, (he died in battle with the turks a couple of years later) he would have been very familiar with the magyar sabres of the period. as he hated the turk with a passion, he would be less likely to use a turkish format weapon...none of the various paintings of him from the period that i've seen show him with a weapon.

ah, yes found the thread here

i think the sabre in the posts by matchlock & tvv just before your terminal post looks like one vlad would have been happy with.

seems to be nicknamed 'the charlemagne' or the 'attila' sword. maybe it's really the vlad sword ;)

Jim McDougall 12th July 2009 04:45 AM

Hi Kronckew,
Thank you so much for responding and for finding these threads. I seem to be getting worse at finding things.......good one on the 'terminal' thread!! :) LOL! I seem to have a lot of those.....just call me the terminator....oh well, a guys gotta get the last word in somewhere.

Those truly are beautiful sabres, especially the Magyar. I have always thought these early Hungarian sabres were incredibly attractive, and somehow though I thought they were earlier, it seems these are believed to descend from the Turkish forms of the 16th century. Vlad was killed in 1476.
Most of what I can find seems to suggest that if Wallachia was so prevalently occupied by Saxons, there was strong German trade, and the
Order of the Dragon was a Germanic order focused on heavily armoured knights, then Germanic arming broadswords were plausibly used.

In one museum in Transylvania there is an example of one of these broadswords of the general type, must find the post (I think Radu posted it). These are seen in "Cut and Thrust Weapons" (Wagner, plate 24) hexagonal cross section pommel, cross guard in reversed S shape, straight broadsword, captioned Germanic c.1450. Others are also simple crossguard knightly broadswords.

The only substance I can find that would suggest the use of a sabre of this Hungarian/Turkish form would be that Vlad was assisted in recovering his rule by the Hungarians the same year of his death, 1476. If the use of these sabres extended that far back, rather than the 16th century that seems generally held, it might be possible.
I know it is a common misconception that throughout the Crusades, the Saracens all wielded deeply curved sabres, though it is known that mostly the swords were simple crossguard straight broadswords, similar to those of the European crusaders. There were however some curved swords, the European falchions more a heavy blade with radiused edge. It is unclear to me what type curved swords the Muslim forces might have had.

Thank you for posting this Kronckew!! Those are beauties, and as you say, perhaps it is the 'Vlad' sword.......thanks also for the portrait of the 'Prince of Darkness' :)

All the best,

kronckew 12th July 2009 05:24 AM

dates are always confusing me, 1476 is the last quarter of the 15th century and only 24 years from the 16th century - which starts in 1500, so i had lept at the assumption that the changes over that short a period would not have been great. wallachia had been under mongol rule until the early 1300's (14th century) when hungary took over, so curved mongolian style swords would possibly be familiar objects. the area involved:

found this partial image of a statue of him holding a sword that is straight however. not found any details on the date of the statue

this one shows vlad recieving turkish envoys, seems to show him wearing a sabre very like the charlemagne/attilla/9c kronckew repro.

again, no date info on painting, may have been dramatic license of a later artist. national gallery bucharest.

cropped/sharpened section:

he has a mace in this one

edited:found a better photo, shows a sword

this one looks to be fairly recent, no sword visible, is that his coat of arms?

of course attempts to photograph him in later years after his death were unsuccessful as his image cannot be photographed or seen in a mirror ;)

(i personally suspect that as his head was removed and sent to the turkish sultan in instanbul, where it was displayed, fittingly, impailed on a spike, that his transformation into a classical vampire would have been impossible. severing the head (or spine) was one of the traditional ways to kill one. he would have made a great headless horseman tho, ichabod crane would have loved to meet him)

TVV 12th July 2009 06:30 AM

1 Attachment(s)
Approximately at the same time Vlad III ruled Wallachia, in neighboring Moldova ruled Stefan the Great, whose sword is currently in the Top Kapi armoury in Istanbul.

Courtesy of Micha Hofmann in the MyArmoury forums, I was able to find the following image, which I think shows the sword quite well. Too bad the Ottomans did not decide to keep one of Vlad's swords as a memento of him, it would have helped us a lot.

David Nicolle wrote a book on the region's arms and armor for Osprey, titled something like "Hungary and the Fall of the Eastern Roman Empire", which may contain some insight in the arms used in Wallachia in the 15th century.


kronckew 12th July 2009 07:55 AM

as mentioned, this all was going on around the time of the fall of the roman empire, which ended with the fall of byzantium/constantinople in 1453 (name changed officially to 'istanbul' in 1930 - the turks called it mostly constantinople (Kostantiniyye in turkish) tho some called it istanbul or other variants).

constantinople was defended by 7000 odd men in 1453, mostly venetian and genoese mercenaries against 80,000 turks, mehmet used siege artillery to batter down it's formidable walls. as the sons of the then emperor fled, and the remaining free roman states were not conquered till 1460, one could argue that as the date of the final fall, or even 1503 when the last graeco-roman 'emperor' died.

quite a mix of cultures and weapons in the area in the latter half of the 15th c. this event is seen as the end of the dark ages, and the start of renaissance europe as the populace that fled spread byzantine culture throughout europe.

wheelocks are thought to have been invented around 1500, wonder if ol' vlad may have had a beta copy for evaluation from one of the techie geeks of the age.

Jim McDougall 12th July 2009 01:56 PM

Kronckew and Teodor,
Thank you so much guys for this great information, and excellent images!!!
It would seem the statues reflect the knightly broadswords of medieval Europe as the type weapon likely used by Vlad, and this would seem to agree with the powerful German/Saxon presence in Wallachia and these regions.

Teodor, great work in locating the photos of the sword of Stefan the Great held in Topkapi, and our appreciation extended to MyArmoury forums for sharing it. Interesting item above the sword, which appears ivory.

Kronckew, LOL!! You truly have a great sense of humor! I truly love your pop-ups , along with the great images you share.

The painting of Vlad seated is kind of blurred, but the sword pommel seems to correspond to the Hungarian/Turkish sabres, and it seems I can see a trace of what appears to be the very wide crossguard. As often is the case, I would suspect artists license here.
The period of Vlad III would seem to take place in the time of the dramatic transformation from Medieval to renaissance, and such change did not take place overnight. It would seem that the advent of sabres was likely quite connected to the developing of light cavalry, the sipahi, as frontier type units often comprised of warriors from tribes of the Steppes.
While the traditional swords of standing armies of the Ottomans likely followed similar broadswords to those of the Mamluks early weapons, it seems that the sabre gradually supplanted these forms.

As mentioned previously, the Transylvanian museum images I have seen, seem to have numerous sword forms, the Germanic broadswords of varying form as well as I believe some elaborate hilted examples of Hispano-Moresque form, which I would presume were some sort of diplomatic gift rather than commonly used form. Going by uncaptioned photos is always a bit precarious as there are numbers of other weapons, such as Austro-Hungarian sabres of as late as 19th century and kilijs etc. in many of the same display cases.

Thanks again guys very much!

All the best,

P.S. Thanks for the heads up Teodor on the Osprey title.....its on the way but I'll have to call for an airdrop probably if it doesnt get here before the bus rolls :) David Nicolle is a brilliant scholar and author on the history of the weaponry of these regions and periods.

Samik 12th July 2009 03:05 PM

Hello ,
I thought I would chime in on those pesky sabres ;). Usualy the knightly class (i.e. western shock cavalry) of the pre-Mohacs(1526) era hungary was equipped with longswords, pretty much like their germanic cousins. However sabres were a common weapon of the light cavalry long before any contact with Ottoman Turks happened (light cavalry usually consisting of Pechengs , later on Cumanians and Szekely (sic) which were semi-nomadic nations that resided in the lands of hungarian kings and fought pretty much like mongols).

If I may I would also disagree a little bit with you Jim (hope you dont mind ;) ) that hungarian sabres were the direct descendants of Turkish sabres and only appeared in the course of 16th century. There is evidence both in form of antique weapons (hope I can post this link from another "armoury" website , if not I will try to edit the post) and in heraldy ( a rare 1466 Corvinus era coat of arms , that belongs to some hussar by the name of Peter). As you can see from the above examples the sabres had more in common with schiavonesca style swords than Kilij-proper ( I dont like to call the turkish sabres "kilij" , AFAIK its a generic term for sword , but whatever ;) ). Note the handle and the presence of a "sword" pommel. Furthermore there is a nice example of a schiavonesca-style longsword alongside a similarly styled sabre

To determine the armament used by count Vlad III. is however a bit difficult. If he was the typical 15th century Wallachian nobleman like his father (and many other Hungarian ones) that served as a knightly/shock cavalry (again I dont like to use the term "heavy" , it somehow conveys clumsiness and slowness , which was not the case imho) it would look pretty much like this I guess

However from what little I know about Vlad's life , in his early youth he was sent together with his brother to Turkey as a hostage. There he was however trained in Ottoman way of war and Qur'an logic. I even think that his "comeback" arrival home was with an ottoman army ,in order to seize fathers kingdom and to become a sort of a pupper ruler for the ottomans (I am not sure on this story though I would welcome if somebody more familiar with Vlad's life could check it up). Thus one might argue that he could have access to Turkish weaponry, although the lack of evidence is preventing from making any such claims.

P.S: English is not my native language , so sorry for any errors

P.S.2: I am a new guy here , so please go easy on me :D and HELLO everyone :)

Jim McDougall 12th July 2009 04:32 PM

Hello Samik, and WOW, thats what I call an entrance!!!! Welcome :)

I absolutely do not mind you disagreeing, in fact the outstanding information you have presented beautifully orients our discussion (no pun intended) concerning whether Vlad's sword might have been a sabre of Ottoman form.

Excellent point on the ethnic diversity of Hungary in these times, and indeed there were varying nomadic tribes from the Steppes who certainly are known for using the developing sabre form. This truly is well placed information and in focusing on the Ottomans, had entirely overlooked the presence of these peoples in Eastern European kingdoms.

I know what you mean about the term 'heavy cavalry' or heavily armoured etc. and I think the best example I can think of that disproves that misconception were the Polish 'Winged Hussars', which of course is simply one example of European armoured cavalry. ...hardly slow, and definitely most formidable.

You are also quite right in the note regarding application of sword terms, which is also often extremely misleading, and there seems to be so many instances where a more detailed description is much more effective. It seems we have had debates on terminology so often, which seldom resolve any of the issues, but also prove interesting when new perspective or evidence is presented.

Again, I am so glad you joined us here, and thank you so much for the beautifully presented observations, links and perspective. I very much look forward to your continued participation in searching more into this puzzle.

All the very best,

Samik 12th July 2009 04:45 PM

Thank you for the warm welcome Jim!

As for joining this forum I have always wanted to do so long ago , but only recently discovered (well today to be precise) that I had to email Mr. Jones in order to register (silly me!). I would also like to thank you and the other forum members as you were one of the sources of inspiration for me in order to pursue further knowledge about the subject. :)

But enough with my rant, lets see if I (or somebody else) will try to dig some more about Vlad...(oh and Wallachian swords of the 15th century!)

Sorry for the interference ;)

Jim McDougall 12th July 2009 05:06 PM

Originally Posted by Samik
Thank you for the warm welcome Jim!

As for joining this forum I have always wanted to do so long ago , but only recently discovered (well today to be precise) that I had to email Mr. Jones in order to register (silly me!). I would also like to thank you and the other forum members as you were one of the sources of inspiration for me in order to pursue further knowledge about the subject. :)

But enough with my rant, lets see if I (or somebody else) will try to dig some more about Vlad...(oh and Wallachian swords of the 15th century!)

Sorry for the interference ;)

Not interference Samik!!! Participation, and thank you for the kind words.
We share knowledge and learn together here, and you are clearly a valuable addition to the group. Please rant away, you're right with us :)

All the best,

Emanuel 13th July 2009 05:10 PM

Hi Jim and all,

Nice topic :) Radu would have jumped on it in the past. As the apparently only Romanian on the board, I'll chime in for a bit. My understanding is that Valahian culture and arms and armour were subject to multiple spheres of influence in the 15th century. The examples I have seen in the military museum in Bucharest range from straight European blades to Ottoman blades. Axes and maces were also quite popular, and as Samik pointed out (welcome Samik) there is great similarity with Hungarian equipment. Armies were also drawn from the peasantry, so equipment was often rudimentary and agricultural implements were often used.

Vlad would have been at ease with both Western and Ottoman arms and armour. He may have hated Turks, but he would not have disregarded their technology. Until he actively opposed the Porte and stopped paying tribute, he even had Ottoman troops on loan.

I have lost much of my picture archives in the past, but I will try to track down some museum pics and dated examples.

I've often looked for a weapon type that was distinctly Romanian / Vlach / Dacian, but there isn't much besides the Dacian falx, and even that is a continuation of other tools and weapons (the rhomphaia, convex Thracian daggers, and others) rather than a local invention. Vlachs were not a particualrly warlike people and we did not develop a strong martial spirit. Our coniving Boers didn't help, preferring to pay tribute to the Porte rather than support a unifying prince.


Samik 13th July 2009 07:05 PM

Hi Emanuel ,

Thanks for your welcome as well.
As you happen to be a native to that part of world Im sure you are more versed in the history of Dracula than most of us. I would kindly ask you if you could elaborate a bit more (if its okay with you and not too much offtopic) on the relationship between the Ottoman Sultan , Vlad , his dad and Hunyady(hungarian regent/ruler at the time). It seemed to me (from reading some of the pseudofactual biography of Vlad) that there was some backstory and tension in the air both from hungarians and turks. I remember reading an article on Vlad from a Slovak historian that pointed out that the massacres and killings under Vlad’s ruling might partly come from the exaggaration of Ottoman and Hungarian chronicles. From what (little) I gather, he was somewhat reluctant to join either party and that "obstinacy" of his could be the cause of the infamous notoriety (sort of like a late medieval propoganda).

You might know Count Elizabeth Bathory from upper hungary , (Slovakia at present) , that had been accussed of murdering young women. However some of those accusations were overstatements ,that sometimes drifted to purely ridiculous claims such as the notorious habit of "bathing in virgins blood". Later on it became evident that the authors of those claims were some of Elizabeth’s peers looking for a way to put her behind bars and claim her (vast) property and riches. Personaly I see a bit of paralels with Vlad (not only in the fact that the Bathory lineage has roots from that part of balkans ;). Even Hunyady’s son Matthias Corvinus (that was nicknamed "Just") wasnt really a fan of Vlad’s and imprisoned him for some time IIRC. Imho origins on the matter might shed some further light on the topic (even if it touches it only lightly).

Furthermore you mentioned that Vlachs were not really a warlike folk. However Heat’s Armies of the Middle Ages , part 2 that focuses on eastern europe and balkans among other things (mind you a bit outdated source , the book was published in 1984, and even though its target audience is wargamers, still has some valid passages nevertheless) explicitly says " The Cumans and Wallachians were very similar in arms and appearance, and significantly the term 'Cuman' and 'Wallachian' are used interchangebly in 13th-14th century Hungarian sources." As far as Cumans/Cumanians (in their native tongue they called themselves "Kipcak", Hungarians called them "Kunó") are concerned I can tell you that they were a hell of a fighters/warriors (having a lineage and art of war coming right out of the eurasian steepe).

I am aware of the fact that during Vlad’s reign a lot could change ( The somewhat germanic Order of the dragon and whatnot), but despite this the lineage of Dracul/Dracula’s predecessors seems to have link to Bassarab (I not sure on this a checkup would be welcomed) which was a Cumanian ruler and most definetley a "saber-wielder" :cool:

P.S: excuse the somewhat awkward attempt in quoting the source, the book in mind is this

Cheers ,

Emanuel 13th July 2009 08:17 PM

Hi Samuel,

Your comments are quite right. I'll comment quickly now and get back later with a detailed response.

Romanians generally think well of Vlad Tepes. His rule was characterized by relative fairness to peasants and the poor, stable laws, and a balance to the power of the Boier landowners. He is also well remembered for his sustained opposition to the Turks and his attempt to keep Valahia independent of the Ottoman Empire and the other European powers alike. A good reason to vilify him. I don't doubt some of his cruelty to his enemies, both foreign and Vlach, but I think the accounts of it exaggerated.

Cumans (a Turkic people) were indeed warlike, the reason a number of our rulers were of Cuman decent, or at least claimed such decent. But with the exception of the Ottoman wars, there were relatively few engagements with neighbours, mostly with Hungary, and generally focused on the unification of the three "Romanian" principalities, Transylvania, Valahia and Moldova.

More later... :)

Elias Shereider 14th July 2009 12:45 PM

Originally Posted by Samik
However from what little I know about Vlad's life , in his early youth he was sent together with his brother to Turkey as a hostage. There he was however trained in Ottoman way of war and Qur'an logic. I even think that his "comeback" arrival home was with an ottoman army ,in order to seize fathers kingdom and to become a sort of a pupper ruler for the ottomans (I am not sure on this story though I would welcome if somebody more familiar with Vlad's life could check it up). Thus one might argue that he could have access to Turkish weaponry, although the lack of evidence is preventing from making any such claims.

Yes Samik,

At the 14 years (its de 'Juvenis' age, a adult man in the XV) Vlad was retained by the Murad II in her court un the Ottoman empire for 4 years 1444-1448.
Vlad return to Vallachia in 1448 after the battle of KosovoJ with 30.000 Turkish soldiers to reign Vallachia in Mullads's name.

This indicates that his first sword was Turkish.

sorry for my bad english,


Jim McDougall 15th July 2009 07:06 PM

Originally Posted by Elias Shereider
Yes Samik,

At the 14 years (its de 'Juvenis' age, a adult man in the XV) Vlad was retained by the Murad II in her court un the Ottoman empire for 4 years 1444-1448.
Vlad return to Vallachia in 1448 after the battle of KosovoJ with 30.000 Turkish soldiers to reign Vallachia in Mullads's name.

This indicates that his first sword was Turkish.

sorry for my bad english,


Hi Elias, and welcome!!! I'm glad to see you here. I hope you will find the discussion intreresting, and add findings from your research on this topic as well.

While I still have been trying to catch up on the complexity of the history of these regions in these times, and am in complete admiration of the command of it by Samik, as well as Emanuel, I'm still not convinced that Vlad would have carried an Ottoman type sword.

It remains that the German influences in Wallachia were prevalent, and certainly the sword blades were as well. In "Hungary and the Fall of Eastern Europe 1000-1568" by David Nicolle (Osprey, 2001, p.26) the sword of Stephan the Great of Moldavia c.1480 is shown (also seen in post #5 here). It is a standard simple crossguard broadsword with blade believed possibly imported from Germany.
Though obviously suggested, not declared, the note is simply to show that these German blades were straight broadsword forms used apparantly extensively in these regions in these times, and by prominant figures. The influence and import of German arms and armour had prevailed for well over two centuries at this point, and certainly would have been well established.

While Vlad was held by the Ottomans, and certainly did receive training by them, it does not necessarily prove that he subscribed to thier styles and weaponry, despite various suggestions of his doing so by later accounts and particularly artistic interpretations.

I think one strong suggestion for the possibility of Vlad's use of a sabre is probably the noted influences of the Cuman (Kipchak) tribes in Hungary and their use of sabres is of course well known, as was that of other steppes tribes whose ethnic presence throughout these regions is established.
Since Vlads final reign was accomplished in the year of his death 1476 with the help of Hungary, perhaps that light have presented the potential for sabres at his disposal.

As always, looking forward to more from Samik, Emaneul and Elias and others who have far better understanding of this history than I, and thier thoughts.

All the best,

Samik 15th July 2009 10:47 PM

Hello Jim and everybody ,

Thanks Elias for the confirmation on Vlad's early life. Man being 18 years old and already leading an army is something. I am also looking forward for more info coming from you Emanuel ;).

Great observation on the weapon carried by Draculas' father Jim. And yeah the Cuman presence was quite heavy in the region. Like Emanuel pointed out , many Vlach rulers saw themselves as being descended from their bloodline ( we mention them so much in this thread that they must be spinning in their graves by now :D , but anyway they are a bit overlooked factor imo).

However one has to take into consideration that Vlad II was probably a western styled men at arms , using different tactics and weapons than the Cuman warriors. The reason behind him using a longsword as opposed to a sabre isnt just a thing of fashion. It is imho purely a practical one. Western knightly cavalry (or men at arms) were by no means only reserved to fighting from horseback, they often dismounted and fighted on foot , with the longsword providing an edge (pun intended) in hand to hand combat and for its better reach (as well as handling and power generation coming from the usage of both hands).

The evidence for such tactics are very apparent at Nicopolis where the French crusaders (after smashing through akinji light horse) ended up being trapped at anti-cavalry baricades (spikes coming from the ground and such) ;decided to dismount and had no problems dealing considerable damage to the ottoman footsoldiers (the real trouble came from the shower of arrows that was delivered by Sipahi's that managed to outflank them). Another great example of their versatility is a bit later painting depicting the battle of orsha ( IIRC coming from 1530’s, whlist the battle took place in the 1515)

I cant stress how much that painting is important both for us arms and armour enthusiast , period military researchers and even HEMA community.( I would like to start a separate threat on this fabulous painting , but for now Dracula has bigger magnitude.) Notice the Polish men-at-arms (in maximilian-esque armour) not only guarding cannons/wagenburgen from behind but also being dismounted and placed on flanks and in between the canons themselves. You can see them fighting off the Muscovy Boyars , that are armed in a pretty much Tatar fashion. Which brings me back to those favourite Cumanians of ours.

They (Cumans) were much more comfortable shooting their bow from horseback and using a sabre as a reserve weapon in h2h combat or when in pursuit of fleeling (already broken) troops (pretty much like the Boyars of Muscovy , depicted at the splendid Orsha painting ). That was their "modus operandi". At this as a "nomadic horse nation" they excelled and earned their place beside (and high regard from) the hungarian king (they had as a ethnic minority priviledges that were preserved till 19th century)

(the guys on the right;the king depicted is Lajos the great; 14th century hungarian illuminated chronicle)
But I am sure you already know that by now :)

Hence one may conclude that longswords were the tools of men at arms (that like to rumble on foot as well) and the sabres are the weapon of choice for the nomadic cavalry (that liked to stay mounted and fighted at a distance; that however is a bit of oversimplification from my side , there are definetly exception but for the sake of our discussion I will leave it at that point , and might return to it in some other thread. ) I know that i might use the hungary as an example too much but I will take the liberty nonetheless and assume that Wallachia was no different, thus sabres being used by ethnic Cumans (that had probably their own smiths) and Vlach men at arms using western armament (there was AFAIK also a native Vlach light horse, I remember reading something on the web and in Heat’s book, ill post some more on the topic if it is desired and if I will be able to find it) .

At a side note , it is a general consensus that sabres are weapons coming from the steepe. I remember reading an article from a Polish-sabre fencer/historian/re-enactor Rick Orli (not sure if that is his proper name) that mentioned one viewpoint of his that changed my perception of the weapon. That was the fact that (from one of his articles on Polish sabre) the curve on the sabre actually helps one to THRUST better from horseback. (i am only paraphrasing , again i might look it up , see if I can find the article somewhere)

Anyway coming back to our herr Dracula. Like Jim mentioned the later paintings depict him somewhat erroneously in contemporary fashion with a fully developed hungarian (or polish or even a "westernish") sabre. I have even found a 17th century depiction of a Knight of the order of the dragon (that both tepes and his father were a part of; illustration from 'Histoire et Costumes des Ordres Monastiques done by Pierre Helyot)

As you can see most of such paintings are decades (well actually centuries) after Dracula's (and members of the order) death. Now I would like to come back to the sabre vs longsword issue (after a rather longish diverson , that served its purpose nevertheless imo). I have already mentioned that Vlad had recieved training from its Turkish captors. However I personally dont know what that training could specificaly consist of (if anyone does , please dont hesitate to contribute). Was he trained as a Sipahi cavalryman?...Did they even let him to get hold of a sabre in the first place? What if the training was only purely on "strategic" level only. Also remember that as a son of a knight Vlad would probably be instructed in the way of longsword very very early in his life (even well before 14 years of age). There is also a similar story about a son of a Serbian despot , being handed over to Tatars as a hostage a century (or two) ago before Vlad. I dont remember the dates or names (I might check it up if you wish), but he was also planned to be placed on serbian throne back as vassal for tatars. However further bio of his life (escaped the captivity and claiming fathers throne or something in similar lines) suggest that his "knightly" character was pretty much untouched (but one might also argue that tatars had different way of handling prisoners and thus their further vassals than the ottomans ). Answers to the questions about his training with ottomans as well as clarification if he could lean more to the knightly/men at arms way (like his father) might shed more light on it.
I remember reading a similar thread on SFi that discussed similar question about Dracula. One of the posters suggestion was that when Vlad was raiding/scouting he was armed with a saber , and on the other hand when he was going into an allout battle , he would arm himself with a longsword and western armour. I liked the suggestion but would argue at some points. For instance why would a nobleman(and a head of kingdom) have to engage in some skirmishing/raiding when a band of Cumans would do the job just fine? Secondly, why would he need to wield a sabre for such occasion? It is shown in both pictorial evidence (Niccole's work on medieval russians) and in Goliath fechtbuch that fencing/fighting with a longsword from horseback was perfectly normal and I dont see any particular reason why would he have to swap for a saber for such particular purpouse.

Sorry for diverting a bit off topic and focusing a bit too much on Vlad

Cheers ,

Edit: Sorry Jim I wasnt able to resize the picture (its gigantic and it just takes ages). Also resizing it would imo just make it too.. intangible i guess. Instead I just posted the link to the wikipedia gallery. Sorry for the inconvenience

Edit 2 : This is the part of the painting that I had in mind (as one can get lost in the picture , as its ..simply big) , notice the Polish men at arms "at work"

Jim McDougall 16th July 2009 02:28 PM

Excellent post Samuel!!!! and its fantastic the detail you include, well written and explained.
Any way you could resize that fabulous battle scene? I dont have cinemascope on my computer here so I get dizzy trying to scroll back and forth to read the text :)

Thanks so much, this topic gets better and better, and its great to finally begin to comprehend some of the complexity of this history.

All the best,

pallas 19th July 2009 10:00 PM

a tidbit on the vlachs not being a "warlike people"

the brothers peter, asen, and kaloyan who defeated the byzantines and refounded the bulgarian empire from 1185-1200 AD where vlachs and much of their infantry where also vlachs

TVV 19th July 2009 10:18 PM

Originally Posted by pallas
a tidbit on the vlachs not being a "warlike people"

the brothers peter, asen, and kaloyan who defeated the byzantines and refounded the bulgarian empire from 1185-1200 AD where vlachs and much of their infantry where also vlachs

Most of this is factually incorrect - the brothers Teodor and Asen were small nobles in the Roman Empire. They may have been of Vlach, Cuman or most likely Bulgarian origin - all we know is that they were Christians and that they were located in Moesia, which is nowadays Bulgaria, with their domains in the Hemus mountains.

Upon the success of their rebellion, they clearly demosntrated that the goal was the reestablishment of the Bulgarian state, as they were crowned as Bulgarian Tsars and Teodor assumed the name of Petar, which was the name of the last Bulgarian ruler in the 11th century. Nothing ever indicated that they thought of themselves as Vlachs, and the state they reestablished was clearly Bulgarian.

As for the infantry, I am afraid we have no certain figures to be able to claim one way or another. One needs to keep in mind that during the Middle Ages chroniclers had little interest in correctly identifying the ethnicity of their adversaries, and Eastern Roman chroniclers in particular used any names they thought were offensive enough. Petar and Asen's men are therefore called Bulgarians, Vlachs, Skythians, Barbarians, rebels, bandits, etc.

But it is correct to point out that the Vlachs of those times were anything but peaceful, and many of them most certainly served in the Bulgarian armies of the late 12th and early 13th centuries.


Gonzalo G 20th July 2009 01:47 AM

I don´t think the ´heavliy armored´europeans from this period and place (Wallachia) were not distinct from the turks or indians, since the armour of the common soldier, cavaly or infantryman, seems to be consisted mainly by maille and plaques or scales, just as the turkish armour was. Only a few nobleman apparently had plaque armour, and not many enough to form a special corps in their armies, with tactics adapted to this kind of armour. I agree with Samik, since I think the first magyar sabre model from Kronckew came probably from the avars and not the turks, and it was an old model already in the 15th Century in Hungary, judging by those found in the exhumations of graves from the 10th Century in the area of Hungary, according with Oakeshott. Some of them are very similar with the one attributed to a Charlemagne´s property. This sabers are the result of a much earlier influence from the east, and not necessarily from the turks. The second sabre from Krockew is turkish style, with the yelman and the languets.

The poor Bram Stoker confussed (and mixed) Vlad II Dracul with his son, Vlad III Tepes, which is typical of the occidental misunderstanding about the history of Central Europe and the orient.

Mircea or Mirça the Old, father of Vlad II Dracul, is represented in a statue (or coffin sculpture) with a straight sword. Jancu of Kunedouara or Iancu Hunedoara, ruler of Transylvania, is represented in a statue with a straight sword medieval european style, and with a plaque armour. Just remember that Jancu was contemporary to Vlad II and III. In fact, according with some historians, he participated in some way in the killing of Vlad II and Mirça II, his eldest son, commited by orders of Jan Hunyadi of Hungary (general of the new hungarian king, Vladislav III, Who had just broked a peace treaty with the turks), and some nobleman and saxon merchants from Wallachia.

Jancu also latter appointed Vlad III Tepes as governor of Wallachia, in which post he only stayed for a month, since the King of Hungary removed him as soon he began to impale the enemies of his dinasty (some nobleman and the merchant saxons, allied with the hungarians), according with the same historians. You have to take on account that the hungarian and german sources do not agree in the enumeration of facts with the wallachian-rumanian historians, since Hungary had historic pretentions to rule at least part of the area of actual Rumania (Transylvania and Wallachia, mainly), meanwhile the princes or voivodas from at least Wallachia, fought all time very hard to maintain their sovereignty and independence from both the hungarians and the ottoman turks, not doubting in using temporary alliances with one or another, according with the political or military needs of the moment. For this reason, you can find many contradictions in the enumerations of the historical facts surrounding all this wallachian dinasty, including the facts of Vlad III´s death, since some historians say he was assesinated, and others that he died in battle . And despite the confussions of Bram Stoker, Vlad Tepes only born and lived some years in exile in Transylvania but he and his family are assimilated mainly to Wallachia´s history, and his castle was constructed in the last principality. The history of this period is not, as many want to describe, the history of Europe Christendom against the Muslim Ottoman (the good and the evil), but the history of feudal lords (christian or not), trying to extend their personal dominions to the expense of other´s. Religion always served as a pretext or as a mean to gain political power.

The area (the Balkans, Hungary, Transylvania, Moldava, Wallachia, Bulgaria et al) neverthless, had oriental influences from early many different ways. Huns were there for a period, but they seem to have used straight swords. Magyars and Mongols (Tatar turko-mongols, to be more precise) were other latter influence over them. Maybe the kazar empire had also a role in this, but I still have no information about the type of swords used by the kazars. Earlier turkish influences, not ottoman, cannot be discarded. The blaci from Transylvania are said to be originally the Vlakhs, or also the Bulaqs, another turkish group. The siculi or Székelys moved from Hungary to Transylvania from the 12th Century onwards and were from probable turkish origin. The bulgars established an empire before the 15th Century with the help of oriental ethnic groups, carrying more oriental influences. The Qumans-Kipçak, form turkish origins, and it seems with the probable inclusion of a small contingent from iranian origins (please see István Vásáry, Cumans and Tatars. Oriental Military in the Pre-Ottoman Balkans 1185-1365, Cambridge University Press, New York, 2005) were also present. The pechengs, also from a turkish origin, also settled in Hungary. In fact, those areas are geographically european, but racially and culturally are a mixture of european and oriental elements, though in their political and militar strugle to be independent sovereign states they were european-orientated at the end, even though in the Balkans some muslim population remains to this day.

According with some sources, the one who arrived with a turkish army and ruled as a puppet, was Vlad III´s brother, Radu, and not Vlad. Following this sources, Vlad and his brother were hostages with the turks as a result of a Vlad II´s secret treaty with them, which was the cause of his killing when hungarians discovered it. And meanwhile Vlad escaped from the turks and ran to Wallachia, his brother the young Radu ´The Handsome´, was acused of having a strange intimate relation with the sultan, who latter enthroned him for a short period of time in which Wallachia declined into the service of the ottoman turks. Vlad was appointed governor of Wallachia for the first time (he was governor of Wallachia three times, according with the same sources) by Jancu, and not by the turks. Matías Corvinus was the king who deprived Vlad III from his corporal liberty, though he was not strictly ´incarcerated´ or jailed, but ´arrested´, as he lived having a castle and it´s surroundings as limits for his movements, and was treated princely.

I have seen representations of Vlad III with a plaque armour and a straight sword, but I think this representation was not made during his life (I have only a video with some of this representations, not the kind of images to bring to this discussion). Maybe the straight sword was a symbol of the anti-turkish resistance and a christian element of identity. Stefan the Great was cousin of Vlad III, and they, along with Matias Corvinus, son of Jancu of Kunedouara, lived together in the same castle for several years before they were kings. If Stefan´s sword is straight, it can give us a clue to answer this point.There is also a painting in the Esterházy castle representing Vlad III armed with a sabre, turkish style, but it was made in the 17th Century. It seems that all, but one, were representations made after his death.

It seems that the charges and countless stories agains Vlad III were propeled by the hungarians and germans, who were united in their interests over Wallachia. And also by the turks, as he was their implacable enemy. But the version of Vlad III Tepes enthroned by the sultan, is contradictory with the ferocity he always showed against them, which finally earned him the support of the King of Hungary and the Pope during his last mandate. The enemies of Vlad III, were not exempted of making alliances and peace treaties, or the paying of tributes to the ottoman turks, even against christian princes or kings. Germany, in fact, established a friendship alliance with the ottoman at least to the end of the WWI, against christian european countries. All comes to politics and power.

Sorry if I am a little chaotic in my writting, but I don´t have enough time online to make corrections, and I don´t have more bibliographical references at hand in this moment.


PD: The brothers Teodor and Asen are called ´roman´ (christian) in some old sources. In others, they are not. Please see the same book from Vásáry. It seems history has been muddled by political interests, then and now.

Emanuel 20th July 2009 03:54 PM

Looks like I've been missing out on a lot of fine discussion. Work keeps me busy... I need a history refresher as well. Thanks Gonzalo for your great post, I'm impressed. I'll only correct a few mentions.

Iancu de Hunedoara (1387 - d. 1456) was contemporary with Vlad II Dracul (1390 - 1447). Iancu supported Vladislav II to the Valahian throne (hence your confusion with Vlad II, very similar names :) ). You are quite right about the assassination of Vlad II and his elder son Mircea.

In 1442, Sultan Murad II requested that Vlad III Tepes and his younger brother Radu reside in Constantinople as political hostages. They stayed there until 1447, when Vlad III, aged 17, was given an Ottoman cavalry and infantry contingent to take the Valahian throne from Vladislav II. His first reign was short-lived, since the boiers still backed Vladislav II and helped him retake the throne. Tepes finally cemented his claim to the throne in 1456, and began his famous assault on the boier nobility.

Vlad III stopped paying tribute to the Porte towards 1460, and formed an alliance with Matei Corvin (son of Iancu de Hunedoara) of Hungary, backed by the Pope. After initial successes, Tepes is once again "betrayed" by the boiers, who support Radu - now backed by Sultan Mehmet II.
In 1462 Tepes marches north into Transilvania to rendez-vous with Matei Corvin and his forces. Corvin decides to annul the alliance with Tepes and "arrests" him. Vlad III is taken as a political hostage, and for the next thirteen years resides in Budapesta. In that time he marries a second time to a cousin of Matei Corvin. In 1475-76 he returns to the Valahian throne for a very short period. He either dies in battle in Bucharest at the end of 1476 or is assassinated, depending on the sources.

There are paintings of him in western and eastern dress. Once again I don't think he discriminated too much in his choice of arms. Valahian armies at the time were mostly drawn from the peasantry and equipment was improvised. The boier nobility provided the cavalry, and they could be expected to have better equipment, although not necessarily standard.

In the time of Mircea the Old (1355, 1418), Valahian tactics relied heavily on archer corps. Arms manufacture was somewhat limited, and much was supposedly purchased from the Saxons of Transilvania. As I stated earlier, the collection in the National Military museum demonstrate the contemporary use of both western swords (Stefan the Great) and curved sabres.

My statement that Valahians were not warlike is based on the fact that they never developed a cohesive martial tradition similar to that of Poland and Hungary. One point in favour of this is the apparent lack of development of sword typology, as is seen in Polish and Hungaryan sabres. Later in the 16th and 17th centuries, eastern weapons become more prevalent. By the 18th and 19th centuries, western European, particualrly French and German, become dominant. Teodor, I totally agree with your statement about Vlachs participating in Bulgarian and other armed conflicts in the 11th-13th centuries, but we are talking here about the 15th. There is documented Vlach presence far south of the Danube early on in the second millenium. IIRC there was a town known as Vlachopolis (Blachopolis) somewhere north of Constantinople...I'll check the source on that. Those Vlach populations that did not move back north of the Danube were more or less assimilated by other ethnicities and nationalities. The Aromanians and the Mechedons in Bulgaria and Greece, the Vlasky in Serbia, for example.

One of Romania's national mythos is the fighting peasant who responds to the Lord's (as in ruler) call to fight off invaders. Much of Romanian/Valahian military history is rooted in defense against foreign incursion rather than expansionist policy. Hence, my characterisation of Vlachs as not "warlike"...perhaps not the most appropriate word as most peoples at the time had to be warlike to survive...:shrug:

Samuel, one cannot really distinguish between Cuman and Valahian actions and tactics in the 15th century. By that time Cumans had throroughly mixed with local populations in Valahia as well as surrounding countries (there were large Cuman populations in Hungary as well). People were thoroughly mixed then, with many Valahians, Hungarians and Bulgarians inter-marrying. There is still some pretty feisty debate about Iancu de Hunedoara and Matei Corvin, and the family's mixed Hungarian-Vlach origins. Given this mixed history, I'm saddened by the century-old Romanian-Hugarian political and cultural confrontation.


Emanuel 20th July 2009 04:33 PM

1 Attachment(s)
I took a history book out of storage and will scan relevant pics tonight.

In the meantime, here is a painting of Mihai the Brave (1558-1601). Notice the sabres and the garb.

Contemporary and later sources variably show him wielding axe, mace or sabre. I've never seen him portrayed with straight sword though.

Emanuel 20th July 2009 04:51 PM

1 Attachment(s)
Here is a 17th century sword, having belonged to Constantin Brancoveanu (1654 - 1714).

Emanuel 20th July 2009 06:04 PM

One quick thought that came to mind. Both Vlad Tepes and his predecessors are documented to have used guerilla and ambush tactics, since invariably they were faced with larger armies.

Basarab I defeated the Hungarian king Charles I in 1330 by ambushing his large forces in a mountain pass.

Vlad Tepes led a night attack agianst Mehmet II near Targoviste in 1462, and continually harassed his superior troups during his retreat.

The oral history I got from parents and family and the little history I read often re-iterates the theme of Dacian and later Vlach armies resisting invasions in the Carpathian mountains.

TVV 20th July 2009 06:43 PM

Originally Posted by Emanuel
Here is a 17th century sword, having belonged to Constantin Brancoveanu (1654 - 1714).

Very nice sword, even thougbh it is much later than the discussed period. The blade looks like those blades with the Virgin Mary, for which Astvatsaturian claims were produced in Constantinople. There is a similar one I think in the catalogue for Rizsrad Janiak's collection.
It makes sense that high quality sabre blades with Christian symbols were produced for nobles from Orthodox and Catholic countires, whose aramament was under ehavy Eastern influence, such as Russia, the Danube Principalities and Poland.

Gonzalo G 21st July 2009 12:44 AM

Sorry, Teodore, I read more carefully your statements about the brothers Peter and Asen in home, and you are right. At first, I understood that you said they were roman, but you didn´t. Yes, they were were members of the provincial nobilty in the Roman Empire, though not from roman origin.

You see, I have but a very small time online, sometimes I read too quickly and make a likewise too quick response post, or I save some web pages in my PC, I read them latter in home, and days after I answer in the the forum...just to find that then, somebody says, "hey, that was already answered in the post number 3!!"...I must be more careful, since confusions and writting mistakes are multiplied in this rush.

I agree with all your statements from that post. Though when I answer maybe I will find that you already answered to my previous note. My apologies.


Gonzalo G 21st July 2009 12:59 AM

Very interesting, Emanuel! I think you have access to a better sources than I, beign rumanian. I would be driven crazy (yes, still more) in that bibliotéque of yours, in the Toronto University. Yet, there remains many contradictions in the different versions of the history of that period and place. Even the marxist historians from that area seem to repeat old myths. You have to peel layer by layer the facts, versions and interpretations to get the hard core of it.


Emanuel 21st July 2009 01:09 AM

Being Romanian does not imply being knowledgeable about Romania, Gonzalo :)

I left Romania in grade 2. All I know is from my family, as I stated, and what I've studied on my own. I'm horrible with dates and I often need refreshers.

The monstrous UT library and I have become strangers lately (a recurring theme in my life)...I spend my time studying urban planning and city council decisions.

I quite agree about historians Gonzalo. Beginning in the 18th century, and particualrly in the 19th, there was great interest in the past. Romanian nationalism required the crafting of a heroic, almost-mythical past and facts were naturally bent to conform to the desired narrative.

All the best!

Emanuel 21st July 2009 02:14 AM

6 Attachment(s)
Here we go, some pics from 15th and turn of 16th century...from the top:

- 15th century flail and crossbow from Sibiu
- Cavalry of Mihai the Brave
- Mid-16th century war hammer and early 16th century mace
- Fresco from the walls of Sucevita monastery church, end-15th century - this one's interesting...cavalry in maille armed with lances, pikemen with polearms, swords seem to be straight, can't tell too well. The armor looks Turkish though, doesn't it?
The inscription at the top is romanian in church slavonic, if cyrillic readers can transliterate, i can read what it says.
- The sword of Stefan the Great, now in the Topkapi.
- Courtier and archer from the time of Alexander the Good (1400-1432). Moldovan prince, but relevant nonetheless.

All times are GMT. The time now is 11:25 PM.

Powered by: vBulletin Version 3.0.3
Copyright ©2000 - 2018, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.