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Vlad III, warlord of Wallachia has enjoyed a curious immortality as Dracula, the fictional Prince of Darkness. Yet for modern Romanians, this is a gross act of historical libel, which has transformed a national hero into a Gothic caricature. This illuminating new study untangles myth from fact to expose a fascinating figure. A ruler who combined the characteristics of a true Renaissance prince and the most barbarous dark age despot, an inspired tactician driven by an insatiable thirst for revenge. Bram Stoker's "Dracula" was the first Hollywood film to depict the link between the medieval warlord and his undead namesake, while Vlad has been portrayed as a dashing patriotic hero in Romanian film and fiction, and a psychopathic villain in Turkish popular culture. His life, characterised by epic carnage, driven by raw passions, and clouded by dark conspiracies, has inspired the imaginations of generations. Nicolae Ceausescu, the infamous Communist dictator whose brutal reign brought Romania to its knees, saw in Vlad a kindred spirit, a political survivor caught between the East and West. From the days when he defended the gateway to Christendom from the Ottoman Empire with implacable savagery, through his curious position as a nationalist icon during the Cold War, to contemporary friction between Islamic and European values, the original Dracula's shadow endures. The questions raised by Vlad the Impaler's brutal philosophy of government are as relevant today as they were over 500 years ago, as the conflict between the two great civilisations that characterised his reign still dominates headlines today. Was the ruler whose epithet translates as 'Son of the Devil' a ruthless realist or a bloodthirsty sadist? Is state torture ever justified for the greater good. When does a hero become a villain? Some believe that desperate times demand desperate measures. Just as a tyrant like Stalin is still revered by some as his homeland's 'man of steel', so there are those who laud the Impaler as an implacable champion of justice. Others identify him as a textbook test case of the principles set forth in the classic renaissance manual of cynical statecraft, Machiavelli's "Prince". Today, Vlad enjoys secular canonisation not just among patriotic Romanians, but influential authoritarian voices of the international occult movement and even the fringes of modern youth culture. This intriguing book sheds new light on one of history's most contested figures and is certain to fascinate aficionados of history, politics and Gothic literature alike, posing questions that are still frighteningly pertinent today.