Constantinople - formerly the ancient Greek city of Byzantium and the place where Europe and Asia meet - was still in Christian hands. With its great basillica, the Hagia Sophia - later a mosque, now a museum - the city had been the capital of the Eastern Holy Roman Empire since Constantine established it as such in 330 A.D.
Border states like Romania (which centuries later against its twentieth-century dictator, Nicolai Ceausescu) were buffer zones as southeastern Europe battled back the Turks of the Ottoman Empire. (Be sure to look at the maps from top to bottom to see the various stages of the Ottoman Empire.)
Not pleased with the way Europeans had conducted Crusades against the Muslim world, Sultan Murad II’s battle-hardened troops took fierce revenge. Eastern Europe became a shield against the onslaught as the Turks conquered territory as far west as Vienna. It wasn’t the last time Eastern Europe became a pawn in the hands of opposing super powers.
In the midst of the turmoil, a Wallachian Prince named Vlad and his wife, Princess Cneajna, had a son. The child, who was named for his father, was born in the Transylvanian town of Sighisoara in 1431. The house where Vlad, the child, was born is still standing. Today it is a restaurant.
Vlad, the father, was a favorite of the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg. The Emperor bestowed two great honors on Vlad the year his son was born. Inducted into the prestigious Order of the Dragon, Vlad was also made Prince of Wallachia.
The Romanian word for "Dragon" is Dracul and, henceforth, Vlad the father was known by the name "Vlad Dracul" (for Vlad the Dragon). Young Vlad was known as "Vlad Dracula" (for Vlad, son of the Dragon).
The Romanian word Dracul has another meaning: "Devil."