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Ducatul muntean al voievodului Vlad III Ţepeş (1448, 1456-1462, 1476) / The Wallachian Ducat of Vlad III the Impaler (1448, 1456-1462, 1476)

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Excerpt The Prince of Wallachia Vlad III the Impaler (1448, 1456-1462 and 1476) was an interesting figure for the people living during his lifetime and afterwards, as proven by the unprecedented attention it received and still receives. It is worth mentioning that during Vlad's reign Wallachia saw the last period of true independence (regained by the United Princedoms Moldavia and Wallachia only after the Independence War with the Ottoman Empire, 1877-1878), but this required a hard fight and sometimes harsh methods.
A great number of papers and books that deal with the life and reign of Vlad Ţepeş were written, so we won't go into a detailed presentation on this subject. It should be noted that Vlad ruled Wallachia as a voivode during three separate reigns (1448, 1456- 1462, 1476). The first reign lasted for about two months (Oct.-Nov. 1448), interrupting the rule of his cousin, Vladislav II (1448-1456). The most important was the second rule, from August 1456 until November 1462, when most of the actions for which Vlad Ţepeş is remembered as a great voivode happened. His third reign was short (Nov.-Dec. 1476) and ended tragically with the death of the voivode, on the battle field, apparently killed by treason.
It's worth mentioning that Vlad was the third Wallachian ruler with this name. Internal Wallachian chronicles and official documents recorded him later with the surname Ţepeş ("the Impaler"), Kazîklî in Ottoman documents, surname derived from his favourite method of punishment, impalement. Medieval Latin or German pamphlets or documents (and Vlad Ţepeş himself in the Latin documents issued during his third rule) often used the name Draculya or Dracula, derived from the original Drăculea, meaning "the son of the Dragon" - his father, Vlad II (voivode of Wallachia 1436-1442, 1443-1447) got the surname Dracul after the Christian Order of the Dragon was awarded him by the Holy Roman Emperor Sigismund of Luxembourg, in 1431.
Perhaps the most important accomplishment of Vlad reign was keeping the integrity and freedom of Wallachia by an unforgiving war with the mighty Ottoman Empire and the armies of Mohammed II "the Conqueror", who not only conquered Constantinople and put an end to the Byzantine Empire, but also previously devoured all the other Christian principalities in the Balkans. His brave fighting greatly contributed to the fact that Wallachia was not dissolved and integrated into the mighty Empire, as proved not only at that moment in history but even later. It also rejuvenated the hope and belief in victory in a Europe frightened by the seemingly unstoppable Ottoman Empire, the Danube River and the fragile Wallachia being the only border and shield between. There is no doubt that for the Romanian people Vlad Ţepeş will remain for the centuries to come a symbol of valiant fighter for freedom and a defender of Christianity, in spite of his roughness in rough times.
This paper deals with the numismatic aspects of the rule of Vlad III the Impaler, aspects very little known outside the circle of the specialized Romanian scholars and coin collectors. Until the year 1979 no coin was attributed with a reasonable degree of certainty to Vlad III, even if various attempts were made, starting towards the end of the 191h cent. Studies of classical Romanian medieval numismatics were also difficult to undertake, considering that no medieval documents regarding coin minting in Wallachia and Moldavia survived, and the fact that there is little variation in the names of the voivodes (common names were Vladislav, Radu, Vlad, Dan, Basarab), hence the difficulty to separate the coins of one ruler from those of another with the same name, all 'classical' Wallachian coins (issued cca 1365 - cca 1477) bearing no date. In 1979 Octavian Iliescu re-examined a silver unepigraphic ban from the famous Dimitrie Alexander Sturdza collection bequested to the Romanian Academy (first published by D. A. Sturdza in Haşdeu 1893, entry Ban, col. 2445 no. 16 and Tab. B, VI, assigned to Vlad V the Younger, 1510-1512) and re-attributed it to the reign of Vlad III the Impaler (fig. 2). This attribution was mainly based on the unexpected interpretation of the “star with tail” symbol (placed in the reverse left field of the coin) as a comet (Iliescu 1979). Considering that comet Halley was seen in Europe in June 1456, and Toscanelli II during 1457, there is a possibility that the symbol on the silver ban is an echo of those cosmic events, perceived as favourable at least by the issuer, that happened close before or during the second and most important rule of Vlad the Impaler (from 1456, Aug. 22nd to before Nov. 26th 1462 A.D.).
Later on, in the 80's, the same notorious Romanian numismatist, Octavian Iliescu, published another unique coin, this time a silver ducat bearing the Cyrillic inscription IW BAA - BWA (for IW BΛAA - BWIABWAA), found during the archaeological diggings at the medieval princely court from Târgşor (14th-15th cent.), Prahova County, in 1968. This coin (fig. 3 and 4, reproduction and drawing after the published image of poor quality) bearing the image of the voivode standing, holding a spear, and the obverse with Jesus Christ in benediction was attributed to Vlad III the Impaler, although it was admitted that Vlad II the Evil (Dracul) could also be a possible issuer (Iliescu 1986, 268- 278). Among other arguments in support of his attribution, Iliescu studied the letters (especially letter Д: - Cyrillic dobro) and considered that they bear a great resemblance with those from the seal of Vlad III with Slavic legend (from documents dated 1459-1460 or loosely 1456-1462 kept in the archive of Braşov/Kronstadt). Other Romanian numismatists as well as the author of the present paper consider that there is a greater probability for this coin to be an issue of Vlad II Dracul (1436-1442, 1443-1447), since its iconographic features and style are much closer to the Wallachian coins issued during the first half of the 15th cent. (during the reigns of Mircea the Elder, Michaell I, Dan II) until the monetary reform of Vladislav II (c. 1452), which restored the design of the 'common Wallachian type' of silver ducat. From a numismatic point of view it is much more plausible that the coins of Vlad III the Impaler - whose main rule (1456-1462) stretched from after the reign of his cousin Vladislav II (1447, 1448-1456) and before the first rule of his brother Radu III the Handsome (1462-1473, 1473-1474, 1474, 1474-1475) - should be rather similar to the coins of these rulers than different.
The above theory was unconfirmed by any recorded coin finds until April 2006 when the author had the opportunity to privately purchase in Bucharest one silver Wallachian ducat (unknown finding spot in Romania) bearing the Cyrillic inscription Vlad Voivodu, coin being the subject of this paper and described as follows.
Obv.: ✠IW BΛЯAЬ BОИВОΑЯ ГNЬ between outer dotted circle and strong inner linear circle.
Parted shield, with rounded lower border, crescent in the first half shield, below a 6-pointed star, barry of six in second half of the shield; old natural crack in the flan, below shield; slightly off-center, light double strike, slight flan concavity.
Rev.: ☩IW BΛЯAЬ BОИВОΑ between outer dotted circle and strong inner linear circle.
Wallachian eagle perched to left on a ceremonial helmet, with the head turned right to a cross which also starts the inscription; the helmet of armet type has lambrequins and two panaches, in the right and left fields, the upright one from the left field resembling a dragon with curved tail (probably only apparently, as there are known ducats of Vladislav II with a similar depiction); natural flan crack visible in front of the eagle; slightly off-center, double strike, light flan convexity. The coin is struck in good silver (see below the XRF-analysis data), and has a particular dark brown-red toning, with earthen highlights (apparently it was not chemically cleaned). Ducat, 'common Wallachian' type. AR ↙ 15 mm 0,56 g (fig. 5 and 6, picture and drawing).
There are several arguments for attributing this coin to Vlad III the Impaler. The first argument is based on the reading of the inscription, which clearly names a voivode Vlad. There is no possibility that this inscription designates - in shortened form - a voivode Vladislav as the name on the coin ends with the Cyrillic yer (b) - which is exactly how Vlad's name was written on his seal with Cyrillic inscription used during his second reign (fig. 7 and 8): ☩IW BΛAAЬ BWHBWAA H Г[OCПOAH]NЬ BЬCEIH ЗEIMΛ H ϪГГPWBΛAXЇHCKOH. Also judging by the size of the letters and the spacing left between them, one can see that there was plenty of space available for the die sinker to 'write' a longer name instead of a shortened one (frequently the lack of space on the die is the main reason for shortening inscriptions in medieval times, since die sinkers used punches with each of the letters needed, or other elements that composed the design). So we exclude any possibility that this coin was issued by any other ruler than one named Vlad.
The style and iconography of this ducat are very similar to those of the coins issued by Vladislav II and Radu III the Handsome. Some letters - such as .Д: (dobro) and A (az) - have peculiar shapes, also found on the coins of Vladislav II and Radu III (see fig. 9 with types of letters A, B and .Д: from 15th cent. Wallacbian coins). So from this point of view the ducat in discussion is part of the same 'family' of coins, even if it is still different and bas some specific features which distinguish it. As proven by analytical data this Wallachian ducat seems to be struck in good silver. The X-Ray Fluorescence analysis performed at the National Museum of Romanian History showed a silver content between 81,8±0,35% (obverse) and 83,97±0,44% (reverse), with an average of 82,93%; based on this average percentage the calculated silver content of the ducat is 0,464 g - see the body of the paper for detailed data and credits. Its diameter of 15 millimeters and weight of 0.56 grams are consistent with the metrology of the coins issued by Vladislav II and Radu III the Handsome. After the latter issuer the silver alloy was visibly debased, most of the coins issued by the follower Basarab Laiotă - and presumably Basarab Ţepeluş - being struck in billon. A comparison of the above data with the average weight and fineness of the contemporary Ottoman silver akҁhes of Mehmet II dated 855 A.H. and 865 A.H. reveals the equivalence in terms of intrinsic value of two Wallachian ducats of Vlad Ţepeş with one Ottoman akҁhe, especially with the lighter debased akҁhes from the issue dated 865 A.H. (but struck from 17.10.1460 until 30.06.1470). The actual 'market price' or the official exchange rate of Vlad's ducats in Wallachia might have been slightly superior to their intrinsic value, perhaps 3 ducats to 2 akҁhes- this would of brought consistent gains to the voivode issuer if the volume of the emission would have been sufficiently large to cover some payment needs (such as levies, including custom levies, generally expressed in local Wallachian coins as proven by a number of documents issued by several voivods).
Considering that there is only one ducat of Vlad Ţepeş known and no documents to prove official rates and weights, the above equivalence deduced from the metrological study and the hypothesis regarding the forced exchange rate should be taken with all the necessary reserve.
All these are arguments that this ducat fits perfectly into the series of coins struck by Vladislav II and Radu III the Handsome, series started in 1452 with the monetary reform of Vladislav II, now proven to be continued during the most important rule of Vlad III the Impaler (1456-1462), and closing with the silver ducats of Radu III, also struck during the first and most important rule of this voivode (before August 15th 1462-1473). It is very difficult to establish a narrower issuing period for the Wallachian ducats of Vlad III the Impaler, within the limits of his main rule 1456-1462 A.D., or decide whether they were struck in the old mint from Târgovişte or in a newly opened mint from Bucureşti - where Vlad moved his residence, as proven by a document dated 1459. The economic situation in Wallachia was quite stable from 1456 until the great Ottoman campaign in June 1462. For the first two years of his second reign Vlad had to go himself to Constantinople with the tribute of 10000 gold ducats - a very high amount by any standards, for the following 3 years he used various pretexts to delay these payments in order to put the money to better use. We can assume that Vlad was prepared to face the consequences of his actions, and had achieved the economic and military strength required to defy the Ottomans led by Mehmet II 'the Conqueror'. During these years Wallachia under Vlad Ţepeş was at its height and all the conditions for minting were met - minting which might of started with the bani with 'the comet' symbol (dated with probability 1457-1459). Very possible this is also the time frame when Vlad started issuing the larger nominal, the ducat, not only the smaller ban.
Regarding the end of coin minting during Vlad's reign, we must refer to historical facts. After refusing to pay the tribute and some devastating attacks of Vlad's troops inside the Ottoman territory from South of Danube (former Bulgarian territory), a massive military force of 60,000-80,000 soldiers led by Mehmet II himself attacked Wallachia in June 1462. Although Vlad Ţepeş and his army of about 30,000 troops (not all of them trained soldiers) fought bravely and held the advantage, the Ottoman army retreated but left behind the pretender Radu the Handsome, bound to attract the local noblemen (boyars) on his side and claim the throne with their support. As a consequence a period of political instability followed, Radu the Handsome and Vlad disputed the throne for the next months. These combined put probably an end to Vlad's coin minting sometime before August 15th 1462, when Radu the Handsome as voivode of Wallachia signed a peace treaty with the Transylvanian Szekelys. Vlad Ţepeş didn't ceased to fight for the throne until November 1462 when he was arrested and imprisoned by Matthias Corvinus for false accusations of treason. Only in Oct.-Nov. 1476 Vlad managed to reclaim the throne for a brief moment. He was killed in Dec. 1476 (before Christmas), apparently by treason, while his small army was battling the Ottoman troops who were bringing back the voivode Basarab III Laiotă. In conclusion, the paper describes a previously unknown silver ducat ('common Wallachian' type) issued by the voivode Vlad III the Impaler during his second and most important rule Aug. 1456-Nov. 1462 (minting probably started in 1457 and ceased before Aug. 15th 1462). Future finds and research may bring more light in the matter of minting place - either the old mint from Târgovişte or a newly opened mint in Bucharest, Vlad's new capital - and perhaps narrow down the issuing period.
Paginaţia 427-445
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Titlul volumului de apariție
  • Cercetări Numismatice; XIV; anul 2008