A la recherche des vampires

Dans les contes populaires d'Europe de l'Est, les vampires sont des sangsues nocturnes qui se sont relevés de leur tombe. Nous connaissons l'apothéose de ces créatures, Dracula, comme le vampire de Transylvanie, personnage semblable à une chauve-souris avec de longues canines, qui dort dans un cercueil le jour et mord le cou de ses victimes dont il boit le sang pour se sustenter.

Mais comment avons-nous jamais pris connaissance de Dracula et des vampires ? Comment un mythe régional a-t-il pu s'élever au point de devenir l'un des traits les plus durables de la culture occidentale moderne et pourquoi ?

Historiquement, Dracula, Vlad Tepes, n'était pas un vampire. Vlad naquit en 1431 et régna par intermittence à partir de 1448 sous le nom de Prince Voïvode de Valachie, la partie méridionale de la Roumanie d'aujourd'hui, affrontant régulièrement l'empire ottoman, le roi hongrois Matthias Corvinus et les cités saxonnes de Transylvanie. Bien qu'il remporta d'importantes victoires sur les Ottomans, Corvinus le fit prisonnier et il fut tué en 1477 à la reprise des combats contre les troupes ottomanes.

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