The Name of Bathory: A Tale of Two Inspirations

Elizabeth Báthory, a 16th-century countess with a notorious reputation, and Venom’s metal anthem “Countess Bathory” find common ground in the story of how Bathory got its name.

Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed
Countess Elizabeth Báthory de Ecsed
Key Takeaways
  • Bathory, founded in 1983 by Quorthon, was named after 16th-century Hungarian countess Elizabeth Báthory.
  • The name was also inspired by Venom’s 1982 song “Countess Bathory.”
  • Elizabeth Báthory was accused of killing over 600 people, but modern scholars debate this.

A Macabre Muse

In 1983, Vällingby, Sweden, became the birthplace of a band that would leave a lasting imprint on metal music—Bathory. Founded by Quorthon, born Thomas Börje Forsberg, the band initially included bass guitarist Fredrik Melander and drummer Jonas Åkerlund.

The name “Bathory” wasn’t just pulled from thin air. It’s inspired by Elizabeth Báthory, a 16th-century Hungarian countess with a notorious rap sheet for brutal acts. Quorthon stumbled upon this name during a visit to the London Dungeon. Situated on London’s South Bank, this tourist haunt serves a cocktail of historical horror and gallows humor, using a blend of live actors, special effects, and rides. That trip left Quorthon intrigued, guiding him towards the chilling name for his band.

The Venom Connection

There’s more to the tale of Bathory’s name than a London Dungeon visit. Venom, the godfathers of black metal, released a song in 1982 called “Countess Bathory”. Bathory’s original drummer, Jonas Åkerlund, says this tune also played a role in naming the band.

Venom and Bathory were both early movers in the black metal scene. Given the timeline—Venom’s song came out a year before Bathory formed—it’s not a stretch to think Quorthon could have had his ears on Venom’s work.

The Dark Tale of Elizabeth Báthory

Let’s time travel to Hungary, 1560. Elizabeth Báthory is born into one of those noble families that even controls parts of Transylvania. Yeah, she’s got royalty in her blood—her uncle is the king of Poland. Fast forward to 1575, she ties the knot with Count Ferencz Nádasdy. They get a castle as a wedding gift and have four kids.

Thurzó says, “Yep, she’s a killer”, claiming she’s responsible for over 600 deaths.

But here’s where the plot thickens. After her husband dies in 1604, Elizabeth starts catching heat. First, there’s gossip that she’s offing peasant women. Nobody really cares. But when whispers start that she’s going after noble ladies, King Matthias gets his cousin, György Thurzó, to poke around. Thurzó says, “Yep, she’s a killer”, claiming she’s responsible for over 600 deaths. She gets arrested, but here’s the kicker: she’s never formally tried. They lock her in her own castle until she kicks the bucket in 1614.

Now, was she really the monster the rumors claimed? Documents from her unofficial 1611 trial say yes, but modern scholars beg to differ. They think maybe she was the victim of a political setup. There’s even a theory that her family cleared a debt with King Matthias by taking control of her captivity. So, was she a mass murderer or a pawn? Either way, her dark legacy gave Bathory the band a name that’s hard to forget.