The Empire is a contemporary term referring to the area under Imperial rule on the continent of Tamriel. There have been three such Empires in recorded history, and the rule of any given Empire spans centuries. They should not be confused with similar imperial organizations, such as the First Empire of the Nords or the Aldmeri Dominion. While all reigned over great swaths of Tamriel, Tiber Septim's Empire of the Third Era is the only political organization which can boast to have united all of Tamriel under one banner.
The Alessian Empire, also called the First Empire, the Empire of Cyrodiil, and the Empire of Men, was established by the former human slaves of the Ayleid Empire in 1E 243 following the Alessian Slave Rebellion. The Empire traces its founding to the moment when Saint Alessia received the Dragonfires and the Amulet of Kings from Akatosh; she used the Amulet to drive the Daedra out of the mortal realm. Akatosh told Alessia that as long as the Dragonfires remained lit and her heirs wore the Amulet of Kings, the gates of Oblivion would remain shut and Tamriel would be spared the depredations of the Daedra.
Only a few rulers of the First Empire are now known: Queen Alessia, its founder and spiritual leader; Belharza the Man-Bull, Alessia's heir by her consort Morihaus, crowned in 1E 266; Gorieus, crowned in 1E 461; and Hestra, who expanded the reaches of the Empire all the way to High Rock in 1E 1029. One of the defining events of the Empire was the rise of the zealously monotheistic Alessian Order, which followed the teachings of the prophet Marukh. The Order's influence spread rapidly until, in 1E 361, its puritanical doctrines were formally adopted and enforced by the Empire. Thereafter, the arch-prelates of the Order were said to wield almost as much power as the emperors themselves. It was a sect of the Order called the Marukhati Selective that was responsible for the Dragon Break known as the "Middle Dawn".
The Alessian Empire's territory fluctuated considerably throughout its history. At its inception it encompassed East Cyrodiil, including the Nibenay Valley and the White-Gold Tower, which later became the centerpiece of the Imperial City; West Cyrodiil remained a patchwork of independent Colovian kingdoms that resisted the Alessian Order's dogma. A number of Ayleid vassal-states also briefly existed under the Empire's umbrella until the xenophobic Alessian Order methodically extinguished them. Following the defeat and death of High King Kjoric the White in 1E 478, the Empire seized portions of southern Skyrim, but failed in its bid to acquire the Kingdom of Skingrad. A westward expansion and attempt to annex High Rock was likewise thwarted at the Battle of Glenumbra Moors in 1E 482, which would be remembered as one of the Order's most disastrous mistakes. High Rock would later be inducted into the Empire in 1E 1029 after the Empress Hestra defeated King Styriche, the Vampire of Verkarth, only to reassert its independence in 1E 2305 in response to the Alessian Order's excesses.
The final days of the Empire arrived in 1E 2321, when tensions within the Alessian Order's bloated priesthood gave way to internal strife, prompting the kingdoms of West Cyrodiil to completely sever ties with the Empire and establish their own government, the Colovian Estates. Hemorrhaging money and land, the Empire finally broke under the strain and the War of Righteousness erupted. After a decade of violence that wiped out half of the population of the Iliac Bay and saw the loss of the Order's extensive monastic complex at Lake Canulus, among untold other atrocities, the war ended in 1E 2331 with the dissolution of the Alessian Empire and Order both. Cyrodiil and Tamriel would remain divided until the rise of Reman I and the foundation of the Second Empire in 1E 2703.
The Second Empire, also known as the Cyrodilic Empire, the Empire of Cyrodiil, and the Second Empire of Men, was a human-led empire that, at its height, controlled every region of Tamriel with the exception of Morrowind. The history of the Second Empire is divided into two main periods: the reign of the Reman Dynasty that witnessed the final centuries of the First Era, and the subsequent Akaviri Potentate that ushered in the Second Era.
The Reman Dynasty was founded by Reman Cyrodiil after he defeated the Akaviri invasion of Tamriel at the battle of Pale Pass in 1E 2703. Until that point, Tamriel had been divided into several small kingdoms, but once Reman had brought the armies of Colovia and the Nibenay Valley together to defeat the invasion, he was able to unite all of Tamriel's human inhabitants in the face of possible aggression from the Altmer.
Although the Battle of Pale Pass established Reman as the leading power in Tamriel, many parts of the continent refused to acknowledge his rule. Valenwood was not subdued until 1E 2714. In 1E 2811, Cyrodilic forces defeated the last organized army of Argonians at the Battle of Argonia, and the following year saw Argonia admitted to the Empire as a province under the name "Black Marsh". The rest of the province was conquered piecemeal, with the whole area passing under Imperial control in 1E 2837.
The last war of conquest began in around 1E 2840 when Reman II began an attempt to bring Morrowind, the only province outside Imperial control, into the empire. Progress was slow, and the three living gods of Morrowind's Tribunal, Vivec, Almalexia and Sotha Sil proved to be extremely capable leaders. By 1E 2920, both sides were approaching exhaustion and after the Empire captured the fortress of Ald Marak, a truce was agreed to bring an end to the war.
In the aftermath of the battle, both Reman III and his heir, Prince Juilek, were assassinated on the orders of Potentate Versidue-Shaie, bringing an end to the Reman Dynasty and instigating the period of the Second Empire known as the Akaviri Potentate.
The Akaviri Potentate is the name given to the period of the Second Empire after the assassination of Reman III and the end of the Reman Dynasty. Additionally, it is the title given to the rulers of Tamriel both during this period and during the earlier years of the empire.
Under the Remans, the emperor's chief advisor was called the Potentate. In the battle of Pale Pass, Reman I decisively defeated an Akaviri invasion but other events forced him to offer the defeated army amnesty in return for their service in his own army. This led to Akaviri influence in other spheres of life, and over time the position of Potentate was usually filled by one of the snake people. In the year 1E 2920, the Potentate Versidue-Shaie plotted to overthrow the empire. He contrived the assassination first of Crown Prince Juilek and then the emperor himself. On 22 Evening Star 2920, Versidue-Shaie declared that he was taking over the leadership of the empire but retaining his title of Potentate. In the same speech, he declared the end of the First Era and the start of the Second.
In order to suppress armies remaining loyal to the Remans, as well as the armies belonging to individual kingdoms seeking greater autonomy, Versidue-Shaie was forced to engage in a relentless series of campaigns that, by the year 2E 283, finally resulted in victory for his forces. The cost of the campaigns was immense, resulting in the impoverishment of both the empire and its constituent kingdoms and in an effort to maintain order without the expense of a standing army, in 2E 321 Versidue-Shaie agreed to a proposal from his kinsman Dinieras-Ves that established what was to become known as the Fighters Guild.
In 2E 324, Versidue-Shaie was assassinated by the nascent Morag Tong and succeeded by his son, Savirien-Chorak. In turn, he was assassinated along with all his heirs on one night in Sun's Dawn 2E 430, bringing a final end to the Second Empire and signaling the start of the Interregnum. Subsequent rulers of the Imperial Province retained the name of the Empire of Cyrodiil, but this was never ruled by a Dragonborn emperor and did not extend beyond the borders of Cyrodiil.
Empire of Cyrodiil
The Empire of Cyrodiil refers to an Imperial state that existed during the early years of the Interregnum. Although identified as an empire, it differed from the Alessian Empire, Second Empire, and Third Empire in that its only permanent dependency was Cyrodiil itself, and it was at no time ruled by a Dragonborn emperor.
With the collapse of the Second Empire in 2E 430, its provinces reasserted their independence, leaving the Imperial heartland of Cyrodiil to its own devices. The region remained a bastion of Imperial culture as the rest of Tamriel rejected its influence. Further, institutions that had been hallmarks of the Second Empire, including the Imperial Legion, the Elder Council, and the office of emperor, survived the chaos relatively intact. As such, the Empire of Cyrodiil, as it would come to be known, succeeded the Second Empire as a matter of course. In the absence of legitimate claimants to the Ruby Throne, the Empire of Cyrodiil was ruled over by a succession of pretenders who usually attained the throne through conquest.
The earliest known of these pretenders was Durcorach, a leader of the Reachmen, who reigned over the Empire for a time before being slain in battle outside Daggerfall in 2E 541. He and his successors, a dynasty called the Longhouse Emperors, held the throne until the death of Leovic at the hands of Varen Aquilarios of Chorrol in 2E 577. Of all of the pretenders who had thus far achieved control of the Empire, the Longhouse Emperors had been some of the more successful ones, having managed to stay in power for a span of several decades. One triumph of their reign was the opportunistic annexation of Riverhold and Orcrest in northern Elsweyr by the Legion of the West Weald under General Lavinia Axius. This occurred during the early years of the Knahaten Flu outbreak, which had hit the Khajiit particularly hard. The Khajiit attempted to retake both cities from the Imperials, but were unsuccessful.
Leovic's usurper, Varen Aquilarios, had been the Duke of Chorrol before leading the Colovian Estates in rebellion against Leovic when he legalized Daedra worship. After personally killing Leovic and claiming the title of emperor of Cyrodiil, Varen set out to cement his status a legitimate leader of the Empire by retrieving the lost Amulet of Kings. He was encouraged in this endeavor by the powerful necromancer Mannimarco, who promised that the Amulet could be used in a ritual to persuade Akatosh to make Varen a Dragonborn. Mannimarco betrayed Varen, however, and the ritual broke the covenant with Akatosh and set Nirn adrift in the Mundus in an event named the Soulburst. Varen was believed lost in the event and his wife, Clivia Tharn, ascended to the Ruby Throne as Empress Regent.
Clivia Tharn's reign ushered in a time of increasing instability within the Empire. Swayed by offers of power and immortality, Clivia fell under the thrall of Mannimarco, who convinced her that the Mages Guild was responsible for the Soulburst and to expel them from the Imperial City, allowing Mannimarco's Worm Cult to operate freely. Mannimarco himself aspired to become a god and rule not only Nirn, but his master Molag Bal's realm of Coldharbour as well. Beyond the Empire's borders, the other nations of Tamriel began to unite into three different alliances in response to perceived Imperial aggression and corruption: the Ebonheart Pact, Daggerfall Covenant, and the first Aldmeri Dominion. Each alliance sought to conquer the Empire of Cyrodiil and place one of their own on the Imperial Throne, triggering the Alliance War that wracked the whole of Tamriel in 2E 582.
With central Cyrodiil ravaged by war, most of its inhabitants scattered. Some of them hid in the northern and eastern mountains, while others fled south to Blackwood. The richest of the Imperials, mostly Nibenese, bought estates in western Colovia, around the cities of Kvatch and Anvil, away from raging war. That proved to be a mistake, however, as Anvil was captured by pirates who claimed dominion over the entire Gold Coast and declared it an independent state, leading to strife with loyalist Kvatch.
The Empire did not sit idle as the armies of the alliances forged deep into its territory. It attempted to expand its reach on two fronts: High Rock and Hammerfell to the north, and Valenwood to the south. The invasion of High Rock and Hammerfell was spearheaded by the infamous Magus-General Septima Tharn. To the south, an Imperial Legion was mustered from Colovia to annex Valenwood's Arenthia Vale, which by decree of the Count of Skingrad and the Elder Council was renamed the South Weald. Each of these ventures ultimately failed. Circa 2E 583, Chancellor Abnur Tharn as head of the Elder Council attempted to end the Alliance War and restore the Empire's power through assembling the Wrathstone and using it to activate an "ancient weapon" within the Halls of Colossus. Instead, this unleashed several dragons which had been imprisoned for centuries.
Little is known about the outcome of the war and the Empire of Cyrodiil's subsequent history, but by the time of Tiber Septim's conquests in the Ninth Century of the Second Era, the Empire had long ceased to exist. Cyrodiil was divided between the Nibenese east and Colovian west, and remained so until reunification under the warlord Cuhlecain, whom Tiber Septim served as a general at the time.
The Third Empire was declared by Tiber Septim in 2E 854 after the chaos of the Interregnum, and was forged through a decades-long conflict to unite Tamriel known as the Tiber Wars. It lasted throughout the whole of the Third Era and two centuries into the Fourth Era, when it began to decline.
The Septim Dynasty was founded by Tiber Septim upon using Numidium to conquer the whole of Tamriel, after which he declared the start of a new era, 3E 0. His rule of 38 years was prosperous and relatively peaceful. His grandson Pelagius succeeded him, and was poised to continue the golden age, until he was assassinated by the Dark Brotherhood after less than 3 years. Pelagius was the first and only direct descendant of Tiber Septim to rule, as he was an only child and had no children himself. Thus, the Ruby Throne passed to Tiber's niece, Kintyra, in 3E 41. Kintyra and her son, Uriel, were successful rulers who achieved a level of unity within the Empire that would not be equaled for centuries. Uriel II, who took the throne in 3E 64, had his 18-year reign blighted by plagues and insurrections, and accomplished little during his rule. Instead, he left many problems, and a great deal of debt, to Pelagius II. In response, Pelagius dismissed the entire Elder Council and allowed only those who paid a princely sum to return to their seats. While this tactic brought some prosperity back to Tamriel, it ended when Pelagius was poisoned in 3E 98, purportedly by a disgruntled former Council member. His son, Antiochus, was more interested in debauchery than politics, known across the Empire as a womanizer even before taking the throne. His reign was marred by civil war and other conflicts, and the province of Summerset was almost lost to invading Maormer in 3E 110. Antiochus died ten years later, leaving the throne in the tenuous grasp of his 15-year-old daughter, Kintyra II. The succession was contested by Antiochus' siblings and would lead to civil war.
In 3E 121, Kintyra II was imprisoned by Potema Septim, the infamous Wolf Queen of Solitude, and murdered two years later. This triggered the War of the Red Diamond, a civil war between Potema and her son Uriel III on one side, and Potema's brothers Cephorus and Magnus on the other. The armies of the brothers were eventually victorious and the succession continued.
The Empire gained and lost power and land unpredictably during the next century until the rise of Katariah Ra'Athim. The first (and only) Elven ruler of the Empire, Katariah was the first in 100 years to secure a steady, iron grip over most of Tamriel, save Black Marsh. Ultimately, this would be the Empress' undoing, as she died in 3E 200 in a minor skirmish in Black Marsh.
Another civil war broke out after the Elder Council voted to disinherit Andorak, the eldest son of Uriel IV, and offer the Imperial crown to his cousin Cephorus instead, as they considered Cephorus to be more closely related to the true Septim bloodline. The war lasted nine years until Andorak was mollified by the offer of the throne of Shornhelm in High Rock.
In 3E 268, Uriel V began his invasion of Akavir. This one invasion dominated his reign, and ultimately ended it. His life was cut short in 3E 290, and again the Empire began a slow decline. Uriel VI was unable to take the throne until 3E 307, due to his young age at the time of his father's death, and his mother Thonica's attempts to stay in power as Regent. When Uriel VI fell from his horse and died in 3E 313, his half-sister came to power as Empress Morihatha. Uriel VI had left his sister with rebellious vassals and malcontent citizens to deal with. Nonetheless, she acted decisively and by the end of her reign in 3E 339, Tamriel was nearing a sort of unity. Her nephew, Pelagius IV—though struggling at first—brought the Empire closer to unity than it had been in over 300 years, since the days of Uriel I.
Uriel Septim VII, son of Pelagius IV, came to power after his father's death in 3E 368. In 3E 389, Uriel VII's battlemage, Jagar Tharn, managed to imprison the emperor in a dimension of Tharn's own creation. For ten years, later known as the Imperial Simulacrum, Jagar Tharn ruled in Uriel's place, but showing none of the latter's wisdom. Before Tharn could entirely drive the Empire into the ground, Uriel was rescued and restored to the throne in 3E 399.
During Uriel Septim VII's reign, which lasted 65 years, he united the Empire for the first time in centuries. By the end of the Imperial Simulacrum, Warp in the West, and Vvardenfell Crisis, the Empire was even closer to unity than at the end of Pelagius IV's reign. After his assassination, his son, Martin Septim, ended the Oblivion Crisis, the Third Era, and—with no more heirs—the Septim dynasty.
The Empire recovered from Tharn's deceit, but ultimately ended when Martin Septim sacrificed himself in a successful bid to seal the rift that had been opened to Mehrunes Dagon's plane of Oblivion. High Chancellor Ocato became Potentate Ocato when no candidate to replace Martin could be found. Ocato kept the Empire more or less intact in the tumultuous years after the Oblivion Crisis, but was assassinated in or around 4E 10, which ushered in the seven-year Stormcrown Interregnum.
At some point in the seven years following Ocato's assassination, a Nibenese witch-warrior named Thules the Gibbering was crowned Emperor, although he was not well liked by the people, the Elder Council favored him over Titus Mede, a Colovian warlord who sought the throne. Eventually, in 4E 17, Titus Mede captured the Imperial City from Thules and crowned himself the first Emperor of a new dynasty, eventually persuading the Elder Council to accept him as a liberator rather than a conqueror.
During his rule, the province of Hammerfell was reclaimed, alongside the city-states of Leyawiin and Bravil. Under later events, Elsweyr was also reclaimed.
In 4E 168, Emperor Titus Mede II ascended to the throne. The Empire was at that time a shadow of its former glory. Valenwood and Elsweyr had been ceded to the third Aldmeri Dominion, Black Marsh had been lost to Imperial rule since the Oblivion Crisis, Morrowind had yet to fully recover from the eruption of Red Mountain, and Hammerfell was plagued by infighting between the Crown and Forebear factions. Only High Rock, Cyrodiil, and Skyrim remained prosperous and peaceful.
In 4E 171, the Great War began when armies from the Aldmeri Dominion invaded the Imperial provinces of Hammerfell and Cyrodiil after Titus II rejected an ultimatum to make massive concessions to the Thalmor. An army led by Thalmor general Lord Naarifin emerged from hidden camps in northern Elsweyr and assaulted southern Cyrodiil, flanking Imperial defenses along the Valenwood border. Leyawiin fell to the invaders, and Bravil was surrounded and besieged. Simultaneously, an army under Lady Arannelya crossed western Cyrodiil, bypassing Anvil and Kvatch and entering Hammerfell. This army was joined by smaller forces landing on Hammerfell's coast. Imperial troops were forced into retreat across the Alik'r Desert. The Imperial City was besieged, and fell after the Emperor fled with the remnants of his army to Skyrim. The war ended a year later with the liberation of the Imperial City after the Battle Of The Red Ring, and with the subsequent Imperial acceptance of the White-Gold Concordat. This treaty contained terms almost identical to those rejected before the war, specifically the outlaw of Talos worship, which became one of the major causes of the Stormcloak Rebellion in Skyrim. Hammerfell seceded from the Empire and worked to combat Thalmor forces on its own, gaining its freedom in 4E 180. This left the Empire in a diminished and less stable condition, though it retained control of the provinces of Cyrodiil, High Rock and Skyrim.
In 4E 201, the Stormcloak Rebellion broke out in Skyrim. The belligerents were the Stormcloaks, led by Ulfric Stormcloak, who fought for the independence of Skyrim, and the Imperial Legion, led by General Tullius, with the intention of holding the Empire together in the face of growing political tensions between them and the Thalmor.
Third Empire banner found in Stros M'kai circa 2E 864