|Appears in||Arena, Skyrim|
Markarth (also called Markarth Side, and originally named Nchuand-Zel) is one of the nine major cities in the province of Skyrim, found in the river valleys of the Reach. Known colloquially as the "City of Stone," it is a former Dwarven city built through a large stone crag, intricately designed around the cliffs and waterfalls from the environment. Since the region is poor farmland, Markarth is mainly a mining-town, specifically from the vast influx of silver veins in the mountain. Because of its impenetrable defenses, the city is a focal point in the Reach's politics, shifting control over the Nords and the Reachmen.
Layout & Geography
Markarth is one of the larger cities in Skyrim, nestled in the river valley of the Druadach Mountains. It is unique in that the city's layout is intricately built through the mountains, dividing the city into two districts. The northern end, Dryside has streets that ascend above each other with well-refined homes, below the main square and marketplace where the populous tend to congregate. The city's southern end is the Riverside, the basin populated by the lower-class and the bustling silver mines. While on the east end, these districts meet at the city gate, on the west side, these districts ascend high towards the top of the crag and Understone Keep, the seat of power in the Reach. The precipices between the keep and the Riverside are the city's smithy and other important places, like the Hall of the Dead and the Markarth Ruins. The House of Dibella has a chapter in Markarth, through the Temple of Dibella on the higher peaks of the stone's crag. As mentioned before, Markarth was formerly a city of Dwarves, one that was called Nchuand-Zel. Entrance to these ruins are only found deep in Understone Keep, heavily-guarded by the Jarl's court. When Tiber Septim became the Emperor, he ordered the construction of the Imperial College of the Voice, to continue the teachings of the Thu'um. Markarth Side is neighbored by several settlements, including Dragon Bridge to the north and Snowhawk to the south.
Markarth & the Empires of Cyrodiil
Markarth's earliest history dates back to when it was Nchuand-Zel, like many other Dwemer cities, it fell during the conquests of High King Gellir after the Aetherium Wars had tethered the Dwemer's vast mining empire that spanned across Skyrim. Sometime during the Alessian Reforms, Ryain Direnni launched a campaign to oppose the Alessian Empire that spanned across the Greater Reach, expanding as far east as Markarth and Elinhir, even facing the early-iteration of the First Orsinium. In the later years of the First Era, Emperor Kastav of the Second Empire had a negative relationship with the province of Skyrim. In 1E 2801, the Emperor ordered the Dragonguard had held the jarls of Markarth and Hroldan as hostages to ensure that they met his quotas. Despite the harsh connotation, the jarls were housed and trained with acolytes. Despite the Dragonguard Master opposing such an action, the faction's relationship with the local Nords had worsened.
When High King Logrolf was assassinated in 2E 431, a schism formed between the east and west of Skyrim, creating two separate kingdoms that remained well into the Interregnum. However, Markarth was the outlier as it was an independent city-state of Reachmen, ruled by the infamous Despot of Markarth.[UOL 1] The Despot was acquainted with the Order of the Black Worm, the necromancer Javad Tharn and the cult's leader, Mannimarco. In 2E 578, the great mage, Vanus Galerion had raided the dwemer ruins in his pursuit for the King of Worms. Around 2E 582, a descendant of Red Eagle named Bjora had a vision of horrors gathering at Markarth when she was under the spell of the Icereach Coven.
Control over Markarth and the Reach shifted towards the Nords after Tiber Septim assumed the Ruby Throne in the Imperial City, at the expense of the Reachmen's reputation across the Third Empire. Both Imperial and Nordic scholars denounced the culture as an unruly and barbaric one. At one point, Tiber Septim commissioned the construction of the Imperial College of the Voice in Markarth, to bring the ancient art back into modern-times.
The Forsworn Uprising & the Great War Aftermath
When the Great War ravaged across Cyrodiil and sacked the Imperial City in 4E 174, the Imperial Legion had left their position in the Reach for the capital city, leaving Markarth undefended. Taking advantage of this, the Reachmen formed an army known as the Forsworn that claimed Markarth as an independent city-state in an event called the Forsworn Uprising. The rebel faction had usurped the previous Jarl of Markarth, Hrolfdir in favor for their leader, King Madanach. In that time, the city-state sought to establish the Reach as a legitimate kingdom of the Empire, however, public opinion from the Nordic-people, as passed-down tales of the peaceful kingdom were non-existent, ignored by the skalds of Skyrim. In 4E 176, before any arrangement was made between Markarth and the Empire, Jarl Hrolfdir formed a militia of Nords that recruited Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, besieging the gates of Markarth. Ulfric's slogan, "you are with us, or you are against Skyrim" rang true across the Reach, any citizen that did not join his cause was exposed to the jarl's wrath. Jarl Hrolfdir was killed in action while King Madanach was sentenced to the Cidhna Mine. The Forsworn retreated into the hills.
The victory was to the Nords and Ulfric Stormcloak, who used his unique position to his advantage. Before the Imperial Legion could re-established order in Markarth, Ulfric demanded that worship of Talos was freely practiced in Markarth, which was in violation of the White-Gold Concordat. As chaos ensued across the city street, the Empire was forced to comply with Ulfric's demand. These events were later dubbed the Markarth Incident and it was seen as one of several reasons for the formation of the Stormcloaks and later the Skyrim Civil War. With his father dead, Igmund was named the Jarl of Markarth and continued the fight against the Forsworn, who became brigands across the Reach. But to fulfill the concordat, Jarl Igmund was forced to arrest Ulfric and his militia, believing it was in Skyrim's best interest. When the civil war came into full-force, Jarl Igmund and his court favored the Empire, who were based in the northern city, Solitude. The Legion's militia in the Reach was represented by Legate Emmanual Admand.
The Forsworn Conspiracy
In 4E 201, murder strings occurred across Markarth that revealed a large-scale conspiracy involving the Forsworn and the Silver-Blood Clan. An interloper had delved into the vast rabbit hole after they witnessed an incident in the city's marketplace. Their investigation took them across Markarth, including the warrens in the riverside district, and the Treasury House that was ran by the Silver-Blood Clan. Eventually, they were arrested by the corrupt city-guard in the town's temple of Talos and taken into Cidhna Mine. Their time in the prison led them brought the attention of the Forsworn kept in the mines and the King of Rags, Madanach. The interloper was offered to join in their escape plan through the Markarth Ruins, but it is unknown whether it was successful and they had cut a bloody-swathe through town, or if they died in the attempt.
Markarth Bannerman (Legends)
- Markarth Side location and rumors in Arena
- Map of Skyrim — Pocket Guide to the Empire (3rd Edition)
- Map of Skyrim — The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
- The City of Stone — Amanda Alleia
- The Holds of Skyrim
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: Skyrim — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Map of Skyrim — The Elder Scrolls: Arena
- The Aetherium Wars — Taron Dreth
- Once — Beredalmo the Signifier
- Annals of the Dragonguard — Brother Annulus
- The Improved Emperor's Guide to Tamriel: Northern Bangkorai and the Mountains — Flaccus Terentius, 2E 581
- Bjora's dialogue in ESO
- The "Madmen" of the Reach — Arrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar
- Nepos the Nose's dialogue in Skyrim
- Igmund's dialogue in Skyrim
- The Bear of Markarth — Arrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar
- The Forsworn Conspiracy quest in Skyrim
- No One Escapes Cidhna Mine quest in Skyrim
Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.