History is typically divided into six eras: Dawn, Merethic, First, Second, Third, and Fourth. The Dawn Era lacks any sense of time at all and the Merethic Era has few specific dates. The term era has been used archaically to refer to both a period of time around 800 years:16 and one of 1,000 years.:39 Numerous details about events in Tamriel's history are debated by scholars, whose opinions are influenced by numerous biases (desire for recognition, loyalty to the realm, racial and cultural conflict, etc.) and a general lack of scientific technique.
The Dawn Era, also known as the Beginning Times, was a highly magical period during which time followed an incomprehensible, non-linear path and the very laws of nature remained unset, making a timeline an artificial fabrication. The Cosmos were created from the Aurbis and time began. The gods, known as et'Ada, formed and created the mortal plane, Nirn. Conflict was simultaneously a mere ideological difference of opinion and a manifest war. This "War of Manifest Metaphors" renders the era mostly incapable of supporting a narrative. Since fixed dates during this time are unknowable, there is no specific nomenclature for years within the Dawn Era. The Dawn Era ended with the exodus of the gods and magic from Nirn at the Adamantine Tower, at an event known as Convention.
The Merethic Era, also known as the Mythic Era, and the Era of Myths, was a prehistoric period of time after the exodus of the gods and the subsequent supremacy of Elves in Tamriel. Indeed the term "Merethic" comes from the old Nordic language, literally the "Era of the Elves." The Merethic Era is numbered in reverse order, extending from ME 2500 (the date of construction of the Adamantine Tower) in the distant past to ME 1 (the year before the founding of the Camoran Dynasty).
During the early Merethic Era, the aboriginal beastfolk ancestors of the Khajiit and Argonians lived in preliterate communities throughout Tamriel. The first Elves, known as the Aldmer, left their doomed and now-lost continent of Aldmeris and settled in southwestern Tamriel, before spreading across the rest of the continent and splitting into distinct racial groups. Some of these Elves later went on to establish empires and create the powerful metaphysical Towers that exist across Tamriel.
Humans from Atmora began migrating to Tamriel as early as ME 1000, and built settlements in High Rock, Hammerfell, Cyrodiil and Black Marsh. These "Nedic peoples" were a minority in a lands of Elves, and had no choice but to live peacefully with the various Elven races. Towards the late Merethic Era, the Atmoran hero Ysgramor led a great colonizing fleet to Tamriel and settled in the northern lands, later known as Skyrim. Ysgramor didn't submit to the authority of the Elves and ultimately this led to a mass slaughter known as the Night of Tears. Ysgramor's retaliation changed the face of Tamriel as he waged war against the Elves, which led to the weakening of their rule. Eventually Ysgramor exterminated the Elves of Skyrim and established his kingdom. Around this time the authority of the Dragon Cult took hold and Dragons terrorised Skyrim for an age, before they were eventually overthrown during the Dragon War in the closing years of the Merethic Era.
The First Era, sometimes referred to as the First Age, can be characterised by the rise and expansion of numerous human empires, and the decline of Elven authority across Tamriel. In the early years, the Nords of Skyrim established one of the first great empires under King Vrage, who initiated multiple military expansions that pushed past the borders of Skyrim and into High Rock and Morrowind.
Around the same time, the human slaves of the Ayleids rose up under the leadership of the Slave-Queen Alessia and rebelled against their Elven overlords. Alongside the heroes Pelinal Whitestrake and Morihaus, Alessia would continue to liberate slaves and fight Daedric armies, culminating in the Ayleid's defeat at the White-Gold Tower and the establishment of the Alessian Empire. While the Ayleid empire fell, the Direnni elves saw a brief rise to power, becoming a formidable economic and military power in High Rock. The Direnni Hegemony also welcomed many fleeing Ayleids, who migrated to High Rock to escape persecution in an exodus known as the Ayleid Diaspora. While the Direnni Hegemony managed to conquer High Rock and even some parts of Skyrim and Hammerfell, a war with with the Alessian Empire weakened their power in High Rock. In the following years the Direnni could no longer challenge the emerging Breton nobility, who seized power throughout most of High Rock.
The First Era also saw conflict erupt between the once-allied Chimer and Dwemer of Morrowind. The war between the two Elven races concluded at the Battle of Red Mountain, where upon the entire Dwemer race mysteriously disappeared. These events paved the way for the formation of the Tribunal, which would last for centuries thereafter. After the continent of Yokuda sank into the ocean, the Yokudans survivors migrated to western Tamriel. The fearsome warrior wave drove the elves, beastfolk and Nedic peoples from Hammerfell, and claimed the deserts as their new homeland.
The early-to-middle part of the First Era became known as the "Classical Period"., and it was after this time a phenomenon known as a Dragon Break took place across much of Tamriel for one thousand and eight years. During this time, linear time was broken and became non-linear. When linear time resumed, one of the first recorded events was the destructive Thrassian Plague that devastated more than half of Tamriel's population. After it was discovered the plague was released by the Sload, an armada of ships known as the All Flags Navy was built and waged war upon the Sload, resulting in the destruction of their homeland.
Following years of internal strife within the Alessian Order's bloated priesthood and territorial movements to curtail or outlaw the Order's religion, the War of Righteousness broke out. Western Cyrodiil isolated itself from the Alessian Empire and establishes the Colovian Estates, and after a decade of conflict, the war concludes and the Alessian Order and Empire are dissolved. The Empire's former territories solidify their independence, and its heartland, Cyrodiil, splits into Eastern and Western halves that continue to diverge culturally over the following centuries.
Eventually, Cyrodiil was reunified when Reman I established the Second Empire after defeating an invading Akaviri army. The Reman Conquests saw Reman expand his empire to conquer almost all of Tamriel, save for Morrowind. His son, Emperor Reman II attempted to claim Morrowind during the Four-Score War, but died in battle. The war was continued by his successors Brazollus Dor and Reman III, however Reman III and his son and heir Prince Juilek were both assassinated by the Morag Tong in 1E 2920. Akaviri Potentate Versidue-Shaie assumed the Imperial Throne and ratified the Cervant Truce, which ended the disastrous Four Score War with Morrowind and ushered in the Second Era.
The Second Era, sometimes referred to as the Common Era, was a tumultuous period of time as power shifted multiple times across numerous conflicts. The era began with the Akaviri Potentate ruling the vast Second Empire. Versidue-Shaie sat on the throne until his assassination in the fourth century and was succeeded by his son Savirien-Chorak, who suffered the same fate a century later. The death of Akaviri Potentate brought about the Second Empire's dissolution and in turn heralded a a period of conflict known as the Interregnum.
Tamriel's provinces reasserted their independence, and the remnants of the Second Empire nominally survived as the Empire of Cyrodiil, a rump state confined to Cyrodiil that was ruled by a succession of warlords. The geopolitical effects of the Interregnum were both far-reaching and varied. For example, High Rock, an area with an extensive history of factionalism, was more able to deal with the collapse of central power and fared much better than the rest of Tamriel, lapsing back into its usual structure of kingdoms and city states without difficulty. In contrast, Skyrim was divided as never before when it split into two kingdoms, Eastern Skyrim and Western Skyrim, following the assassination of High King Logrolf and a succession dispute in 2E 431, and then lost control of The Reach to the Reachmen. One notable Reachman was Durcorach the Black Drake, who rose to power and conquered Cyrodiil. Naming himself emperor, he established a dynasty known as the Longhouse Emperors and reinforced his connection and commitment to the Empire by marrying into prominent Nibenese Tharn family. The Longhouse Emperors ruled for only a few decades before a Colovian duke named Varen Aquilarios of Chorrol marshaled the armies of the Colovian Estates and led them against Leovic in open rebellion. In the end Varen killed the Emperor Leovic, the grandson of Durcorach, and declared himself Emperor.
A Second Akaviri Invasion of Tamriel occurred around this time, this time under Ada'Soom Dir-Kamal, whose army made landfall in northeast Skyrim and captured Windhelm, killing Queen Mabjaarn Flame-Hair. Ultimately Dir-Kamal forces were defeated by Nordic, Dunmer and Argonian forces and the Akaviri invaders were driven into the sea. Conflicts such as the invasion led the different nations of Tamriel to band together into three distinct alliances: the greater Daggerfall Covenant, the Ebonheart Pact, and the first Aldmeri Dominion.
The competing ideologies of Tamriel's alliances set them on a course for war. The Three Banners War began in earnest sometime in 2E 580 as tensions between the alliances were further exacerbated by the subsequent military aggression of the Empire of Cyrodiil and the Soulburst - an explosion of arcane energy that occurred in the Imperial City. Each alliance saw the opportunity to overthrow the corrupt Imperial regime and install their own emperor on the Ruby Throne The armies of the Covenant, Pact, and Dominion invaded Cyrodiil, which served as the main theater of war, however they also launched attacks against each other’s lands. In the ensuing chaos, the Daedric Prince Molag Bal deployed Dark Anchors and began pulling Nirn into his realm of Coldharbour to merge the two together, a process known as the Planemeld. Eventually the Planemeld was stopped when the Mages and Fighters Guilds spearheaded an assault into Molag Bal's realm. Following the Planemeld, many of Tamriel's provinces saw further conflict or hardships, including various Daedric plots in Morrowind, Summerset and Black Marsh, the return of Dragons in Elsweyr and a vampiric resurgence in Eastern Skyrim.
In the last days of the Second Era a petty king of the Colovian Estates named Cuhlecain came to power alongside the leader of his legions, General Talos. A year later more than half of the Cyrodilic Empire was reclaimed or consolidated, and Cuhlecain captured the Imperial City and proclaim himself Emperor. Skyrim and High Rock, which bitterly opposed a return to Cyrodilic rule, gathered their armies for a joint invasion of the Colovian West. The Nords that had come to oppose the Empire soon joined the General's forces, for when they heard his Thu'um they believed him to be a son of Skyrim and the heir to the Empires of Men. Cuhlecain was assassinated soon after and Talos, later named Tiber Septim, rose to power and conquered all of Tamriel following the Tiber Wars.
The Third Era was a time of consolidation and expansion of the Septim Empire, established by Tiber Septim, also known as Talos, following the Tiber Wars. Under the rule of the Septim Dynasty, Tamriel was united under a single banner, and the Emperor was considered the divine ruler and protector of the Empire. This era saw the continuing influence of the Septim Empire, with the Emperor ruling from the Imperial City in Cyrodiil. The Septim Emperors maintained their power and influence through the use of the Amulet of Kings, a powerful artifact with ties to the Dragonborn bloodline.
During this time, the mysterious and catastrophic event known as the Imperial Simulacrum occurred. It was a result of a magical upheaval orchestrated by the battlemage Jagar Tharn, who imprisoned Emperor Uriel Septim VII in an alternate dimension and assumed his identity. Tharn's actions led to a decade of chaos and unrest in the Empire, with multiple false Emperors vying for power. The true Emperor was eventually rescued by the hero known as the Eternal Champion, bringing an end to the Simulacrum.
One of the most significant events of the Third Era was the Warp in the West, also known as the Miracle of Peace. It was a result of the activation of the Numidium, a powerful Dwemer artifact, by various factions in the Iliac Bay region. It took a hero simply known as the Agent, later known as The Hero of Daggerfall, to stop it. The activation of the Numidium caused a dragon break, resulting in multiple timelines converging into one. The end result was the unification of several independent kingdoms and city-states in the Iliac Bay region, creating a complex political landscape.
The Blight was a devastating mystical plague orchestrated by Dagoth Ur. This catastrophic disease afflicted both people and the land, spreading fear and despair throughout Morrowind. The Nerevarine, a prophesied hero, emerged during this era to combat the Blight and confront Dagoth Ur, ultimately bringing an end to his malevolent influence and restoring hope to the Dunmer people.
The Oblivion Crisis was a catastrophic event that marked the end of the Third Era. It was triggered by the invasion of the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon's forces into Tamriel. The gates to the planes of Oblivion opened across the continent, unleashing hordes of Daedra. The Emperor Uriel Septim VII and his heirs were assassinated, leading to a search for a new Dragonborn to wear the Amulet of Kings. A hero known as the Hero of Kvatch ultimately thwarted Mehrunes Dagon's plans.
The Hero of Kvatch, aided by the Blades and the last Septim heir, Martin Septim, embarked on a quest to close the Oblivion Gates and stop the Daedric invasion. This culminated in the Battle of Bruma and the sacrifice of Martin Septim to prevent Dagon's victory. With the destruction of the Amulet of Kings, the Septim bloodline came to an end and the Empire entered a period of decline.
The Third Era was marked by significant political, magical, and military events that shaped the fate of Tamriel. It ended with the closing of the Oblivion Gates and the dawn of a new era.
The Summerset Isles experienced a seismic shift in power dynamics during this era. The Thalmor, a radical faction within the Altmer society, took control of Valenwood and initiated the secession of the Summerset Isles from the Empire. This marked the beginning of the Third Aldmeri Dominion. The Thalmor's rise to power reshaped the region's politics and culture, and their influence extended to other provinces, setting the stage for conflicts to come.
The eruption of Red Mountain in Morrowind led to significant changes in the region, causing a massive exodus of Dunmer refugees to Skyrim and other provinces. The fall of the Tribunal Temple and the rise of the New Temple further reshaped Morrowind's religious and political landscape. Morrowind would later cease to be an Imperial territory.
Both Black Marsh and Elsweyr seceded from the Empire and like Valenwood, Elsweyr became a part of the Aldmeri Dominion, after The Thalmor took credit for ending the Void Nights.
One of the defining events of the early Fourth Era was the Great War. It erupted when the Aldmeri Dominion, launched an invasion of the Empire. The conflict had far-reaching consequences, including the Thalmor's demand for the outlawing of Talos worship, which deeply affected the Nords of Skyrim.
Meanwhile, in Hammerfell, the Redguards successfully gained independence from the Empire after the signing of the Second Treaty of Stros M'kai. This marked the end of the Empire's control over the province and allowed the Redguards to govern themselves.
The province of Skyrim became a focal point for political and cultural tensions during this era when the death of High King Torygg at the hands of Ulfric Stormcloak resulted in a civil war erupting in Skyrim. The Imperial Legion, led by General Tullius, clashed with the Stormcloaks, Ulfric's rebel army as they sought Skyrim's independence.
This era saw the reemergence of dragons under the leadership of Alduin, the World-Eater. The Last Dragonborn, a legendary hero with the power to absorb dragon souls and shout in the ancient Dragon Language, played a pivotal role in countering this threat and ultimately defeating Alduin.
—Zurin Arctus, the Underking
All entries in The Elder Scrolls series depict an event in the world's history. The following is a list of each entry's in-world date and that date's event chronologically:
- Battlespire Athenaeum — Ronald Wartow
- Arena Player's Guide
- Next Crown Crate Season: The Elder Scrolls Online's Wild Hunt on the official ESO website
- The Annotated Anuad
- The Monomyth
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: All the Eras of Man, A Comprehensive History of our History — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- Malana's dialogue in ESO
- Before the Ages of Man — Aicantar of
- Frontier, Conquest — University of Gwylim Press, 3E 344
- Ennbjof's Nord Burial quest in Morrowind
- Hasphat Antabolis' dialogue in Morrowind
- The Adabal-a — Morihaus
- Honor's Rest loading screen
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: Cyrodiil — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 3rd Edition: The Sons and Daughter of the Direnni West: High Rock — Imperial Geographical Society, 3E 432
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: High Rock — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
- The Crown of Freydis — Taleon Mythmaker
- Orcs of Skyrim — Thora Far-Wanderer
- Pirate Queen of the Gold Coast — Midara Salviticus, Historian, University of Gwylim
- Secret History of the Longhouse Emperors — Councilor Vandacia
- Chronicles of the Five Companions 1 — Lyris Titanborn
- Guide to the Daggerfall Covenant
- Guide to the Ebonheart Pact
- The Rise of Queen Ayrenn — Nuulehtel of Skywatch
- Ayrenn – The Unforeseen Queen — Headmaster Tanion of theCollege of Aldmeri Propriety
- The Chorrol Crier
- Lady Carlier on the topic of the Covenant — Lady Carlier
- Posted outside barracks at Windhelm
- Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: Skyrim — Imperial Geographical Society, 2E 864