The Markarth Incident was a battle that took place after the Great War and before the Civil War in Skyrim. Events in the city of Markarth sparked the latter and later became known as the Markarth Incident.
In 4E 174, Markarth and the Reach was subjected to what is known today as the Forsworn Uprising. When the Third Aldmeri Dominion invaded the Imperial City during the Great War, the Imperial Legion all but turned a blind eye to the other provinces. The native Breton people of the Reach, called the Reachmen, took this opportunity to seize control of the city. This was only possible as the Imperial Legionnaires stationed in Markarth were recalled to fight, leaving the city very vulnerable.
The Jarl of the Reach, Hrolfdir, could not quell the uprising and was driven out of the city. The rebellion was successful, and the Reachmen ruled over Markarth and The Reach as an independent kingdom from Skyrim from 4E 174 - 4E 176. Allegedly during this time, the Kingdom was relatively peaceful, and the Reachmen ruled their lands more or less fairly and were making overtures to be recognized by the Empire as a legitimate kingdom. Others claimed that it was a chaotic uprising and that Markarth's nobles grew desperate when the Reachmen refused their offers of peace.
In 4E 175, the Great War ended with the Empire signing the White-Gold Concordat. During this time, Hrolfdir and his son Igmund sought help from Ulfric Stormcloak in ousting the Reachmen invaders. They promised Ulfric that if he re-took the Reach, then Hrolfdir as Jarl would allow free worship of Talos - an act that was recently outlawed at the end of the war. Ulfric agreed and marched his militia to the gates of Markarth and retook the city using the power of his Thu'um.
Reports vary, but The Bear of Markarth claims every official who worked for the Reachmen was killed, even after they had surrendered, native women were tortured to give up names of Reachmen fighters who had fled the city and anyone who lived in the city, Reachmen and Nord alike, were executed if they had not fought with Ulfric and his men when they breached the gates. Ulfric supposedly even ordered the deaths of shopkeepers, farmers, the elderly, and any child old enough to lift a sword that had failed in the call to fight with him.
It is difficult to tell how accurate these reports are, as while the dialogue of Braig and many of the other Forsworn imprisoned in Cidhna Mine shows that there were many false and unjust imprisonments, the number of these are unknown. Although the Empire accuses Ulfric of being responsible for the heinous atrocities, Braig's story seems to confirm that it was Jarl Hrolfdir who carried out the unjust incarcerations and executions on those accused of colluding with the Forsworn. This is however, partially, contradicted by Nepos the Nose, who claims that all the Forsworn who did not flee were executed, excluding himself, his king and a handful of others.
The leader of the Reachmen, Madanach, was captured but was spared by Thonar Silver-Blood, as he was more valuable as alive than dead. The surviving Reachmen fled to the hills of the Reach and became known as the Forsworn.
In Markarth, Jarl Hrolfdir kept his promise to Ulfric for a time and allowed free worship of Talos. When the Imperial Legion arrived to restore the rule of law, Ulfric allegedly refused them entry into the city until they also agreed that free worship of Talos would be allowed. With supposed chaos running through the streets of Markarth and the reports of deaths rising every day, the Empire had no choice but to grant Ulfric and his men their worship, thus jeopardizing the peace agreement with the Aldmeri Dominion. Igmund and Cedran however, implies that the Empire promised Ulfric free Talos worship from the very beginning and simply hoped that the Dominion would not find out about the free Talos worship. When they eventually did, they scapegoated Ulfric and his militia in order to avoid incrimination and to prevent a war.
Eventually, the Empire rescinded upon the agreement due to pressure from the Aldmeri Dominion. Hrolfdir turned on Ulfric and his men and aided the Empire in arresting them. Ulfric and his militia were expelled from the city and imprisoned shortly after. This betrayal left Ulfric bitter towards the Empire and is considered to be the initial conception of the Stormcloak rebellion.
- The cruel retributions spoken about in the Bear of Markarth are credited to the "Jarl" by Braig in Cidhna Mine (According to Cedran, Hrolfdir would be the Jarl of Markarth when the Nords took back the city which would be the logical time the cruel retributions would likely have occurred stated in The Bear of Markarth).
- All the citizens of Markarth who mention the battle that ended Forsworn control of Markarth believe the Forsworn control of the city ended 20 years ago, 5 years later than the Bear of Markarth states.