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"King Vrage the Gifted began the expansion that led to the First Empire of the Nords. Within a span of fifty years, Skyrim ruled all of northern Tamriel, including most of present-day High Rock, a deep stretch of the Nibenay Valley, and the whole of Morrowind."
Imperial Geographic Society[src]

The Nordic Empire,[Note 1] formally the First Empire of the Nords,[1] sometimes referred to as the First Empire of Men,[2] or the First Empire of Humankind,[UL 1] and sharing the Alessian Empire's simplified moniker of the First Empire,[1][3][4] was the first known human Empire within Tamriel. The Empire's founding is usually traced to the year 1E 240, with the beginning of High King Vrage's Skyrim Conquests.[1][5] In 1E 369, the Empire would be plunged into a civil war known as the War of Succession, following the death of High King Borgas.[1] The War of Succession would rage on for fifty years, and would bring about the complete collapse of the Empire in 1E 416, with the loss of all of Skyrim's outlying territories.[2]

History[edit | edit source]

Skyrim Conquests[edit | edit source]

Main article: Skyrim Conquests

The inception of the Skyrim Conquests began with the first Nordic discoveries of the proto-Breton 'Manmeri' beyond the western border of the Reach.[3][6] According to Khosey's Tamrilean Tractates, the first sighting of Breton-Manmeri came from a group of Nordic hunters, who, at first, attacked the Bretons believing them some new, undiscovered, strand of Aldmer. Recorded as being "scarcely recognizable as humans," the hunting parties' slaughter only stopped when the oldest of the Manmeri began pleading for his life in some form of broken Nordic dialect. News of this discovery began to spread all across Skyrim, eventually to the capitol city, Windhelm. There, it was concluded that the Manmeri must have been remnants of human slaves taken from Saarthal during its fall and sacking, and that ten generations of forced intermingling with Elves had left them with their deformed, elven, appearance. With this verdict, the High King Vrage the Gifted saw no other choice than to invade the neighboring lands of High Rock and liberate the Nord's long separated kinsmen from the tyranny of Elven rulership.[3] Thus began the Skyrim Conquests in 1E 240,[5] which in the span of fifty years would carve out an Empire spanning almost the entirety of northern Tamriel. The success of the Skyrim conquests can be partially attributed to the Tongues, who could easily breach the defenses of enemy strongholds with their powerful Thu'um.[1]

High Rock[edit | edit source]

Vrage's initial onslaught drove through High Rock, quickly conquering the rolling hills and valleys of the Western Reach, then moving up towards the banks of the Bjoulsae River. Incursions beyond the Bjoulsae, however, were short-lived and were almost always halted due to Elven magical ability and those Bretons who sided themselves with the Elves.[3] Incidentally, the Nords did manage to dominate High Rock's coastal regions, establishing fortified raiding villages along the shoreline. The most recognizable of these such settlements being Daggerfall, established around 1E 246, which would eventually grow to become one of High Rock's most prominent cities.[7][8]

Morrowind[edit | edit source]

Early on during the conquests, given Vrage's fruitful expansions into High Rock, the enthusiastic Nords of northern Skyrim began to leave their snowy valleys and mountain settlements to mount an incredible invasion into the eastern territory of present-day Morrowind.[5][9] The conquest of Morrowind is often considered to be one of the most epic clashes of the First Era. During the war, the Nords took on both the military might of the Chimer and the technologically advanced armies of the Dwemer.[1][9] Nord sea raiders frequently harassed the land, dominating many of the scattered Chimer tribes.[10] The long rivalry between the Dwemer and the Chimer played a significant role in the fall of the territory.[11] Another notable factor that influenced the Chimer's poor resistance was the lack of unity between their own tribes. Many tribes of Chimer actually aided the invading forces, with the intent of defeating their opposing tribes.[11] One of the unusual tactics employed by the Nords was the use of the Voice to conjure up storms, which almost always routed their fearful enemies.[12] While the whole of mainland Morrowind would fall, the deep-seated Dwemer kingdom of Vvardenfell proved a formidable foe for the armies of the First Empire, and was never successfully conquered.[2]

Nibenay[edit | edit source]

Inspired by the success of the conquests of High Rock and Morrowind in the north, Nordic earls of Skyrim's southern highlands began scouting out the lands beyond the Jerall Mountains to find their own opportunity. Unfortunately for the earls, northern Cyrodiil and the Jeralls proved a small prize for the Nords and was deemed unnecessary of conquest.[5] However, in 1E 242,[13] favorable circumstances arose for Nordic intervention in Cyrodiil. At the time, the Alessian Slave Rebellion was spreading throughout the region, which had itself been partially inspired by the Nordic victories against the Elves in the north.[14] In order to ensure her revolt's success, Alessia began looking to foreign lands for aid, convincing large Breton and Nordic war bands to help her cause with promises of rich lands and trade concessions.[5] This support would eventually evolve into fully committed military aid from the Nordic Empire,[13][15] with the creation of a loose alliance between the two factions.[9] The Nords would admit large expanses of the Nibenay Valley into their Empire,[1] with the Nordic mercenaries who settled in the region contributing to the eventual development of the prosperous Nibenean culture.[5]

Dwemer City-States of Skyrim[edit | edit source]

The High King Gellir, who is conventionally believed to have succeeded Vrage, was responsible for conquering the multiple independent Dwemer city-states of Skyrim within a span of three years. The Nords under Gellir's reign were surprised by the swift conquest, as the Dwemer had successfully resisted Nordic occupation for nearly a century. The abrupt collapse of the Dwemer city-states is normally attributed to Gellir's tactical prowess, bolstered by the blessings of Shor, however more recent discoveries suggest other components to the Nords' success. For years the Dwemer city-states had been exhausted from constant internal disputes and infighting over the rare material known as Aetherium, discovered shorty after High King Harald's reign (circa 1E 221[16]). This period of disunity between the Dwemer, referred to as the Aetherium Wars, was brought about when an alliance designed to extract Aetherium collapsed, with each member-state attempting to claim the Aetherium Forge of Bthalft for themselves. Over the subsequent decades, the war diminished the power of the Dwemer city-states, allowing for Gellir's subsequent conquest.[17] The only Dwemer freehold within traditional Nordic lands known to have remained completely independent from occupation was the city of Nchardak, in Solstheim, whose the inhabitants would submerge underwater until their would-be invaders left.[18]

Borgas' Reign[edit | edit source]

The hidden burial place of High King Borgas, Korvanjund.

The next known ruler of the Empire, the successor to Gellir, was the High King Borgas, who was one of the Prophet Marukh's chief supporters.[19] His reign saw increased flirtation with the Alessian Empire, to the south.[1] In 1E 358, during what is assumed to be Borgas' reign, the Nordic Empire began losing large amount of its territory in Greater Bretony to the growing power of the Direnni Hegemony, being pushed back all the way to the Western Reach. The Alessian Emperor, Ami-El, sent armies to aid in the Nord's struggle, but the forces weren't enough.[7][UL 2]

Borgas brought Marukh's great cultural and religious movement, the Alessian Reform, to Skyrim. He did so by enforcing the strict Alessian's doctrines which now governed the Alessian Empire, and by outlawing the traditional Nordic Pantheon.[20] Borgas' zeal saw him orchestrate many campaigns in the name of the Alessian faith.[21] In 1E 369, after the Camoran Dynasty backed out of an important trade agreement with the Alessian Empire, High King Borgas traveled to Cyrodiil to propose a joint war against the Bosmer of Valenwood. To prevent this, the Bosmer initiated a Wild Hunt with the intention of assassinating Borgas for the inequities of his Alessian faith, in which they were successful.[1][19] Legend holds that his body was secretly returned to Skyrim, and buried in a tomb in which particular location was lost to the ages, along with the Skyrim's ancient and symbolic Jagged Crown.[21]

The War of Succession[edit | edit source]

The Jagged Crown, the Nord's greatest symbol of righteous rulership. Its loss could have played a role in the Moot's failure to elect a worthy ruler.

As Borgas died with no known heirs,[22] a Moot was formed to determine who would be his successor. While Jarl Hanse of Winterhold was believed by many to be the most capable ruler, the Moot failed to elect a legitimate successor, plunging Skyrim into a fifty-year period of widespread conflict and infighting referred to as the War of Succession.[1] With all of Skyrim's lords fighting to claim the throne, there was little trust to go around.[23] Windhelm, the heart of the Empire, was sacked, showing just how far Nordic unity had collapsed.[1] Even though the war raged on, the Nordic realm would continue to expand in some regions until the year 1E 415.[5]

Fall of the Empire[edit | edit source]

With the armies of Skyrim fighting amongst themselves, the Empire was no longer able to effectively defend its outer territories, giving enemies of the Empire a great opportunity. The Western Reach quickly fell into the hands of the Direnni Hegemony, with the Elves of High Rock slaughtering the region's Nordic population.[1] By the year 1E 401, the Direnni Elves had completely removed Nordic influence from High Rock,[16] and then continued pushing further into Skyrim's traditional borders.[7] In the rainforests of Nibenay, the Cyro-Nordic Nibenese people, became culturally and economically self-reliant and separated themselves from the Nords of Skyrim.[24] In the East, the Chimer general Indoril Nerevar, once a humble caravan guard,[25] united the bickering Chimer tribes of Resdayn,[2][26] who had now consolidated into the Great Houses,[10] and formed an alliance with the Dwemer King, Dumac, with the shared goal of pushing the Nords out of their land.[27][28] In 1E 416, the Dwemer and Chimer struck the Nords during their period of weakness, and drove them out with great slaughter.[2][11] Even the scattered Dwemer City-States of Skyrim began to break free of the Empire's hold.[17] Some myths point to the alliance between the legendary King of Daggerfall, Edward, and his old friend and companion, the Dunmer King Moraelyn, defeating the Nords with the help of the Horn of Summoning.[29] Other Nordic tales attribute the rise and fall of the Empire to the prolonged presence and sudden departure of the God of Luck, Sai.[30] Whatever the reason, with the Nords no longer holding any territories beyond the borders of Skyrim, the Empire was no more.[1][2]

End of the War of Succession[edit | edit source]

The War of Succession would finally come to an end with the rise of Jarl Olaf One-Eye of Whiterun,[23] who would successfully annex Winterhold, Falkreath, and Solitude into his domain.[31] At some point, Olaf would also reconquer the Reach from the Reachmen.[32] However, Olaf is mostly remembered for having subdued and captured the great dragon, Numinex, in which would remain in his newly built keep, Dragonsreach, as a symbol of his power.[23] In 1E 420, the Pact of Chieftains was signed, officially ending the War of Succession.[1] Here it was agreed that Olaf One-Eye was the true and rightful heir to the Kingdom of Skyrim.[23][32] While, Skyrim had now recovered from its most costly war, it would never regain the power it held during the existence of the First Empire of the Nords.[1]

Legacy[edit | edit source]

While the First Empire of the Nords was not long-lasted, in its relatively short existence it upset the balance of power between Elves and Men so much that it is often credited with beginning the age of mannish dominance over Tamriel.[6] Its expansions and military might would be of insurmountable assistance and inspiration to the Nedic rebellions to the south, and would help bring about the creation of the First Cyrodilic Empire.[14][33][9] The Nordic Empire had a resounding effect on the growing Cyrodilic cultures. Nordic expansion into the Nibenay Valley contributed to the flourishing of an independent Nibenese identity and culture,[24] while in Colovia, the culture and religion can be seen to deeply reflect that of its Nordic counterpart.[13] The mixture of Imperial and Nordic cultures during the beginning of the Cyrodilic Empire is often pointed out as a factor contributing to the development of the Eight Divines faith.[9] Some northern Cyrodilic cities, such as Bruma, remain almost entirely Nordic.[34]

The Nords of the First Empire are also credited with being excellent architects. Masters of wood and timber, the Nords of the First Empire had built many large structures, capable of surviving for thousands of years. This grand form of architecture can be seen reflected in areas heavily influenced by Nordic culture, such as Solstheim and Bruma. The Nords used a method of lifting massive igneous rocks which were fitted together with no need for mortar. The results of this method of construction were often colossal, nearly impenetrable fortifications, which required very little time to build. Perhaps the most famous display of Nordic architectural achievement of the First Empire is the Old Fort, a massive royal bastion built to defend Skyrim's southern frontier. Its stature is so awe-inspiring that some claim that it appears to have been constructed by the mythical Ehlnofey, rather than mere men. In later years, Nordic techniques were often used and expanded upon by Cyrodilic architects.[1][UL 1]

Notation[edit | edit source]

  1. The term "Nordic Empire" is never actually used in TES lore, the actual Empire is normally referred to as the "First Empire of the Nords." This term is used for sake of convenience, as the latter term is a bit imposing.

References[edit | edit source]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 1.12 1.13 1.14 1.15 Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Skyrim
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Morrowind
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: High Rock
  4. Dialogue of Hrongar
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 The Legendary Sancre Tor
  6. 6.0 6.1 Frontier, Conquest
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: High Rock
  8. A History of Daggerfall
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Skyrim
  10. 10.0 10.1 A Short History of Morrowind
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Morrowind
  12. The Art of War Magic
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 Shezarr and the Divines
  14. 14.0 14.1 Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Eras
  15. The Last King of the Ayleids
  16. 16.0 16.1 The Daggerfall Chronicles: Timeline
  17. 17.0 17.1 The Aetherium Wars
  18. Dialogue of Neloth
  19. 19.0 19.1 Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Valenwood
  20. Five Songs of King Wulfharth
  21. 21.0 21.1 Dialogue of Galmar Stone-Fist
  22. The Crown of Freydis
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Olaf and the Dragon
  24. 24.0 24.1 Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Cyrodiil
  25. 36 Lessons of Vivec, Sermon 5
  26. The Real Nerevar
  27. Nerevar at Red Mountain
  28. The Battle of Red Mountain
  29. The Real Barenziah, Book IV
  30. King Edward, Book X
  31. Dialogue of Viarmo
  32. 32.0 32.1 Olaf One-Eye's Plaque; Windhelm
  33. Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Cyrodiil
  34. Guide to Bruma
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