Elder Scrolls
Elder Scrolls

For the questline in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, see Civil War Quests.
"When the sons of Skyrim would spill their own blood."
Esbern on the prophecy to unfold[src]

The Skyrim Civil War, called the Stormcloak Rebellion[11] by the Empire, and frequently shortened to simply the Civil War[12] is an ongoing civil war in the province of Skyrim. Its origins can be found several years prior to the death of High King Torygg when skirmishes raged across the land,[13][14] with large-scale military conflict starting after he was slain by the Jarl of Windhelm, Ulfric Stormcloak.[15][16] According to Igmund, the Jarl of Markarth, the war "really started" after Ulfric and his militia (the Stormcloaks) were imprisoned and found they could trust the Empire no longer.[17]


During the Great War against the Aldmeri Dominion, Ulfric was taken captive by the Dominion, and interrogated, after which he was listed as an asset to Elenwen. During this interrogation, Ulfric was made to believe that he divulged information which led to the fall of the Imperial City before being allowed to escape. Thalmor sources imply that they kept some degree of contact with Ulfric following his escape.[18]

At the end of the war in 4E 175, Emperor Titus Mede II signed the White-Gold Concordat. The terms of the treaty included banning Talos worship.[19] After the Great War ended, the Thalmor established contact with Ulfric, believing that he could be a valuable asset. The Markarth Incident proved his worth to them, although the Thalmor later forcibly imprisoned him.[18]

Following the signing of the treaty, Ulfric led a force of militia to retake The Reach, which had declared independence under the Forsworn during the Great War. Ulfric held the city and refused to surrender it to the Imperial Legion until they agreed to allow Talos worship once again.[20] Following the Imperial acceptance of Ulfric's demands, the Aldmeri Dominion forced Ulfric and his militia to be arrested, and established a presence in Skyrim to oversee enforcement of the ban on Talos worship, which had up until that point been largely ignored.[17][21] After the Markarth Incident, Ulfric refused direct contact with the Thalmor.[18]


The Imperial banner (left) and the Stormcloak banner (right).


The Stormcloak movement was initiated by Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak of Eastmarch after the Markarth Incident,[1] and aims to remove the Imperial Legion from Skyrim and turn the province into an independent kingdom. The rebels' stated goals include lifting the ban on Talos worship across Skyrim, expelling or executing all the Thalmor Justiciars[22] who have been granted the authority by the Empire to enforce the White-Gold Concordat within the province, crown Ulfric Stormcloak the High King of Skyrim,[23] and to independently prepare Skyrim for a future war with the Aldmeri Dominion.[22][23]

Besides stemming from deep discontentment with the ban on Talos worship, a secondary motivation behind the Stormcloak uprising is the belief that the Mede Dynasty and the Empire of Cyrodiil have become a puppet state of the Thalmor in all but name, and no longer has the legitimacy to rule over Skyrim. The Stormcloaks claim to hold fast to old Nord customs and values and recruit from those who share their principles. They consider themselves the "true sons and daughters of Skyrim" since they are the only force in Skyrim who have not capitulated to the Aldmeri Dominion and are openly revolting against their influence.[22] The Stormcloaks see the Empire's Thalmor influenced laws as a threat to their Nordic way of life.[15] They believe once they have consolidated their control over Skyrim, they can set to reforming the autonomous kingdom into a strong and fearless nation capable of finishing the war with Aldmeri Dominion and not be hindered by the Empire's harmful policies.[24][25]

The Stormcloaks engaging in the final assault on Solitude.

The Stormcloak rebellion represents a large enough portion of Skyrim's population to have triggered a civil war. Some Nords, notably Jarl Laila Law-Giver of Riften, do not entirely trust or support Ulfric but back the Stormcloaks as they share the common goal of independence from the Empire,[26] while others feel the civil war bleeds Skyrim dry and will leave the Thalmor as the sole beneficiaries.[11]

The name "Stormcloaks" was created by the Empire in an attempt to belittle the uprising, by implying that its supporters are Ulfric's personal lackeys in his bid for power. However, the rebels have since defiantly taken the name and made it their own, to honor the common cause of Skyrim's independence they are fighting for.[25] Others state the name was created by Ulfric himself to show his lust for power.[27]

Their base of operations is the Palace of the Kings in the city of Windhelm, with Galmar Stone-Fist serving as their field commander.

Imperial Legion

The Imperial Legion preparing for the final assault on Windhelm.

The Imperial Legion is the military arm of the Empire, which, prior to its Great War with the Aldmeri Dominion, ruled over most of Tamriel. The Legion is attempting to quell the rebellion led by Ulfric Stormcloak, with the goal of restoring the peace and keeping Skyrim in the Empire.[11]

The Imperial Legion believes that as a province of the Empire, Skyrim must abide by its laws and customs.[15] Though most do not approve of the White-Gold Concordat, the Imperials are forced to allow the Thalmor to uphold it in order to preserve the peace between the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion.[28][29][30] If any legionaries keep faith in Talos, as it is implied Legate Rikke or Hadvar do, they keep their religion to themselves and pray to Talos discreetly and out of earshot. Though the Empire has appeased the Aldmeri Dominion's demands, Vittoria Vici, the cousin of Emperor Titus Mede II, states that the Empire has little love for the Dominion.[31] Even so, high ranking Imperials do acknowledge that Ulfric is not wrong that the Thalmor hold influence over the Empire.[32] Some Imperial loyal Jarls and lords recognize the power of the Thalmor and seek to ingratiate themselves with them if it serves their interests.[33][34][35] These people state that the times of war between the Empire and Aldmeri Dominion should be over[35] and that peace and prosperity is good for everyone.[33] At the same time, Maven Black-Briar respects the Thalmor due to them holding power.[34]

The majority of Skyrim's more affluent populace are supportive of the Empire, as they feel Ulfric's speeches amount to political posturing and that his underlying motive is to become Skyrim's new High King.[36] Furthermore, some of the Imperial supporters cling to the prosperous trade they have had with Cyrodiil,[37] while others simply believe they have a better chance of defending against the Aldmeri Dominion if they are united with the Empire.[38]

General Tullius is the military governor of Skyrim and the commander of the Legion in the province. He leads the Imperial war effort.[15] Tullius has only been around for a few months, but has really turned things around for the Empire.[39] A noteworthy event is him directing the ambush, and capturing Ulfric Stormcloak and his top lieutenants at Darkwater Crossing.[39] In Skyrim, the Legion is headquartered at Castle Dour in the city of Solitude,[15] with Legate Rikke serving as their field commander.[40]

Events occurring prior to 4E 201

  • Several years prior to 4E 201, there were clashes between the Imperial Legion and Stormcloaks in Eastmarch Hold, the outcome of this skirmish is unknown.[41] However, due to Solaf being a survivor, it is possible that the Stormcloaks won.
  • The daughter of Vulwulf Snow-Shod joined the Stormcloaks as a battle maiden.[42] Lilija, however, was killed by the Imperials, implying that the Stormcloaks lost this skirmish. There are conflicting accounts by both her parents as to how she died. Vulwulf, her father, claims that she was "killed like a dog and left to rot in the mud," while her mother, Nura Snow-Shod, claims that she was "never found" because the "Imperials burned all the dead."[43]

Events during 4E 201

  • Ulfric Stormcloak arrived at the gates of Solitude, requesting an audience with High King Torygg. Although the court had imagined Ulfric came to ask Torygg to declare independence for Skyrim,[44] he challenged the High King to a duel - killing him with the help of the Thu'um. According to Torygg's own account, it is the shout itself that killed him,[45] although Ulfric claims the shout merely knocked him to the ground.[23] Some claim that this was murder in an attempted coup,[11] while Ulfric states it was an honorable duel in keeping with Nordic tradition.[23] Thus the unrest between the Stormcloaks and the Empire evolved into a full-blown civil war, pitting the Holds against one another and forcing the Emperor to send down General Tullius to quell the uprising.[46]
  • At Giant's Gap, a group of Stormcloaks was ambushed. They used their shield walls to defend and attack. By dawn, the Legion's ranks wavered. The outcome of this ambush is unknown, as the Stormcloak who gives the information got shot by an archer before the battle was over.[47]
  • Imperial forces are stationed on the border between the Rift and Eastmarch, threatening the southern flank of Eastmarch.[23]
  • Imperial troops are trying to conquer Winterhold, but had not been successful.[23]
  • Minor skirmishes between Stormcloak and Imperial forces on the roads and in the wilderness.[48]
  • A skirmish took place outside of Stony Creek Cave while The Forgotten Hero was searching for Sotha Sil's replica of Keening. It is unknown who won this battle.[49]

Initial territories

Initially, both the Empire and the Stormcloak Rebellion control four Holds. The Empire controls Falkreath, Haafingar, Hjaalmarch, and the Reach, while the Stormcloaks control Eastmarch, the Pale, the Rift and Winterhold. Balgruuf the Greater, Jarl of the central Whiterun Hold, remains uneasily neutral, but he eventually sides with the Empire.[50]

Thalmor influence

The Thalmor plays a role in the Skyrim civil war, certain sources indicate that they are the (indirect) cause of the Civil War in Skyrim. Prior to the Markarth Incident, everyone still had their shrines of Talos.[21] However, when the Thalmor found out about the Empire breaking the terms of the White-Gold Concordat, they demanded the arrest of Ulfric Stormcloak and his militia,[1] at this point the Emperor was also forced to grant the Thalmor access[29] to Skyrim and give them the rights to "drag people from their houses" if they worshiped Talos.[21] Ultimately, this is where the war against the Empire truly started.[1] They also played a role at the execution in Helgen, where they tried to save Ulfric Stormcloak from execution, in order to keep the war going.[51] While the Thalmor themselves were unsuccessful in stopping the execution, Alduin's attack on the town allowed Ulfric to escape.[52]

The Imperial Legion has sent Legate Fasendil to Skyrim to keep an eye on the Thalmor, who suspects that they are behind the unrest in Skyrim.[53] The Thalmor dossier on Ulfric Stormcloak states than an Imperial victory harms the Thalmor's overall position in Skyrim and that a Stormcloak victory should also be avoided. The Thalmor state that they benefit the most from a long war in which neither the Empire, nor the Stormcloaks "wins".[51]

Major battles

Battle for Whiterun

A Stormcloak catapult besieging Whiterun.

Whiterun Hold had been neutral territory during the Skyrim Civil War,[54] with skirmishes on both sides[55] taking place in the Hold and Fort Greymoor switching hands between the Empire and Stormcloaks on a regular basis.[56] Jarl Balgruuf refused the Legion's right to garrison troops in Whiterun city, on the other hand he also refused to acknowledge Ulfric's claim.[57] After an unknown period of time, Ulfric started planning an attack on Whiterun.[50][57][54][58] Shortly after Balgruuf got to know of this news, he declared his allegiance to the Empire.[50]



  • The starting Hold positions for those that support the Stormcloaks and those who support the Empire are similar to the split between East and West Skyrim which occurred during the War of Succession.
  • Even though they play a major part in the tension between the Stormcloaks and the Imperial Legion, the Thalmor play no major part in the war itself, although Thalmor Justiciars may occasionally be found fighting Stormcloak Soldiers.[48]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Dialogue with Igmund
  2. Civil War questline in Skyrim
  3. Intro of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  4. Dialogue with Windhelm Guards during "Blood on the Ice"
  5. Conversations between Jod and Skald the Elder
  6. Dialogue with Unmid Snow-Shod
  7. The Holds of Skyrim
  8. Nords Arise!
  9. Conversations between Elisif the Fair and Bolgeir Bearclaw
  10. An Explorer's Guide to Skyrim
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 Dialogue with General Tullius
  12. Dialogue with Hadvar
  13. Dialogue with Solaf
  14. Dialogue with Vulwulf Snow-Shod
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 15.4 Loading Screens (Skyrim)
  16. Dialogue with Elisif the Fair
  17. 17.0 17.1 Dialogue with Igmund
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Thalmor Dossier: Ulfric Stormcloak
  19. The Great WarLegate Justianus Quintius
  20. The Bear of MarkarthArrianus Arius
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Dialogue with Alvor
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 Dialogue with Galmar Stone-Fist
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 Dialogue with Ulfric Stormcloak
  24. Dialogue between Ulfric Stormcloak and Galmar Stone-Fist
  25. 25.0 25.1 Dialogue with Stormcloak Commanders
  26. Dialogue with Jarl Laila Law-Giver
  27. Dialogue with Legate Rikke
  28. The Talos Mistake
  29. 29.0 29.1 Dialogue with Thalmor Justiciars
  30. Dialogue with Ondolemar
  31. Dialogue with Vittoria Vici
  32. Dialogue with Razelan during "Diplomatic Immunity"
  33. 33.0 33.1 Dialogue with Erikur during "Diplomatic Immunity"
  34. 34.0 34.1 Dialogue with Maven Black-Briar during "Diplomatic Immunity"
  35. 35.0 35.1 Dialogue with Siddgeir during "Diplomatic Immunity"
  36. Dialogue with Saerlund
  37. Dialogue with Balgruuf the Greater
  38. Dialogue between Legate Rikke and Ulfric Stormcloak during "Battle for Solitude"
  39. 39.0 39.1 Dialogue with Hadvar
  40. Dialogue with Imperial Legates
  41. Dialogue with Solaf
  42. Dialogue with Vulwulf Snow-Shod
  43. Dialogue with Nura Snow-Shod
  44. Dialogue with Sybille Stentor.
  45. Dialogue with Torygg
  46. Dialogue with General Tullius.
  47. Dialogue with Stormcloak Soldier during "Sovngarde"
  48. 48.0 48.1 Random encounters in Skyrim
  49. Events of "Episode 6: Heart of the City"
  50. 50.0 50.1 50.2 Events of "Message to Whiterun"
  51. 51.0 51.1 Thalmor Dossier: Ulfric Stormcloak
  52. Events of "Unbound"
  53. Dialogue with Legate Fasendil
  54. 54.0 54.1 Dialogue between Balgruuf the Greater, Proventus Avenicci and Irileth
  55. Dialogue with Captain Aldis
  56. Dialogue with Agnis
  57. 57.0 57.1 Dialogue between Legate Rikke and General Tullius
  58. Dialogue with Balgruuf the Greater