Elder Scrolls Lore Series: Ch.10 – The Imperials of Cyrodiil

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Cyrodiil

They call it the bleeding heart of Tamriel. So many have spilled their blood for the Ruby Throne, it’s a wonder why the the Niben River doesn’t run red. As Tamriel’s central-most province, Cyrodiil has become the ultimate seat of power in Tamriel. With the White Gold Tower acting as the citadel of civilization, Cyrodiil is arguably the most influential of the Nine Provinces.  It cannot be disputed, the events that take place in Cyrodiil are liable to echo in every corner of the continent.

Elder Scrolls Lore White Gold Tower

Like the red diamond in the center of the Amulet of Kings, Cyrodiil lies at the center of Tamriel.This crown jewel of the provinces is dominated by lush green forests and crystal blue rivers. At times, rivaling the natural beauty of Valenwood, this land has been written about since mortals had hands for writing. The fertile river valley of the Nibenay Basin has made certain citizens of the Heartlands the wealthiest people in the Empire. The finest wines and ripest fruits are plucked from the fields of Cyrodiil, making it the breadbasket of Tamriel. Aside from it’s fertile reputation, Cyrodiil does have varying climates. Since Cyrodiil borders nearly every province, there is a climate suitable for everyone. Near the borders of Black Marsh are the swamplands of Blackwood, a place an Argonian can call home. In the north boarding Skyrim, cold snow covered mountains offers a place for the resilient Nords.

Asides from Cyrodiil’s diversity, Human Emperors have wielded their power from this strategic center of the continent, and because of this, many simply call Cyrodiil, The Imperial Province.

Diplomacy & Physique

The Imperials. They’ve conquered many civilizations on the battlefield, but they are most known for their skills in diplomatic relations. Theirs is a race of silver tongues, and it has brought them more glory than any sword ever could. Whether it be getting a pompous Elf to offer peace terms, or bartering a Khajiit out of his last bowl of moonsugar, the Imperials have a knack for talking their way out of just about anything. This artisanship in Speechcraft is a most valuable gift to have, and it is no small reason why the Imperials have successfully managed cooperation between the other mortal races. Any alliance where Men and Elves must call each other comrade requires a certain- charisma. A charisma that the Imperials seem to wield with ease.

For an Imperial, the tongue and quill are the deadliest weapons, but on the battlefield this race of Men are more than capable fighters. Imperials are known for the discipline and training of their citizen armies. Their forces boast a discipline and strategic mindset rarely seen outside of their great Empire. Their boasts are well-founded, Cyrodiil has produced some of the greatest military tacticians Tamriel has ever produced.

Skyrim Imperial

The Imperials are physically less imposing than the other races. They are not as strong as their Nordic cousins, nor as magically adept as the Bretons. Even so, Imperials are renowned for their remarkable skill and training as light infantry. This flexibility has helped the Imperials stay nimble on the battlefield, thus able to switch tactics more easily. A Nord might question the strength of an Imperial’s sword arm, but then again, that Nord is likely found serving in the Imperial Legion.

Imperial Legion

The Imperial Legion proclaims itself to be the most disciplined and effective military force in history, it’s mission, to preserve the peace and rule of law in the Empire. In peacetime the Legion serves primarily as a garrison force, manning forts, patrolling roads, and providing guardsmen for towns and cities.  During times of war the Legion’s jurisdiction is greatly increased. During conflicts, the Legion serves as an invading and occupying force, overwhelming opposition with pure numbers and strategic planning.

One of the major factors for the Legion’s widespread success and fame springs from their military tactics. The Legion isn’t known for rushing into a battle they cannot win. Every aspect of warfare is accounted for in Legionary operations, and the Legion is careful to analyze every avenue of action.

Elder Scrolls Lore Imperial Skyrim Cyrodiil

Another factor of their success can be attributed to their unmatched versatility. The Empire is made up of Elves, Men, and Beast. The Legion recruits individuals of all races and creeds into its ranks and benefits immeasurably from the diversity in skills they all bring to the table.

Society

The Imperial way of life is defined by cosmopolitanism. Every race on Tamriel, no matter how alien their culture, belongs to a single community. Both Men and Mer have a mortal sense of good and evil, and through that shared morality the Imperials cradle civilization itself. As a race the Imperials aren’t immune to bigotry and intolerance, but in general the average Imperial knows how to put their best foot forward when dealing with other cultures. This spirit of cooperation certainly lends to the fact that the Imperials have excelled at trade. Their society is build on the efficiency of the Empire’s extensive trade network. Whether it be moving food by cartridge, or textiles by boat, Cyrodiil, and more specifically the Imperial City, is the center of trade and commerce. The Imperial need for trade has given birth to monopolies like the East Empire Trading Company, a mercantile group chartered by the Emperor himself. Thanks to their economic influence, the Imperial Gold Septim is the main currency in Tamriel, named after the Imperial dynasty of Tiber Septim.

A Brief History

The story of the Imperial race is one of oppression, rebellion and eventually domination. Before the rise Men, the Imperial race is said to have emerged out of the original tribesmen who resided in Cyrodiil, as well as the ancient Nords who arrived in Tamriel from the continent of Atmora. In a time before the First Era, this young, then primitive race, were enslaved by the more civilized and refined Elves.

Elder Scrolls Ayleids lore

This particular group of Aldmer called themselves the Ayleids, or Heartland High Elves. Before the word “Imperial” touched mortal lips, the Ayleids had established the first empire Tamriel had ever seen. In ancient Cyrodiil the Imperials toiled in service to their elven masters, but all of that would soon change because of one woman and her prayer.

Alessia was born to one of Cyrodiil’s many human tribes and grew up like all humans of Cyrodiil did in the 1st Era, as a slave under the Ayleids. The Ayleid civilization worshipped the moraless Daedra, bargaining with them to help keep the younger race of Man subservient. Alessia prayed desperately for her people’s deliverance, and the bones of Nirn itself answered.

Akatosh, the Dragon god of time, heard Alessia’s plea for help, and gave her his blessing, a blessing that would one day led the birth of the Imperial race. Saint Alessia was blessed with Dragon’s Blood, and with it the Aedric artifact called the Amulet of Kings. Akatosh made a promise to mankind that, “So long as the Empire shall maintain its worship of Akatosh and his kin, and so long as Alessia’s heirs shall bear the Amulet of Kings, Akatosh and his divine kin maintain a strong barrier between Tamriel and Oblivion, so that mortal man need never again fear the devastating summoned hosts of the Daedra Lords.”

Amulet of Kings

With this covenant Alessia spearheaded a great rebellion against the Daedra-loving Ayleids. After forging alliances with the Nords of Skyrim, who themselves conquered the Snow Elves, Man fought side-by-side to free Cyrodiil from it’s Elven yoke. After a long campaign against their masters, Alessian and Nordic forces surrounded the great Ayleid capital city, the White Gold Tower. It soon fell, and the Ayleids, once proud and mighty, were driven from Cyrodiil. That day marked the second greatest moment in Man’s history on Tamriel. The history of the Nords is the history of Man’s arrival on Tamriel,  and Cyrodiil is the throne from which they will decide their destiny.

The Alessian Empire is considered to be the First Empire of the Imperials, not to be mistake with the First Empire of the Nords. One of the first challenges facing this new empire was the establishment of a religion acceptable both for the people of Cyrodiil and their Nordic allies, who were opposed to any elven deities. Saint Alessia established the Eight Divines, which incorporated elements of both Aldmeri and Nordic religions. Alessia’s compromise was so successful that this religion continues to be the dominant religion in Tamriel even today. With the later addition of Talos, it is now more commonly known as the Nine Divines.

With this newfound religion that sought to unite cultures, Saint Alessia’s successors would expand their Empire all the way into High Rock, thus eclipsing the Empire their Ayleid masters once ruled. Although their Empire reached far and wide, the Alessian Empire would one day crumble from within, resulting in a great civil war that left Cyrodiil divided for centuries to follow. As is the popular trend of history, Cyrodiil would not be united again until tragedy threatened it’s people.

Church Nine Divines

It is the closing years of the First Era, the Alessian Empire is now a distant memory; Tamriel is divided, and Cyrodiil even more so. Someone somewhere must have smelled opportunity, because something was amiss in the neighboring province of Morrowind. On Tamriel’s eastern coast raiders were making landfall from Akavir, and they seemed to have their eyes set on one goal. With the utmost haste Akaviri forces pushed toward Cyrodiil through the Jerall Mountains. The invaders swept through Tamriel with ease, until one man dared stand in their way. The “Son of the West” Reman Cyrodiil.

Through a mutual need for survival Reman Cyrodiil managed to muster an army to oppose the Akaviri invaders. To accomplish this, Reman united the peoples of Cyrodiil for the first time since the Alessian Empire. With this newfound army at his disposal Reman not only stopped the foreign invaders, but he convinced them to help him build his own empire, which went on to conquer most of Tamriel. The Second Empire of Man had dawned, ushering in the Second Era.

Empires are destined to rise and fall, the Imperials knew this better than anyone. When the Second Imperial Empire fell centuries later the nine provinces of Tamriel fell along with it into disarray. This time period is called the Interregnum.

Tamriel had entered it’s darkest period in history. Living standards were in decline, roads and cities fell into ruin, and even the famed Amulet of Kings was lost, enabling the Daedric Prince Molag Bal to invade Tamriel. The Imperial Province devolved into a collection of warlords squabbling over a no-man’s land.

Ironically enough, it would take a Nord to reunite the Imperial Province: and he did more than just unite it, he brought the Imperials a civilization, the likes of which Tamriel had never seen. Tiber Septim took the chaos and disorder of the provinces and united them under the Imperial banner. Nine Provinces, each with their unique races and history, are drawn together as one. Tamriel stands as one collective people for the first time ever, and the Nine Provinces knew a peace and prosperity that was unprecedented.

Imperial City Oblivion Lore

The Imperials now stand at the apex of their epic saga. Their Third Empire achieved more than any civilization before it, and it’s influence on Nirn will echo for millennia. Like all Empires before it, this one too would inevitably fall, but in the meantime Imperial culture will creep it’s way into every corner of society. The Imperials have left their mark, and Nirn will not soon forget them. But let us not forget, the idea of Empires was not a construct of Man. Before Men knew the word “civility” the Heartland High Elves erected an Empire of their own- the very first Empire, with a society so rich and sophisticated, their temples still stand to this day. But that, is a story for another day…