The Third Aldmeri Dominion, colloquially known as simply the Aldmeri Dominion, is a powerful empire established in 4E 29 by the Thalmor, a group of radical, nationalist Altmer in the Summerset Isles who espoused the supremacy of the various races of Mer over the Men.
Seeking to recreate the First Aldmeri Dominion, the Thalmor expanded their empire into the provinces of Valenwood, Elsweyr, and briefly into Cyrodiil and Hammerfell. Following the consolidation of Valenwood and the Summerset Isles into the Third Aldmeri Dominion, the Dominion began a policy of expanding Aldmeri influence and power across Tamriel at the expense of the Mede Empire of Cyrodiil. The Aldmeri Dominion first expanded into Elsweyr, adding the Khajiiti kingdoms of Anequina and Pelletine as its client states, and reformed The Elsweyr Confederacy. However, this expansion caught the attention of the Mede Empire, which began a rivalry between the Dominion and the Empire that would ultimately lead up to the Great War, a devastating war fought between the Dominion and the Empire.
Following the White-Gold Concordat, the Third Aldmeri Dominion experienced increased prestige and power that the Mer had not possessed since the First Aldmeri Dominion. Confident of its ability to defeat the Mede Empire, the Dominion further expanded its influence into the other provinces of Tamriel, It also reestablished diplomatic relations with the Mede Empire, even though each were still engaged in a cold war.
Formation and expansionEdit
In the final year of the Third Era, 3E 433, the Emperor of the Septim Empire, Uriel VII, as well as his heirs - Crown Prince Geldall Septim, Prince Ebel Septim, and Prince Enman Septim - were assassinated by the agents of the Mythic Dawn, a Daedric cult that worshipped the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon. Following the assassination of the last remnants of the Septim Dynasty, excluding Emperor Martin Septim who would end the Oblivion Crisis, the Mythic Dawn opened Oblivion Gates across all of Tamriel, including in the Summerset Isles.
Due to their knowledge of the realms of Oblivion and superior magical skills, the Altmer encountered more success in closing the Oblivion Gates than the Imperials did. However, the limitless hordes of Dremora, Daedroth, and other Daedra eventually overran the Altmer defenses. Reeling from the combined might of the Mythic Dawn and their Daedric allies, the Altmer leadership at the Crystal Tower, the seat of the Altmer government, in the city of Alinor, gave power to the Thalmor, a group of radical Altmer who espoused secession from the Septim Empire, due to the fact that they had the most success in fighting the Daedric hordes of Mehrunes Dagon. Under the leadership of the Thalmor, the Altmer closed many Oblivion gates and held off the Daedra until the Champion of Cyrodiil and Martin Septim defeated Mehrunes Dagon in the Battle of the Imperial City.
In 4E 22, the Thalmor capitalized on their successes during the Oblivion Crisis, claiming to have single-handedly ended the Crisis, while quickly overthrowing the Imperial administration of the Summerset Isles while the Empire was still reeling from its own losses during the Crisis. This act effectively established the independent nation of Alinor, the nucleus for the Third Aldmeri Dominion. The Elder Council, the legislative body of the Septim Empire, was unable to select a successor for Martin Septim, and; thus, the new ruler of the Empire became Potentate Ocato. However, this indecision, and the weak leadership of Ocato, allowed the Thalmor to easily drive the Imperial Legion from the Summerset Isles.
The Thalmor set to work on securing their power and independence from those, like Potentate Ocato, In 4E 10, Thalmor agents assassinated Potentate Ocato, which caused the Elder Council, and, thus, the Septim Empire, to descend into a civil war known as the Stormcrown Interregnum. Further seeking to expand their control over the Summerset Isles, the Thalmor persecuted the Altmer elite and purged the Summerset Isles of the members of all those of non-Mer descent. Meanwhile, the Dominion's biggest rival was growing in power in Cyrodiil. Titus Mede, a Colovian Imperial warlord, conquered the Imperial City and was crowned Emperor Titus Mede I. The Third Empire still owned Valenwood, Hammerfell, High Rock, Skyrim, Cyrodiil and Elsweyr, coming into direct conflict with the ambitions of the Thalmor.
In 4E 29, sympathizers of the Thalmor in Valenwood, the homeland of the Bosmer, overthrew the Imperial administration of Valenwood, and joined Valenwood with the Summerset Isles to form the Third Aldmeri Dominion. However, the Empire and its allies in Valenwood would not bow down easily. The Imperial Legion, aided by the Empire's Bosmer allies, fought back against the coup by the Thalmor sympathizers. It was at this time that the Empire first tasted the true might of the Third Aldmeri Dominion. The Altmer armies invaded Valenwood, driving out the Imperial Legion and its Bosmer allies, and securing Valenwood for the Dominion.
Following the defeat of the Empire in Valenwood, the Dominion severed all contact with the rest of Tamriel due to its collapse into factional strife and a minor civil war. The Thalmor crushed the uprisings and consolidated its power over the Summerset Isles and Valenwood.
In 4E 98, the year that would become known as one of the two years that were part of the period known as the Void Nights, the twin moons of Nirn, Masser and Secunda, disappeared from the sky, throwing Elsweyr into chaos. Using previously unknown Dawn Magicks, the Thalmor restored the twin moons to the sky, gaining the favor of the Khajiit whose entire civilization depended on the interpreting the waxing and waning of the moons. With the help of the Thalmor, the Khajiiti kingdoms of Anequina and Pelletine broke away from the Mede Empire, and became client states, or protectorates, of the Third Aldmeri Dominion.
Some say the Thalmor did not really use magic to bring back the moons, but only claimed they were responsible to gain the favor of the Khajiit.
Finally, the Dominion felt confident enough of its own power to challenge the Mede Empire, which was still the dominant force in Tamriel at the time. The Dominion's military was prepared and a plan was put into motion to bring war to Cyrodiil, which had been untouched by foreign invaders since before the conquests of Tiber Septim.
Prior to the beginning of the Great War, the Empire had stepped up its intelligence-gathering and covert operations in Valenwood, dispatching the Blades, a great order of warriors that had previously served as the bodyguards of the Septim Dynasty but who now served as one of the Emperor's intelligence apparatuses, to investigate Dominion activity. However, the Dominion hunted down and eliminated the agents of the Blades who had been dispatched to Valenwood.
Feeling confident in its decision to declare war because of the discovery of the Blades and the weakness of the Imperial Legion, the Dominion dispatched an ambassador to the Imperial City, the capital of the Empire, with an ultimatum and a "gift." The Dominion demanded that Emperor Titus Mede II pay immense tributes to the Dominion, disband the Blades, outlaw the worship of Talos, and cede large portions of Hammerfell, the homeland of the Redguards, to the Dominion. The Emperor rejected the ultimatum, and the ambassador presented the Dominion's gift: hundreds of heads that had come from the executed Blades.
Following the Imperial rejection of the Dominion's ultimatum, Dominion military forces, led by Lord Naarifin, invaded Cyrodiil through its border with Elsweyr. Naarifin and his immense Altmer army invaded southeastern Cyrodiil, striking first at the city of Leyawiin. The Dominion caught the Imperial defenders by surprise, and Leyawiin was rapidly captured by Naarifin. Naarifin and his forces then rapidly headed north, cut off Bravil from the rest of Cyrodiil, and besieged it. Bravil fell soon after and all of southern Cyrodiil was in the hands of the Third Aldmeri Dominion. Meanwhile, Lady Arannelya led the Altmer army in the invasion of Hammerfell. Arannelya and her forces crossed through southern Cyrodiil from Valenwood, by-passed the Imperial strongholds of Anvil and Kvatch, and invaded up the coastline of Hammerfell. Reinforced by Altmer forces from the Summerset Isles who landed on the coastline of Hammerfell as well, Arannelya's forces defeated the weak Redguard resistance and forced the Imperial Legion to retreat across the Alik'r Desert in the infamous March of Thirst.
With the Empire's forces reeling, the Dominion turned its attention to the Imperial City. Knowing he could not win the battle outright, Titus II instead ordered a full retreat north before the City could be completely surrounded. The entire 8th Legion was forced to be sacrificed in order to cover this retreat. With no one defending the city, the populace of the capital was then subjected to the infamous Sack of the Imperial City, in which Dominion forces wreaked incredible atrocities on the citizens.
Believing themselves victorious, the Thalmor contacted Mede, offering terms of surrender, which Mede used as a diversion while he marshaled his reinforcements for a counterattack. Using the Dominion's tactics against them, Mede's forces attacked and drove back the occupying Aldmeri forces in Cyrodiil, surrounding the Imperial City within five days in the Battle of the Red Ring. When the City was attacked, Dominion forces attempted to withdraw, but were rebuffed by the Legions surrounding the city led by General Jonna. The entire Dominion force within Cyrodiil was then utterly annihilated, down to the last mer.
War with HammerfellEdit
The Concordat is a peace treaty between the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion. The terms of treaty gave the Thalmor free reign to stamp out the worship of Talos throughout the Empire, and ceded a large section of southern Hammerfell. Critics note that these terms are almost identical to the ultimatum that Titus Mede II rejected at the start of the war. It can be noted however that if the Emperor had not agreed to the terms of the treaty, the Dominion would have destroyed the Empire.
Titus II renounces Hammerfell as a province of the Empire to preserve the treaty after the Redguards oppose ceding their lands. The Redguards see this as a betrayal, and a lasting bitterness between Hammerfell and the Empire is sown to the delight of the Thalmor. Hammerfell continues to war with the Aldmeri Dominion for the next five years.
Having been fought to a standstill by the Redguards, the Aldmeri Dominion completely withdraws from Hammerfell.
Government and politicsEdit
The Thalmor, as of the 4th era, are the ruling government of the Third Aldmeri Dominion. As explained by Delphine, the Thalmor are Altmer Supremacists who seek to end the Empire and the dominance of man. They also believe that they were the ones who ended the Oblivion Crisis.
'Thalmor' was the name of the provisional government set up by the Bosmer and the Altmer during the Aldmeri Dominion. They are agents of the Aldmeri Dominion who investigate and stop any worship of Talos in the Empire. It is commonly believed that the Thalmor would have destroyed the Empire of Tamriel if not for the White-Gold Concordat, which included the removal of Talos from the Pantheon of Gods. However, the Thalmor may too have been as exhausted as the Empire, as they withdrew from Hammerfell five years after the White-Gold Concordat. However, no sources from Thalmor military officials are available to support or deny this claim.
The Thalmor claim to be the saviors of Mer, during the Oblivion Crisis. The Thalmor claim they closed the Gates of Oblivion in the Elven lands much like the Champion of Cyrodiil did at Kvatch and Bruma. It was ultimately the sacrifice of Martin Septim that ended the Oblivion Crisis, saving all of Tamriel, including the Elves. Their supremacist ideals likely caused them to consider themselves the Mer saviors, refusing to believe that it was the Champion of Cyrodiil who saved them.
The Altmeri religion forms the basis for most of the other religious practices on the continent, primarily due to its widespread acceptance prior to the advent of human civilization. It is generally assumed that the Altmer pantheon derives directly from the original gods of the Aldmer, and was nearly identical to that of the Ayleid that ruled central Tamriel before the Alessian revolt.
The Altmer pantheon consists of eight of the Aedra that originally cooperated to form Nirn, the mortal plane. They primarily worship those Aedra which removed themselves from the creation process in time to save their divinity, with a few notable exceptions. As with nearly all Tamrielic religions, they revere Akatosh, whom they call Auri-El, as their chief deity, at least in principle. However, Akatosh, along with the Altmer deities Stendarr and Mara, were part of the creation process until its end, and so were severely weakened from their original form. In practice, the Altmer followed the teachings of Trinimac, the champion deity of the elves, who was still able to physically walk the face of Tamriel during the Mythic Era. Other key divines in their pantheon include Magnus, the source of magic on Tamriel, and Phynaster, the patron god of the Summerset Isle, whom the Altmer claim taught them to live much longer lives (by taking shorter strides).
Although they do not revere him as a god, in fact quite the opposite, the Altmer do acknowledge the divinity of Lorkhan, the patron god of man. Much of the early Altmer history involves conflicts between Trinimac and his elves, and Lorkhan and his humans. The Altmer cast Lorkhan as a treacherous, shifty character who tricked the other Aedra into carrying out his plan for creation. As the elves believe themselves to be direct descendants from Akatosh, they blame Lorkhan for the loss of their divinity. (This is the key difference between human and mer theology: humans consider themselves creations of the gods, not descendants of the gods.) Unfortunately for the Altmer, Trinimac disappeared near the end of the Mythic Era; according to legend, he was eaten by the Daedric Prince Boethiah and reformed into Malacath. The start of the First Era marked the beginning of a sharp decline in Altmer cultural and religious dominance across Tamriel.
The Dominion consider the worship of Talos a heresy and as a part of the White-Gold Concordat, they gained power to stamp out and persecute those who worship Talos. Their hatred of Talos is most likely rooted in the fact that the ascent of a man to godhood is in conflict with their notions of the supremacy of mer over man. Also, Talos is integral to the culture and religion of the Nords. He was a man, born Hjalti Early-Beard, a Dragonborn who was predicted by the Greybeards to defeat the elves and unite Tamriel under the rule of men. The Thalmor thus knew that if the Empire was forced to ban the worship of Talos, many Nords would turn on the Empire. This caused the Stormcloak Rebellion, which served as a distraction from the Thalmor plans to re-ignite the hostilities of the Great War.
Society and cultureEdit
The Altmer are one of the oldest races on Tamriel, one of the earliest descendants of the original mer race of Aldmer, and from there, through the Ehlnofey to the divine et'Ada themselves. As a race, they are extremely proud of their Aldmeri heritage, and make a concerted effort to maintain their genetic lineage. Their name translates from the Aldmeri language as High Ones or Cultured Ones, a name which is often interpreted to mean "tall", or more often, "snobbish". For their part, the Altmer argue that they are the first true culture on Tamriel, and still the most civilized race, an argument that even human scholars find difficult to refute.
The Altmer primarily live in the province of Summerset Isle, a large island off the southwest coast of Tamriel, which shares a border with Valenwood. According to their histories, their Aldmeri ancestors arrived on Summerset Isle after fleeing the catastrophic sinking of their original home continent, Aldmeris. From here, splinter groups of Aldmer spread throughout Tamriel, but the Altmer remained on the Isles, acting as the nominal head of the empire of meri nations on Tamriel. For most of the Mythic Era, the other races of elves on Tamriel acknowledged the Altmeri king as their own ruler, a practice which persisted until the founding of the Camoran Dynasty in Valenwood marked the start of the First Era, and the beginning of the decline of Altmer-dominated Tamriel. Their influence is still felt across the continent, however, as their culture forms the basis for the religion, language, and even architecture of the Cyrodiilic Empire.
Any opposition to Thalmor rule in harshly punished. In 4E 42, Thalmor agents attacked Altmer dissidents who had fled to Sentinel in an event known as the Night of Green Fire, due to the magical attacks employed. By the time Imperial legion forces arrived, the refugee district of the city had been destroyed, and the dissidents were all killed. 
The Thalmor agents are active throughout Skyrim and can be encountered in several ways. Initially, the Thalmor are not hostile to the Dragonborn and will only attack when provoked. However, provocation includes the persistent questioning of the Aldmeri policy outlawing Talos worship or outright admission of the worship of Talos.
Thalmor patrols can be encountered along the major roadways and usually consist of one Thalmor Justiciar and three bodyguards.
The Thalmor are still in operation and in charge of Northwatch Keep. An advisor named Ancano was sent to the College of Winterhold to oversee its studies. During his stay, Ancano attempts to absorb the power of the Eye of Magnus, killing the Arch-Mage and the Master Wizard, as well as attacking Winterhold with Magic Anomalies in the process. The Dragonborn, armed with the Staff of Magnus, must end the endeavor.
In the quest "Diplomatic Immunity", the Dragonborn must break into the Thalmor Embassy during a party and retrieve information on the Dragons, and indirectly, Esbern. With the help of Delphine and a Wood Elf named Malborn, the Dragonborn obtains dossiers on the remaining Blades and Ulfric Stormcloak, in which is implied a deeper, sinister motive for their presence in Skyrim. While the Thalmor don't know about the reasons of the Dragons' return, they do know about Esbern, who does. After freeing a tortured prisoner and saving Malborn from the Thalmor, the Dragonborn can escape and search for Esbern in Riften.