After the end of the Oblivion Crisis, the head of the Elder Council, High Chancellor Ocato, searched for a worthy successor to Martin Septim. During his search, he proclaimed himself as Potentate of the Empire to attempt to preserve the fracturing Empire. In the Summerset Isle, the supremacist and xenophobic faction of the Thalmor had risen to prominence after proclaiming themselves as the saviors of Mer during the Oblivion Crisis. Their rise would cause many catastrophes within the Empire for many years to come
In Morrowind, the Ministry of Truth became unstable due to being no longer sustained by the now turned-mortal god Vivec who had vanished. Various methods were used to maintain the Ministry, but in the end it fell crashing directly onto Vivec City and caused the Red Mountain to erupt and destroy much of Vvardenfell. Much of what was left of Morrowind was thrown into chaos and many Dunmer fled from Morrowind. The eruption was said to be felt as well on Black Marsh, which caused the destruction of many roads and cut off many Imperial garrisons.
This prompted the Thalmor to incite the Argonians into a massive uprising against the Empire. The Argonians conquered the southern part of Morrowind and expelled the Empire from Black Marsh, making them the first province to secede. Ten years after these events the Potentate Ocato was murdered by Thalmor assassins. His death caused a brutal power struggle and fractured the Elder Council, which was named the Stormcrown Interregnum. The Thalmor were quick to take advantage of the situation in Cyrodiil and overthrew the Kings and Queens of Summerset Isle, making themselves the rulers of the Altmer. The Stormcrown Interregnum lasted for seven long years and was ended when the Colovian warlord Titus Mede seized the crown and conquered the Imperial City.
Rise of the Aldmeri DominionEdit
Emperor Titus Mede I began to stabilize the Empire, however the Thalmor had created a coup in Valenwood. Despite the efforts of the Imperial Army, they were no match for the Thalmor's subterfuge and stratagem. The coup was successful and the Empire was expelled from Valenwood. After their victory, the Altmer and the Bosmer formed an alliance which would revive the Aldmeri Dominion. Shortly afterward, the Aldmeri Dominion severed all contact with the Empire for more than seventy years.
In 4E 98, the two moons, Masser and Secunda, vanished. In most of the Empire, this was viewed with trepidation and fear. In Elsweyr it was far worse, as culturally the moons are much more influential to the Khajiit. After two years of the Void Nights, the moons returned. The Thalmor announced that they had restored the moons using previously unknown Dawn Magicks. The Khajiit credited the Thalmor as their saviors. Within fifteen years, Imperial influence in Elsweyr had so diminished that the Empire was unable to respond effectively to the coup of 4E 115, which dissolved the Elsweyr Confederacy and recreated the ancient kingdoms of Anequina and Pelletine as client states of the Aldmeri Dominion.
The Great WarEdit
In 4E 168, Titus Mede II ascended to the throne and inherited a weakened empire. The glory days of the Septims were a distant memory. Valenwood and Elsweyr were gone, ceded to the Thalmor. Black Marsh had been lost to Imperial rule since the aftermath of the Oblivion Crisis. Morrowind had never recovered fully from the eruption of Red Mountain. Hammerfell was plagued by infighting between Crowns and Forebears. Only High Rock, Cyrodiil and Skyrim remained prosperous and peaceful. Emperor Titus Mede II had only a few short years to consolidate his rule before his leadership was put to the ultimate test.
On the 30th of Frostfall, 4E 171, the Aldmeri Dominion sent an ambassador to the Imperial City with a gift in a covered cart and an ultimatum for the new Emperor. The long list of demands included staggering tributes, disbandment of the Blades, outlawing the worship of Talos, and ceding large sections of Hammerfell to the Dominion. Despite the warnings of his generals of the Empire's military weakness, Emperor Titus Mede II rejected the ultimatum. The Thalmor ambassador upended the cart, spilling over a hundred heads on the floor: every Blades agent in Summerset and Valenwood. So began the Great War, which would consume the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion for the next five years. Within days, Aldmeri armies invaded Hammerfell and Cyrodiil simultaneously. A strong force commanded by the Thalmor general Lord Naarifin attacked Cyrodiil from the south, marching out of hidden camps in northern Elsweyr and flanking the Imperial defenses along the Valenwood border. Leyawiin soon fell to the invaders, while Bravil was cut off and besieged.
At the same time, an Aldmeri army under Lady Arannelya crossed into western Cyrodiil from Valenwood, bypassing Anvil and Kvatch and crossing into Hammerfell. Smaller Aldmeri forces landed along the southern coastline of Hammerfell. The disunited Redguard forces offered only scattered resistance to the invaders, and much of the southern coastline was quickly overrun. The greatly outnumbered Imperial Legions retreated across the Alik'r Desert in the now-famous March of Thirst. However, the surprising initial success of Lord Naarifin's attack led the Thalmor to believe that the Empire was weaker than they had thought. The capture of the Imperial City itself and the complete overthrow of the Empire thus became their primary objective over the next two years. As we know, the Thalmor nearly achieved their objective. It was only because of the Emperor's determined leadership during the Empire's darkest hour that this disaster was averted. During 4E 172, the Aldmeri advanced deeper into Cyrodiil. Bravil and Anvil both fell to the invaders. By the end of the year, Lord Naarifin had advanced to the very walls of the Imperial City. There were fierce naval clashes in Lake Rumare and along the Niben as the Imperial forces attempted to hold the eastern bank.
In Hammerfell, the Thalmor were content to consolidate their gains as they took control of the whole southern coastline, which was in fact their stated objective in the ultimatum delivered to the Emperor. Of the southern cities, only Hegathe still held out.
The survivors of the March of Thirst regrouped in northern Hammerfell, joined by reinforcements from High Rock. The year 4E 173 saw stiffening Imperial resistance in Cyrodiil, but the seemingly inexorable Aldmeri advance continued. Fresh legions from Skyrim bolstered the Emperor's main army in the Imperial City, but the Aldmeri forced the crossing of the Niben and began advancing in force up the eastern bank. By the end of the year, the Imperial City was surrounded on three sides - only the northern supply route to Bruma remained open.
In Hammerfell, Imperial fortunes took a turn for the better. In early 4E 173, a Forebear army from Sentinel broke the siege of Hegathe (a Crown city), leading to the reconciliation of the two factions. Despite this, Lady Arannelya's main army succeeded in crossing the Alik'r Desert. The Imperial Legions under General Decianus met them outside Skaven in a bloody and indecisive clash. Decianus withdrew and left Arannelya in possession of Skaven, but the Aldmeri were too weakened to continue their advance.
In 4E 174, the Thalmor leadership committed all available forces to the campaign in Cyrodiil, gambling on a decisive victory to end the war once and for all. During the spring, Aldmeri reinforcements gathered in southern Cyrodiil, and on 12th of Second Seed, they launched a massive assault on the Imperial City itself. One army drove north to completely surround the city, while Lord Naarifin's main force attacked the walls from the south, east, and west. The Emperor's decision to fight his way out of the city rather than make a last stand was a bold one. No general dared advise him to abandon the capital, but Titus II was proven right in the end.
While the Eighth Legion fought a desperate, (and doomed), rearguard action on the walls of the city, Titus II broke out of the city to the north with his main army, smashing through the surrounding the Aldmeri forces and linking up with reinforcements marching south from Skyrim under General Jonna. However, the capital fell to the invaders and the infamous Sack of the Imperial City began. The Imperial Palace was burned, the White Gold Tower itself looted, and all manner of atrocities carried out by the vengeful elves on the innocent populace.
In Hammerfell, General Decianus was preparing to drive the Aldmeri back from Skaven when he was ordered to march for Cyrodiil. Unwilling to abandon Hammerfell completely, he allowed a great number of "invalids" to be discharged from the Legions before they marched east. These veterans formed the core of the army that eventually drove Lady Arannelya's forces back across the Alik'r late in 4E174, taking heavy losses on their retreat from harassing attacks by the Alik'r warriors.
During the winter of 4E 174-175, the Thalmor seem to have believed that the war in Cyrodiil was all but over. They made several attempts to negotiate with Titus II. The Emperor encouraged them in their belief that he was preparing to surrender; meanwhile, he gathered his forces to retake the Imperial City.
In what is now known as the Battle of the Red Ring, a battle that will serve as a model for Imperial strategists for generations to come, Titus II divided his forces into three armies. One army, with the legions from Hammerfell under General Decianus, was hidden in the Colovian Highlands near Chorrol. The Aldmeri were unaware that he was no longer in Hammerfell, possibly because the Imperial veterans Decianus had left behind led Lady Arannelya to believe that she still faced an Imperial army. The second army, largely of Nord legions under General Jonna, took up position near Cheydinhal. The main army was commanded by the Emperor himself, and would undertake the main assault of the Imperial City from the north. On the 30th of Rain's Hand, the bloody Battle of the Red Ring began as General Decianus swept down on the city from the west, while General Jonna's legionnaires drove south along the Red Ring Road. In a two-day assault, Jonna's army crossed the Niben and advanced west, attempting to link up with Decianus's legions and thus surround the Imperial City. Lord Naarifin was taken by surprise by Decianus's assault, but Jonna's troops faced bitter resistance as the Aldmeri counterattacked from Bravil and Skingrad. The heroic Nord legionnaires held firm, however, beating off the piecemeal Aldmeri attacks. By the fifth day of the battle, the Aldmeri army in the Imperial City was surrounded. Titus II led the assault from the north, personally capturing Lord Naarifin. It is rumored the Emperor wielded the famed sword Goldbrand, although this has never been officially confirmed by the Imperial government. An attempt by the Aldmeri to break out of the city to the south was blocked by the unbreakable shieldwall of General Jonna's battered legions. In the end, the main Aldmeri army in Cyrodiil was completely destroyed. The Emperor's decision to withdraw from the Imperial City in 4E 174 was bloodily vindicated. Lord Naarifin was kept alive for thirty-three days, hanging from the White-Gold tower. It is not recorded where his body was buried, if it was buried at all. One source claims he was carried off by a winged Daedra on the thirty-fourth day.
The White-Gold Concordat and the End of the WarEdit
Although victorious, the Imperial armies were in no shape to continue the war. The entire remaining Imperial force was gathered in Cyrodiil, exhausted and decimated by the Battle of the Red Ring. Not a single legion had more than half its soldiers fit for duty. Two legions had been effectively annihilated, not counting the loss of the Eighth during the retreat from the Imperial City the previous year. Titus II knew that there would be no better time to negotiate peace, and late in 4E 175 the Empire and the Aldmeri Dominion signed the White-Gold Concordat, ending the Great War. The terms were harsh, but Titus II believed that it was necessary to secure peace and give the Empire a chance to regain its strength. The two most controversial terms of the Concordat were the banning of the worship of Talos and the cession of a large section of southern Hammerfell (most of what was already occupied by Aldmeri forces). Critics have pointed out that the Concordat is almost identical to the ultimatum the Emperor rejected five years earlier. However, there is a great difference between agreeing to such terms under the mere threat of war, and agreeing to them at the end of a long and destructive war. No part of the Empire would have accepted these terms in 4E 171, dictated by the Thalmor at sword-point. Titus II would have faced civil war. By 4E 175, most of the Empire welcomed peace at almost any price. Hammerfell, however, refused to accept the White-Gold Concordat, being unwilling to concede defeat and the loss of so much of their territory. Titus II was forced to officially renounce Hammerfell as an Imperial province in order to preserve the hard-won peace.
Thirty years after the Great War, the Empire had achieved peace with the Dominion. However, many were not satisfied by the terms of the White-Gold Concordat, mainly Skyrim due to the outlaw of Talos worship.
- Main article: Markarth Incident
In 4E 174, Markarth and the Reach was subjected to what is known today as the Forsworn Uprising. While the Empire was beset by the Aldmeri Dominion in the Great War, 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 vulnerable. The Jarl of the Reach could not quell the uprising and was killed in the struggle. The rebellion was successful, and the Reachmen ruled over Markarth and the Reach as an independent kingdom from Skyrim from 4E 174 - 4E 176. During this time, the kingdom was relatively peaceful, and the Reachmen ruled their lands fairly and were making overtures to be recognized by the Empire as a legitimate kingdom. In 4E 176, the Great War ended with the Empire signing the White-Gold Concordat. During this time, Igmund, son of the previous Jarl, took it upon himself to seek help from Ulfric Stormcloak in ousting the Reachmen invaders. He promised Ulfric that if he re-took the Reach, then Igmund 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 ruthlessly retook the city using the power of the Thu'um.
In Markarth, Jarl Igmund kept his promise to Ulfric and allowed free worship of Talos. When the Imperial Legion arrived to restore the rule of law, Ulfric refused them entry into the city until they also agreed free worship of Talos would be allowed. With 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. Eventually, The Empire rescinded upon the agreement due to pressure from the Aldmeri Dominion, and Ulfric and his militia were expelled from the city. This betrayal left Ulfric bitter towards the Empire and is considered to be the initial conception of the Stormcloak Rebellion.
In the aftermath of the Markarth Incident, Ulfric returned to Windhelm and became Jarl after his father died during his incarceration with the Thalmor. In 4E 201, after years of brewing resentment for what he and his followers considered the Empire's betrayal of Skyrim, Ulfric challenged High King Torygg to a duel. After Torygg's death, Ulfric fled to Windhelm. Some time after this event, the Imperial Legion managed to lure Ulfric into a trap in order to capture him. The trap worked and Ulfric surrendered himself without a fight. General Tullius ordered Ulfric to be sent to Cyrodiil to face trial, but there was a change of plan and instead it was decreed that Ulfric be publicly executed in Helgen. Ulfric was saved by the timely arrival of the Dragon Alduin who destroyed Helgen. Ulfric and his men escaped and returned to Windhelm to continue the civil war.
Fate of SkyrimEdit
If the Dragonborn sided with the Stormcloaks, General Tullius is slain and the Imperial Legion in Skyrim is decimated, with some Imperial stragglers continuing to fight. Skyrim is proclaimed an independent kingdom, Ulfric Stormcloak is crowned High King of Skyrim, the ban on Talos worship is lifted and the victorious Stormcloaks begin preparing Skyrim for a future war against the Thalmor.
If the Dragonborn sided with the Empire, Ulfric is slain and most Stormcloaks were killed or returned home to their families, although some Stormcloak stragglers continue to fight. Skyrim is unified once more to the Empire, Jarl Elisif the Fair is proclaimed High Queen of Skyrim and the ban on Talos worship is strictly enforced.
If the Dragonborn joined the Dark Brotherhood and completes their storyline, Emperor Titus Mede II will be assassinated by him/her. The consequences of the Emperor's death are not further explored in Skyrim's storylines -- Amaund Motierre assures the Dragonborn of the "great service" that has been done to the Empire by Titus Mede II's murder, but the Dark Brotherhood quest which leads up to the moment of the assassination has the revealing title "To Kill an Empire".