In this blog post I would like to try to lift the viel on the varying accounts of Tiber Septim's life.
We are all likely familiar with the orthodox view of Tiber's life, as stated in the Pocket Guide to the Empire, First Edition: Cyrodiil, which is also the most quoted by in-game NPCs and texts. This origin story paints Tiber as coming from Atmora, studying in Skyrim in his youth, learning the Thu'um, joining King Cuhlecain in reuniting Tamirel, and eventually becoming emperor after King Cuhlecain was brutally slain by a breton nightblade. The problem with this story is that it simply has FAR to many holes in it to be believable.
The first problem comes from the claim that Tiber was from Atmora. The last ship from Atmora, at least according to The Pocket Guide to the Empire, came in 1E 68, and carried almost nothing but corpses.
"The last invasion - if that is the word for two ships, largely laden with corpses, begging to make port - occurred in the 68th year of the First Era."
The Pocket Guide to the Empire, Third Edition: Other Lands
In the 68th year of the First Era, the last ship from Atmora came with largely nothing more then corpses. However, Tiber Septim wasn't born until 2E 828, 3680 years later. Making him coming from Atmora almost impossible.
- The Wolf Queen, v1 suggests Tiber Septim was born in 2E 288, but since that would mean he was nearly 650 years old when he died, it seems more likely that Potema was misremembering her lessons.
- The Arcturian Heresy states that Tiber was 108 when he died, which places his birth in around 2E 827-828. If Potema simply had the digits in the wrong order, 828 seems more likely.
This is further backed up by Vivec, who writes in his 36 Lessons of Vivec, that when he and Nerevar when to Atmora, they found nothing but frozen Nords.
"They walked to the north to the Elder Wood and found nothing but frozen bearded kings." ~ Sermon 17
This walk of Vivec and Nerevar's taking place before the Dwemer vanished in 1E 700, after the last ship from Atmora came, but long before Tiber was born.
More evidence points to Atmora being dead and uninhabitable for ages before Tiber was born, then him actually coming from there.
The second problem comes from the place he supposedly spent his youth. While the PGE says he spent his youth in Skyrim, both the bretons of High Rock, and Ysmir Kingmaker, aka Zurin Arctus, Tiber Septim's own battlemage, say he spent his youth in the High Rock kingdom of Alcaire, under the name Hjalti Early-Beard.
"Leading his forces was Hjalti Early-Beard. Hjalti was from the island kingdom of Alcaire, in High Rock, and would become Tiber Septim, the First Emperor of Tamriel." ~ The Arcturian Heresy.
"The more recently created holidays of High Rock are those like Tibedetha, "Tibers Day," celebrated every 24th of Mid Year in honor of Alcaire's most famous, son, Tiber Septim." ~ Holidays of the Iliac Bay
This is supported by the ghost of Old Hroldan, a spirit the Dovahkiin can encounter in Skyrim, who appears after sleeping in the bed Tiber Septim supposedly slept in after he conquered Hroldan, and who confuses you for Hjalti.
- Dovahkiin: Hjalti? Who are you talking about?
- Ghost: You promised me, Hjalti. You promised that when we sacked Hroldan, you would make me your sworn brother. And I've waited. Even after the enemies' arrows dug into my chest and their hammers crushed my bones. I've waited. Give me your sword, Hjalti. That we may become brothers as you promised.
- Dovahkiin: I have Hjalti's sword.
- Ghost: It's been an honor to serve you, brother. Remember our lessons from the sword masters of Alcaire? Let me show you a few things you may have forgotten before we leave Hroldan.
The inkeeper of Hroldan, Eydis, confirms that Hroldan is known to be haunted, that spirits have appeared there before, and speculates that the ghost is likely one of Tiber Septim's men. When asked about Hjalti, she says that while she hasn't heard of Hjalti, Tiber Septim was known to have many names. She also gives information about where Hjalti's sword might be, pointing out a nearby place were Tiber was said to have attacked before he went to Hroldan, which turns out to be the place Hjalti's sword is.
- "Yes. I've heard stories that Old Hroldan was haunted, but no one's seen a ghost here since the Great War. He's from the battle, I just know it. He's one of Tiber Septim's soldiers... back from the dead."
- "Hjalti? I've never heard of anyone named Hjalti. Tiber Septim had many names. Maybe that's one of them?"
- "A sword? I remember a legend that Tiber Septim had attacked one of the enemy camps before he came to Old Hroldan. It could be there. I'll mark it down on your map."
All of this information put together, and when combined with the unlikelihood that Tiber was from Atmora, makes Tiber's youth being spent in Alcaire, High Rock seemingly more likely then the official story of his Skyrim youth.
With both of these in hand, various other claims, mostly from The Arcturian Heresy, such as Tiber murdering Cuhlecain, and Tiber not actually loosing his voice, become far more credible. Whats more, Michael Kirkbride has said Hjalti existed.
Lorkhan and his avatars:
1. Wulfharth L
2. Hjalti O
3. Ysmir R
4. Talos K
5. Arctus H
6. Septim A
While admittedly far from definitive, I think the evidence gives strong credence to the story presented in The Arcturian Heresy, being more true then the orthodox version.