Ahh, the Empire. A truly amazing dominion of semi-independent states headed by the prestigious Septim Dynasty, who followed in the footsteps of the Reman Dynasty and Saint Alessia herself to forge a continent spanning regime. While the capital, the Imperial City is found in the central province of Cyrodiil, The Empire also controls the provinces of Black Marsh, Elsweyr, Hammerfell, High Rock, Morrowind, Skyrim, and the Summerset Isles. Truly, there is no more prestigious and grand nation in existence! And it is almost certainly doomed. Let’s examine the troubled existence of the Empire after the break.
The End of the Empire?
Very little of that introductory paragraph is still true. The Septims are no longer on the Ruby Throne, which was rather easily usurped with force by a bandit going by the name of Titus Mede after the line of Septim Emperors was ended with the death of Martin Septim. It might seem insane that some bandit with a force numbering less than a thousand behind him somehow managed to lay claim to Imperial titles, and win them, and you would be right. However, at this point in time the Elder Council had already decreed a separate person, Thules the Gibbering, to be Emperor. That alone should tell you how bad the situation was, when “Thules the Gibbering” seems like your best candidate for the job. Truthfully, Mede’s usurpation should have been the end to the Empire, not just because it essentially was, but because it makes no sense from a legal perspective for the client nations to accept him.
Before Mede had even come to power, the Empire had quickly began to crumble. Ocato, the head of the Elder Council, reigned as Potentate during the first decade of the Fourth Era. His short reign would see the Argonians free Black Marsh from Imperial rule, with the Khajiit following shortly afterwards. Surprisingly, the other provinces retained at least legal association with the Empire during this period, even though for all intents and purposes, it might as well had stopped existing then and there considering how weak the institution was now. But suddenly, the situation worsened with the death of Potentate Ocato, most likely at the hands of Thalmor assassins, during the year of 4E 10.
In 4E 22, five years after Titus Mede decided that “Emperor” would be a fun title to add to his name, the Thalmor officially seized control of the Summerset Isles, with the Empire being able to do little to dissuade their position. Only seven years after that the Thalmor overthrew Imperial rule in Valenwood, before declaring the rebirth of the Aldmeri Dominion. And again, I can only wonder why Mede is accepted as Emperor. Surely the other provinces would object to this usurper, who clearly could not keep control of its rapidly dwindling lands? Why didn’t everyone secede from the Empire at this point?
The best answer I could come up with is that the majority of the population in the remaining Imperial provinces, Cyrodiil, Hammerfell, High Rock, and Skyrim are humans, and the rise of a new expansionist nation with the firm belief in elven supremacy over humanity might cause the other provinces to want to band together. But why would this be done under an Empire? Surely the other rulers of the Empire wouldn’t see Titus as anything but a fairly ineffectual usurper, and not worthy of being their suzerain overlord. It seems like the most logical result would be the forming of a new nation out of the remaining Imperial lands, with its members only united around universal interests, not a continuation of the Empire under a false ruler. Perhaps the local leaders felt some nostalgia for the Empire, and wanted a new Emperor for that reason? But again, wouldn’t it make more sense for someone like the High King of Skyrim to take the throne in that case, since he would already have considerable political clout, money, and a real army? From the stand point of one of the provincial masters, surely one of their peers should have been risen to the Ruby Throne before some random bandit? And if one did somehow take control, they could clearly throw him off of the throne since he wouldn’t have the legions behind him? I simply cannot think up a reasonable explanation for this particular person’s reign, considering his position before his rise to power and his management of the realm afterwards.
The Actual End of the Empire
Despite the mismanagement of the Empire brought about by the Mede Dynasty, the Empire did survive, even if it was greatly diminished. That is, until The Great War, which the Thalmor refer to as “The First War Against the Empire” to make their future intentions utterly clear, gutted the already weakened Empire. As part of the peace treaty, Hammerfell seceded from the Empire in disgust over the terms surrendering large portions of their lands over to the Dominion so they could continue fighting on their own to defend their land, which they won with the Aldmeri Dominion agreeing to completely withdraw from their lands. But as an additional measure, the Emperor agreed to allow the Thalmor to prosecute any worshipers of Talos throughout the Empire. The Mede Dynasty are not just poor replacements for the Septim Dynasty, but they openly forsake the God Emperor that their primary title descends from.
If the continuation of the Third Empire was accepted out of desire to protect mankind, then the Medes should have been thrown off the throne then and there. The remnants of the Empire should not accept a ruler that completely surrendered to a hostile nation, which ultimately could not defeat a single one of the provinces after it seceded from the Empire. The Aldmeri Dominion may be good at intrigue, but their military is weak enough that any human province on its own can seemingly hold them off indefinitely. While the exhaustion of the Imperial forces is often given as an excuse for Titus Mede II’s surrender, that’s a flimsy excuse when the survival of the normal way of life for its citizens has to be sacrificed for what can only be a short peace. I find it hard to believe that the citizenry could not be convinced to continue to fight when their very way of life is at stake. Your propagandists don’t have a very hard job getting your population riled up in defense of the homeland during a holy war.
You may have noticed that at this point, the Empire only consists of Cyrodiil, High Rock, Morrowind, and Skyrim, having been dwindled down from nine provinces to less than half that. Although, Morrowind barely counts as it’s somewhat hinted that they are much more autonomous now then before, with them having already being one of the most independent provinces of the Empire. So truly, the Empire is Cyrodiil, High Rock, and Skyrim at the beginning of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. And, as one should logically expect by now, that game starts with Skyrim in full rebellion for independence. So now, it truly comes down to the outcome of the Stormcloak Rebellion for whether or not the Empire can even be considered to exist in anything but name. If the Stormcloaks win, then I cannot imagine High Rock remaining a part of the Empire, since they have closer ties to the already independent Hammerfell than any other part of the Empire. I would honestly be more surprised if the Bretons did not join the Redguards for their mutual defense either way since there is so little value in continued membership in this completely broken Empire.
If the next game does not feature the complete disintegration of the Empire, without it being greatly strengthened during the time between by some means, it might just be completely nonsensical to me. As it is, this Empire is bad for its subjects and the world at large. For the record, if you had not guessed it from my rather harsh opinions towards the Empire, I’ve always played the Stormcloak’s side during the Civil War. It just seems wrong to try to play the Imperial’s side.
As an aside, the name “Titus Mede” should be banned from being bestowed upon anyone else. It is clearly unlucky. The first Titus Mede saw four provinces slip away, and the second saw the remainder crumble around him.