This text begun with the desire to create a non-Cyrodiilic analog to A Brief History of the Empire: a broad historical outline that provides a few facts and encourages lots of extrapolation. The fun and challenge came from tying in mainland Tamrielic history (of which we know a lot) with the history of Summerset (of which we know little, and the little we know is unconnected).
ALT103 – A SURVEY OF ALTMERI HISTORY
PROF. Magnus Son of Bordir
Welcome to day one of this overview of Aldmeri history. In addition to the syllabus, which covers our weekly lessons and required readings, please hold on to this cheat-sheet, summarizing the 12 rulers of the Summerset Isles.
Altmeri monarchs, unlike their mainland counterparts, don’t rule for life. The Altmer see monarchy as a job like any other, meant to serve the society as a whole. In fact, it is considered shameful to die in office, because one cannot have adequately prepared their successor. While all in the ruling class are related to each other (just like all smiths or all physickers), monarchy is seen as a responsibility to the Altmeri state and its peoples, not just a birthright.
Below is a family tree showing the relationships between Alinor’s rulers.
Uranya was the last historical Honored Ancestor, and the progenitor of the monarchical cast of the Altmer. Prior to her coronation as supreme ruler of the Summerset Isles (“… and all Territories Mundrial and Extramundrial, now and in perpetuity, until such a time that governorship shall be unnecessary”), Alinor and its colonies were ruled by councils of the oldest members of each noble cast. As arguments arose over the powers of states, and as colonies drifted away from the watchful eye of the motherland, Uranya rose to power through a combination of shrewd politics, smart marriages, and divine mandate.
Perhaps most notable of her many unions was her marriage to Haymon, the governor of the vast jungle of Valenwood. The coronation of their son, Eplear, marked the start of the 1st era and the establishment of the Camoran dynasty in Valenwood. Not long after, she relinquished what little power Summerset maintained over the Ayleid territories on the mainland. Instead, she focused on civic projects to unify the various Altmeri states and codify a new national identity.
Laranrian ⸺ 1E 225 – 620
Where her mother’s reign was about the formalizing of ancient societal strata into governmental formality, the reign of Laranrian focused on dealing with forces exterior to the isles. The influx of Ayleid and Bosmeri refugees following first the Alessian Rebellion and then the rise of the Alessian Order led to the creation of new castes of “adopted citizens” not descended from the original Honored Ancestors. Most of the racial diversity in Alinor can be traced back to this period, as can the concept of Foreign- and Ousted-Quarters in many major cities. Many of the laws against miscegenation likewise date to this era, as does the bulk of the sumptuary legislation revived by the Thalmor at the start of their rise to power.
Quaranil ⸺ 1E 620 – 650
Laranrian was succeeded by her half-brother, Quaranil, son of Uranya and Ceythelel, matriarch of the Line of Weavers. A contemporary historian described the king as akin to a carpet masterfully woven by his mother – beautiful to look upon, but even better to walk all over. The power that his father had consolidated during her seven centuries on the throne was challenged by Daedric schemes, civil unrest, Marukhathi machinations, and several attempted invasions by both the Maormer and the westerly Left Hand Elves. Quaranil’s brief reign came to an end in 1E 650, when the Sepiarchs deposed him and established a complex set of guidelines and rituals to determine who is and is not worthy to wear the Crystal Crown. Quaranil’s offspring were judged unworthy by these standards, and the crown passed instead to his niece.
Etevinilir ⸺ 1E 650 – 1080
Though she is a popular queen among the Altmer of Alinor, few details are available to foreigners about the reign of Etevinilir. We know that she expelled or executed a great deal of the political and religious dissenters that had plagued the reign of her uncle, and, once her power was consolidated, withdrew Summerset from the world stage (just in time for the War of the First Council in the north and the cataclysm of Yokuda in the west). She is also credited with several religious revelations and major improvements to the magical defenses of the Isles.
When it came time for Etevinilir to retire from the throne, her son, Ceithir, was thought to be the natural successor. Born under a blessed timeline and raised from infancy to succeed his mother, Ceithir was, as far as anyone could tell, the perfect exemplar of a king in the making. Yet when he emerged from the Crystal Tower after nearly 10 years of study, he did so carrying a crown above the head of his cousin, Novenaril, rather than as a king in his own right.
The prince refused to say what had happened in the 3,555 days between matriculation and emergence. Records say that the ambition and yearning for progress that defined him in his younger years had fled, replaced instead with a melancholy and shortness. While Ceithir himself fully supported his cousin’s ascent to the throne, many among the Altmer did not, and his being passed over created a deep (if often invisible) schism in Altmeri society that would continue well into the current era.
Novenaril ⸺ 1E 1080 – ?
After the initial outrage had subsided, Novenaril proved himself to be a solid ruler. During his reign, Summerset faced frequent assaults from the Alessian Order both by sea and in the mythic landscape, which the young king countered with a more powerful navy and the formation of a dedicated military caste, which included the now-famous Sunbirds, bred to fight the War in Heaven.
The conclusion of Novenaril’s reign is unknown. As with the rest of Tamriel, the thousand years in the middle of the 1st era are difficult to map. We will cover a variety of sources in class, but of particular interest are the so-called King’s Stones, discovered near Arenthia in the late 3rd era. It is a stone path in the middle of the jungle, leading from nowhere to nowhere, inscribed on each brick with the names and deeds of rulers. While the first stretch is corroborated by history, its record soon devolves, citing kings with ten thousand year reigns and sovereigns who would not be born until many years after this road’s construction. Among its most outrageous claims is the defeat of “King Tuber Sepsis” by a polyamorous triad of Reman Karoodil, Ayrenn, and Morgiah.
Cimeneth ⸺ ? – 2E 120
The historical record stabilizes in the reign of Cimeneth, who some claim was the son of Novenaril and Uranya and had ruled the Aether for a thousand years prior to his ascension to a mortal throne. We do know that his rule saw unprecedented cooperation between the monarchy and the orthodoxy of the Psijic Monks. In fact, Altmeri tradition claims that it is Cimeneth, not Sotha Sil, who brokered a pact with the Lords of Misrule. The latter years of his reign saw the Altmeri Empire extend westwards into the ruins of Yokuda, supposedly bringing back galleons worth of precious jewels, arcane artifacts, and profane metals.
Hidellith ⸺ 2E 120 – 580
Hidellith succeed his father as he was trained to, and, for most of his life, continued to be very by-the-books ruler, following the advice of oracles and proclamations of the Praxis nearly to a fault. His extreme introspection and a tendency to think and plan rather than act cost Summerset several colonies and led to an isolation from his children that some historians claim would eventually lead to their deaths.
Like his mother and half-sister, Erisare, Hidellith seems to have suffered some sort of break in his latter years. Perhaps fueled by the disappearance of his favored daughter, or by the Planemeld that fractured space around this time, Hidelith grew increasingly isolationist, locking himself up for weeks and issuing cryptic proclamations. While he refused to abdicate, his son, Naemon, stepped in to rule in his father’s stead. When Hidellith was discovered dead, Naemon was prepared to truly become king.
The return of his prodigal sister, Ayrenn, ruined that plan.
Ayrenn ⸺ 2E 580 – 605
For most of the monarchs on this list, our problem is lack of information. For Ayrenn, it is the opposite. Between historical fiction and supposedly “just unearthed” “contemporary” reports, as well as serialized adventure stories, memoirs, essays, bawdy romance novels, etc. there is just too much out there on the supposed life of the Unforeseen Queen.
Here’s what we know for sure: unlike most of her predecessors, who were content with their island colonies and the occasional cooperation with Valenwood, Ayrenn believed that it was her destiny to usher in a new Merethic Era and once again unite “all territories Mundrial and Extramundrial” under an Altmeri banner. She was the 5th direct descendant of Uranya, born on 5/5/555, a date which, even with advancements in obstetrics and fertility magicks, was considered divinely fated. Perhaps it was this birthday that allowed her to skirt tradition in her childhood, disappear, and then still ascend to the throne and open Summerset up to the politics of Tamriel upon her return many years later.
Ayrenn’s rule had the greatest effect outside of Summerset’s borders, where she renewed the ancient alliance with Valenwood and drew northern Elsweyr into a new Aldmeri Dominion. The governorship of the Isles themselves she largely delegated to family and trusted confidants, some of whom ended up not being very trustworthy after all. She welcomed trade and travelers to both Auridon and Summerset, leading to economic turbulence, local skirmishes, outbreaks of disease, and even invasions by Daedric forces. She also laid the groundwork for the network of spies which the Thalmor now call the Eyes of the People. Yet it was not all bad, as Summerset saw an unprecedented cultural and artistic revolution, and was able to adapt to the Tamriel that had grown up while they had closed off their borders.
Alwinarwe ⸺ 2E 608 – 610
After her initial departure following her coronation in 2E 580, Ayrenn would never again return to Alinor. Historians describe her as an ambitious queen who hated ruling and staying in one place for long. After many tours around the Dominion and campaigns into Cyrodiil (and, some claim, into Oblivion itself) Ayrenn first lessened communication with and governance of the archipelago and then, in 2E 608, seemed to disappear entirely. While there were many rumored sightings of her, no official inquiry was able to return with the queen, and in the middle of that year governance passed provisionally to her cousin, Alwinarwe.
Known as the Proxy Queen, Alwinarwe was not judged suitable to rule Alinor in her own right. Her brief provisional reign saw insurrection from both radical traditionalist parties and foreign terrorist organizations (chiefly Bosmeri and Khajiiti separatists). By the time that the Councils and Sepiarchs had found a suitable leader, Alinor was barely holding on to the Aldmeri dominion, and had lost all its other territories abroad.
Erisare ⸺ 2E 610 – 3E 60
The crown ultimately passed to Erisare, Ayrenn’s grandmother. Ayrenn’s eldest brother was both dead and a traitor, and her younger brother was deemed to be unworthy. Erisare, meanwhile, had both suitable breeding and several hundred years of experience in government, making her a perfect candidate to the throne.
After a rocky few years at home and abroad, she found her stride and set about returning Summerset to more stable footing. She formally renounced the failing alliance with Elsweyr and withdrew most forces from Valenwood, preferring to instead maintain a loose confederacy with the Camorans. A historical first was the establishment of a ceasefire with the Maormer, which enabled Summerset to finally recover from years of war and lead to aggressive economic growth. Erisare leaned heavily on the words and deeds of past monarchs to legitimise her rule, and her reign can best be summed up as a classical revival with revisionist themes.
In the latter years of the second era she claimed to have begun receiving visions of doom and ruin, which lead her to her isolating Summerset further and staging a coup in Valenwood to create a buffer state against the “insurgency of Man”. Her visions ultimately came true with the rise of Tiber Septim, who swept the continent and ultimately forced Erisare into surrendering Summerset. She survived sixty years after the conquest, with many unsuccessful revolutions staged in her name.
Reman Karoodil ⸺ 3E 60 – 4E 10
The next king was born Rilis III, but was renamed Reman at the age of 12, when Tiber Septim took him as a hostage-ward following Summerset’s surrender. He was the youngest grandchild of Erisare, and the only one left alive after much of the royal family was executed or died in suicide missions against the Empire. He spent the next 60 years at the Imperial court, only returning to assume the throne of Summerset in 3E 58 when his grandmother was on her deathbed.
The Altmer initially despised him, believing him to be a puppet of the Septims, and calling him “Karoodil,” a vulgar corruption of the word Cyrodiil. Reman, meanwhile, played both sides, pretending to be a conciliator and reformer when it suited the Empire, while honoring traditions and helping to lift the Imperial yoke to please his subjects. In 132, he convinced Emperor Cephorus to withdraw the provisional governors from all major cities and, by 184, the Empire had no remaining garrisons within the province. His 420 marriage to Morgiah, the daughter of his childhood friend Barenziah, shocked the traditionalists, but most of the caste elders had grown to grudgingly accept the oddities of their king.
Summerset under Reman was a deeply divided society. Traditional Altmeri culture, suppressed or outright banned under the rule of Tiber Septim and his successors, sprung back as soon as Reman let it, often with a fervor unmatched in prior milenia. Some touchstones were invented wholesale based on an idealized view of what it meant to be a “true Altmer.” At the same time, younger generations, which had grown up with the Imperial rule, embraced mainland culture and rebelled (sometimes with violence) against the mores of their parents. Reman himself embodied these contradictions, and his many essays on post-colonialism and identity make him as popular an author as he was a ruler.
While Reman overcame culture, politics, and even wars, he was ultimately undone by chance and ancient grudges. The Oblivion Crisis destroyed the Crystal Tower and wiped out the Sepiarchs, leaving Summerset in a particularly fragile state. Strikes and attempts at revolution eventually resulted in a successful coup by a group of elders now known as the Thalmor.
Nelacar ⸺ 4E 10 – Present
In addition to their well-publicised ideas on theological and biological purity, the core tenant of the Thalmor is their belief that Ceithir, rather than Novenaril, was the proper successor to the Crystal Throne. After first exiling and then assassinating Reman and his family, the Thalmor enthroned Nelacar, Ceithir’s direct descendants. Though he rules to this day, he is only a figurehead for the will of the Thalmor.
The word “Thalmor” simply means a council of equally ranked individuals. The term has previously applied (somewhat sardonically) to the joint Altmer-Bosmer governing body of 2nd Dominion Valenwood, as well as to the military leaders of the 1st and, before that, to the quorum of families that governed the Aldmeri prior to the enthronement of Uranaya. The present Thalmor is composed of appointed members of each craft- and noble-caste in Alinor.