On the War of Righteousness

Author: Valenca Arvina
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By Valenca Arvina, Historian-in-Residence at Gwylim University

The end of the Alessian Empire is a challenging topic for any historian. It has been written that the Alessian Empire fell because the theocracy of the Alessian Order grew too large to sustain. While accurate enough, it tells us little about what happened and why.

The immediate cause of the Empire’s collapse was the inability to maintain control over distant provinces; specifically, High Rock. High Rock’s merchants were dissatisfied with the heavy taxation and regulation imposed by the Empire, and the Order’s hostility toward people “tainted” by Altmer heritage certainly did not help. As the twenty-fourth century of the First Era opened, the kingdoms of High Rock withdrew from the Empire.

The Order’s theocrats sorely resented their loss of influence over the Breton lands. However, the Order refrained from sending a military response. The Prelate Council in Cyrodiil feared the costs of invading a hostile High Rock and trying to occupy it indefinitely. At best, they would spend vast sums to garrison the province. At worst, they might fail. They decided to bide their time. But in 1E 2319, King Desynan of Skingrad arranged a marriage between his son and the daughter of Queen Margert Gardner of Wayrest.

The threat of a dynastic alliance between the Colovian Estates and High Rock was too dangerous to ignore. Arch-Prelate Zirnius used his religious authority to forbid the match. Infuriated by his interference, King Desynan appointed a “High Prelate of Colovia” to approve the marriage. Zirnius, in turn, denounced King Desynan and all prelates who denied the Arch-Prelate’s authority as heretics, and sent legions whose loyalty he trusted against the Colovian Estates.

The war that ensued is best described as a period of anarchy, local uprisings, and shifting alliances. It certainly involved very little righteousness on any side. Cyrodiil’s initial effort to subdue the Colovian Estates foundered in the face of stiff resistance, but the Colovians in turn had difficulty uniting to pursue a campaign against the eastern empire. The main theater of the fighting soon shifted northwest to Iliac Bay, where Alessian legions scoured the Breton lands defying Imperial authority.

The costly fighting in the west forced Arch-Prelate Zirnius to strip the Imperial east for taxes and troop levies. This alienated the Nibenese merchants and nobles who had formerly supported the Order at the very time the Order’s legions were busy elsewhere. One by one, the cities of the east came under the control of local lords who resented the demands the Order continued to place upon them.

The end came when the great monastery at Lake Canalus was razed by Nibenese rebels and Arch-Prelate Zirnius was killed. Left without command or pay, the Alessian legions fighting in High Rock abandoned their mission. Many legionnaires returned to their homelands. Others permanently settled the territory they already held, while a few turned to brigandage. In 1E 2331, King Desynan arranged for a puppet emperor to take the Ruby Throne and the War of Righteousness officially ended.

That, of course, was not the end of the strife. Pockets of fighting continued in outlying provinces, and most of the Imperial heartland remained under the control of local warlords. The disorders of the War of Righteousness continued for generations afterward.

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