A Recurring Column Written by Ranger_STL
Over the past several weeks, we have covered most of the Races of Man and Mer. Over the course of the next following weeks, I will be discussing the various beast races, including the Argonians and Khajiit. The Bosmer will be included in the upcoming weeks as a well.
But before we get to that point, I’d like to address a few things that have been left hanging in previous columns; specifically, the Imperials and the Bretons. We discussed most of Imperial and Breton pre-history in the article on their progenitor race, the Nedes. What hasn’t been fully discussed is what lead the disparate groups of Nedes in Cyrodiil and High Rock to become the cultures we know today.
On the face of it, the creation of the Breton and Imperial races owe everything to the Elves, but for wildly different reasons. The Breton race and culture arose in the shadow of elven influence; the Imperials rose in spite of it.
In both High Rock and Cyrodiil, the native Nedic human populations were servitor races to Elven masters. However, due to the wildly different cultures of their respective elven overlords (the Direnni Clan in High Rock and the Ayleids in Cyrodiil), the Bretons and Imperials developed along entirely different routes. As a start, the methods and means of their respective servitudes were entirely different, and can generally be summed up as the difference between feudal serfdom and abject torture and slavery. When the Direnni Clan first took over High Rock, there were no slave raids, purges, kidnappings and torture as was wide spread in Cyrodiil under the Ayleids. Quite the contrary, the Direnni found their native humans to be quite useful and, at the very least, entertaining and amusing. While the humans were a definite sub-class in Direnni High Rock, they still possessed basic rights in terms of property and freedoms, even if for the most part they were entirely beholden to the elven lord that owned or ruled the land they lived on. The Nedes in Cyrodiil, on the other hand, were seen only as animals by the Ayleids, and would be routinely sacrificed, experimented on or otherwise maimed or killed at their master’s leisure.
The most obvious example of this difference lies in the very creation of the Breton race itself. The very word ‘Breton’ itself is a corruption of the Elvish word that means “half-breed”. While no self respecting Ayleid would be caught dead in bed with a human slave, the Direnni were notorious for the interbreeding with humans, creating a new subrace called simply the Manmer. The Direnni were so fond of this interbreeding that it became something akin to the Direnni national past time. Direnni lords would keep large harems of human concubines, of scouring their domains for the most attractive humans to add to their collections. As a result of this practice, over time the population of mixed race elven/human Manmer greatly increased. While the pure humans still remained an underclass, the Manmer had something of a privileged, if still subservient role, in Direnni society. The half-breeds would adopt roles such as castellan, chamberlain, seneschal, or other such functionary positions for their elven rulers. And while the Direnni continued to interbreed with the pure humans and now Manmer, the Manmer in turn would marry and breed with the pure humans. Over time, with the constant inflow of elvish blood, “pure” humans would disappear entirely from High Rock, with the exception of Imperial settlements in the south and Nord settlements in the wet. Over time, the Manmer, now known as the Bretons, would gradually grow to assume ever greater amounts of power from the Direnni, who by 1E200 had only smaller portions of High Rock under their direct control, with the rest of High Rock being ruled by the Direnni in name only, and under the de facto control of their Breton vassals.
The Imperials, on the other hand, had no such luck. As mentioned in the article on the Nedes, it was the violent overthrow of the Ayleids and interbreeding with incoming Nords from the North that created the Imperials as we know them today. While Breton culture kept much of the culture of their former elvish rulers (including worship of the Elven Gods Y’ffre, Phynaster, and Magnus in addition to the 8 Divines), Imperial culture arose in direct opposition to Elven culture, and it was this opposition that led eventually, and somewhat ironically, to the freedom of the Bretons and the creation of High Rock as an independent Breton state.
After the fall of the Ayleids, the new Human Emipre under Alessia spread far and wide. After Alessia’s death (and some say apotheosis), a new religious group known as the Alessian Order arose in the central lands of Cyrodiil. Led by their prophet Marukh, who was neither man nor elf, but an Imga, a great ape beast race from Valenwood, the Alessian Order believed it necessary to purge ALL the remaining traces of elven culture and learning from society. To this end, they waged countless wars with anyone and anything they thought had even the slightest connection to Elves and magick. Unsurprisingly, the Direnni elves were pretty high up on their target list. The Alessian Order propounded a series of extremely sever religious edicts known as the Alessian Doctrines on every place they ruled. When the Direnni banned the promotion of the Doctrines in High Rock, the Alessians took that as the perfect pretext to invade.
The war between the Alessian Order and the Direnni was long and brutal, reaching its climax in the battle of Glenumbra Moors, where the Direnni successfully defeated the Alessians and killed their most valuable general, the werewolf Faolchu.
The long war had financially and militarily exhausted both the Direnni and the Alessian order; both now were extremely weak, and that played to the advantage of both the Bretons and the Imperials. The Bretons had long since grown tired of their second class status, and although they supported the Direnni out of principle in the fight against the Alessian Order, the Bretons now thought the time right to assert themselves and claim dominance of High Rock, which they did. While there were no purges, pogroms, or outright massacres like there were against the Ayleids, by 1E498 the Direnni as a power in High Rock were finished. The area was under complete Breton control, and what Direnni survived the battle went into seclusion. Many of them survived until very late in the First Era, but they never again regained their prominence or power in High Rock.
With the Alessian Order now looking weak and exhausted, the people of Cyrodiil also chose this time to assert themselves. Over the prior several hundred years since the fall of the Ayleids, a constant stream of Nords from the north had been interbreeding with the Nedes of Cyrodiil, creating the now distinct subrace known as the Imperials in central Cyrodiil. The emergence of the Alessian Order had instituted a puritanical dark age over Cyrodiil, and they had assumed so much power that it was widely assumed that the Prefect of the Order even had the Emperor doing his bidding. But now, the Order as the dominant power was finished; the Emperor revoked the Alessian Doctrines, and asserted control over the Imperial City. The Alessian Order would still prove to be a nuisance in the future, but their defeat at Glenumbra would began a slow death that would finally be complete during the War of Righteousness some 2000 years later, when Alessian Order would finally dissolve, and the Alessian Empire with it.