The universe of the Elder Scrolls can be described as a dangerous yet beautiful one that gamers have immersed themselves in for close to three decades now. People often talk about the dragons, the adventures and the fascinating encounters with the unique characters found in this world. However underneath this rich tapestry of lore that many laymen can certainly appreciate lies a cruel, chaotic mess strewn with countless atrocities awash with blood much like our reality. In this video, we’ll cover ten of the worst genocides to have occurred in The Elder Scrolls universe, many in which entire species were wiped out during these genocidal rampages.
Following a great civil war among the Ayleids towards the end of the Merethic Era, the exiled Barsaebic Ayleids had migrated to Black Marsh and began conquering the region as their new home, putting them in conflict with the numerous species that inhabited the great swamp. As cruel and vicious as their Heartland brethren, the Barsaebic Ayleids employed powerful necromancy to steal the souls of the indigenous tribes of Black Marsh and also went out of their way to enslave. One such Argonian tribe that was in conflict with the encroaching Ayleids were the Root-Whisper Tribe. In order to keep the remaining souls of its Argonians safe, the Hist-Tree of the Root-Whisper stored the souls of the survivors in an artifact that became known as the Remnant of Argon.
The Barsaebic Ayleids however continued their conquest of Black Marsh and continued to practice their necromancy against several other tribes of Argonians. They Ayleilds were truly a cruel lot. Genocide against the living wasn’t enough, they even needed to deny innocent beings of a peaceful afterlife.
"Ayleid necromancer kings who once ruled Black Marsh. When their slaves rose against them, the Fenlords had them executed and revived as undead. Preserved against the ages, they toil even now, protecting the tombs of their long-dead masters." - Zahra
Sap-Speaker Kuzei: "The Ayleid savages approach, but the Hist provides. A seed of our tribe. A refuge for the souls of our people. Creating this relic is our tribe's last hope. You must find the root's courage and keep the Elves from interfering."
The Aldmer, or the Proto-Elves, first arrived in Tamriel during the Early Merethic Era. Led by High Lord Torinaan, the Aldmer first landed in Summerset Isles just north of the city of Firsthold in Auridon, hence its name. While colonizing the archipelago, the Aldmer encountered the Fey, or the Faerie, who were hostile to the presence of the Elven settlers. Amongst the Fey were the Gheatus (Ghey-tus), godlike beings who took the form of men, or a number of men, composed of earth and surrounded by host of other Fey known as Sylphim. Other hostile Fey to the Aldmer were the Ilyadi, giants taller than trees with heads covered by numerous eyes.
The treasury of the Crystal Tower and the private collections in Summerset offer suggestions of other creatures the early Aldmer may have met in their new home, portrayed in sculpture and tapestry. Some of the beasts are surely (and hopefully) the work of the artist's imagination, but others appear with such regularity, it can only be that they once existed, as bizarre as they seem. Though no one alive has ever seen them, they have names out of legend: Gheatus, a man or a group of men who are formed by the earth itself; the Welwa, strange, holy beasts of horns and savage teeth, depicted as ravagers and saviors of the land; the Ilyadi, giants taller than the trees, with eyes that cover their heads. These extinct monsters, and others like them, had to be defeated by the Aldmer in days of yore.
During the colonization of the Summerset Isles, High Lord Torinaan and his settlers used Varla Stones in conjunction with a runic magic known as Heirograms to call upon magicka directly from the stars and cast powerful spells against the Fey. Within a few years, the Gheatus and the Ilyadi were slaughtered to the point of extinction. Incidentally, the local Welwa population was also rendered extinct, however the Sapiarchs of the Crystal Tower reintroduced the Welwa back into the Summerset ecosystem after a thriving population was discovered in Craglorn.
According to the Redguards, their Yokudan ancestors had a hateful relationship with the western continent’s population of elves known as the Sinistral Elves, or more commonly called, the Left-Handed Elves. The conflicts and wars between the Yokudans and the Left-Handed Elves lasted for over a thousand years. Decided victory came to the Yokudans upon the intervention of the gods Leki and Diagna. Leki who taught the Ansei the Ephemeral Feint, which finally allowed to Yokudans to choose a warleader to unify them, and Diagna who was said to be an avatar of the HoonDing, gave the Yokudans orichalc weapons, which were said to have been instrumental in the defeat of the Left-Handed Elves.
Diagna was an avatar of the HoonDing (the Yokudan God of Make Way, see below) that achieved permanence. He was instrumental to the defeat of the Lefthanded Elves, as he brought orichalc weapons to the Yokudan people to win the fight.
Leki is the goddess of aberrant swordsmanship. The Na-Totambu of Yokuda warred to a standstill during the mythic era to decide who would lead the charge against the Lefthanded Elves. Their swordmasters, though, were so skilled in the Best Known Cuts as to be matched evenly. Leki introduced the Ephemeral Feint. Afterwards, a victor emerged and the war with the Aldmer began.
The Yokudan’s victory over the Left-Handed Elves was so complete that they were driven from the western continent, with the survivors fleeing, eventually arriving on the Systres Archipelago and warring with the Druid clans for control. The Left-Handed Elves would eventually conquer the Island of Amenos and build a great fortress there. As the Left-Handed Elves attempted to conquer the rest of the Isles, during their invasion of Y’ffelon, Mont Firesong erupted rather catastrophically and led to many of the Elves’ deaths. Unfortunately for the survivors, little over a hundred years later, Yokudan settlers would arrive in the Systres and reignite the conflict with their ancient enemy, leading to the extermination of the Left-Handed Elves from the Islands. It is widely believed that the Left-Handed Elves are extinct in modern Tamriel, though some suggest some sort of connection between them and the Maormer.
In 1E 660 or thereabouts, the so-called Lefthanded Elves arrived from Yokuda and began their conquest of the Systres archipelago. They found a foothold on Amenos and constructed a fortress there to serve as their base while they assaulted the other islands and laid siege to Y'ffelon. Who knows what state the archipelago would be in today if the Lefthanded Elves hadn't been consumed in the eruption of Mount Firesong in 1E 676? What few remained on Amenos were wiped out by the encroaching Ra Gada in 1E 785.
By the time of the First Era, the Yokudan empire had been subject to a series of civil wars and major internal conflicts due to the declining power of the Yokudan Emperor, allowing for several lesser nobles and warlords to try and carve territory and authority for themselves. This finally culminated in the War of the Singers, where the legendary Sword Saint Frandar Hunding crushed the Yokudan Emperor’s forces and eventually led his armies out of Yokuda towards modern Hammerfell in a series of four migrational waves.
Known as the Ra Gada, or Warrior Wave, these colonists utterly slaughtered the indigenous populations of Goblins, Elves and Nedic Humans. In the first migration, Frandar Hunding found the coasts of Hammerfell settled with the Flint-Tooh Goblin tribe and refusing to share land with them, immediately declared war on the tribe and began slaughtering them indiscriminately. Frandar Hunding would eventually die in battle against the goblins, but his son Divad would continue the conquest, eventually pushing the Ra Gada borders well into the Alik’r Desert.
Throne Keeper Farvad: In those times Goblins were mighty beasts, and their cruelty was not tempered by cowardice as it is now. Their filthy strongholds littered the sands of Hammerfell like a pox when the Ra Gada arrived."
Vestige: That sounds horrible.
Throne Keeper Farvad: "Horrible indeed! Our Yokudan ancestors could not tolerate such a blight on their new homeland. They would suffer no rivals. And so one of their mightiest heroes, Frandar Hunding, rallied the swords of the Ra Gada to slay the beasts."
Vestige: What happened to him?
Throne Keeper Farvad: "Ah … Tu'whacca claimed him during one of the bloodiest battles of the campaign. But his son Divad, filled with wrath over the slaying of his father, soon rose to take command of the Ra Gada. He swore to avenge his father—no matter the cost."
Redguard stories say that when the Ra Gada first arrived on these shores, they found Nilata still inhabited by Elves. Having fought the Lefthanded Elves on Yokuda for a thousand years, wherever the newcomers found Elves in Hammerfell, they exterminated them. - Nilata Ruins, Loading Screen
Redguard stories say that when the Ra Gada first arrived on these shores, they found Nilata still inhabited by Elves. Having fought the Lefthanded Elves on Yokuda for a thousand years, wherever the newcomers found Elves in Hammerfell, they exterminated them.
One group of Ra Gada settlers, led by the Yokudan King Xakhwan, discovered the elven city of Salas En inhabited by the Altmeri clan of Corelanya. Their immense hatred of the Left-Handed Elves would later translate to all elves, and the Xakhwan’s forces would end up wiping the entire city of all its Elven inhabitants.
Vesige: Why must we fight the Elves?
Prince Haqmir: "Because they do not want us here. Our people came across the sea from old Yokuda to settle here, but these Elves—the Corelanya Clan—they would drive us from these shores. We are making our stand today, letting them know we are here to stay."
Vestige: I had a dream. Something about a tribe called the Ash'abah?
Prince Haqmir: "The Ash'abah? These people I do not know. Are they also Elves? If so we must, we will kill them too.
The most ruthless of the Ra Gada came with the fourth and final wave of the migration, those that were infamously known as the Anka Ra. Not satisfied with Hammerfell, the self proclaimed Emperor Tarish-Zi and his Anka Ra cut a bloody trail through Hammerfell and eventually set their eyes on Craglorn. By this point in history, Nedic culture and society had long been in decline. When the Anka Ra came slaughtering through Craglorn destroying their homes and killing their people, what was left of this ancient culture met a final bloody end. The fall of Skyreach and the Nedic royalty saw the Nedes pass into history, and their Breton and Imperial descendents taking their place.
Unleash our Ra Gada against the intruders! Crush them as we did the Nedes of old!
The infamous Night of Tears is what many consider to be one of the major turning points in Tamrielic history. The city of Saarthal was an Atmoran settlement in northern Skyrim and was considered the human capital of the region. What eventually led to the eventual sacking of Saarthal by the Snow Elves is unknown, there is some speculation that it is because the Atmoran discovered the Eye of Magnus during their building of the city and that the Snow Elves, either fearing the Atmorans having such power or coveting it for themselves, attacked. Others claim that the Night of Tears was in retaliation for provocations and blasphemies against the Elves. Regardless of the cause, Saarthal was destroyed and there were only five known survivors: Ysgramor, his two sons Yngol and Ylgar, Reynir the Destroyer who became a Draugr in the ancient crypts of Windhelm and a young enchanter who would eventually go on to become the legendary Dragon Priest Ahzidal.
The Night of Tears would eventually culminate in Ysgramor and his Five-Hundred Companions returning to Skyrim with their armies and the subsequent next spot on our list.
Saarthal holds a prominent place in Skyrim history, even if most do not remember it by name. It is of course the site of one of the first major Nord settlements, one of the first cities of men in Skyrim, and the earliest known capital of their civilization. It was also the site of terrible bloodshed, when the elves attempted to drive the Nords out of Skyrim, to succeed only in incurring their wrath in the form of Ysgramor and his fabled Five Hundred Companions, who swept the elves from Skyrim and firmly established it as the home of the Nords.
All this is known, but little else. What happened on that Night of Tears, when Saarthal was razed to the ground?
Ysgramor’s return to Skyrim was marked by his Five-Hundred Companions and the sheer savagery they unleashed upon the Snow Elves in revenge for the razing of Saarthal. When the Atmoran fleet landed on the icy coasts of Skyrim, they found great fortifications built by the Elves on the ruins of the city. There the Companions were met by Ahzidal. Enraged by the murder of his wife and child during the burning of Saarthal, the powerful sorcerer enchanted the Companions’ weapons and armor, emboldening and further enabling them to take what was left of the city and then further push on to the rest of Skyrim.
And when finally his path led him back to Saarthal, he found only ruins: for the elves had sacked the city, and all that lived there were dead or gone. Amid the ashes, in the smoldering ruins of his home, he swore a terrible oath of vengeance. And from that comes the name the legends give him: Ahzidal, the embittered destroyer.
Finally, word reached him of Ysgramor and his Companions, newly-arrived from Atmora. For three days and nights, he rode north, and met them as they made landfall on the icy coast near the ruins of Saarthal, which the elves had fortified against them. He offered the Companions his service, and all he had produced in his years of labor. And with Atmoran steel imbued with his enchantments, the elves fell before them, and at last he had his revenge.
Ysgramor and his Companions were known to have enslaved many Snow Elves and cruelly worked them to death. Indeed, death by labor was probably something the Atmorans looked upon as a justified form of torturous execution for the elves they hated with such passion. Even more morose, it wasn’t unusual in Ysgramor’s time for necklaces to be made out of the severed ears of the Snow Elves.
The elven captives were set to work, bringing forth stone to build in their conqueror's fashion. As many elves died in the building of the city as had the crew of the Ylgermet slain while on way to its site, and Ysgramor drove the wretches ever more, to build higher, to lay a claim to the river so that none might pass into the interior of this land without first showing due respect to its rightful claimant.
Ysgramor and the Companions pushed the majority of the Snow Elves out of mainland Skyrim with pocket communities living in hiding throughout the province, while the remainder sought asylum with the Dwemer in their underground cities. The consequences of the latter, of course, gave rise to the Betrayed, known to most of Tamriel as the twisted Falmer. The largest community of Snow Elves post-Ysgramor was the community that had fled to Solsthiem. Even there the Snow Elves found war and conflict with Nordic settlers and fought in a great series of skirmishes. The conflict on Solstheim finally ended with the Battle of Moesring, where the Snow Prince was slain and the remaining fleeing Snow Elves were hunted down and killed.
The Nords’ genocide of the Snow Elves would continue on for generations, as even during the reign of High King Harald, who was the thirteenth in line after Ysgramor, they would still be leading military campaigns against the remaining population of the Snow Elves.
At the command of Lord Harald we have swept our company to the south edge of our territories in an attempt to drive the Snow Elves up north to the main host of his forces. The first few days met with heavy resistance, but as we approached the eastern edge of Lake Honnith we have seen little and less of them.
Magically and technologically brilliant, and capable of creating reality warping edifices and artifacts, the Ayleids were arguably the cruelest race to ever exist on Tamriel. Even towards each other these elves were known to kill to the last man. King Anumaril of Abagarlas was prepared to unleash a necromantic ritual on the city-state Delodiil that would drain the life of every person in the city simply because the denizens of Delodiil ignored his boasting that his city was better than theirs.
When Anumaril and his army marched out, they discovered that the city of Delodiil had disappeared. As they returned to Abagarlas, the King and his army were horrified to discover that their families had been burnt to the point that only their scorched outlines remained on the walls of buildings.
And as awful as that sounds, it pales in comparison to what the Ayleids did to the various Nedic tribes they had enslaved over the centuries.
The Demigod Morihuas would write about the horrors that the Aylieds would inflict for joy and sport in his journal titled the Adabal-a:
Men were given over to the lifting of stones, and the draining of the fields, and the upkeep of temple and road; or to become art-tortures for strange pleasures, as in the wailing wheels of Vindasel and the gut-gardens of Sercen; and flesh-sculpture, which was everywhere among the slaves of the Ayleids in those days; or, worse, the realms of the Fire King Hadhuul, where the begetting of drugs drawn from the admixture of daedrons into living hosts let one inhale new visions of torment, and children were set aflame for nighttime tiger sport.
Morihaus also goes on to state that an entire tribe of Nedes known as the Men-of-Ge were wiped out when an Ayleid known as the Flower King Nilichi sacrificed them to some sort of insect god whose name is now lost to annals of history.
Men-of-ge (who were eventually destroyed when the Flower King Nilichi made great sacrifice to an insect god named [lost])
Most genocides and forms of ethnic cleansing come about from a sense of hatred, deep rooted fear or a ruthless avarice. The Ayleids hold the cold distinction of wiping out entire populations for sheer entertainment.
The Aylieds would inevitably fall into civil war, and the Slave Queen Alessia took this chance and mounted a rebellion. With the Nords from Skyrim joining her cause and some of the Aedra-worshiping city-states also lending her aid and, most importantly, with direct divine intervention, the Nedic Queen established the First Empire of Cyrodiil, and marked the point in Tamriel’s history where humans would begin to direct its socio-economic future, not elves.
After establishing the Covenant with Akatosh on her deathbed, Alessia passed the throne on to her son, Belharza the Man-Bull: Dragonborn Emperor and one of the first recorded minotaurs.
However, xenophobic fears were on the rise in the nascent Empire and pro-human sentiments became more and more prevalent. An Imperial Scholar known as Nonus Caprenius claims that a famous depiction of Belharza facing down enemies is actually a rendition of him being betrayed by his own human subjects, precursors to the zealots of the Alessian Order.
According to Laloriaran Dynar, the Last King of the Ayleids, there was a coup d'etat in the Imperial City less than one hundred years after Alessia’s death and a new emperor was crowned afterwards, which also coincided with the rise of the Alessian Order. From this we can infer that Belharza most likely was betrayed.
The Alessian Order would bring about a new wave of anti-elven sentiment and would begin several pogrom against the remaining Ayleids that had remained within Cyrodiil. Even those who had sided with Alessia and gave her their fealty. They were either driven from their homelands or outright killed. And even when they chose to flee peacefully, they were pursued by the Alessian armies, who were constantly pushing the borders of Cyrodiil’s empire further and further in the name of religious conquest.
One remaining fragment of an ancient tablet, known as the Belharza Stone, shows what most scholars agree is a section of a larger carving depicting Belharza the Man-Bull, second Emperor of the Alessian Empire, facing down enemies. My own study of the fragment tells a very different story.
By the cut of their armor and the shape of their spears, I believe the so-called enemies depicted in the carving are actually fanatical precursors of Alessian troops. The spears, jabbed directly at the minotaur's heart, indicate that these proto-Alessians killed or drove off the minotaurs, thus beginning the decline of the race that we still see in evidence in the current day.
—Coup d'Etat in the Imperial City—I swear fealty to the Emperor
—Theocracy in Cyrodiil
—The Ayleid Pogrom
The Alessian’s xenophobia and pro-Human stance reached such an extreme that they even attempted to tamper with the divine. The Marukhati Selectives, an extremist branch of the already zealous Alessians, could not reconcile with the simple fact that their beloved Akatosh was the same god that the Elves worshiped as Auri-El. In an immensely powerful ritual that involved the Staff of Towers and the White-Gold Tower, the Marukhati attempted to remove the Elven taint from Akatosh and restore him to what they considered purity. The catastrophic ritual resulted in the Middle Dawn, a Dragon Break that lasted for 1008 years.
The Alessians also popularized the legal philosophy of "All are guilty until they have proven themselves innocent" which is still in use by most of Tamriel today, hence why guards are so prone to using lethal force even when the crime is as benign as accidentally setting a chicken on fire.
Thus it is our purpose upon Mundus to reverse the error of Sanctus Primus and restore Ak-at-Osh to humanadic purity. To say otherwise is vain and empty persiflage. Therefore let the Staff of Towers be prepared for the ritual that will cleanse the protean substrate of the Aldmeri Taint.
The walking genocide himself, and arguably one of the most infamous characters in the entire lore of the Elder Scrolls. Pelinal Whitestrake was conceived by former Bethesda Game Studios developer Michael Kirkbride as a mix between Gilgamesh of Uruk and the T-800 Terminator series and is chronicled in one of the most popular lore series in the setting, the Song of Pelinal: a 9 part volume detailing his role in Alessia’s rebellion against the Ayleids. According to Pelinal himself, he is an Ada, a god of the Aurbis. And the Song of Pelinal uses significant imagery and symbolism to paint him as some sort of in-between of Akatosh and Shezarr.
Most famously, Pelinal possesses a deep abiding hatred for elves to the point of insanity. Pelinal’s divine rage would reach such heights that his rampages wouldn’t just kill people, but would cause such destruction that maps would have to be redrawn. Some went as far as to say he literally erased those places from existence and turned them into the Void.
And he walked into the jungles of Cyrod already killing, Morihaus stamping at his side froth-bloody and bellowing from excitement because the Pelinal was come... [and Pelinal] came to Perrif's camp of rebels holding a sword and mace, both encrusted with the smashed viscera of elven faces, feathers and magic beads, which were the markings of the Ayleidoon, stuck to the redness that hung from his weapons, and he lifted them, saying: "These were their eastern chieftains, no longer full of their talking.
Pelinal Whitestrake was the enemy of all elfkind that lived in Cyrod in those days
He wrought destruction from Narlemae all the way to Celediil, and erased those lands from the maps of Elves and Men, and all things in them, and Perrif was forced to make sacrifice to the Gods to keep them from leaving the world in their disgust.
Pelinal drove the sorcerer armies past the Niben, claiming all the eastern lands for the rebellion of the Paravania, and Kyne had to send her rain to wash the blood from the villages and forts that no longer flew Ayleid banners
And after the first Pogrom, which consolidated the northern holdings for the men-of-'kreath, he stood with white hair gone brown with elfblood at the Bridge of Heldon
Pelinal cared for none of this and killed any who would speak god-logic, except for fair Perrif, who he said, "enacts, rather than talks, as language without exertion is dead witness." When those soldiers who heard him say this stared blankly, he laughed and swung his sword, running into the rain of Kyne to slaughter their Ayleid captives, screaming, "O Aka, for our shared madness I do this! I watch you watching me watching back! Umaril dares call us out, for that is how we made him!" [And it was during] these fits of anger and nonsense that Pelinal would fall into the Madness, where whole swaths of lands were devoured in divine rampage to become Void, and Alessia would have to pray to the Gods for their succor, and they would reach down as one mind and soothe the Whitestrake until he no longer had the will to kill the earth in whole."
During one of his many bouts of rampage, Pelinal crossed the southern borders of Cyrodiil into Elsweyr and mistook the Khajiit for Elves. As such, he began slaughtering them all without hesitation and chased the fleeing Khajiit deep into the south of Anequina where the Khajiit began climbing the mountains to hide from him. Eventually Alkosh himself manifested in answer to the Khajiit’s prayers and shouted Pelinal down with such force it created a time-wound at the stop of the mountain of Sunspire.
Moon Bisop Azin-Jo: "This is his temple, walker, but not just any temple. It is built upon holy ground! It was on this summit that Alkosh stood and defended us from the White Snake, Pelinal. There would be no Khajiit left if not for his divine intervention."
Vestige: Sounds like there's a story there.
Moon Bisop Azin-Jo: "Indeed, walker. Indeed! Long ago the White Snake terrorized the lands to the north. His hatred of Elves knew no end and he was so hungry for their blood that he saw Elves where there were only Khajiit. Khajiit were nearly wiped out by his blind rage."
Vestige: Pelinal was killing Khajiit?
Moon Bisop Azin-Jo: "The White Snake stained the savannahs in our blood, but Khajiit are natural climbers. They scaled this peak to escape the madman, but what he lacked in grace he overcame with ferocity. Pelinal wrestled with the mountain until he too stood above it."
Vestige: And this is where Alkosh stopped him?
Moon Bisop Azin-Jo: "Hearing Khajiits' prayers, Alkosh descended from the heavens like a shooting star. His battle cry split the sky as he cast the crusader out of Elsweyr and the wound remains as a reminder of the debt we owe!."
The Sload are arguably the most reviled race in the entire history of the Elder Scrolls. Going beyond genocide, in the year 2260 of the First era, the Sload bio-engineered a virus that would be named after their homeland of Thras.
Why they created it is unknown, but the Sload would infect sea life with the virus around the coastal waters of Tamriel, which would inevitably end up infecting the denizens as well. The virus would spread from the coast into the inner cities of the continent, ravaging populations and wiping out entire cultures. Over half of the population of Tamriel was annihilated. The devastation of the Thrassian Plague was so grand that Aldmeri ancestor-god Syrabane manifested in mortal form as an Archmage and helped save many lives with the use of his legendary ring.
These amphibious slugmen, perhaps the most hated race in all of Tamriel, were long thought to be extinct. After the Sload released the Thrassian Plague in 1E2200, which claimed more than half of the continent's population, the largest allied naval force in Tamrielic history sailed to Thras, slaughtered all the Sload they could find, and, with great unknown magicks, sunk their coral kingdoms into the sea. Sadly, it has been reported that Thras has risen again, and that its masters, the Sload, have recently been seen in various areas of Tamriel.