The Elder Scrolls

The Empire vs. Stormcloaks

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(Back with a more improved essay than last time)

The Empire vs. Stormcloaks

1) Why the Empire is superior to the Stormcloaks and how the Empire isn’t “destined to fall”:

The Empire is directly superior to the Stormcloaks in terms of military training, equipment, and overall level. The Imperial soldiers you see in Skyrim may appear to be inferior or evenly matched, but that is thanks to an important factor – only a single legion has been sent to Skyrim, led by General Tullius, who still managed to almost execute Ulfric within a month of the rebellion starts, speaking highly of his competence.

Political context: The Empire's loss in the war was mostly caused by the Thalmor's pre-planning and murdering almost all agents of the Emperor's information network, cutting off their intel and their rampant usage of Daedra in their invasion force. Titus Mede II actually employed some great strategy in abandoning the capital and then retaking it with reinforcements.

The thing that makes the Empire appear as weak in Skyrim is that they've been carefully orchestrated to appear as such by the Dominion's forces directly interfering with their affairs and rousing general discord within their populace, both on political and religious grounds. On top of that, the Stormcloak rebellion has also been orchestrated by the Thalmor's actions, as it was them who forbade the restoration of Talos worship and laid the grounds for it to begin with. The current Civil War in Skyrim is a diversion aimed at wasting the Empire's time, resources, and manpower in order to prevent them from lending aid to Hammerfell, which is the Dominion's true target.

 2. Why a Stormcloak victory would be bad: 

The reason for that is two-fold. Politically, Ulfric is frankly an incompetent ruler. He leaves the management of his hold to his steward and thanes, while he himself only focuses on the military subjects. He is a good general and experienced warlord, but he is a bad jarl, and certainly an even worse king. He would be incapable of properly seeing to his people's needs or listening to them without allowing his own bias to interfere. Additionally, said bias is deeply seated by the fact he was personally tortured by Elenwen during the Great War, sowing crippling trauma and an internalized, deep hatred for Altmer, if not all of elvenkind (although it's worth noting that he is relatively tolerant of the Dunmer in his own city, the racism was there before his time).

Militarily, the Stormcloaks would not be capable of standing up to the Aldmeri Dominion in case of a war. Cyrodiil was almost completely conquered within 5 years even with its well-organized military, while Skyrim's military after a Stormcloak win would consist of old veterans and inexperienced youth that got swayed over via propaganda. Another issue arises when you see that the Thalmor's overarching goal is in fact conquering Hammerfell – Skyrim's separation from the Empire would result in it losing the protection of the White-Gold Concordat, potentially causing a Thalmor attack, which we already established they would not be able to fight back against. This would open up another flank for the Thalmor to assault Hammerfell, and it's geographically much closer to their end goal, which appears to be the Adamantine Tower. The plausibility of this outcome is unknown, but the end goal of the Thalmor is to destroy all of Nirn by toppling the Adamantine Tower, which is holding reality together. A Stormcloak win would be very good for that, as the Dominion would have a much weaker and more divided rival to deal with.

 3. Holes in the Stormcloaks’ goals, beliefs, and actions: 

The Stormcloaks are led by a power-hungry murderer who’s more concerned with sticking it to the Empire instead of patiently preparing for the real war against the Thalmor. The Empire isn’t perfect. It’s got corruption, it has Thalmor influences, and it isn’t what it used to be. But it’s a heck of a lot better than the Stormcloaks, the short-sighted race purists who want the simple satisfaction of being ‘independent’ while allowing the Thalmor to continue growing stronger.

Firstly, the Stormcloaks will never beat the Thalmor. Let’s get that out of the way. The full might of the Empire, Skyrim included, barely managed to win the Battle of the Red Ring during the Great War, and now Ulfric thinks him and his crappy militia can take the professional armies of the Dominion alone?

Second, if Ulfric’s goal is to reinstate Talos worship, why is he striking against the Empire? If Ulfric really was a noble patriot he’d organize a guerrilla force that would attack Thalmor parties specifically. Not the Empire. The Empire isn’t enforcing the ban on Talos worship, the Thalmor are. What the Stormcloaks like to forget, is that the Dominion proposed and forced the signing of the White-Gold Concordat, not the Empire. But of course, Ulfric had to go and strike against the Empire, because all he wants is power.

Finally, Thalmor’s dossier on Ulfric reveals that while the overall aim is to prolong the civil war, they would prefer the Imperials don’t win. And that Ulfric is an asset to them. So yes, the Empire has its flaws, but if your goal is to stop the Thalmor, then you’d be shooting yourself in the foot by allying with the Stormcloaks. They’re delusional, their leader is power-hungry, and they don’t have the professional military and logistics necessary to present an offensive threat to the Thalmor. The Empire is the morally better side if you care about the final outcome for Tamriel and aren’t simply obsessed with getting some temporary ‘independence’.

 4. The reason why the Empire had to sign to White-Gold Concordat: 

To quote UESP, “The terms were harsh, but Titus II believed that it was necessary to secure peace and give the Empire a chance to regain its strength. The two most controversial terms of the Concordat were the banning of the worship of Talos and the cession of a large section of southern Hammerfell (most of what was already occupied by Aldmeri forces). Critics have pointed out that the Concordat is almost identical to the ultimatum the Emperor rejected five years earlier. However, there is a great difference between agreeing to such terms under the mere threat of war and agreeing to them at the end of a long and destructive war. No part of the Empire would have accepted these terms in 4E 171, dictated by the Thalmor at swords-point. Titus II would have faced civil war. By 4E 175, most of the Empire welcomed peace at almost any price.”.

  1. The blame against the Empire for the ban of Talos worship:

The Empire is still worshipping Talos, some of them more open than others, and a lot of the Stormcloak leaders are themselves previous Empire supporters. The Empire has attempted to reestablish Talos worship once before (see: Markarth Incident), but only failed to do so thanks to the direct interference of the Thalmor. The Empire was forced to ban Talos worship because they suffered heavy losses during the Great War and it was one of the conditions outlined in the White-Gold Concordat. Many Imperials still secretly worship Talos. The book "The Talos Mistake" was either written to appease the Aldmeri Dominion or it was written by an anti-Talos person. The Thalmor didn't want anyone to worship Talos because he was once a man and the Thalmor could not believe that it would be possible for a man to become a god. For example, Elisif (the Jarl of Solitude) still secretly worships Talos, even though Solitude is the city most strongly allied with the Empire. Was it fair for the empire when they had to sign the White-Gold Concordat? It is Thalmor's goal to criminalize worship.

The Imperials only wanted to keep Tamriel at peace. They were unfortunately forced to abolish the worship of Talos in the process. There’s nothing in particular that suggests that they wanted to get rid of it. They felt that they had to in order to prevent more deaths and a more damaging and lengthy war. The Imperials are just trying to keep Tamriel at peace and were forced to abolish Talos worship by the elves to prevent a more damaging war with them. The Imperials don’t seem like they want Talos worship prohibited, but they are willing to do whatever so the elves don’t kill them all.

Talos worship can be immediately unbanned as soon as the Thalmor are beaten when it was the Thalmor that demanded it in the first place. Why go against both the empire and the Thalmor when you could beat the Thalmor together and regain true freedom?

  1. How Hammerfell managed to fight the Aldmeri Dominion to a stalemate and the inaccurate comparison of Hammerfell to Skyrim. The blame the empire gets for giving up Hammerfell:

To quote UESP, “Hammerfell, however, refused to accept the White-Gold Concordat, being unwilling to concede defeat and the loss of so much of their territory. Titus II was forced to officially renounce Hammerfell as an Imperial province in order to preserve the hard-won peace treaty. The Redguards, understandably, looked on this as a betrayal. In this, the Thalmor certainly achieved one of their long-term goals by sowing lasting bitterness between Hammerfell and the Empire.

In the end, the heroic Redguards fought the Aldmeri Dominion to a standstill, although the war lasted for five more years and left southern Hammerfell devastated. The Redguards say that this proves that the White-Gold Concordat was unnecessary and that if Titus II had kept his nerve, the Aldmeri could have been truly defeated by the combined forces of Hammerfell and the rest of the Empire. The truth of that assertion can, of course, never be known. But the Redguards should not forget the great sacrifice of Imperial blood – Breton, Nord, and Cyrodilic – at the Battle of the Red Ring that weakened the Dominion enough to allow the eventual Second Treaty of Stros M'kai in 4E 180 and the withdrawal of Aldmeri forces from Hammerfell.

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There can be no doubt that the current peace cannot last forever. The Thalmor takes the long view, as is proved by the sequence of events leading up to the Great War. All those who value freedom over tyranny can only hope that before it is too late, Hammerfell and the Empire will be reconciled and stand united against the Thalmor threat. Otherwise, any hope to stem the tide of Thalmor rule over all of Tamriel is dimmed.”

On a side note, the Redguards have on average the best warriors on Tamriel. Just as UESP says, the Redguards should not forget the great sacrifice of Imperial blood – Breton, Nord, and Cyrodilic – at the Battle of the Red Ring that weakened the Dominion. After the great war, both the Empire and the Dominion were staggering at the end. Hammerfell, with its on average the best Warriors in Tamriel, fought a weakened Dominion that is still recovering.

  1. The constant propaganda that the Aldmeri Dominion is unbeatable and cannot be stopped.

If this was true, the Empire would have fallen already and the Dominion would be all over Tamriel. The empire managed to successfully repel the Dominion during the great war and this is why the nations of Man aren’t run over by the Dominion.

To quote UESP, “4E 175: The Battle of the Red Ring

During the winter of 4E 174-175, the Thalmor seem to have believed that the war in Cyrodiil was all but over. They made several attempts to negotiate with Titus II. The Emperor encouraged them in their belief that he was preparing to surrender; meanwhile, he gathered his forces to retake the Imperial City.

In what is now known as the Battle of the Red Ring, a battle that will serve as a model for Imperial strategists for generations to come, Titus II divided his forces into three. One army, with the legions from Hammerfell under General Decianus, was hidden in the Colovian Highlands near Chorrol. The Aldmeri were unaware that he was no longer in Hammerfell, possibly because the Imperial veterans Decianus had left behind led Lady Arannelya to believe that she still faced an Imperial army. The second army, largely of Nord legions under General Jonna, took up a position near Cheydinhal. The main army was commanded by the Emperor himself and would undertake the main assault of the Imperial City from the north.

On the 30th of Rain's Hand, the bloody Battle of the Red Ring began as General Decianus swept down on the city from the west, while General Jonna's legionnaires drove south along the Red Ring Road. In a two-day assault, Jonna's army crossed the Niben and advanced west, attempting to link up with Decianus's legions and thus surround the Imperial City. Lord Naarifin was taken by surprise by Decianus's assault, but Jonna's troops faced bitter resistance as the Aldmeri counterattacked from Bravil and Skingrad. The heroic Nord legionnaires held firm, however, beating off the piecemeal Aldmeri attacks. By the fifth day of the battle, the Aldmeri army in the Imperial City was surrounded.

Titus II led the assault from the north, personally capturing Lord Naarifin. It is rumored the Emperor wielded the famed sword Goldbrand, although this has never been officially confirmed by the Imperial government. An attempt by the Aldmeri to break out of the city to the south was blocked by the unbreakable shield wall of General Jonna's battered legions.

In the end, the main Aldmeri army in Cyrodiil was completely destroyed. The Emperor's decision to withdraw from the Imperial City in 4E 174 was bloodily vindicated.

Lord Naarifin was kept alive for thirty-three days, hanging from the White-Gold Tower. It is not recorded where his body was buried if it was buried at all. Once source claims he was carried off by a winged daedra on the thirty-fourth day.”

This shows how the Empire successfully repelled the invaders. It is true that the Dominion sacked the Imperial City and caused damage. However, the one responsible for the sacking of the Imperial City was hanged at the top of the White-Gold Tower, which is a devastating blow as well towards the Dominion.

  1. Thalmor Dossier: Ulfric Stormcloak:

Ulfric Stormcloak is an asset of the Thalmor but he doesn’t know it. According to The Imperial Library,

“Background: Ulfric first came to our attention during the First War Against the Empire, when he was taken as a prisoner of war during the campaign for the White-Gold Tower. Under interrogation, we learned of his potential value (son of the Jarl of Windhelm) and he was assigned as an asset to the interrogator, who is now First Emissary Elenwen. He was made to believe the information obtained during his interrogation was crucial in the capture of the Imperial City (the city had in fact fallen before he had broken) and then allowed to escape. After the war, contact was established and he has proven his worth as an asset. The so-called Markarth Incident was particularly valuable from the point of view of our strategic goals in Skyrim, although it resulted in Ulfric becoming generally uncooperative to direct contact.

Operational Notes: Direct contact remains a possibility (under extreme circumstances), but in general the asset should be considered dormant. As long as the civil war proceeds in its current indecisive fashion, we should remain hands-off. The incident at Helgen is an example where an exception had to be made – obviously, Ulfric's death would have dramatically increased the chance of an Imperial victory and thus harmed our overall position in Skyrim. (NOTE: The coincidental intervention of the dragon at Helgen is still under scrutiny. The obvious conclusion is that whoever is behind the dragons also has an interest in the continuation of the war, but we should not assume therefore that their goals align with our own.) A Stormcloak victory is also to be avoided, however, so even indirect aid to the Stormcloaks must be carefully managed.”

  1. The xenophobia, division, chaos, and the segregationist ways of the Stormcloaks:

What people seem to often forget is that Skyrim is home to other races including the empire and they make up a huge percentage of the population. You may say that it is still the Nords’ homeland but let’s talk about how it makes it their homeland. It is the homeland because they settled on it. They lived on it and grew roots in it. The same goes to all the other races including the empire that has settled and has roots in Skyrim. Traditions and cultures of other races are in Skyrim, not just the Nords. The empire is also not some foreign nation trying to take control over Skyrim because they have always been there. It is also part of their home. Not only that, many Nords are loyal and part of the empire. The Stormcloaks don't even represent Skyrim as a whole or all the Nords. No more than a band of rebels.

Ulfric is a segregationist and he is xenophobic. He causes division among races and lowkey also makes his own race superior to others. He banned the Argonians from his city. Banning an entire race of people to enter a city is indeed racist. He's also got issues with the Dunmer inside his city, causing Windhelm to become a racist mess. It's clear that the empire isn't as racist as the Stormcloaks.

When you first walk into Windhelm, go right into the Gray Quarter (Past the Dark Elf being bullied by two Nords which I'll get into later). You'll see a man talking to a Dark Elf. For those who didn't know, the Gray Quarter is a poverty-stricken slum that Ulfric forces the Dark Elves to live in. He'll tell you he is trying to help the Dark Elves because Ulfric won't. He'll give you radiant quests to destroy bandit camps harassing Dark Elf, Argonian, and Khajiit caravans. It is not that he doesn't have the men. He bails out Nord caravans all the time.

  1. “The empire is bad for trying to chop my head off”

If you were paying attention, you got caught breaking the law by illegally crossing the border from Morrowind to Skyrim, and you were picked up in the general area of Windhelm right next to a Stormcloak brigade. You were put in a cart with them and if you remember correctly the person who decided that you should be beheaded was the unnamed Imperial Captain which stands next to Hadvar while they acquire the names of the Stormcloak prisoners. She was not following the general imperial code nor was Tullius by killing Ulfric on the spot. This was an exception and if the high command of the empire had its way the Stormcloaks would be brought to Cyrodill to be executed while you would just pay a fine or go to jail for trying to cross the border. "But I need to have some revenge, right?" You can, in fact, get your revenge on the Imperial Captain who ordered your execution by following Ralof into the keep where you will fight two imperials upon arrival, one of them being that captain and your revenge has been cleared.

  1. How people that side with the Empire is the majority and how the Stormcloaks supporters are a minority.

Go to any big TES facebook group and the majority will always side with the Empire. Most youtubers also prefer the empire. Any big TES discord server also has the supporters of the Empire as the majority. Even the majority of lorebeards and scholars side with the Empire judging from the lore they now and understand. All that basically makes stormcloak supporters a minority.

Source: Original link


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