Posted Tue, Jan 22, 2013 by gunky
Elder Scrolls history is divided into eras of varying lengths.
The Dawn Era is the time of the creation of the universe and the eventual rise of the peoples of Nirn. This era likely encompasses many millennia.
The Merethic Era involves the first settlements of Tamriel, the creation of different cultures and the erection of the first great man- and elf-made structures.
This is followed by the First Era, a roughly 3000-year period dominated by the struggle between Ayleid culture, which died out by the beginning of the Second Era, and the Cyrodiilic Empire, which grew to dominate Tamriel for thousands of years to come.
The Elder Scrolls Online takes place in the middle of the Second Era, a roughly nine-hundred-year era defined by strife and conflict as the Cyrodiilic Empire struggled to bring all of Tamriel under its control. Specifically, it is set during the Interregnum, a period where the Empire is at its weakest because of a combination of internal conflict, the combined efforts of the three alliances vying control for control of the Ruby Throne, and Molag Bal trying to drag the whole world into his own private hell. The Second Era ends when Tiber Septim finally unites all the provinces of Tamriel under Imperial control.
The Third Era, which lasts for 433 years, is defined by the succession of Septim emperors. It ends after the Oblivion Crisis in TES IV: Oblivion, with the death of Martin Septim. The events of Arena, Daggerfall and Morrowind also occur during the Third Era. These events happen within a 34-year span, starting 714 years after the events of the Elder Scrolls Online.
The events of Skyrim take place in the Fourth Era, roughly 200 years after the events of Morrowind and Oblivion, which are only about 6 years apart at the end of the Third Era. That places the Elder Scrolls Online about 948 years before Skyrim. Though the events of Skyrim are pretty epic, it is unknown whether the defeat of Alduin ushers in a new era, or whether the Fourth Era soldiers on for another few centuries.
One of the defining events of TESO's Second Era setting is the rise of Tiber Septim during the 9th Century, roughly 250 years after the setting of the Elder Scrolls Online. Because Tiber Septim has not yet been born, and his conquest and unification of Tamriel have not yet occured, there will be a few notable differences between TESO's setting and those of the later games. For starters, money won't be called Septims. It may have some other kind of Imperial-type name - denari or sesterce, perhaps, in keeping with the Roman-inspired names - but it won't be named after a man who has yet to be born.
Likewise, there are only Eight Divines instead of the Nine Divines of the later games. Tiber Septim has not yet transcended mortality to become the Ninth Divine, Talos, and is not yet worshiped as a god.
If you want to do your own lore research, all of the Elder Scroll games are still available for download. Skyrim (and its expansions), Oblivion and Morrowind are all available through Steam, and Daggerfall and Arena are both available as freeware from the official Elder Scrolls website. Be warned that Daggerfall and Arena require DOS emulation to function on modern machines and may require some third-party patching to make them compatible with recent operating systems and hardware.
What bits of lore tripped you up the first time you fired up an Elder Scrolls game? Let us know in our comments!