In ancient times, the Imperium's power was unrivaled and its borders stretched across nearly the entire continent. In modern times, while Tevinter is a shadow of its former self in both size and power, it is still relatively powerful, and a major nation of Thedas.
When humans first came to mainland Thedas around -3100 Ancient, they belonged to a single tribe known as the Neromenians. They settled along the coastline of the Nocen Sea, where they were met with hostility from the ruling elves. By -2850 Ancient, legend says that the elves had distanced themselves from the humans, whom they called "quicklings," fearing that human contact was depriving them of their immortality. This gave the Neromenians free reign to expand further into the continent.
It's believed that around -2800 Ancient, the Old Gods began whispering to humanity from the Golden City. They taught the Dreamers of the Neromenian tribes magic, and those mages became the priests and rulers of their people. In -1700 Ancient, the Neromenian tribes eventually split into four kingdoms: Neromenian, Qarinus, Tevinter, and Barindur. By -1610 Ancient, Barindur had disappeared under mysterious circumstances; legend says that it was destroyed by the Old God Dumat for scorning his High Priest.
In -1595 Ancient, Thalsian, First Priest of Dumat, claimed to have personally contacted Dumat in visions and learned blood magic, which he used to declare himself king of Neromenian. Though Thalsian is often believed to be the first blood mage, mages of the Imperial Chantry now believe that blood magic was actually learned from the elves of Arlathan rather than the Old Gods. Thalsian established temples to worship Dumat, turning dragons into a symbol of divine power and popularizing worship of the Old Gods. He is also credited for creating a mage ruling class, as many of his own pupils founded the noble houses that still rule over Tevinter to this day. In the kingdom of Tevinter, mages established the first Circles of Magi as closed societies, presumably to train and study their magical talents. They established a council of their most talented mages, known as the Court of Magisters, which convened in Minrathous and mandated the use of magic throughout the kingdom.
In -1207 Ancient, Darinius, the High King of Neromenian, took the Tevinter throne from his uncle, uniting the kingdoms of Neromenian and Tevinter under his rule, laying foundations for the Imperium. During Darinius' reign, the Court of Magisters became the royal court, with the magisters as the only recognized noble class. In -1200 Ancient, Darinius also became the first human to successfully ally with the dwarves of Kal-Sharok when he went into the Deep Roads and forged an alliance with the dwarven king Endrin Stonehammer, establishing significant trade between their kingdoms. A body of dwarven representatives titled "Ambassadoria" was established at that time to advise the Tevinter leaders and manage trade relations between the Imperium and the dwarven kingdoms.
In -1195 Ancient, marked as O TE in the Tevinter Calendar, Darinius married Queen Rathana of Qarinus, joining his kingdoms to hers and founding the Tevinter Imperium. Darinius declared himself the first Archon.
Destruction of Elvhenan
As the empire grew eastward, settlers started to encounter elven scouts at the edge of Arlathan Forest, which they had previously believed to be uninhabited. As it had been more than two millennia since the elves had retreated into their own kingdom, it's possible that memory of first contact had been lost to time. When the Imperium realized that the settlers' claims of a magic-using nonhuman race were real, they sent emissaries into the forest. When none returned alive, they built a fortress near the border and set up a permanent watch.
Contact between the two races became more frequent–and more violent–over the next few decades. In the summer of -998 Ancient, several Tevinter settlements vanished into the forest. This led to Archon Thalasian declaring war in -981 Ancient, marching into Arlathan Forest to lay siege to the capital of Elvhenan, allegedly with demons and dragon thralls at their side. Six years later, as the Inghirsh tribes took advantage of the war with the elves to attack Tevinter's southern settlements, Archon Thalasian and the magisters sank the city into the ground with blood magic to bring a swift end to the conflict. Elven survivors were enslaved, adding a vast population of slaves to the Imperium almost overnight.
By the year -895 Ancient, the Tevinter Imperium had expanded widely, bolstered by its new elven slaves. The Imperium claimed nearly all of northern Thedas and started conquering lands across the Waking Sea, settling the island of Estwatch in -880 Ancient and staging several campaigns to subjugate the Alamarri and the Avvar around -715 Ancient.
Civil wars and expansion
The magisters believed that magic was a favor of the Old Gods rather than an accident of birth, and refused to acknowledge the mage underclass of elves and newly liberated foreigners. When Archon Almadrius chose Tidarion, a lowborn mage of Planasene blood, as his apprentice, the resulting outrage from the Magisterium led to Almadrius' assassination in -692 Ancient and a civil war that lasted for over seventy years. Mages fought against mages for the first time since the fall of Arlathan. The civil war finally ended in -620 Ancient when Archon Parthenius, former high priest of Dumat, finally admitted the Laetans to the temples and gave them three seats in the Magisterium.
During its expansion, the Imperium conquered as far south as Ferelden and as far east as Rivain, subjugating the local tribes with brutal force. It commissioned the construction of the Imperial Highway to connect all lands under their rule for the purpose of trade, though the project was never completed due to resistance from the Alamarri tribes. Between -575 to -555 Ancient (620-640 TE), a large civil war erupted when the two most influential magisters warred for the vacant Archon's throne, threatening to split the empire. Though order was eventually restored, this conflict marked the end of the Imperium's golden age.
The First Blight
In -395 Ancient, in a misguided attempt at apotheosis, a group of magisters sacrificed hundreds of slaves and used up two-thirds of the lyrium in the entire empire to physically enter the Golden City in the Fade, returning as the first Darkspawn. The Archdemon Dumat led the First Blight for nearly two hundred years, ravaging the empire and shattering its power. Civil unrest added to complications until the newly founded Grey Wardens finally defeated the darkspawn.
Wars of independence
With their vulnerabilities exposed to the world, the severely weakened Imperium became the target of the first Exalted March, led by the former slave Andraste and her husband Maferath. In -180 Ancient, they brought an army of Alamarri from across the Waking Sea to destroy the empire and spread word of their god, the Maker. Andraste's campaign inspired elven slave revolts in cities throughout the Imperium, compounding the threat of the encroaching Alamarri armies. The invasion ended when Andraste was publicly executed with her generals in -170 Ancient, after being sold out to the Imperium by her husband in exchange for the lands of southern Thedas. In -160 Ancient, Archon Hessarian, the ruler at the time of Andraste's revolt and the one who had executed her, forcibly converted the Imperium to the faith of the Maker and revealed Maferath's betrayal in a period known as the Transfiguration. Many magisters who refused to convert were violently overthrown.
In -120 Ancient, Rivain's war for independence from the Imperium began, which distracted the Empire from reconquering the Free Marches. Eastern cities of the Free Marches rallied to help Rivain, and after the Battle of Temerin in -53 Ancient, the Imperium abandoned its eastern territories.
When Emperor Drakon I founded the Chantry in -3 Ancient and declared Divine Justinia I the official head of the Andrastian religion in 1:1 Divine, it caused great consternation in Tevinter, which had been organizing the religion on its own terms for over a century. Though they initially tried to appease the newly formed Chantry by reducing the Archon's authority over the faith and transferring it to the grand clerics, relations between the two were strained from the beginning. In 2:80 Glory, the Chantry of Orlais called for an Exalted March on Starkhaven, which had been under Tevinter rule since 2:45.
In 3:87 Towers, the Imperium split from the Orlesian Chantry and formed its own Imperial Chantry under a mage, Divine Valhail, primarily over disagreements on the meaning of the Maker's second commandment, "Magic exists to serve man, and never to rule over him." The Black Age and Exalted Age saw several Exalted Marches ordered against the Tevinter Imperium by the White Divine when tensions between the Orlesian and Imperial Chantries grew heated. Between 4:40 Black and 5:10 Exalted, the Orlesian Chantry declared four Exalted Marches in an attempt to force the Imperial Chantry back into the fold. The Exalted Marches only stopped because of the advent of the Fourth Blight in 5:12 Exalted. In retaliation for these assaults, Tevinter refused to send aid to the other nations of Thedas against the encroaching darkspawn.
Thedas was first attacked by the Qunari in 6:30 Steel. By 6:42 Steel, much of the Imperium had been conquered in the conflicts. Determined to retake its lost territories, the Imperial Chantry took part in the New Exalted Marches alongside the Orlesian Chantry during the Storm Age (7:25–7:84). In total, three Exalted Marches were declared against the Qunari. In 7:84 Storm, the Imperium, alone out of all the human nations, refused to sign the Llomerryn Accords, the armistice which ended the war with the Qunari. As such, Tevinter remains at war with the Qunari to this day, vying for dominance of northern Thedas. The island of Seheron has been a particular point of focus throughout the centuries.
In 7:34 Storm, Archon Nomaran was elected directly from the Circle of Magi. He abolished laws that prohibited mages from participating in government, allowing the magisters to openly retake their place as the true rulers of the Imperium.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
Dragon Age: Tevinter Nights
Around 9:44-9:45, the Antaam launches an invasion into Tevinter, unsanctioned by the rest of the Triumvirate. The cities of Ventus, Carastes, and Neromenian quickly fall to the Qunari forces.Meanwhile, remnants of the Venatori still attempt to restore the ancient Tevinter Imperium, despite Corypheus' death. They are opposed by Dorian Pavus and Maevaris Tilani and their fledgling faction within the Magisterium, the Lucerni.
- Caimen Brea
- Fort Viridan
- Marnas Pell
- Minrathous - Imperial capital and largest city in Thedas.
- Ventus (formerly known as 'Qarinus')
- Vol Dorma
- Arlathan Forest
- Eyes of Nocen
- The High Reaches
- The Hundred Pillars - Massive pillars made of a strong material identified only as a "hard dust"; the material isn't stone, and is similar to a mortar (concrete).
- The Silent Plains
- Valarian Fields
- Ventosus Straits
Then there are the so-called soporati, the "sleepers." These are the non-magical citizens who vastly outnumber the mages, yet are beholden to their whims. Many are resentful of this status, plotting in secret, even as they secretly hope their children will possess magical talent—an enticing lure, since the talent could conceivably show up in anyone, even a slave. It would be easy to forget that Tevinter possesses a massive class of publicans, the civil servants and leaders of the Legionnaires. It has an enormous merchant class, enough teeming poor to drown any other nation in Thedas, and the shadowy thieves called "praesumptor" who are practically treated with respect.
And then there are the slaves. One would think they, at least, see each other as equals, but it is not so. The divide between the freed liberati, those who act as personal servants to magisters, those who work on farms and factories, and the "servus publicus" who do all the tasks proper citizens will not—it is all but insurmountable, but perhaps in emulation of those who own them, Imperial slaves will connive and scheme to try anyhow. Outsiders might see it as futile, but to Tevinter citizens, their nation's social classes are the most mutable and rewarding of merit in all of Thedas.—From In Pursuit of Knowledge: The Travels of a Chantry Scholar by Brother Genitivi
—From Codex entry: Tevinter Society
Tevinter society is notoriously decadent yet also takes great pride in their history and achievements. The Imperium treasures their past and preserves it, as indicated that everything they've built has been carefully preserved and renovated. Ambition and magical ability are the hallmarks of its ruling elite, the magisters. The ancient magister lords ruled the Imperium in the Circles of Magi (before their modern incarnation), maintaining a tight hold over its people through the power to infiltrate their dreams using blood magic. Though blood magic is now banned in the Imperium, mages who practice it are quietly acknowledged as the most proficient dreamers and diviners. The ban is really only paid lip service to; even the most devout mages in Tevinter know at least the basics. This circumvention is often necessary in order to simply survive the deadly rivalries and competitions for power and influence amongst the Tevinter noble families, who only ever put aside their constant bickering to unify in the event of a major crisis such as acts of sedition amongst the indentured populace.
The centuries-long war with the Qunari has taxed the Imperium significantly as resources are strained, with hundreds of refugees fleeing to the capital of Minrathous, the splendor of which is chafing greatly everywhere outside the spires that house the Imperium's Circles of Magi.
In Tevinter, same-sex relationships between nobles are largely hidden, but nowhere prohibited. These relationships are encouraged with favored slaves. Transgender individuals likewise face no official persecution or legal repercussions, although such individuals living openly amongst the upper classes (such as Maevaris Tilani) can cause a scandal. In the army however rules are more strict and identify people based on their biological sex.
Tevinter architecture uses strong horizontals and verticals, accentuated with high-contrast materials. Much of their buildings are made with the help of magic, allowing them to raise massive pillars from the earth, and make use of dramatic designs. Tevinter also has access to vast quantities of precious stones and metals, which they make good use of.
- Main article: Imperial Chantry
The Imperial Chantry is now the main religious organization in Tevinter, replacing the abandoned worship of the Old Gods. Unlike its southern counterpart, the Imperial Chantry is accepting of magic and allows men into the priesthood.
Tevinter society is highly stratified, with citizens classified into different levels depending on their ancestry and magical ability.
All common citizens of the Imperium who are non-mages are considered part of the Soporati ("sleepers") social class. This is a mainly human class which is allowed to own property and serve in Tevinter's military but they have no real power in the nation's governance and are unable to attain a higher rank in the Imperial Chantry than mother or father. Often they are found to be merchants or publicans (civil servants and leaders of the Legionnaires). However, when a Soporati family produces a mage child — this is greatly desired in Tevinter, unlike within the rest of Thedas — it allows them entrance into the Laetan class and thus a higher social standing. In general, the Soporati and ruling mage classes exist in a state of tension due to the inequality of their standing in the nation.
The next highest social level is that of Laetans, who are mages born into families that had up to that point shown no magical ability or who have been mages for generations but have no link to the higher Altus or Dreamer class. One third of the Archons throughout history have been Laetans. Archon Tidarion was the first Laetan to become Archon, and the outrage that this caused among the Magisterium led to a civil war that lasted over seventy years. The magisters believed that magic was a favor of the Old Gods rather than an accident of birth, and refused to acknowledge the mage underclass of elves and newly liberated foreigners. The civil war was only ended in -620 Ancient when Archon Parthenius, former high priest of Dumat, finally admitted the Laetans to the temples and gave them three seats in the Magisterium.
Altus mages are believed to be descendents of the dreamers or magisters who possessed the ability to speak to the Old Gods in the Fade. The Old Gods are no longer objects of worship but the descendents of these powerful mages are still held in esteem and often are the most high-ranking mages in the Imperium; indeed the majority of magisters are Altus. Interestingly, there was a time in which these Altus mages were scorned for their seeming part in creating the Blights as the corruption of the Golden City transformed these mages into the first darkspawn. As a result, many such mages were slain during the period of Transfiguration when the Imperium became Andrastian. Since then, the Altus mages have returned to the upper echelon of Tevinter society.
Slaves and Liberati
- Main article: Slavery
In Tevinter, slavery is not only legal but officially sanctioned. While Tevinter slaves used to be predominantly elven, they are now mostly a mix and elves and humans, though even dwarves and Qunari can become slaves. Mages can also be enslaved. While slavery is officially outlawed everywhere outside of Tevinter, slavers operate throughout Thedas, luring and kidnapping people to sell them into slavery in Tevinter.
Slave uprisings are frequent but rarely successful, as are attempts by Tevinter politicians to abolish the practice.
Slaves can only be legally freed before a judge, with their owner present to make the decree, or by the owner's will upon their death. However, freed slaves are still not considered citizens of Tevinter. Those who achieve freedom are instead sectioned into another class known as the Liberati. The Liberati functions as a subclass, and those within it are granted limited rights. Liberati are able to act as an apprentice in a trade or join a Circle of Magi. Liberati are also able to own land and property, but they cannot join the military and rarely have a say in governance. 
The Tevinter Imperium is still governed by powerful magic-users through a form of magocracy. It is almost universally reviled by other nations. Its nobility is known to be over-indulgent, and slavery is still practiced. The Imperium is the center of the black market, smuggling (including the harboring of mage fugitives from other lands) and the slave trade. Tevinter would crumble without slaves, given that it is the only way to support their economy. History shows how deeply committed they are to the practice; when an archon once outlawed slavery, the archon was quickly assassinated. Though slave rebellions occur frequently, the Imperial Senate unites in the face of "sedition" to suppress them. Though merely a shadow of its former glory, the Imperium is still a very powerful nation with considerable military might. It would turn on the southern nations were it not diverted by the constant wars with the Qunari.
The Imperium draws a variety of soldiers from its territories to form an impressive army. Most noted throughout Thedas, however, is the use of elephant mounts that have been imported into Tevinter for centuries through the coastal colonies near the northwestern jungles. Their cavalry fights on the backs of dracolisks. As well, Minrathous is famously protected by a trio of gigantic war golems purchased from the dwarves known as the Juggernauts. Women's roles in the Tevinter military are heavily restricted.
The Imperium's capital is Minrathous. It is located at the northern end of the Imperial Highway. Tevinter has its own versions of the Chantry and Circles of Magi, both led by a male Divine, unofficially known as the Black Divine; his authority, and indeed the existence of the Imperial Chantry, is not recognized by the Chantry in Orlais. Likewise, the Imperial Chantry refuses to recognize the authority of the Orlesian Chantry and its "White Divine." The Chantry calendar is in use everywhere except the Imperium, although the empire used it briefly when it was introduced.
The legislative body of Tevinter is known as the Imperial Senate. The Senate is divided into two houses: the Magisterium and the Publicanium. The Magisterium is the upper house and is responsible for making laws and choosing a new Archon if there is no approved heir. Members of the Magisterium are known as magisters. The Publicanium is the lower house, and in contrast with the Magisterium it holds no true power and is considered a bureaucratic body. Senators of the Publicanium are elected officials.
Magisters constantly compete with their fellows to rise into a higher position on the Magisterium, though they come together to put down slave rebellions, which they view as sedition. Raising one's position can be achieved through wealth, magical prowess and/or support by fellow senators but almost always requires relying on forbidden magic. There are various means by which an enterprising mage may enter this august company. For example, in a complaint made between two magisters in 9:35 Dragon regarding Maevaris Tilani's disruption of the Magisterium's traditions, one of the aggrieved magisters mentions her buying off every vulgatis and honoratus in the eastern empire. It is unknown specifically what these terms mean, though it can be assumed they hold enough power in the Imperium to sway public opinion. Furthermore, each of the seven Circles within Tevinter selects a magister for the Magisterium, and this mage is often an older Senior Enchanter but never a First Enchanter as they are not eligible for a seat. Each of the grand clerics of the Imperial Chantry and the Divine himself hold a seat as well. A mage may also inherit a seat from a magister rather than earn it through magical ability or station within the Chantry. A final means by which a mage enters the Magisterium is by being appointed directly by the Archon, which is a power the Archon may exercise at any time.
The Archon is the true ruler of Tevinter and the magic he wields gives him a god-given authority over others, whether that god is one of the Old Gods or the Maker. As noted above he may appoint magisters to the Magisterium at any time and has final say on any laws under consideration. The role of Archon is generally an inherited one and oftentimes these men are relatives or perhaps the apprentices of the previous Archon. In the event that an Archon passes without an appointed heir, the Magisterium steps in and names the next ruler provided he is not already part of the Magisterium or a member of the Chantry. Prior to the Black Age, however, the Archon had been allowed to be a magister or hold rank in the Imperial Chantry.
Relations with other nations
Because of its history as conquerors and slavers, the role magisters played in starting the Blights, and the current Schism with the Divine in Orlais, the Tevinter Imperium is the most maligned and demonized nation in Thedas. It is virtually impossible to find writings from Tevinter outside its borders that have not been heavily altered or outright forged. To most Theodosians it is a corrupt and degenerate magocracy that must be feared until it can be converted.
Tevinters themselves view the rest of Thedas as barely civilized savages who lack proper reverence for tradition and respect for authority.
Though the elves no longer have a nation per se, the general relationship between them and the Imperium is largely self-explanatory, and very poor.
Tevinter has enjoyed a long and fruitful alliance with the dwarven empire since ancient times, in which both empires were at the height of their power. The lyrium trade is the primary reason for their close alliance, and the magic-centric Imperium is mainly dependent on Orzammar to meet its immense demand. Dwarves also provided the Imperium with golems, the most notable of which are the trio of Juggernauts that protects Minrathous. Besides the trade alliance, it is also known that the dwarves helped Tevinter during the Fourth Blight by lifting the siege of Marnas Pell and they received many accolades of the ruling Archon, one dwarf even became a Paragon.
Many surface dwarves live in the Imperium, not considered citizens but rather foreign dignitaries, even if their houses have existed in the Imperium for ages. The Tevinter Imperium hosts numerous dwarven embassies since the days of Archon Darinius and his alliance with the founding kings of the dwarven empire, Orseck Garal and Endrin Stonehammer. There are dwarven embassies in every major city, much like dwarven settlements in other countries in Thedas. However, unlike dwarves in other countries, Tevinter dwarves have their own branch of government, the Ambassadoria. The representatives of the Ambassadoria are elected by the dwarves to advise the Archon and the Magisterium. The Ambassadoria is more of a lobbying group than a parliament.
Dwarven embassies in Minrathous, Neromenian, and Qarinus are situated entirely underground and are considered by dwarves to reside within the Stone, allowing those in the embassy to retain their caste. Some dwarves serving in Tevinter embassies never leave these underground fastnesses. No dwarves are known to be kept as slaves in the Imperium, presumably due to their fundamental importance to the Imperium in providing lyrium. They can also be hired by homes as overseers to the household's slaves.
Despite this close alliance, there are two known cases in which some of the dwarves secretly breached this pact. The first was with providing safe harbor in Cadash Thaig for the ancient elves who were fleeing after the destruction of Arlathan. The dwarves of Kal-Sharok were informed of this so they attacked Cadash thaig and killed everyone in order to hide all the evidence from the Imperium. The second occasion was when Amaranthine was held by the Avvars. The Imperium at that time were trying to conquer Ferelden and the dwarves secretly traded with the Avvars beneath Amaranthine.
Tevinter contracted the Raiders of the Waking Sea to steal the Tome of Koslun, a historical tome of immense value to their enemies. Isabela manage to steal the tome, however she was shipwrecked and the Tome somehow wound up in Kirkwall. The text ended up in the hands of a local thief who arranged to trade the relic to Tevinter agents but the meeting was disrupted by the Qunari and text slipped through the Imperium's grasp.
- Main article: Tevene
- Magister Aurelian Titus
- Magister Calpernia
- Warden Corin – hero of the Second Blight
- Cremisius Aclassi
- Magister Danarius
- Archon Darinius – first Archon and founder of the Tevinter Imperium
- Magister Dorian Pavus
- Eleni Zinovia
- Felix Alexius
- Francesca Invidus
- Magister Gereon Alexius
- Magister Hadriana
- Magister Halward Pavus
- Archon Hessarian – Archon who ordered the death of Andraste
- Magister Livius Erimond
- Magister Maevaris Tilani
- Archon Radonis – Archon of the Imperium as of 9:41
- Divine Urian Nihalias – Imperial Divine as of 9:40
- Codex entry: The Tevinter Imperium
- Codex entry: The Tevinter Imperium
- Codex entry: Archons of the Imperium
- Codex entry: The Archon's Blades
- Codex entry: Astrariums
- Codex entry: Blade of Mercy
- Codex entry: Dorian Pavus
- Codex entry: Dorian and the Last Few Years
- Codex entry: Drake's Fall
- Codex entry: The Imperial Chantry
- Codex entry: The Litany of Adralla
- Codex entry: Magister Gereon Alexius
- Codex entry: The Magisterium
- Codex entry: Slavery in the Tevinter Imperium
- Codex entry: Tevinter: The Magisters
- Codex entry: Tevinter Society
- The Imperial Highway goes from Minrathous to Vol Dorma and then southeast until one branch ends in Perivantium and another expands into Nevarra. The highway also extends into Orlais and Ferelden. Ostagar is its southmost point.
- According to Dagna, the Imperial Magister Lords kept records of the genealogies of human families which were known to produce a mage child. Dorian Pavus confirms that the Altus class takes bloodlines very seriously (he will tell a Trevelyan that they are distant cousins based on the genealogy he has memorized). He calls himself the "disappointing" result of careful breeding among these bloodlines, because despite being a powerful mage, as a homosexual man he has no inclination to perpetuate them.
- The city of "Teraevyn" is spelled "Taraevyn" in Dragon Age: The World of Thedas Volume 1.
- Dracolisks have been integral to the Imperium's cavalry since the Steel Age.