The Tevinter Imperium is a nation in Thedas ruled by a powerful magocracy. The leaders of the Imperium are called magisters, and are led by the Imperial Archon. The Tevinter Imperium worshipped the Old Gods, supposedly from whom the magisters learned magic. According to the Chantry, it was at the beckoning of the Old Gods that the magisters attempted to usurp the Maker's throne by entering the Golden City of the Maker, which corrupted it and led to the first Blight. The Tevinter Imperium suffered the brunt of the First Blight and was subsequently toppled in an invasion by southern barbarians led by the prophetess Andraste; it is now only a shadow of its former self in both size and power.
The Tevinter Imperium was once the largest nation on Thedas, reaching all the way to Ferelden in the south. It has diminished significantly both in size and clout in the world, but remains highly active in the north. Tevinter society is notoriously decadent, and ambition and magical ability are hallmarks of the ruling elite, the Magisters. The ancient magister lords ruled the Imperium in the Circles of Magi (before their modern incarnation as ), 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, some mages are quietly acknowledged as the most proficient dream-walkers and diviners.
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.
It is still legal for elves to be sold into slavery in Tevinter, and many elves choose to sell themselves into slavery to provide for their families. This results in many Tevinter elves who are not slaves being better off than elves in other areas, even if elven slaves fare far worse. Slave revolts have been a common occurrence throughout history. Kirkwall was once the center of the Tevinter slave trade.
When humans first came to mainland Thedas, they coexisted peaceably with the native elves. Several human tribes formed, including the Tevinters centered on the port-city of Minrathous, ruled by a dynasty of kings. From the elves, they learned how to use lyrium to enter the Fade, developing magical talent that soon dominated the nation's infrastructure. Circles of Magi formed in Tevinter cities as closed societies of mages, presumably to train and study their talents. They formed a council of their most talented mages, the Court of Magisters, which convened in Minrathous and decided the mandate of magic in the kingdom. In -1195 Ancient, the magister Darinius took power as its first Archon and founded the Imperium, establishing the magisters as its aristocracy. Gradually, elves retreated from contact with the humans, allowing the nascent Imperium to flourish territorially. The Imperium conquered Elvhenan, the elven homeland, and enslaved its people, who claim the magisters sunk their capital of Arlathan into the earth with their magic. As well, the Imperium under Darinius was the first to successfully ally with the dwarves of Kal-Sharok and traded extensively with them.
During its expansion, the Imperium conquered much of the land of Thedas, as far south as Ferelden and east as Rivain, subjugating the local tribes throughout with brutal force. It commissioned the construction of the Imperial Highway to connect all lands under their rule together for the purpose of trade, but the fall of the Imperium meant the project was never completed. In 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. Even after order was restored, it marked the decline of the Imperium's golden age.
In 800 TE, in a misguided attempt at apotheosis, a group of magisters sacrificed thousands of slaves to physically enter the Fade using blood magic, 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.
Their vulnerabilities exposed to the world, the severely weakened Imperium suffered the first Exalted Marches by the escaped slave Andraste and her husband Maferath who brought a barbarian army from Ferelden north to destroy the empire. Slave revolts by elves enamored by Andraste's campaign exploded in cities everywhere, compounding the threat of the encroaching Fereldan armies. Finally the rebellion was put down and Andraste was publicly executed with her generals.
While the Imperium wrestled with Rivain's war for independence, Andrastian cults gained momentum around the world. Archon Hessarian, the ruler at the time of Andraste's revolt, formally converted to the faith himself. With the founding of the Chantry, the ruling magisters of Tevinter lost significant influence as they were penned into the restrictive Circles of Magi.
In the Towers Age, the Imperium split from the Orlesian Chantry and formed its own Imperial Chantry under a mage, Divine Valhail. The Black Age to the 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.
In 6:30 Steel, Thedas was first attacked by the Qunari, and much of the Imperium was conquered in the conflicts. Determined to retake its lost territories, the Imperial Chantry declares the New Exalted Marches alongside the Orlesian Chantry long into the Storm Age. The Imperium did not take part in the Llomerryn Accords, an armistice which ended the war with the Qunari, as other human nations did, and as such the Tevinters and the Qunari are in a state of constant war as both struggle for dominance of northern Thedas, currently warring over the island of Seheron.
In 7:34 Storm, political power has seemed to shift back to the magisters, as the new Archon Nomaran was elected directly from the Circle of Magi, abolishing laws that prohibited mages from participating in government.
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 to the practice Tevinters are when an archon once tried to outlaw slavery, only to be quickly assassinated . 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. As well, Minrathous is famously protected by a trio of gigantic war golems purchased from the dwarves known as the Juggernauts.
The Imperium's capital is Minrathous, 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.
The Imperium has maintained an agreeable relationship with the dwarves which dates back to the Archon Darinius.
The political system of Tevinter is comparable to that of the Orzammar dwarves. Magisters are members of the Senate and constantly compete with their fellows to rise into a higher position on the council, though they come together to put down slave rebellions, which they view as sedition. Raising one's position on the Senate can be achieved through wealth, magical prowess and/or support by fellow Senators. The exact power of the Senate is unknown, but they are responsible for the selection of the next Archon.
- Marnus Pell
- Minrathous - Capital
- Vol Dorma
- Eyes of Nocen
- The High Reaches
- The Hundred Pillars
- The Silent Plains
- Valarian Fields
Arcanum, the official language of the Imperium, was designed to be a potential distant ancestor to English, or more precisely the various aspects of Latin that English borrows from extensively.
- Ei vento nai mordoi deid: I don't want to kill you.
- Tir-ev-e ei-l-ud degit-ud: Pull my finger.
- Na via lerno victoria: Only the living know victory.
- Festis bei umo canavarum: You will be the death of me.
In the second example, the (-l) is the genitive, or possessive, marker. (-ud) is an accusative, or direct object, marker. There are 2 allomorphs: (-d) and (-ud) based upon epenthesis to avoid consonant clusters. Stacking of these affixes is an attested pattern in some languages. The suffix (-ev) is an imperative, or command, marker.
The suffix (-e) is a second-person agreement marker. English has a sort of "vestigial" agreement system, especially in the stronger old forms of high-frequency verbs like "be". Consider: I "am" but you "are" and he "is". Or in some dialects of course: I "be", you "be", we "be" etc. English word order has rendered ambiguity of role assignment almost a non-risk, so we don't really need agreement. The language above, however, has it; the (-e) tells you that the subject of the verb is 2nd person ("you").
Notable people with Tevinter origins
- Writer David Gaider has stated that the Tevinter Imperium is loosely based on the real-world Roman Empire, especially in its later Byzantine period. They share a number of similarities:The Roman Empire executed Jesus for causing dissent in the same fashion as the Tevinter Imperium executed Andraste, both the Roman and Tevinter Empires would later adopt their respective prophets teachings; as with the Byzantine and Roman Catholic wings of Christianity excommunicating each other, the Tevinter and Orlaisian Chantries are in conflict with one another; Tevinter had several Exalted Marches called against it, just as the Byzantine Empire faced its own Crusades. Also, like the Roman Empire, the Imperium built many vast road networks and aqueducts. An example of this is the Imperial Highway seen in Dragon Age: Origins. Finally, Tevinter is standing alone against the Qunari, just as the Byzantine Empire fought alone for almost five centuries against the Seljuks first, and later the Ottomans.
- The Imperium, as a nation ruled by powerful, ruthless and ambitious mages who is also the only one where slavery is not outlawed is very similar to the D&D Forgotten Realms nation of Thaymount, ruled by the power-hungry Red Wizards of Thay, who are described in detail in the Neverwinter Nights 2 add-on campaign "Mask of the Betrayer".
- Senestra, a Tevinter moneylender living in Kirkwall, says to Hawke "Is it Satinalia already?" The Satinalia must be a reference to the Saturnalia, the ancient Roman predecessor of the modern day Christmas. This is most likely just a Tevinter celebration given the Ancient Roman connection with the Tevinter Imperium, but it could apply to all of Thedas.
- Codex entry: The Tevinter Imperium
- Codex entry: Slavery in the Tevinter Imperium
- Codex entry: The Imperial Chantry