Tiber Septim is one of the most influential characters in the Elder Scrolls series. He has only ever appeared in Morrowind but is consistently referenced throughout the titles and played a pivotal role in shaping Tamriel into the shape fans know it.
So, it can be essential for players of the games to understand Tiber Septim’s history to understand what is being talked about whenever he comes up in conversation with an NPC. From his origins to his rule, ascension to Godhood, and everything that the people of Tamriel can’t agree on, Septim is an impressively detailed and complicated character to learn.
Key Info Up Front
- Birth: 2E 828
- Death: 3E 38
- Race: Human
- Faction: Third Empire
Tiber Septim’s Origins
As is the case with many older figures in The Elder Scrolls‘ timeline, there is some debate among the cultures of Tamriel over how everything happened. However, one story is more widely accepted than the other, known as the Orthodoxy origin.
The more commonly accepted story for Tiber Septim’s origins begins with him being born on the frozen continent to the north of Tamriel, known as Atmora. He was born under Talos Stormcrown and had a brother named Agnorith.
After he was born, he quickly moved to Skyrim, where he trained alongside the Nords and adopted their hardy nature and relentless aggression in combat. He then joined the Colovian Estates as a soldier and proved himself enough to become a general. As general, he led the Colovian armies against Skyrim and High Rock forces who did not want to be ruled by the Colovian Estates.
However, the army from Skyrim joined Tiber’s forces after he used the Thu’um, revealing himself to be a Dragonborn. From there, it only took Tiber Septim and the king of the Colovian Estates, Cuhlecain, one year to push their way into the western region of Cyrodiil and claim it for themselves.
They were able to seize the Imperial City, granting them supreme control over Tamriel. Later that year, however, an assassin managed to kill Cuhlecain and slit Tiber’s throat before burning their palace to the ground.
Tiber Septim managed to survive the attack, but his wounds prevented him from using the Thu’um again. Cuhlecain’s death then allowed Tiber to claim rule over the Empire, which he led on an aggressive campaign to conquer the likes of Hammerfell, Morrowind, and the Summerset Isles to see his rule spanning all of Tamriel.
With the Empire spanning all of the continent, Tiber Septim announced that it was time to begin the Third Era, after which he enjoyed 38 prosperous years of rule.
The other story of Tiber Septim’s origins begins with his birth on the island of Alcaire, where he was raised and learned the ways of combat under the name Hjalti Early-Beard. When he was twenty, he led an army from Skyrim in a campaign against the forces of High Rock, where he met Cuhlecain, the king of Falkreath.
It was there that they allied, with the Tiber being placed as the general of their combined armies. Tiber then led that greater force in a sweeping military operation throughout High Rock, pushing the Reachmen back until they holed up inside the city of Old Hrol’dan.
While waiting outside of Old Hrol’dan, Tiber knew that it would be impossible to launch a successful city siege. However, one night, a storm passed through his army’s camp, and he was visited by the spirit of the long-dead Nordic King Wulfharth.
Wulfharth taught the Tiber how to use the Thu’um, allowing him to walk up to the enemy gates the next day and shout them down, allowing his forces to pour into the city and claim it for good. Afterward, Tiber was given the name of Talos by his Nordic soldiers, which means “Stormcrown.”
Tiber and Cuhlecain continued their conquest eastward until they conquered the Imperial City. However, Tiber didn’t want Cuhlecain to fill the role of emperor, so he assassinated him and slit his own throat to convince others of his innocence.
This saw him taking the throne himself and earning the name of Tiber Septim, and beginning his rule. The two stories from there are essentially the same, except with the heretical one claiming that the Tiber stole the soul of his advisor Ysmir Wulfharth to power the Numidium, a towering Dwarven golem that helped Tiber solidify his claim on Tamriel.
Tiber Septim and Berenziah
One aspect of Tiber Septim’s life that remains consistent across both stories is his relationship with Berenziah, a member of the Dunmer royal family in Mournhold. Berenziah was brought to the Imperial City, where she met Tiber Septim, and the two quickly fell in love.
It did not take long for Berenziah to become pregnant with an illegitimate heir to the throne. The Tiber didn’t want the child to interfere with his son’s claim and thus ordered the court wizards to force Berenziah to miscarry the child. Once he thought that had been done, he sent her away back to her home kingdom.
Tiber Septim’s Godhood
Many believed that when Tiber Septim died in 3E 38, he ascended to Godhood as the deity Talos and was added to the Eight Divines to form the Nine Divines at the center of Imperial worship, the God of Governance. There are two theories regarding how Tiber managed to achieve Godhood.
One is that as a Dragonborn, he absorbed the souls and power of the dragons in that era, not only leading to the near extinction of the species but also granting him an unprecedented level of control for a mortal. However, Imperial Priests claim that his Godhood was a reward from the Divine Eight for being the only mortal to unite all of Tamriel under a single ruler, bringing peace and prosperity to the realm, if even for only a short time.
Once Tiber Septim became Talos, he grew a devoted cult throughout the Empire, especially amongst Imperial Soldiers. Talos’ first appearance as a god was then as an avatar named Wulf in 3E 427. He appeared to the Nerevarine, a hero trying to save the land of Morrowind, and offered them a coin of luck while also revealing an ominous warning.
Talos voiced his concerns over the strength of the Empire and its ruler at the time. This prophecy was accurate, as the Oblivion Crisis began just a few years later when the emperor was murdered by the cultist Mankar Camoran, allowing the Daedric Prince Mehrunes Dagon to launch a full-scale invasion of the mortal realm.
Talos next played a key role in the game franchise in the gap between Oblivion and Skyrim. The period before the two titles saw all of Tamriel weakened by the Oblivion Crisis, leading to the founding of a new Aldmeri Dominion by the Thalmor in the western region of the land, which launched a total war against the Third Empire, known as the Great War.
This war culminated in the White-Gold Concordat, a damning treaty that crippled the Empire and led to many of its remaining provinces going into open revolt for their freedom.
One of these provinces was that of Skyrim, the civil war of which sits at the center of Skyrim. This civil war was mainly sparked because of the part of the White-Gold Concordat that outlawed the worship of Talos throughout the Empire. The Nords of Skyrim have specifically dedicated worshippers of Talos because of their extensive history with him before his reign as emperor, and they took the ban particularly poorly.
The ban also led to embassies of Thalmor being established throughout the province, from which they tried to root out Talos worshippers to “convert” their beliefs through extensive torture.
The Thalmor were also well known for raiding camps of Talos worshippers in the wilderness to skip the bureaucracy of conversions and kill them. However, Talos never intervened in the events or spoke to his worshippers, leading the faith of many to wane at their seemingly indifferent god.
Tiber Septim Controversies
One of the biggest debates surrounding Tiber Septim is his race. He is widely accepted to be one of the human races, but which one, in particular, varies widely. Some worshippers claim that he is a Breton descended from Alcaire, while others think he is from Atmora as an Atmoran or Nord.
Others also claim that Tiber Septim was an Imperial, especially since his avatar Wulf took the appearance of an Imperial when he appeared to the Nerevarine. His appearance on Septim coins was that of an Imperial.
There are also a few questions about his reign that will likely never be answered. One of these is his birthplace, which would directly impact his race. Another is that his personality seems to have changed drastically after completing his conquests of Tamriel for entirely unknown reasons.
There are also varying reports of his appearance, and it is unclear why he ultimately killed his royal battlemage. Historians and worshippers also question whose heart was used to power the Mantella, allowing the Numidium to function. The most common theories are that it is the heart of Ysmir, of his battlemage, or Tiber Septim himself.
Tiber Septim Artifacts
Totem of Tiber Septim
Base Value: 100,000
The Totem of Tiber Septim is a quest item players must acquire in Daggerfall. Getting the totem is one of the core parts of the storyline and can be used to control the towering colossus Numidium. Once the totem is retrieved during the quest “Totem, Totem, Who Gets the Totem?” players can give it to Queen Akorithi, King Eadwyre, King Gothryd, Gortwog gro-Nagorm, the King of Worms, Lady Brisienna, or the Underking.
Boots of the Apostle
Base Value: 55,000
Armor Health: 800
Class: Light Armor
The Boots of the Apostle are an enchanted pair of boots that are said to have been worn by Tiber Septim during his campaign across the continent. In Morrowind, the Nerevarine can acquire them from the Dunmer stronghold Berandas during the quest “Boots of the Apostle.”
They allow the player to constantly have the Levitate spell cast on them while the boots are equipped, while they can also be sold to Torasa Aram at the Museum of Artifacts.
Armor of Tiber Septim
Base Value: 190
Armor Health: 900
Class: Heavy Armor
The Armor of Tiber Septim is a cuirass worn by the emperor during his reign. It appears in Oblivion during the quest “Blood of the Divines” that sees the Hero of Kvatch getting their hands on the cuirass to get some of Tiber Septim’s dried blood from it. This is done by infiltrating the imperial burial area of Sancre Tor and is needed to open a portal to Mankar Camoran’s pocket universe to retrieve the Amulet of Kings and end the Oblivion Crisis.
Base Value: 13
Base Damage: 8
Class: One-Handed Sword
Hjalti’s Sword is an ancient nordic sword that has belonged to Hjalti Early-Beard and is the objective of the quest “The Ghost of Old Hroldan.” In the pursuit, the Dragonborn is sent to get the Sword by the ghost of Old Hroldan, who wants it to stop haunting an inn near Markarth.
Old Man’s Lucky Coin
Base Value: 0
Class: Miscellaneous Item
Enchantment: Fortify Attribute: Luck
The Old Man’s Lucky Coin is given to the Nerevarine in Morrowind by Talos’ avatar Wulf during the quest “The Citadels of the Sixth House.” It is given to the Nerevarine as a gift to help them moving forward and increase their Luck attribute by 20 points.
Question: Was Tiber Septim good or evil?
Answer: Whether Tiber Septim was good or evil largely depends on one’s perspective. To Imperials and Nords, Tiber Septim brought a lot of power, peace, and influence to their cultures. However, Tiber Septim has committed numerous atrocities during his war campaigns, and he is reviled by other cultures such as the Thalmor that were on the opposite side of his Sword.
Question: Who killed Tiber Septim?
Answer: As much of Tiber Septim’s life, there are two stories of how he died at 108. One is that he died of old age, despite the rumors that his court battlemages had devised spells and processes to extend his life. The other theory is that he was mortally wounded in the battle to liberate the corrupted Sancre Tor.
Question: Is Elder Scrolls Online set before Tiber Septim’s rule?
Answer: Yes, Elder Scrolls Online is set around 300 years before Tiber Septim, and it is the earliest title in the franchise’s timeline.
Tiber Septim Guide:Conclusion
There are plenty of interesting characters throughout The Elder Scrolls, but Tiber Septim is one of the best. This is because of how detailed his unique life is, how his ascension to Godhood as Talos has rippling impacts throughout the series, and how influential he has proven to be in every entry of the series despite there still being multiple questions surrounding his history and legacy.