Who was Reman Cyrodiil?
The founder of the Second Empire has a whole bunch of interesting features about him. To start with, he had something of a… mystical birth, if I can put it that way. At least, if you believe the official story. The Remanada claims that Reman was born after King Hrol, from “[b]eyond the lands of lost Twil”, had a vision of Alessia and had sex with it, and a hill in the process. Reman was then born out of the earth with the Amulet of Kings embedded in his forehead.
Taken literally, this sounds quite strange, but there’s a whole bunch of mythic confluences that make it seem reasonably plausible, although we don’t know enough about Reman’s first years to be able to reliably disprove things. One of the big claims is that he “spoke as an adult, saying I AM CYRODIIL COME.” That’s one of the big lines I want to unpack about Reman Cyrodiil, that he was literally the land made manifest, and what that means, later.
There is some doubt thrown on this origin by various other sources, though. The Book of the Dragonborn says this:
There is also no evidence that Reman Cyrodiil was descended from Alessia, although there are many legends that would make it so, most of them dating from the time of Reman and likely attempts to legitimize his rule.
For there to be something that needs legitimising, there must also be an illegitimate truth to it, and in this case there’s some unofficial stuff that hints at that around Reman’s birth. There was a fair amount of shade thrown at the Remanada’s account by Kurt Kuhlmann, one of the Bethesda devs, in a series of forum posts made under the Hashphat Antabolis persona. In particular, there was this line from forum user Proweler, which Hashphat agreed with:
King Hrol was well known in his appetites for young girls. The Reman mythology sprouted from the initial embellishment of his transgressions with the shepherdess Sed-Yenna and his dead [sic] due to exhaustion. As such Reman is not the god that later mythistorical-revisionist make him out to be but rather a bastard Son of Skyrim.In the preceding years, Sed-Yenna cleverly used the fabricated myth, and knowledge of Remans true origins as political leverage to attract and employ various factions in the Imperial City to support Reman as a proxy King. Hence that according to the myth, none objected when Reman was brought to the throne.
That would certainly explain why we know next to nothing about Reman’s early history, because there was none of note, and it was all invented later. Hashphat (and probably Kurt himself) agreed with the idea that taking things literally here shouldn’t be done. There’s also a line in the Shonni-Etta that references El-Estia as the “true mother” of Reman, in the same breath as saying he was “conceived of the Imperial earth.” That latter element has altogether too much thematic stuff here for it not to be taken at least semi-seriously.
Reman’s Birth as Mystical Symbol of King and Land
Firstly is the idea of the connection between king and the land, particularly with regard to Alessia. Alessia is identified with the land of Cyrodiil itself by the Prophet of Anvil in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. He calls her “the earth that IS Al-esh”. That is echoed with Reman’s “I AM CYRODIIL COME” line; he IS the land, too.
To go a little further down the rabbit-hole, MK posted on a forum thread:
Bonus:King Hrol (seeker/Healer of Kingdom), “from the lands beyond lost Twil”. Twil as Twilight. Grey Maybe. Aurbis. His knights numbered “eighteen less one,” the number of the Hurling Disk.SPACE GODS BEGAT REMAN! NEWS AT ZERO-SUM, PACIFIC STANDARD GRADIENT!
This means that Reman is possibly the child of another kalpa, or something similar. /u/CE-Nex has a fantastic join-the-dots piece that connects this whole thing into the land itself. They point out that Hrol is the past, if we take it that Hrol is the past, something that I think is likely because of how Hrol’s knights are portrayed. They are “Western sons”, and namechecks Anvil and Deodill and others, which means Colovia, western Cyrodiil. However, the West of Tamriel, Yokuda, is also the past in some ways of thinking. If that’s the case, then it’s possible that Hrol and his knights are not just from beyond the Aurbis, but also from the past of the Aurbis, potentially a previous kalpa. There are also points that CE-Nex makes that the past that is Hrol and the present that is Alessia makes the future that is Reman. That is why Reman is Cyrodiil Come, that he is the personification of the land, a child of the land that is a personification of the future.
The hill where Reman was allegedly found was Sancre Tor, where Alessia was buried, along with the Amulet of Kings. Being born from within in the hill gives Reman the amulet from his location, and thereby legitimacy. Having the amulet embedded in his head also makes him a part of the Amulet, or gives him access to the Amulet. That relationship links him to the “oversoul of emperors” that gets talked about in Where Were You When the Dragon Broke. It implies that conversations can be had with the different souls within the amulet. If Reman had that from birth, then he’s been having those voices, those spirits, influencing him from day one. That reminds me of the idea of Abominations from the Dune series, the pre-born Bene Gesserit that grew in the womb with all the voices of their entire female ancestry in their heads. Those children also emerged from the womb fully conscious and speaking. I can’t help but see Reman as something similar; it certainly feels that way. If that’s what happens, it makes him a form of gestalt consciousness, an expression of all the rulers that have come before. He, and possibly all who wear the Amulet and contribute to it, are an expression of Cyrodiil itself. Or themselves, if we take Cyrodiil to mean the people, rather than the land of Cyrod.
The ties between Dune and Reman feel like they get stronger with the Shonni-Etta text, which is an unlicensed piece by Michael Kirkbride that talks about Reman’s upbringing in… very explicit terms. There’s also a few bits of symbolism that make it interesting for how Reman is considered.
A relatively mundane note, is that Shonni-Et and Sed-Yenna were the ones who raised Reman, in “the ways of the Nibenese”. Reman was a child of Western Cyrodiil, remember. Colovia. A Colovian being brought up as a Nibenese symbolises both elements of Cyrodiil, being a unity that is another form of CYRODIIL COME.
Reman and the gods
And now to the weird stuff. I warn you, this next portion gets a little explicit.
As well as representing Cyrodiil, Reman is also potentially tied to Anu and the forces of stasis, in a way that we haven’t really seen before, if the Shonni-Etta is to be believed. That text has his midwives/actual wives gather up his semen and bake it into bread that Reman is then fed. This is done so that he can be “Light made Man, and Order, fed ever by the seed of first stasis, anon Anu.” This feels a little odd, as we can associate Hrol (his father) with creation quite directly, both in the act of implanting the land with seed, and penetrating the ground, which is also a re-enactment of the Adamantine Tower – Akatosh pierces Nirn with that Tower, after all. So Reman being associated with Stasis, rather than Creation, seems odd. Unless we take it that it’s a reference to PSJJJJ, the time that Anu did something. Which is possible, I guess, and links Reman to the most mystical moment of creation. Which, if you look at it the right way, can be conception, with all the fluids involved. The fluids themselves could connect with stasis, I guess, in the sense of being regenerative or maintaining youth; quite a few older traditions considered sperm to contain the whole essence of life, which women incubated. That’s why it’s often called “seed” in those sorts of situations; it’s planted in the right place, and it grows. It also gets associated with fundamental essence and vitality, for similar reasons. So if you’re consuming the stuff, then you could potentially be restoring that vitality. But that’s purely me speculating.
To cap all that off, we have a possible association with Sanguine in the unlicensed Imperial Census of the Daedra Lords, which claims that Sanguine lived in the White-Gold Tower during Reman Cyrodiil’s rule. With the Shonni-Etta claiming that Reman could ejaculate “without hands” and mention of a particular Dibellan priesthood, this feels like all things Sanguine as well. Quite where one ends and the other begins, I’m really not sure. Although the Shonni-Etta as a whole reminds me a little bit of Dune again, which holds sex and breeding very highly. The idea of perfect bodily control is another element that is present in the Bene Gesserit, which feels like the Dibellan priests that the Shonni-Etta mentions.
Reman as Dragonborn
Reman Cyrodiil was also noted to be dragonborn in various places, most particularly at the Battle of Pale Pass against the Tsaesci of Akavir. There are several sources saying that the Tsaesci were looking for a dragonborn, and stopped when they found Reman. As well as the Tsaesci forming the basis for the Blades, this allowed Reman to unify Cyrodiil, from most accounts. He’s also considered “responsible” for the kingdoms of High Rock and Skyrim, if you believe the first edition of the Pocket Guide to the Empire. Note that “responsible for” isn’t the same thing as “ruling over”, though; It wasn’t until the time of Reman II that the mannish provinces were truly under the control of the empire.
I wouldn’t necessarily take the traditional account at its word, however; while the Pocket Guide has zero reason to paint Reman in a bad light, it misses out much of the emphasis on his being Dragonborn that we find in some other texts, and suggests instead that Reman allowed the Akaviri to stay to bolster his fighters against possible aggression from the elves. They also contributed several elements to the Imperial Legions, which were more efficient thanks to their use of Akaviri techniques. The introduction of the Akaviri Potentates happened from the first Emperor, from what I can tell, and they would outlast the entire Reman dynasty.
Although he didn’t conquer all of Tamriel, it seems that Reman may have got involved with adventures into space. The Third Edition of the Pocket Guide notes that there were expeditions made to Atherius during “the Reman Dynasty”, although it doesn’t say precisely when. I think the rule of Reman II fits the bill the best, but if we go by a forum post that Michael Kirkbride made, discussing plans for lunar colonies in the Reman dynasty, then the space exploration began during Reman I’s rule, and carried on into the rule of Reman II. In the absence of firmer dates for this, it’s as close to confirmation as we’re going to get.
As well as being into all sorts of weird stuff from body-control, orgies and space exploration, Reman was very into his ceremonial, too; Varieties of Faith claims he put the ceremonies of the Dragonfires and the Amulet of Kings in place, which means he understood about the power of ceremony and symbolism. That means that he could very well have constructed most of his mythology, in fairness, as he understood precisely how it all works and the power of myth. So he’s either pretty much a demigod born of the land and symbolising the future, or a very shrewd and brilliant tactician and propagandist. Both of those make for very good emperors.
The Other Remans
Reman II was not next in line, but rather was followed by Kastav, who it seems strained the relation between the empire and its dominions, demanding that enough people were conscripted from Skyrim to inspire a revolt. He was deposed by Reman II, allegedly Reman Cyrodiil’s grandson, who instigated a period that has been called a golden age in a few texts. This was accompanied by wars that would see all of Tamriel subdued in various ways, apart from Morrowind. The degree to which we can call the Summerset Isles and Black Marsh “conquered” is debatable; notes in the First Edition of the Pocket Guide from an Altmer remark that “there shall be no accomodation [sic] as with Reman”, which implies that there was something like a ceasefire, but the Guide itself notes that only the ambassador was permitted on the Isles, and then only into Alinor.
Reman II also invaded Black Marsh, initiating the Blackwater War. This lasted for twenty-something years, and stopped when the Argonians decided to stop fighting. No official end of the war was made, but Reman declared the province annexed 2 years after the cessation of hostilities, and constructed a series of garrison fortresses around the edges of the province. Tiber Septim would do exactly the same thing for his “conquest” of Black Marsh later.
Morrowind was the last big thorn in the side here, which would ultimately finish the Reman dynasty off; the Four-Score War would apparently squander whatever stock of money and ultimately stability that Reman II had built up, and it would outlast him. The war carried on through the next 2 rulers, and was ended by the Akaviri Potentate, Versidue-Shaie following his assassination of Reman III. The war itself probably contributed to the instability of the Potentate era, and the need for the Syffim, that would later become the Fighters Guild.
That’s about it for the course of the Reman dynasty, but I do want to close on a random little note that although the only emperors we’ve really talked about are called Reman, there were others. We’ve mentioned Kastav briefly, and there’s also Brazollus Dor, who ruled between Reman II and Reman III. There’s part of me that thinks that “Reman” may almost have been a posthumous title that got applied to rulers after Reman Cyrodiil, who himself took the name “Cyrodiil” to symbolise his connection to the land he ruled. If that’s the case, then “Reman”, which literally means “light of man” (Ray-man, I think is the pun there), is more a title than a name, similar to how various European rulers have been called “the Great”. But that’s purely my speculation.
That’s it for all I’ve got to say on the Reman dynasty. Their founder was an incredible character who instituted several things that persisted throughout much of the empire’s history, as well as being some of the most interesting links to the broader mythology and cosmology of the series. If I’m honest, his successors are a bit of a let-down, although Reman II as the conquerer of almost all Tamriel did pull off something that made the idea of a unified continent a possibility. Reman III, we probably have the fullest picture of as a character, if you believe Carlovac Townway, but otherwise he just carried on his predecessors’ war.
Talk Elder Scrolls lore with other fans at the Written in Uncertainty Discord: https://discord.gg/Jc3r99w
Send me an email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Keep in touch on Twitter: https://www.twitter.com/aramithius
Watch Written in Uncertainty videos: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCzQ9_UWzSiPvTcmcPmnE-hg
Chat live during Elder Scrolls lore streams: https://www.twitch.tv/aramithius
Support the show, and get early access to all Written in Uncertainty content, including exclusive access to my notes: https://www.patreon.com/writteninuncertainty
Drop me a tip: https://www.ko-fi.com/aramithius
Check out the rest of the Robots Radio Network: https://www.robotsradio.net
Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/written-in-uncertainty/message