The Nilfgaardian Empire (Ceas'raet in Nilfgaardian language) is the most powerful empire in the history of the known world. It is located in the southern part of the Continent and boasts both a thriving economy and a strong, well-trained army with talented commanders. It has expanded mostly through the conquest of foreign countries, which were then turned into provinces of the Empire. The Empire's inhabitants believe that "real" Nilfgaardians are only those born in the heart of the Empire, and not those born in the conquered provinces.
The provinces are ruled by either stewards or kings (in cases in which a king willingly surrenders, he retains his throne but is subject to the Emperor or just a vassal). The empire has expanded throughout the years, conquering new lands and going as far to the north as the Yaruga River during the reign of Emperor Emhyr var Emreis.
In the Northern Kingdoms, the Empire is portrayed as an overarching antagonist, with many free people of the North expressing hatred towards it with passion.
The Great Sun, symbolizing solar radiance and solar heat, is the primary symbol of the Nilfgaardian people. It appears in imperial heraldry, on coins, banners of armed forces as well as the mark of the Viroledan swordsmiths.
Coats of Arms
These flags were created by SMiki55.
For the main article on Nilfgaardian emperors, see Imperator.
For a full list of known Nilfgaardians, see Category:Nilfgaardians.
Territories, Vassal States, and Provinces
For the main article on Nilfgaardian territories, see Nilfgaardian administrative units.
Since the Peace of Cintra, the Empire spans from the Yaruga river in the north all the way down to southern parts of the continent, where only a short distance separates it from other mysterious and unknown lands such as Hannu, Zangvebar, Barsa, and Ofir.
To the west Nilfgaardian border is defined by the coastline of the Great Sea, to the east lies Tir Tochair mountain range as well as desolate wildernesses and barren grounds. On the East of the Empire it lies the endless Korath desert, also known as the "Frying Pan".
The Empire spans a huge area and thus the climate varies greatly, from warm but mild in Cintra to hot and sunny weather around the Alba and down to the steppes and deserts bordering with the far south. Some territories have microclimates, which are dictated by both the land (like in the mountains or river deltas) to weather such as rain and wind.
A rather large portion of the Empire's territory is also based around the meridians. Sea coasts consist of green, lush, and fertile lands while the more inland areas tends to be barren, with the major exception being large river valleys.
Birth of the Empire
Nilfgaardians believe their history reaches back to the 2nd century. The first settlers mixed with the Black Seidhe, creating a nation consisting mostly of elven language, beliefs, customs and culture. Meanwhile, the valiant sheperds inhabiting scattered settlements on the Alba slowly incorporated the surrounding nations, appropriating their best traits like the culture, technology and military strategies, offering them safety and order in return. The two groups eventually merged during various conquests by neighbouring nations and periods of freedom, creating a unique heritage mixing the achievements of elves, Vicovarians, Etolians and several Alban tribes. At some point of their history, the Kingdom of Nilfgaard emerged.
The monarchs were aided by a council of advisors, which became known as the Senate. Over time, the Senate has gained more and more power, becoming a legislative body.[N 1] During this period Nilfgaardian influences started to expand and neighbouring lands were slowly Nilfgaardized and the peoples brought under the dominion of the empire, through the "diplomacy of steel", were expected to learn its official language and adopt elements of the victors' culture.
Eventually, a couple of realms outside the Lower Alba were incorporated into the realm, either willingly or by force. The title of Imperator appeared, at first only as position in the army. Known lands that were joined in that period were Rowan and Ymlac, apparently also Ruach, Daerlan, Magne and Winneburg.[N 2]
In the early 12th century Imperator Torres var Emreis overthrew the Senate and took absolute power. At first he referred to his realm only as a "kingdom" but during his later reign term "empire" was coined – and the Emperor with it.
Sometime after Torres' death, likely in the early 1200s, Fergus var Emreis ascended the throne. However, he was considered by many to be a weak emperor. In 1216, Emperor Fergus var Emreis decided to use Etolia as an example of the future that awaits all enemies of the Empire. Nilfgaardian Army attacked and overwhelmed Etolia, annihilated its power structures and decimated the values defining Etolian life. Fergus subjected Gemmera in that year as well. Vicovarian nobles influenced their ruler and Vicovaro asked to join Nilfgaard willingly, on its own initiative. Fergus was ultimately overthrown by Usurper in 1233. During the coup, Fergus was killed by the Usurper while his son and heir, Emhyr, was cursed by the mage Braathens, who turned him into a humanoid hedgehog. Despite having dogs set on him, Emhyr managed to escape and, with help from his own acquaintances, left the Empire.
During the Usurper's reign, he proclaimed a national amnesty, diminished the cult of the Great Sun's rights, and, in 1239, he annexed Ebbing. During this long conflict, Metinna, Nazair, and even Maecht were conquered by the Empire by the mid-1250s.
In 1257 a uprising led by Ardal aep Dahy, Vilgefortz and other Emhyr's supporters stormed the Imperial Palace and killed the Usurper. Emhyr var Emreis, the right heir to the throne who was banished from his country, entered once again in Nilfgaard and became the new Emperor, gaining the nickname "the White Flame Dancing on the Barrows of his Enemies" or in Nilfgaardian language, "Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd".
First Northern War
For the full article, see Northern War I.
During his reign, Emhyr continued the expansion started by the Usurper, beginning the First Northern War in 1263 by invading Cintra, winning the Battle of Marnadal at the Marnadal Stairs, before marching to Cintra's capital, which was besieged and most of the inhabitants slaughtered. Meanwhile, Emhyr tasked Cahir Mawr Dyffryn aep Ceallach, a knight within his secret service, to capture Cirilla, the granddaughter of Queen Calanthe of Cintra and Emhyr's secret daughter (and whom he planned to marry). However, Cahir failed in his task and was imprisoned for two years in the Citadel at Nilfgaard while Emhyr continued to try and push into the North. This came to an abrupt halt though during the devastating Battle of Sodden Hill where the North's mages played a crucial part and ended the First Northern War with Nilfgaard's defeat. Despite this, the Empire held fast to Cintra and in 1267 managed to suppress a rebellion, capturing their leader, Windhalm of Attre, and having him executed as a show of force.
Second Northern War
For the full article, see Northern War II.
Still set on taking the North, in the summer of 1267 Emhyr set in motion plans to start the Second Northern War, this time enlisting the help of several powerful mages to stage a Thanedd coup to remove the North's mages and thus their advantage that won the last war. While the plan went awry, it ultimately led to the Brotherhood of Sorcerers downfall and, with King Demavend of Aedirn faking an invasion at his borders to try and make it look like it was the work of Nilfgaard, Emhyr used this to mobilize his army and invade the North once again. With the North in chaos from Vizimir II's assassination, Nilfgaard's invasion, and the distrust towards mages, it looked like Nilfgaard would finally capture the North.
However, to truly calm down the people of Cintra, Emhyr still needed Ciri and had people out looking for her. While he was presented with a girl around her age a few months after the Thanedd coup and officially named her queen of Cintra, he knew she wasn't his daughter and only recognized her as queen to quell the masses while he continued the search for the real one.
Stefan Skellen, one of the men entrusted in finding Ciri, had other plans in mind though, wanting to overthrow Emhyr and the monarchy and make the Empire a democracy instead. Together with Ardal aep Dahy, Broinne, D'Arvy, Joachim de Wett, and Berengar Leuvaarden, they decided to find Ciri but then kill her to prevent the continuation of a monarchy. This conspiracy failed though as Berengar Leuvaarden later revealed the plan to Emhyr for leniency. While he was spared, Emhy had Stefan Skellen captured and ordered his execution after a trial.
In the meantime, Nilfgaardian forces clashed against Temerian ones in the Battle of Brenna, where the Imperial Army lost and Field marshal Menno Coehoorn was killed. Following this huge failure, the Empire sent ambassador Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen to negotiate during the Peace of Cintra: in the end the Empire was forced to surrender once again to the North but was allowed to keep Cintra. Although the Empire was officially defeated, the huge damage caused by the war to the Northern Kingdoms forced the latter to buy great amounts of food from the Empire and from Kovir and Poviss, which greatly enriched them.
After Ciri was found, Emhyr was still set on marrying her until he realized the only thing that mattered to her was to be with her adoptive parents. With this, he let her go and, having fallen for False Ciri, who was still officially declared as Cinta's heir, married her in the spring of 1268, officially making Cintra part of the Empire.
Third Northern War
For the full article, see Northern War III.
Third Northern War started around 1271 after the failed summit in Loc Muinne. Once again the army, commanded by the new Field Marshal Havart var Meohoen, invaded the North conquering the kingdoms of Aedirn, Lyria, Rivia, and Temeria, which remained without a leader after the Kingslayers murdered both Demavend III and Foltest by order of Emhyr. When Nilfgaard approached Kaedwen, King Radovid V of Redania invaded his neighbors and assumed control over Kaedwen. Instead of two weak enemies, Nilfgaard, who in the meantime conquered the capital city of Vizima in Temeria and was stationed in Velen, now was forced to face one large, powerful one.
If Emhyr wins the war: After the assasination of Radovid and the death of Sigismund Dijkstra, the North without a leader couldn't defeat the armed forces of Emhyr, who conquered the whole North.
If Radovid wins the war: Thank to the strategic moves of Radovid, Emhyr was ultimately defeated by Redanian troops and was ultimately assassinated once returned in Nilfgaard by his opposition, tired of his continuous failures during the war.
If Dijkstra wins the war: With Sigismund Dijkstra as head of state after Radovid's death, the North managed to defeat Emhyr's army, who was later assassinated by his opposition once returned in Nilfgaard.
For the full article, see Nilfgaardian (people).
While the Empire's population comprises several different cultures and nations, the authorities are keen on slow "Nilfgaardization" of minorities, that is replacing local values and customs with those of "proper Nilfgaardian", Lower Alban heritage. Internal migration within imperial borders are encouraged: colonies of Lower Alban settlers are established within troubled provinces, while non-Nilfgaardian peasants loyal to the Empire are encouraged to settle in newly-conquered realms through attractive offerts; rebellious regions are cleansed through enslavement or ethnic cleansing of groups deemed "problematic".
On the other hand, Nilfgaardian Empire in general is considered a safer home than most Northern Realms for many nonhuman races. Save for groups like Wood Elves, nonhumans living in the Empire consider imperial system harsh, but just.
Military and Intelligence
For the main article, see Nilfgaardian Army.
The army's operations are backed by Imperial Military Intelligence. Rivalled only by Redanian Secret Service, the institution is able to gather information and sow dissent far beyond the frontlines.
Divisions and brigades
- The Nilfgaardian Empire is a powerful and ancient realm in the far south. Its capital is the city of Nilfgaard, located on the river Alba. The Empire arose through conquests, assimilating nearby kingdoms. Only the inhabitants of lands near the river Alba have the right to call themselves Nilfgaardians. A significant amount of elven blood runs in the veins of the people, while their language is a variant of the Elder Language. The Empire is aggressive and willingly invades neighboring lands. Its war with the Northern Kingdoms ended five years ago, yet in spite of the peace treaty, Nilfgaard has failed to give up its claims on the northern territories.
- Led by Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, also known as the White Flame Dancing on the Graves of his Enemies, the Nilfgaardian Empire is the most powerful state in the known history of the Continent. With the Emperor's appetite for constant expansion, the southern superpower is a constant threat to the kingdoms located in the north. Nilfgaard's booming economy and superior army make it a force to be reckoned with. Nilfgaardians believe in lineage and racial purity, which makes them hated and feared by the free peoples of the Continent—only those born within its original borders are considered true citizens. However, once conquered by the Empire, as long as you serve its greater goals and remain obedient, you're more than likely to live to see another day. Nilfgaard's dominant religion is the cult of the Great Sun, which is reflected by the sun symbol on the Empire's coat of arms. Although the Emperor does not officially condone other beliefs, as long as no one mixes their gods with current political affairs, peoples acquired via the Empire's expansions are free to pray to whatever they want.
Reward Tree entries
- Scroll 1: Nilfgaard is a nation of extremes. It is the largest, richest, most populated, most powerful and, without a doubt, the most ruthless.
- Scroll 2: Nilfgaardians will stop at nothing to defeat their foes. The slaughter of civilians? An unavoidable pity. Poisoning wells? A pragmatic stratagem. Forcing slaves into a suicidal assault? Well... piled corpses work wonders for scaling walls.
- Scroll 3: The word "peace" does not exist in the Nilfgaardian language. Ever since chroniclers began keeping records, Nilfgaard has unceasingly conquered, annexed, and vassalized their neighbors. And they won't rest until the Golden Sun shines upon the entire Continent.
- Scroll 4: But why this need to conquer? Centuries of armed conflict have made the Nilfgaardian economy entirely dependent on the spoils of war and slave labor. In other words, if the Nilfgaardian war machine ever halted, their society would risk utter collapse. To survive, the Empire must pillage, pillage, pillage...
- Chest 1: Nilfgaardians intrepret loyalty quite differently than the rest of the Continent. For their emperor, they would jump head first into a pool of acid. Yet the moment their leader shows the slightest hint of weakness, it's as if his power turns to smoke and vanishes in the wind. The seat of the Empire cannot allow a mere ounce of incompetence, for due to its vastness and influence, even a minor mistake can lead to far-reaching and unforeseen consequences.
- Chest 2: Many believe that Nilfgaard owes its dominance to its superbly equipped legions of heavy infantry. The truth is slightly more complex, however, for Nilfgaard acquires most of its territories without ever declaring war. It often suffices to deploy an assassin to remove the inconvenient leader, then send diplomats to deftly orchestrate the ensuing conflict between his heirs.
- Chest 3: In contrast to their squabbling Nordling neighbors, Nilfgaardians have tremendous respect for the law. A court sentence, however unjust, is immediately executed to the letter. Imperial edicts may as well be the word of the gods. As a result, Nilfgaard is incomparably more organized than the kingdoms of the North... And its soldiers execute even the cruelest orders without question.
- Nilfgaard draws many parallels with the Roman Empire of the real world: a vastly powerful empire that, with the use of disciplined armies, assimilates other "barbarian" cultures into itself through hard conquest. Also similar is the feeling of superiority among its delegates and subjects (who like to believe they are all of the Elder Blood - descendants of Lara Dorren). The cult of the Great Sun amongst Nilfgaardians can be related to the cult of Sol Invictus ("Invincible Sun") within the Roman Empire. Furthermore, the Witcher 2 clearly lampshades this idea. In one of the quest descriptions in chapter 1, Dandelion uses the phrase "When in Nilfgaard, do as the Nilfgaardians do" in exactly the same manner as we would use "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."
- Origins of the capital's and therefore the empire's name are unclear. "Nilf" seems to be corrupted version of Icelandic "nifl" (fog, darkness, mist; like in "Niflheim"), while "gaard" could be either Dutch "gaard" (yard, garden), Danish "gaard/gård" (farm) or Old Norse "garðr" (yard, enclosure).
- In terms of color scheme and armor design, the Nilfgaardian military is very reminiscent of certain parts of the military of the Holy Roman Empire (not to be confused with the earlier Roman Empire), specifically their royal armor.
- Nilfgaardian Lemon is one of the strong alcohols available for Geralt's consumption in The Witcher but is non-consumable in The Witcher 3, where it's used only as an ingredient.
- In The Witcher 3 there are four armor sets inspired by Nilfgaard: the Nilfgaardian Armor set, the Great Sun armor set, the Impera Brigade armor set, and the Nilfgaardian guardsman armor set; there is also a Nilfgaardian Empire Gwent deck.
- While the Senate's existence might suggest that Nilfgaard, much like its real-world analogue, was a Republic for some time, it's worth noting that word "republic" has not appeared in the official franchise.
- Because these lands do not appear in the list of conquests of the Empire in The Witcher Role-Playing Game, it can be assumed that they were incorporated before the Empire was established.