In -640 Ancient, Archon Tidarion died, after leading the Tevinter Imperium for over fifty years. However, he did not leave any heirs, so therefore the Magisterium (the upper house of the Imperial Senate) planned to convene and elect a new Archon. But before an election by the Magisterium could be held, one of the noble houses that had recently been appointed to the body by the Archon, House Calphayus, proclaimed that one of its members will be the new monarch. This event caused an uproar among the rest of the nobility of the Imperium, especially since this family was part of the Laetan class―those with no prior history of magic use, who had been Soporati ("sleepers", the common citizenry) until recently.
When the Magisterium finally did convene, it denied their claim to the throne, but House Calphayus had a large following among the Soporati since they promised to reform the Imperium by giving non-magisters more liberties and possiby abolishing slavery. Using the forces loyal to them in the Imperial Army, the family took control of the capital city of Minrathous and proclaimed a one of its members as the new Archon. The majority of the capital's residents accepted the declaration, while the Altus magisters did not (families with a long history of magic use). As pro-Calphayus troops moved to arrest the uncooperative members of the Magisterium, many of the high nobles escaped from the capital with their supporters.
Those nobles were led by House Styrak, one of the most influential families in the Imperium, whose members had been in the Magisterium for centuries. They were backed by House Tyrans, considered to be the most influential family after the Styraks, along with dozens of other Altus families that could trace their magister lineage back to the times of Archon Thalsian, one of the first magister rulers. The leaders of this noble faction gathered in the port city of Qarinus, the second largest city in the Imperium after Minrathous, where they proclaimed the creation of an anti-Calphayus alliance that became known as the Qarinus League. The League put forth a member of the Styrak family who they claimed to be the rightful heir to the throne and declared war on the usurpers in Minrathous.
Course of the war
First half of the war
With the declaration of war by the League, House Calphayus (which was considered by the majority of the population to be the official Imperial Government), set about to mobilizing the Imperial Army to destroy the "enemies of the Archon." The people of the Imperium were promised more freedoms and possibly even the abolition of slavery if they helped them defeat the Altus magisters, who they said were representing the "old order." Many of the commoners serving in the army enthusiastically supported the cause, and many slaves (who were encouraged to join) also enlisted in the reformed Imperial Army. While most of the Magisterium backed the Qarinus League, the Imperial Senate's lower house, the Publicanium, backed the new regime. The dwarves living in the country, for the most part, remained neutral, although there were some that supported one of the two sides. The majority of the regular Soporati citizenry either remained neutral or supported House Calphayus.
The League's support came from Altus magisters and conservative members of the populace, as well as slaves that remained loyal to their masters. The League was also backed by the Ambassadoria, the organization representing dwarves in the Imperium. The majority of the Imperial Army's professional troops also sided with the League, while the government in Minrathous replaced them with new and enthusiastic, albeit inexperienced, volunteers. The League's troops, known as the Qarinus Allied Forces, quickly seized control of most of northeastern Tevinter and began marching south around the Nocen Sea, towards Minrathous. Meanwhile, the regime in the capital mobilized its army and sent in the direction of Qarinus, around the coast of the sea. The first battle between the two armies would occur at Vyrantium.
Battles of Vyrantium
The port city of Vyrantium, the southernmost port in the Imperium, was a major trade hub in the country, as well as the half-way point along the coastline of the Nocen Sea. It was a city of strategic importance to both sides and would become one of the most heavily-contested areas during the war. The river that flowed south from Vyrantium and the sea into the continent was considered to be the de facto border between Imperial and League territory, with everything to the west being under the control of Minrathous and everything to the east, under Qarinus.
The city's magisters were all either arrested or forced to flee after the proclamation of House Calphayus of being the new rulers of the Imperium. Vyrantium's new administration pledged its loyalty to the regime in Minrathous. That move, along with the city's strategic location, made it the first target of the League. The Qarinus Allied Forces besieged the city, whose garrison was outnumbered, and captured it in the first battle of Vyrantium. They began an offensive to the northwest, but were stopped and defeated at the Battle of Marnus Pell, retreating back to Vyrantium. When Imperial troops attacked the city, the League forces retreated after several days of battle outside of the city walls. However, a counteroffensive two weeks later retook the city for the League following a month-long siege.
The next battle for Vyrantium occurred after yet another League offensive was defeated. The troops loyal to the high magisters managed to capture the port of Marnus Pell that time and proceeded north, but were decisively defeated at the Battle of Asariel. The Allied Forces were unable to hold out in a siege by the pursuing Imperial troops, and Vyrantium fell back into the hands of the Imperial Government. However, when the eastern city of Marothius was captured (the Imperial Government's only holdout in the east of the country), the League was able to concentrate its full army at Vyrantium once again. The city fell to the Qarinus Allied Forces in the fifth battle for Vyrantium, in -636 Ancient. An attempt to retake it by the Imperial Army was repulsed two years later, becoming known as the sixth battle for Vyrantium.
The League managed to gain a foothold in the north, in Marnus Pell and the surrounding regions, so Vyrantium would remain in their hands for the next several years as the front moved northwards.
Battle of the Nocen Sea
Due to the fact that the capitals of both the Imperial Government and the League, Minrathous and Qarinus, respectively, were both port towns, there was a great incentive for both sides to build up their naval strength. However, naval warfare during the conflict was rather limited because of the small size of the Imperial Navy and the fact that ground warfare was considered to be more important. The two factions built up their fleets for the first five years of the war. The new regime in Minrathous relied on former Imperial Navy vessels for its fleet, while the League used both those and merchant ships that it confiscated for "the greater good." The Imperial Government did not do the same, since such an action would diminish its popularity among the citizenry.
The fleets of the two factions were ready for battle in -635 Ancient, with the League's navy of 94 ships gathering at Qarinus. Spies eventually got that information to Minrathous, where it was greeted with a call to action. The Imperial Navy mobilized its 71 ships and sent them towards the enemy capital, around the time (unbeknownst to them) that the League's fleet left port. The two navies clashed about half way between the two capitals. The Imperial ships took the League by surprise and managed to destroy a total of 48 enemy ships during the battle, resulting in the League's fleet retreating. The Imperial Navy suffered heavy casualties as well, losing 39 ships. Due to the heavy casualties both fleets sustained, neither was willing to try again, and decided that the war would be determined on land.
However, ships were used to supply garrisons at different port towns, and on occasion, raid the enemy's supply convoys and ports.
Stalemate at the front
Following the defeat of the League at the Second Battle of Asariel, at which point their advance was halted and their army was forced back to Marnus Pell, the front remained stable, and a nine-year stalemate occurred from -631 until -622 Ancient. Both House Calphayus and the League exhausted their resources and their troops. By the beginning of the stalemate, the League controlled roughly two-thirds of the Imperium's territory. Both sides used the time to replace the soldiers killed in battle and give the surviving men time to rest. The League also took advantage of the stalemate to put down a number of slave rebellions in its territory, as well as a revolt in the far-off province of Rivain.
A number of skirmishes between the Imperial and League armies occurred during that time period, though all of them were minor and did not have any major effects. By -625 Ancient, Grand Duke Maximilian Styrak succeeded his father (who died) as the "official" Archon (as claimed by the League). In -623 Ancient, Justinian Calphayus was crowned as the Archon in Minrathous following his father's death. Both men were anxious to bring the civil war to an end. Justinian viewed it as useless and only beneficial to the Imperium's enemies, while Styrak wanted to defeat his rival for power. Meanwhile, the League had continued to suffer from economic problems, revolts, and mutinies, so the Archon in Qarinus wished to quickly establish himself as the undisputed ruler.
In -622 Ancient, the Imperial Army was deemed by Archon Justinian to be ready for an offensive against the League.
Second half of the war
League advance reversed
A new offensive, breaking the stalemate, began along the front line (which stretched from Marnus Pell in the northeast to Vol Dorma in the southwest) in -622 Ancient. The 1st Army, under General Augustus Ursinian, attacked the League defensive line around Marnus Pell. However, that attack was a feint. The 2nd Army, under General Constantine Raltus, went south and attacked the weaker part of the line, taking control of the city of Vol Dorma, then marching north. They attacked the League defenders at Marnus Pell from behind, enveloping them, while Ursinian unleashed his full army against them. The defenders became encircled at Marnus Pell and attempted to break out. Only about 45,000 men, out of the total League garrison of 150,000, escaped to Vyrantium. All of the League's gains had been reversed in one operation.
Foreign reactions to the war
In chronological order:
- First Battle of Vyrantium (-640 Ancient)
- Battle of Marnus Pell (-640 Ancient)
- Second Battle of Vyrantium (-640 Ancient)
- Third Battle of Vyrantium (-639 Ancient)
- Second Battle of Marnus Pell (-639 Ancient)
- Battle of Asariel (-639 Ancient)
- Fourth Battle of Vyrantium (-638 Ancient)
- Battle of Marothius (-638 Ancient)
- Fifth Battle of Vyrantium (-636 Ancient)
- Battle of the Nocen Sea (-635 Ancient)
- Sixth Battle of Vyrantium (-634 Ancient)
- Third Battle of Marnus Pell (-632 Ancient)
- Second Battle of Asariel (-631 Ancient)
- Fourth Battle of Marnus Pell (-622 Ancient)
- Seventh Battle of Vyrantium (-622 Ancient)
- Great Uprising (-621 Ancient)
- Battle of Carastes (-621 Ancient)
- Battle of Qarinus (-620 Ancient)