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Spoilers from the books and/or games to follow!
The Nilfgaardian Empire (Ceas'raet aep Nilfgaard in the Nilfgaardian speech) 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 Witcher saga, the Empire is portrayed as an overarching antagonist, with many free people of the North expressing hatred towards it with passion. It is introduced in Blood of Elves, when it invades Cintra.

National emblems Edit

One inch above the cross guard, he saw a punch in the shape of the sun in its glory with sixteen rays, alternating straight and wavy, symbolising heraldically the light and heat of the sun.
- Geralt admiring the Viroledan sword he receives from PinetyThe Lady of the Lake

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.

Heraldry Edit

COA Nilfgaard COA Nilfgaard full

The first coat of arms was created by our member SMiki55. The second one, by SMiki and Ruttou, is based on an illustration from Czech edition of the Saga.

Flag Edit

Flag Nilfgaard Flag Nilfgaard var1

These flags were created by SMiki55.

CD Project's The Witcher franchise Edit

COA Nilfgaard Tw2 journal Tw3 gwent deck Nilfgaardian Tw3 nilfgaard flag banner1 Tw3 nilfgaard flag banner2 Tw3 nilfgaard flag banner3 Tw3 nilfgaard flag banner4

HistoryEdit

The history of the Empire is still mostly unknown; few elements however permitted to reconstruct broadly the course of events:

In the beginning, at least 1,000 years before the reign of Emhyr var Emreis,[1] what is now called Nilfgaard was simply a small kingdom, composed of only a few scattered villages by the capital on the Alba river and under the control of a king. The first settlers also mixed with the Black Seidhe, a group of elves in the Alba valley.[2] After this cross-cultural event, Nilfgaardians incorporated most of the elven culture as their own, including keeping their language.

An unknown time later, kings disappeared and in their place they left behind their power to the most old and wise citizens of Nilfgaard, who then formed the senate, making the former kingdom into a republic.[3] This type of government continued for some time until eventually the senate's power was overthrown by the first emperor, establishing Nilfgaard as an Empire. However, it's unknown when this happened, though it was sometime prior to the 1150s, as by then it was being ruled by the first known emperor, Torres.

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 and was ultimately overthrown by an unnamed Usurper a few years before 1237. 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 dialect, "Deithwen Addan yn Carn aep Morvudd".[4]

First Northern War Edit

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, whose capital 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.[5]

Second Northern War Edit

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.[6]

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.[4]

Third Northern War Edit

For the full article, see Northern War III.
The following is considered game canon only and may contradict Andrzej Sapkowski's works.

Third Northern War started around 1271 after the failed summit in Loc Muinne. Once again the Army of Emhyr var Emreis, 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.[7] When Nilfgaard approached Keadwen, 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 a 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.[8]

End of game canon content.

GeographyEdit

TerritoryEdit

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".

Territories, vassals and provinces Edit


Cities and towns Edit


Keeps Edit

ClimateEdit

The Empire spans a huge area, so large in fact, that it is bigger than all of the Northern Kingdoms combined. Due to this, the climate is varied. From warm, though rather mild in Cintra and other vassal kingdoms situated around and south of Amell mountains, through certainly hot and sunny weather good for the vine and various fruits in a region around Alba, all the way down to steppes and deserts bordering with the far South. It is worth mentioning that there are several places in the Empire like Toussaint with a specific microclimate that makes them stand out in comparison with countries around. These are usually mountain dales or regions around river deltas dependant on the winds, rains or other similar factors making them much warmer or colder. Another thing that needs to be said is that on a rather large portion of the Empire's territory the climate is arranged, so to speak, along with the meridians. Sea coasts – mostly rocky themselves, which makes it harder to built ships for the Imperial subjects – consist of green, lush and fertile terrains. The more inland means more barren, major exception being large river valleys.

SocietyEdit

General informationEdit

Nilfgaardian society has always been indicated as far more modern than the ones of the Northern Kingdoms: unlike the latter, they do not believe in any mythological beasts such as vampires, and have adopted a monotheistic religion: the cult of the Great Sun, whose highest priest is the Emperor himself. However, unlike the North, Nilfgaardians still use slavery, which has now became the cheapest workforce in the Empire.

Nilfgaardian society also always showed much respect towards the figure of the woman: in Nilfgaard, women have far more rights and freedom than in the North, and according to the Nilfgaardian etiquette, even the Emperor out of his palace must show them respect and bow to them first.

While great power is given to them in Northern Realms, in Nilfgaard mages are under the total control of the Emperor, and are severely punished after every mistake.

NamesEdit

Names of Nilfgaardian men are usually composed by different elements: first comes their name, than the one of their mother, the one of their great-grandfather and for last the name of their father, usually preceded by the preposition "aep", which can be translated as "of".

Women's name is shorter and presents less elements. When a woman get married however, the name of her husband is added at the end of her name, after their surname.

Fashion and clothingEdit

In Nilfgaard the prevailing colors used for clothes are the ones appearing in the Empire's coat of arms, hence black and gold. Nilfgaardians rarely use other colors within their fashion, especially the most bright ones. Nobles usually wear black and golden doublets, often decorated with golden embroideries (or usually with a white one resembling a cross) and white cuffs, trousers and shoes/boots. The ruff is also a very common accessory often used by Nilfgaardians.

Beards are considered in Nilfgaard hard on eyes, hence few men let it grow.

Greetings and mannersEdit

There are a lot of greetings in the Nilfgaardian society. The most common is probably a simple "hael", which can just be translated as "hello / greetings". Other more sophisticated greetings are for example "gloir aen Ard Feainn" or "gloir aen Nilfgaard", translated as "glory to the Great Sun / Nilfgaard". Within the army, soldiers use among them greetings like "e'er y glòir", which can be translated as "honor and glory", and "tuvean y gloir", which can be translated as "death and glory".

Towards the Emperor, Nilfgaardians use expressions like "hael Ker'zaer" or "glòir aen Ker'zaer", which can both be translated as "glory to the Emperor". As mentioned before, men must bow not only before the Emperor, but also before women. The procedure for a formal bow in Nilfgaard is: left leg extended, right leg and head flexed down, right hand on chest, left hand extended.

Food and drinkEdit

Little is known about the Nilfgaardian diet: food seem to be similar to the ones in Northern Kingdoms, although sometimes some products may be better depending on the place of origin. During the Northern Wars a naval blockade was established between Nilfgaard and the Northern Kingdoms, which prevented the trade of food among the countries, particularly seafood like oysters, making it quite rare in Nilfgaard during this time.

The poorer citizens of the Empire usually eat mushes and porridges from shredded wheat with water. At times they eat the mush with herbs or vegetables, adding cheese at the end. Poorer Nilfgaardians can rarely afford to eat meat, and even if they happen to slaughter some kind of cattle the meat is usually smoked. Poorest of the Empire's inhabitants can't afford even bread. Many of those who actually have it make their own at home. To fill their bellies the wretched eat plenty of various olives.

The rich eat somewhat better: Among their foods there are particular meals such as roasted storks or dormice, rat-like animals, more expensive than oysters served with honey or poppy seed. At feasts, where these meals are served, it is also possible to eat eggs and apples, the first being served as an appetizer while the second as a dessert, both in large quantities. Nilfgaardians, when talking about large, proper meal usually call it as being "from eggs to apples".

Both among the rich and those truly-not-rich, great popularity is enjoyed by a particular fish sauce. This sauce is often improved by adding both honey and vinegar and Nilfgaardians eat it with almost everything.

As for drinks, Nilfgaard imports the world famous wines from the province of Toussaint, usually diluted with water. The Lemon is also a very famous alcoholic beverage used in Nilfgaard.

Events and holidaysEdit

To be added

Notable Nilfgaardians Edit

Emperors

For the main article on Nilfgaardian emperors, see Imperator.

Others

For the full list of known Nilfgaardians, see :Category:Nilfgaardians.

Armed forces Edit

MR Nilfgaard knight (1)

Nilfgaardian Knight

For the main article, see Nilfgaardian Army.

The army count during the 2nd Northern War was ca. 320,000, as 300,000 attacked the Northern Kingdoms, while the remaining 20,000 - 50,000 remained in the Empire.


CD Projekt's The Witcher franchise Edit

The Witcher (PC) Edit

Places Nilfgaard
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.

Source Edit

The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings Edit

Empire of Nilfgaard - The Witcher 2

Map of Nilfgaard from second game

The mighty Nilfgaardian Empire is still ruled by Emperor Emhyr var Emreis, and represented in the game by Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen, the Empire's cunning and eloquent emissary and ambassador.

Shilard is present in the Prologue, Act 2 (on both paths) and Act 3. In the Prologue, we can potentially see Nilfgaard playing its own game already if Geralt killed Aryan La Valette. Shilard persuaded the Baroness La Valette to accept Nilfgaardian protection. Already Nilfgaard can be seen projecting its influence. We furthermore see in Act 2 that Shilard captured Triss Merigold, Geralt's friend / lover, which as we learn later was to extract the name of members of the Lodge and as "evidence" of the Lodge's guilt with regards to the assassinations. We also find out that Shilard was the one who ordered Count Maravel to ambush the convey escorting Foltest's children and heirs, Boussy and Anaïs (which accidentally resulted in Boussy's death) and to give her to Dethmold of Kaedwen, most likely to make sure that Temeria remains divided. Morever, Shilard revealed to King Radovid of the Lodge's complicity in the royal murders, using the captive Triss Merigold as evidence, and worked with them to bring down the Lodge. And as we have already seen, Nilfgaard was in fact behind the assassinations to pave the way for its third invasion attempt, by promising Letho that it would re-establish the Viper School.

Tw2 journal Renuald

Renuald aep Matsen

In Act 3, if Triss Merigold was not saved (which requires Geralt to storm in the Nilgaardian camp and it ends up with Shilard dead), Shilard Fitz-Oesterlen pretended to have captured Letho, who subsequently "confessed" that the Lodge was behind all the assassinations at the Loc Muinne conference. Which led to exactly what Nilfgaard wanted, the elimination of the Lodge and the blaming of mages. If Geralt chose to save Triss, he opted to take Shilard hostage, but Renuald aep Matsen, an imperial bodyguard, killed the emissary himself, showing that he is in fact expendable in the Emperor's plans. Triss revealed in the conference the Lodge's guilt, but dissociated the mages in general from it, which allowed for the Conclave to be created.

How much the Emperor's plan succeeded depends on Geralt's choices, but it was more or less successful, and at the end it is revealed that the Nilfgaardian empire's army crossed the Yaruga river and is marching North. The Third Northern War had begun.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Edit

Nilfgaard is the aggressor. As a result of the fighting with the kingdoms of the North, it has encountered considerable turbulence - Radovid invaded Kaedwen (see Winter War), becoming a force able to defeat the Empire. Emhyr had not reached an agreement with corporations, so he devised a plan: he wanted to abdicate in favor of his daughter, Ciri. Depending on the player's choices, the Empire can follow one of the following courses:

  1. Emhyr var Emreis loses the war and Radovid or Dijkstra unites the entire North. Ciri's status won't matter here as Emhyr will be killed by conspirators for losing the war and subsequently she'd lose any right to the throne. Morvran Voorhis is then named emperor.
  2. Nilfgaardcity

    City of Golden Towers in TW3 (ending cutscene)

    Emhyr var Emreis wins the war. Depending on the player's previous choices, Emhyr stays in power if Ciri either dies or is a witcher (in which case he is convinced that she died), or abdicates to Ciri to become Empress.

The North can thus be conquered by Nilfgaard (and Temeria becomes a fief section), or Redania (in which all northern realms become part of Redania). The only exceptions are Skellige Islands and Kovir and Poviss.

Trivia Edit

  • 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).
  • Nilfgaardian Lemon is one of the strong alcohols available for Geralt's consumption in The Witcher (PC) but is non-consumable in The Witcher 3, where it's used only as an ingredient.
  • Tw3 icon gwent hero nilfgaard
    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.
  • 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.

ReferencesEdit

  1. Millennium Square
  2. The World of the Witcher
  3. The Tower of the Swallow
  4. 4.0 4.1 The Lady of the Lake
  5. Blood of Elves
  6. Time of Contempt
  7. 7.0 7.1 The Witcher 2: Assassins of Kings
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 8.4 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Witcher (PC)