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The Great War took place between 4E 171 - 4E 175. The Thalmor refer to this war as the First War Against the Empire. The Aldmeri Dominion invaded the Empire of Tamriel after Emperor Titus Mede II rejected an ultimatum presented by a Thalmor ambassador. The Dominion forces caught the Empire by surprise and apparently had far better success than planned. Their success apparently encouraged them to go beyond the aim of conquering Hammerfell, and instead, they decided to conquer the entire Empire. The Dominion advance culminated in the Sack of the Imperial City, which was under occupation for nearly a year before its liberation in the Battle of the Red Ring. The war ended with the signing of the White-Gold Concordat.
- Sack of the Imperial City, 4E 174. Lord Naarifin's Dominion army surrounded the Imperial City. Titus II broke through the perimeter with his main army and fled north to Skyrim to join with reinforcements under General Jonna. The Imperial City was sacked by the invaders soon after. The White-Gold Tower was burned and looted, and the Dominion committed many atrocities against the city's populace. Unknown to the Dominion, Naarifin attempted to bring about a mysterious Daedric prophecy known as 'The Culling' on behalf of his patron, Boethiah.
- Battle of the Red Ring, 4E 175. Titus II split his remaining forces into three hosts that surrounded the occupied Imperial City. Titus himself was injured by assassins and unable to fight; however, unknown to his troops, his place was taken by the mysterious Forgotten Hero, who donned his armor and led the Legion to victory. After a long, bloody battle, the Dominion army in Cyrodiil was utterly destroyed and the Imperial City recaptured. Lord Naarifin was hung from the top of White-Gold Tower and kept alive for thirty-three days. Despite the resounding victory, Titus II realized the Empire was too exhausted to continue fighting. He negotiated with the Thalmor and signed the White-Gold Concordat, a treaty that gave the Thalmor free reign to stamp out the worship of Talos in Tamriel, disbanded the Blades, and ceded a large part of southern Hammerfell to the Aldmeri Dominion. Critics note that the terms of the Concordat are almost identical to those of the original ultimatum presented by the Thalmor prior to the war.
Hammerfell refused to accept the terms of the White-Gold Concordat and, having been renounced as an Imperial province by Titus II, continued to fight against the Aldmeri Dominion alone. After five years, the war ended in a stalemate with the signing of the Second Treaty of Stros M'Kai. The Aldmeri Dominion withdrew from Hammerfell entirely. Hammerfell remains bitter with the Empire for abandoning it.