Lore: Places: M
Type Settlement
Continent Tamriel
Province Skyrim
Hold The Reach
Appears in Arena, Skyrim, ESO
Markarth ca. 4E 201
Map of Skyrim

Markarth (translated as "Above the Karth" in the Reach language,[1] and also called Markarth Side)[2] is one of the nine major cities in the province of Skyrim,[3][4] found in the river valley of the Reach. Known colloquially as the "City of Stone," it is a former Dwarven city built through a large stone crag, intricately designed around the cliffs and waterfalls from the environment. Since the region is poor farmland, Markarth is mainly a mining-town that has a vast influx of silver veins in the mountain.[5] The city is the focal point of power throughout the region. It is often disputed over between the Reachmen and the Nords.[6] Markarth was founded on the abandoned remains of the radiant city, Nchuand-Zel.[1]

Layout & GeographyEdit

The Cidhna Mines
Markarth under Reachman rule

Markarth is one of the larger cities in Skyrim, nestled in the river valley of the Druadach Mountains. It is unique in that the city's layout is intricately built into the mountain of Karthmad,[1] dividing the city into two districts. The northern end, Dryside has streets that ascend above each other with well-refined homes, below the main square and marketplace where the populace tend to congregate. The city's southern end is the Riverside, the basin populated by the lower-class and the bustling silver mines. These districts meet each other at either end of the city, at the main gates on the east side, while on the west side, they ascend high towards the top of the crag and at Understone Keep, which contains the Mournful Throne, the seat of power in the Reach.[5]

The precipices between the keep and the Riverside contain the city's smithy and other important places, like the local crypt and the Markarth Ruins.[5] There is an ornate temple on the highest peak of the crag that has been used for different deities. It has been used by the cult of Hircine during the Reach's occupation in the Second Era, whereas under the Third Empire, it contained the local chapter of the House of Dibella. Underneath the crag are the slums of Markarth, known as the Warrens, which is a collapsed hallway with campfires bearing minimal light.[5] Markarth Side is neighbored by several settlements, including Dragon Bridge to the north and Snowhawk to the south.[7]

Notable LocalesEdit

  • Cidhna Mine
  • Dryside[5]
  • Hall of the Dead
  • Imperial College of the Voice[8]


Early HistoryEdit

For information on the Dwemer settlement, go to: Nchuand-Zel

Markarth's earliest history dates back to the early First Era, when it was known as Nchuand-Zel. It was built over the course of many years and it was well-known for its impenetrable defense and great storage-halls. It had even prospered for a time.[1] It was sacked like many cities during the campaigns of High King Gellir,[9] and it was even conquered by Ryain Direnni and his legions sometime during the Alessian Reforms,[10] but it would not be completely abandoned until in 1E 700 when the entire Dwemer race disappeared from existence. A few after their disappearance, the local tribes of Reachmen took refuge in the confines of the stronghold during times of seasonal hardship. By 1E 930, the community developed into a fully-fledged settlement that was active all year round. They called it "Mar-Karth," and the strongest chieftain that lived in the town was known as the "Ard," known in the Reach tongue as the "King of the Fort." At that point, Markarth was an occupied ruin with hide huts and decorated with rough furs.[1]

Markarth & the Empires of CyrodiilEdit

Faolan the Red Eagle
Sky Haven Temple

Markarth had their first encounters with the Empires of Cyrodiil when Empress Hestra attempted to conquer the Reach in 1E 1033. Their first target was Markarth, the largest settlement in the region and so they advanced forward with the iron might of the Alessian Empire. The Ard of Markarth fiercely defended the stronghold, but the Empire's well-trained tacticians proved to overcome the disorderly and unorganized Reach clans. The city had fallen to the Empire and some of the Ard's greatest warriors chose death than to admit defeat. During the year-long campaign, Imperial-Markarth was sacked relentlessly by the rebellious Reachfolk of the Red Eagle, Faolan, but it his forces were never able to reclaim the city, and it was because of that, Markarth was able to flourish as a city for the rest of the Empire's lifespan. The Empire had fallen in 1E 2331 after the War of Righteousness had ended.[11] And by that point, Markarth's storerooms were converted into grand halls, homes, and workshops, and the city has taken on the appearance it is known for today. However, no one was ever able to improve on the ancient Dwemeri architecture.[1]

By the time of the Second Empire, Markarth had been under the control of the Nords of Skyrim. They were faced with aggression from Emperor Kastav in 1E 2801, who ordered the Dragonguard to seize hostages from Markarth and Hroldan, so that their Jarls would meet their conscription quotas. Situations like this had hurt the public perception of the Dragonguard and the Empire,[12] however, it was mended with Reman II's reign.[13] After the years of the Akaviri Potentate and the start of the Interregnum, Markarth had fallen into obscurity and it became a dangerous place for travel and the Legion garrison that was present. Breton Barons and Nord Jarls continuously sieged Markarth, but the city had always come out intact. Eventually, the Reach had claimed independence and took Markarth as their capital. Tales of the Reach's rule over Markarth have scarcely made out to the rest of the world, as the Reachmen went back to their hostile ways of trade and travel.[1]

The Black Drakes of the Reach & the Ard of MarkarthEdit

Ard Caddach of Markarth
Emperor Leovic of Clan Blackdrake

In 2E 533, the warlord, Durcorach the Black Drake gathered a massive horde of Reach warriors and descended onto Cyrodiil, where he claimed the Ruby Throne and proclaimed himself the Emperor. It was through this, the Longhouse Dynasty had ruled over the Imperial City and Markarth return as a sort of Imperial authority. The Reach warlords brought many plundered treasures and captives from the battlefront back home and inspired many more Reachfolk to leave home for glory. The trade route between Markarth became intensely active and it brought the city into a new age of prosperity. [1] When Emperor Moricar felt that he needed to apply authority in the Reach, he entrusted a cousin of the family, Caddach of the Blackdrake Clan as the Governor of Markarth. Despite this, Moricar limited Caddach's reach of power to just the Markarth Region, leaving the Reach Clans to their own throughout the rest of the Reach. When Emperor Leovic was overthrown however, Caddach went ahead and claimed absolute supremacy over the Reach and took upon the ancient title of Ard for himself. Next, he purged or exiled the rest of his clan so that no one would challenge his authority.[14]

Ard Caddach claimed that the Reach was his tribe, and as long as he can rely on the tribes for assistance and arms, he did not govern them nor interfere in their politics. In his five year tenure, the clans have serve his court, sometimes begrudgingly, and not a single one of them had challenged his authority. To his enemies and outsiders, he was known as the "Despot of Markarth," an epithet that is not entirely accurate, but he was by no means a tyrant.[15] Caddach uses the knowledge from his time studying in the Imperial City to turn Markarth into a modern-day functioning state that the Reachmen had never seen.[14]

Markarth and the Dark Heart ProphecyEdit

Arana of the Wayward Guardians
Lady Belain of the Nighthollow Clan

In 2E 582, Ard Caddach was approached by the Gray Host, who had sundered through the kingdoms of Skyrim at that point. They proposed that if the Ard left them to search the Reach for an ancient relic and to keep his people in the city walls, that Markarth would be left unscathed in their impending conquest. While Caddach staunchly agreed, this deal proved undesirable to some of the Reach, and so a rebel faction called the Wayward Guardians was formed. Their leader, the former Ghostsong witch, Arana advised the people of Markarth to leave the city and join them at their foothold in Karthspire, the camp called Rebel's Retreat. Much to the dismay of the Ard, the guardians became public enemy number one to the Court of Markarth.[16]

Sometime after, the Ard was approached by Count Verandis Ravenwatch and his associate for matters regarding the Gray Host. Caddach was not willing to listen to the Count nor the associate, and so his right-hand advisor, Lady Belain agreed to hear them out if they were to track down the Wayward Guardians and their leader. While the associate was out in their investigation, they learned about Belain's allegiance to the Gray Host and not only her infiltration into the Court of Markarth, but her influence over the Ard. They planned to fill the city with as much people they can. The associate returned to Markarth and informed Caddach about their findings, leaving him disgruntled. He finally agrees to speak with the Count of House Ravenwatch[17] while the associate left to learn more about their plans at the ruins of Bthar-Zel.[18]

In their investigation, not only did they learn more about their plans, they uncovered a greater plot involving a dwemer keystone, energy from the Void, the ancient Nighthollow Clan of vampires, and the Dark Heart. Lady Belain convinced the matriarch of the Ghostsong, Nathari to sacrifice much of her clan in the vaults of the Lost Valley Redoubt,[19] which in turn provided enough souls to the Dark Heart kept in the lost Library of Arkthzand. With that energy they planned to feed the heart even more with the dense population of the Reach that was kept in the confines of Markarth.[20] With the heart activated, the Gray Host had descended onto the city streets and slaughtered as many people as they could, sustaining the heart with countless souls. At some point earlier, Arana and her soldiers approached Ard Caddach and offered their arms to protect the city. Lady Belain even tried to take out the Ard herself, but was stopped by Arana. She escaped to Arkthzand to harness the heart's power but was followed by Arana and Verandis' associate. In an epic clash, Belain was destroyed but Arana died in the process. While the Gray Host had fled with Rada al-Saran, the city of Markarth had been saved from further destruction.[21]

Markarth in the Third EmpireEdit

After Tiber Septim's victory over the Battle of Old Hroldan, the Reach and by extension, Markarth had been taken by the Nords of Skyrim. A major result of the battle was the public perception of the Reachfolk. The scholars of that day labeled the people as savages and madmen, ones that are prone to irrational violence and worship old and heretical gods. Markarth became the capital of the Reach Hold of Skyrim.[22] Sometime in 2E 864, Tiber Septim ordered the construction of the Imperial College of the Voice, an institute dedicated to bring back the ancient art of the voice. Some of the Empire's loyal nordic families sent some of their own children to the academy.[8]

During the Imperial Simulacrum in the late-Third Era, the village of Markarth Side was an active settlement. It was ruled by Lady Hellne and it had a rivalry with Amber Guard and Dunstad Grove.[2]

The Forsworn Uprising & the Great War AftermathEdit

Madanach, the King of Rags

When the Great War ravaged across Cyrodiil and sacked the Imperial City in 4E 174, the Imperial Legion had left their position in the Reach for the capital city, leaving Markarth undefended. Taking advantage of this, the Reachmen formed an army known as the Forsworn that claimed Markarth as an independent city-state in an event called the Forsworn Uprising. The rebel faction had usurped the previous Jarl of Markarth, Hrolfdir in favor for their leader, King Madanach.[23] In that time, the city-state sought to establish the Reach as a legitimate kingdom of the Empire, however, public opinion from the Nordic-people, as passed-down tales of the peaceful kingdom were non-existent, ignored by the skalds of Skyrim.[24] In 4E 176, before any arrangement was made between Markarth and the Empire, Jarl Hrolfdir formed a militia of Nords that recruited Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak, besieging the gates of Markarth. Ulfric's slogan, "you are with us, or you are against Skyrim" rang true across the Reach, any citizen that did not join his cause was exposed to the jarl's wrath. Jarl Hrolfdir was killed in action while King Madanach was sentenced to the Cidhna Mine. The Forsworn retreated into the hills.[25]

Jarl Igmund of Markarth

The victory was to the Nords and Ulfric Stormcloak, who used his unique position to his advantage. Before the Imperial Legion could re-established order in Markarth, Ulfric demanded that worship of Talos was freely practiced in Markarth, which was in violation of the White-Gold Concordat. As chaos ensued across the city street, the Empire was forced to comply with Ulfric's demand.[25] These events were later dubbed the Markarth Incident and it was seen as one of several reasons for the formation of the Stormcloaks and later the Skyrim Civil War. With his father dead, Igmund was named the Jarl of Markarth and continued the fight against the Forsworn, who became brigands across the Reach. But to fulfill the concordat, Jarl Igmund was forced to arrest Ulfric and his militia, believing it was in Skyrim's best interest.[24] When the civil war came into full-force, Jarl Igmund and his court favored the Empire, who were based in the northern city, Solitude. The Legion's militia in the Reach was represented by Legate Emmanual Admand.

The Forsworn ConspiracyEdit

In 4E 201, murder strings occurred across Markarth that revealed a large-scale conspiracy involving the Forsworn and the Silver-Blood Clan. An interloper had delved into the vast rabbit hole after they witnessed an incident in the city's marketplace. Their investigation took them across Markarth, including the warrens in the riverside district, and the Treasury House that was ran by the Silver-Blood Clan. Eventually, they were arrested by the corrupt city-guard in the town's temple of Talos and taken into Cidhna Mine.[26] Their time in the prison led them brought the attention of the Forsworn kept in the mines and the King of Rags, Madanach. The interloper was offered to join in their escape plan through the Markarth Ruins, but it is unknown whether it was successful and they had cut a bloody-swathe through town, or if they died in the attempt.[27]


See AlsoEdit

  • For game-specific information, see the Arena, Skyrim, and the ESO articles.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i History of Markarth: A Story in StoneConsul Cardea, the Ard's Administrator
  2. ^ a b Markarth Side location and rumors in Arena
  3. ^ Map of Skyrim — Pocket Guide to the Empire (3rd Edition)
  4. ^ Map of Skyrim — The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
  5. ^ a b c d e f The City of StoneAmanda Alleia
  6. ^ The Holds of Skyrim
  7. ^ Map of Skyrim — The Elder Scrolls: Arena
  8. ^ a b Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: SkyrimImperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
  9. ^ The Aetherium WarsTaron Dreth
  10. ^ OnceBeredalmo the Signifier
  11. ^ Pocket Guide to the Empire, 1st Edition: CyrodiilImperial Geographical Society, 2E 864
  12. ^ Annals of the DragonguardBrother Annulus
  13. ^ Reman II: The Limits of AmbitionHigh King Emeric
  14. ^ a b Report on the Despot of MarkarthLady Nilene Devierin of Stormhaven, Teller of Tales
  15. ^ Lady Belain's dialogue in ESO: Markarth
  16. ^ Ard Caddach's dialogue in ESO: Markarth
  17. ^ The Despot of Markarth story quest in ESO: Markarth
  18. ^ Blood of the Reach story quest in ESO: Markarth
  19. ^ The Awakening Darkness story quest in ESO: Markarth
  20. ^ The Dark Heart story quest in ESO: Markarth
  21. ^ A Feast of Souls story quest in ESO: Markarth
  22. ^ The "Madmen" of the ReachArrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar
  23. ^ Nepos the Nose's dialogue in Skyrim
  24. ^ a b Igmund's dialogue in Skyrim
  25. ^ a b The Bear of MarkarthArrianus Arius, Imperial Scholar
  26. ^ The Forsworn Conspiracy quest in Skyrim
  27. ^ No One Escapes Cidhna Mine quest in Skyrim

Note: the following references are not from official sources. They are included to provide a rounder background to this article, but may not reflect established lore.