GeneralEditTevinter was once a great empire, sprawling against the entirety of Thedas in ancient times. The Tevinters have left their mark, in the form of ruins and roads, some of them still in use. The Imperial Highway -- though unfinished -- extends from Minrathous down to Orlais and then to Ferelden. What remains of this ancient nation is a decadent land in the north centering on Minrathous. It is almost universally reviled by the other nations of Thedas; its nobility is self-indulgent to the extreme, and slavery is still practiced. The Imperium is the center of the black market, involving smuggling -- including the harboring of magical fugitives from other lands -- and the slave trade in Thedas.
Tevinter is a magocracy; it is a government ruled by powerful magisters who are members of the Imperial Senate. They spend almost as much time engaging in elaborate Machiavellian political schemes to prove their authority over each other as they do ruling. They are constantly competing with one-another for a higher position on the council. Raising one's position on the Senate can be achieved through wealth, magical prowess, and/or the support of fellow Senators. Their exact power is unknown, but they are responsible for the selection of the next Archon. The Magister Lords of the ancient Imperium ruled as a group, maintaining tight hold over the people through the power to infiltrate their dreams. Though this practice is said to be forbidden, some mages are quietly acknowledged as the most proficient dream-walkers and diviners.
The Imperium is still a very powerful nation with an impressive and varied army. Two features fo its military, however, are known throughout Thedas. One is the use of elephant mounts, these huge creatures having been imported into Tevinter for centuries through the coastal colonies near the southwestern jungles. The second is a trio of gigantic war golems known as Juggernauts -- these were purchased from the dwarves. Tevinter would turn on the other nations of Thedas if its attention weren't drawn to its war with the Qunari. The Imperium never signed the Llomerryn Accords and have been involved in a bitter war with the Qunari since they invaded Thedas. The rest of Thedas is happy to let them fight with each other.
All of Tevinter is bulit on a foundation of slavery. While most nations forbid the buying and selling of slaves within their borders, nearly all ship their people to the Imperium for sale, skirting the prohibitions against such atrocities, and feeding the Imperium's tireless need for bodies. To support their families, many elves sell themselves into slavery. Another thing about Tevinter is that its Chantry is a separate entity from t min Chantry, having split off centuries ago in a great schism over the role of magic. The "Black Divine" as the Divine in Orlais calls him, is chosen from the ranks of the Circle of Magi, and Brothers are more prominent than Siters.
In ancient times, Minrathous was the center of the world. Remnants of this former glory still remain, but are buried in the layers of filth and decay the Imperium's decadence has accumulated over the ages. The magisters and the Circle of Magi live in elegant stone towers, literally elevated above the stench of the slaves and peasants below and clearly demonstrating who is in charge. The outskirts of Minrathous are full of refugees fleeing from the never-ending war against the Qunari in Seheron. The "Black Divine" resides in the Argent Spire here; this is where the Imperial Chantry's headquarters are located.