The amount of information that we have on the history of Equestria is sketchy at best. This is probably what makes it one of the most interesting parts of the show to try and figure out. Fanfics and headcanons thrive in this kind of environment, and there are already plenty of videos out there on this subject. Now I feel it’s my turn to throw my hat into the ring and see if I can develop a history of Equestria. I will try and minimize the amount of my own head canon used, using it only to try and fit in with transitions between periods and other such details. And anything I do use I will do my best to justify with in-show material the best I can. So then, sit back, relax, and enjoy the history lesson.
This is what I consider the first major “era” of Equestrian History…sort of. This era is actually before the existence of Equestria and instead is the era of the three separate pony tribes as described in “Hearth’s Warming Eve”. My justifications for this are rather simple. In “Luna Eclipsed” Twilight Sparkle notes that Star Swirl the Bearded was “the most important conjurer of the pre-classical era”. In “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, Clover the Clever mentions that her mentor Star Swirl the Bearded was the one to have taught her about the Windigoes. If Star Swirl existed in the pre-classical era, and he was in the era of Clover the Clever, then the pre-classical era must be the time when the three pony tribes were separated.
So anyway, onto the history of this era. The defining part of this era was, of course, the separation of the three pony tribes into Unicorns, Pegasi, and Earth Ponies.
Unicorns were responsible for the day/night cycle as Celestia and Luna were not yet around in this era. Some may have pointed to Luna’s recognition of Star Swirl the Bearded as evidence that they were around in some form, but I don’t believe it is that strong of evidence. Luna and Celestia, being princesses with immense magical powers and probably having lived in a time period near to this one were probably just really familiar with Star Swirl the Bearded. Modern ponies, particularly those living in the primarily Earth Pony Ponyville, probably just aren’t that versed in ancient magical researchers nor have a reason to be. If Twilight had dressed up at Celestia’s School for Gifted Unicorns, eh, there probably would have been more ponies recognizing her. Based on the existence of Princess Platinum, we can probably assume the nation was a monarchy of some sort.
Pegasi were responsible for controlling the weather. Considering the leader of the tribe was Commander Hurricane, and just drawing from the Greek-styled architecture of the area overall, they were most likely running some kind of Spartan-military style government. Unfortunately I’m not sure on the specifics since we didn’t get that much info. Probably didn’t have the two-king system of Spartans though if Commander Hurricane was completely in charge.
Earth Ponies were responsible for growing food. They were possibly a democracy of some sort if they had a Chancellor who was elected. That’s all I got on them *shrug*
As mentioned by Spike, the arrangement seemed to be that the Earth Ponies grew food for the Unicorns and Pegasi in return for them controlling the sun/moon and weather cycles. There was no mention of any deals between Unicorns and Pegasi, which is rather odd. It is possible then that the initial disagreements that started the bitterness between the tribes may have come from the Earth Ponies who may have felt they were getting the wrong end of the deal since they were responsible for growing food for all three tribes. With the three tribes separated, it wouldn’t be too hard for an initial disagreement to spiral into outright hatred of the others. The act of separation already set up a nice environment where each tribe could view the other tribes as “others” that were cheating them, the good, honest ponies, in some shape or manner.
Eventually this cycle of disagreement and anger led to the arrival of the Windigoes, the blizzards, and each tribe deciding to send out search parties in order to locate a new land. From this we get the events of “Hearth’s Warming Eve.” With the decision to work together to create a new system, these events signify the end of the pre-Classical era of Equestria and the shift into the “classical” era.
Before discussing that era, however, I do want to add in some headcanon for this era. As we know from “Magical Mystery Cure”, Star Swirl the Bearded had been working on a spell that involved manipulating destiny in some manner but failed due to not understanding friendship. We could theorize from this that Star Swirl may have been attempting to research the magic that Clover used to defeat the Windigoes. His failure in this regard suggests he apparently didn’t learn squat from Clover. The magic itself, however, seems to be of the same type that is used with the Elements of Harmony; the magic of friendship (see my article “On What Friendship is Magic Means”). Unfortunately I’m not too sure what this suggests about the Elements of Harmony. It is possible they existed prior to this time or that Clover somehow was able to grasp what she had done and developed them. Whatever the case may be, at the least we can assume that at least the magic behind the Elements was stumbled into during this time.
This is the era that will have the most headcanon from me, because I’m willing to say that this is the era where some of the major locations of the series begin to develop. It’s also the era we know the least about.
While the rulers of the three tribes may have had a change of heart and willing to settle their differences, I doubt that the inhabitants of the original tribes were going to be so quick to join them. While things may have settled down enough to prevent the re-occurrence of Windigoes, I would expect the three tribes develop some sort of confederation between the three of them that centralize some of the major things while still allowing independence to some degree between the tribes. As time went on, mingling between the tribes would cause populations to shift and introduce unicorns and earth ponies into the other territories, respectively. However, the independence between the groups would lead to the territories still primarily being made up of the original tribes in those territories. The pegasi territory, of course, would most likely remain 100% pegasi due to living in clouds.
Because of this, I’m willing to argue two different things; that the original Unicorn territory eventually developed into Canterlot, and that the Pegasi territory developed into Cloudsdale. Earth Pony territory, well, I’ll have to get to that later. I will also argue that the location that three tribes decided to settle down their differences became the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, which is now located in the Everfree Forest.
First, Canterlot. If populations moved as I said earlier, then Canterlot being primarily populated by unicorns should not be a surprise. Once the Windigoes were gone, there was no need to move the entire population. Any movement that occurred was of the pony’s own free will, and the still present, if weakened, conflict between the tribes probably prevented any motivation for massive movements as well. Furthermore, Canterlot’s culture is very similar to what we could assume pre-Classical unicorn culture was; high-class and aristocratic as well as a center of scholarly research into magic. Also, just going by geography, both the original Unicorn territory and Canterlot are built on mountain-side cliffs with waterfalls. In fact…
What differences that do occur are probably explainable due to the nature of oral story telling over, at minimum, 1000 years’ time as well as natural geographic changes. As for the difference in castles, well, with the introduction of Earth Ponies that could serve as miners, the unicorns may have finally been able to take advantage of the crystal mines located underneath the mountain. The wealth from these new mines probably helped to pay for the expansion and building, and probably also helped mold the modern day geography of Canterlot.
Second, Cloudsdale. Again, same thing; once the Windigoes were gone there was no need for the Pegasi to abandon home. Militaristic culture served well enough to instill a strong sense of community among the Pegasi alongside natural Pegasi tendency towards flying, weather management, etc. that is more easily accomplished in an area like Cloudsdale. This worked to limit natural emigration. Their location served rather well to prevent immigration. Combined with probably the ease of moving the city itself since it is made of clouds and the similarity in architecture between the cities, it’s not hard to imagine the transition from wherever they were to Cloudsdale current location if it even moved at all.
Finally, the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters. Of course at the time it probably wasn’t called that, but it probably served as the center of government for the confederation of the tribes. The reason I’m willing to point at that location is that, based on the images given to us by “Hearth’s Warming Eve”, the area that the tribes met at had several geographic figures that could be used to point to a location. One, lots of mountains and cliffs. Second, there is a river of sort running through the canyon. Finally, trees are present.
The image on the left is from the map of Equestria, with my circling of the area of the Everfree marked “ruins” If we assume those ruins are the same as the ruins of the Castle, then it seems the area has the three features mentioned. We know from the “Friendship is Magic Part 2” that the Everfree Forest has, other than trees:
The cliffsides and canyons.
A river that runs through the bottom areas.
And the castle itself is on the upper cliff areas:
It’s probably not in the exact same area as where the tribes met; hard to build a fully working government out of a cave after all. Still, it would probably be within the same region. And again, differences could be explained by deterioration due to oral story telling over a long period of time as well as natural geographic changes. This does of course leave the question of where the heck the Earth Pony territory went. Unfortunately, the only image we got that is probably of the Earth Pony territory doesn’t offer much in the way of distinct geographic features to pinpoint location:
The best we can get is that the region is hilly and fertile, which alongside deciding the area the tribes met being the Castle of the Royal Pony sister would suggest the Earth Pony territory may have been near where Ponyville is. Of course we know Ponyville was frontier area during Granny Smith’s time and didn’t boom until the finding of Zap Apple Jam based on “Family Appreciation Day”. It is possible then that Earth Pony territory was eventually swallowed up by the Everfree Forest at some point, or it may have just never grew into a major town and simply remained various small, farming villages that are simply not shown on the map. I will discuss the first option later just because it’s the more interesting option. But back to history for now.
During this era the newly formed Equestria probably thrived. No longer in a conflicting relationship with each other, the tribes could afford to engage in exploration and expansion to some degree. During this time they probably came into contact with the ponies of the Crystal Empire, the griffons, dragons, and other species. Since they were still just a confederation, however, they probably didn’t expand too much.
Near the end of this era is probably when Celestia and Luna were born. While I am familiar with Lauren Faust stating that in her vision the two were born as alicorns, I am going to reject that premise. The events of “Magical Mystery Cure” and Twilight Sparkle and the Crystal Heart Spell book seem to suggest a very different vision of alicorns from whatever Faust’s original vision was, and I do not consider her to be in a position to be “Word of God” anymore. Any statements by her, as far as I am concerned, are just as debatable as any other statement made by fans unless they deal with specific events in episodes she worked on. Broad, world-building statements do not fall under that.
So if they weren’t born as alicorns, what were they? Based on their talents, and Luna’s familiarity with Star Swirl, I would assume them to have been born as unicorns. They were probably in training to become part of the unicorns responsible for regulating the sun and moon, with their cutie marks signifying them as being particularly gifted and skilled in this task. Also, some of the jealousy and envy that would come to blows later were probably started here. Celestia was most likely a more extroverted pony while Luna was more introverted, and Celestia’s alignment to day probably meant she was able to interact and become more popular than Luna who was more active at night.
Then Discord came. Taking advantage of those lingering animosities allowed Discord to take over Equestria and rule it like his own personal game of “The Sims”. But with ponies. As we saw in “Return of Harmony”, Discord was fully capable of manipulating land, the moon and sun, and whatever he wanted to mess with. This basically destroyed whatever system had been set up between the pony tribes, and basically made Equestria not a fun place to live in at all. This also probably also helps to explain any geographic changes between “Hearth’s Warming Eve” and the current era. It also may be what happened to the Earth Pony territories; Canterlot had the unicorns that could have probably created some sort of magical protection from themselves, and Cloudsdale would have been in a position to be away from the worst of Discord’s chaos on the ground. Earth Ponies? Not so lucky sadly. I would also imagine that at some point Sombra was able to take advantage of all the chaos to take power in the Crystal Empire without the interference of Equestria.
Celestia and Luna most likely matured under his rule, and their positions of having been trained to help with the regulation of the moon and sun gave them an understanding of just how dangerous Discord’s “fun” was to the harmony of the world. In search of some way to defeat him, the two of them stumbled onto the research Star Swirl and Clover had done on the Elements of Harmony. Like Clover, the sisters were able to gain an understanding of the magic that made up the Elements, and were able to successfully use them in order to seal away Discord. With the original system basically destroyed, and Celestia and Luna having now ascended into alicornhood, the sisters were placed in the position of rulers.
Reign of the Two Sisters:
Now in charge, the two sisters probably set up government in the original center of the confederation in order to take advantage of the symbolic value of it. After all, nothing says harmony than a location where three tribes in conflict buried the hatchet and started to become friends. After helping Equestria stabilize and recover from Discord’s chaos, the sisters settled into ruling. Now that they were in a position to control the day/night cycle themselves, unicorns probably began to drift into other careers. This might explain why unicorns in modern Equestria are more specialized; they simply no longer had the need to have immense power able to move celestial bodies. Earth Ponies had probably fled their original homes due to being right in the center of Discord’s chaos, and those that fled would form some of the other major cities such as Manehattan, Trottingham, and Fillydelphia. The original Earth Pony territories would be abandoned at this point.
During this time Equestria probably only stabilized and did not expand. Celestia and Luna, probably concerned about ensuring harmony remained, would not risk damaging the balance created after Discord.
At some point the sisters in the Crystal Empire in an attempt to remove Sombra. Unfortunately he succeeded in taking the Empire with him. It is possible this failure may have been enough to restart the feud between the sisters from their younger days. Relations soured between the two of them over the blame for the lost of the Crystal Empire. As time went on the two drifted apart, creating the breaking of the bond between them that left Celestia unaware of Luna’s feelings of jealousy and envy. As we now know from the comic series, the Nightmare Forces took advantage of these feelings of Luna’s in order to transform her into Nightmare Moon for their own purposes. Celestia used the Elements of Harmony one last time to banish Nightmare Moon, though afterwards lost her connection to them.
As the Castle of the Pony Sisters was now tainted with the battle with Nightmare Moon, and Celestia haunted by the guilt of the incident, the capital of Equestria was moved to Canterlot due to its central location. Over the next 1000 years the original Castle would be lost and become ruins in the Everfree Forest, which naturally grew into the old Earth Pony territories since they were now abandoned and didn’t have the Earth Ponies holding back its creeping. This may have been an attempt by Celestia to simply hide away her failure and guilt as well as to keep the dormant Elements of Harmony in a safe, if a bit lost, location.
Of course Ponyville was founded at some point as part of a connection between the Apple Family and Filthy Rich’s ancestors, taking advantage of the fertile land near the Everfree and the rare Zap Apples in them. Cadence ascends to alicornhood after proving her understanding of the magic of love. And near the end of this era Celestia chose Twilight Sparkle to serve as her personal student, probably as part of a gambit to reignite the Elements of Harmony in preparation for Nightmare Moon’s return.
Period of Redemption
I’m going to include the events of the show so far into this subset of the “Celestia’s Reign” era simply because time-wise not much time seems to have passed in the events of the show to designate a full-blown era. However, it does deserve to be set separate from the rest due to the large number of important events that occurred, all which seem to deal with basically fixing the issue from the prior eras:
1) Nightmare Moon returns and is defeated, and Luna returns as a princess. Celestia most likely still managed the country for some time until Luna was fully recovered.
2) Discord is freed, battled, turned back to stone, and then freed again before being redeemed.
3) The Crystal Empire returns and Sombra is defeated for good after being blown up by love.
4) Twilight completes Star Swirl the Bearded’s spell and ascends to alicornhood.
I guess the Changeling Invasion also counts as part of this period, even if it doesn’t fit the “theme” going on here.
Reign of the Three Princesses:
This is just what I’m going to call the era after Twilight’s ascension into alicornhood. Yes, Cadence is an alicorn, but she’s in the Crystal Empire so she doesn’t count for naming purposes *nods*.
So there you go, my history of Equestria. I know I still left a lot of empty space, but I was trying to keep as close to what was presented to us as possible with only using headcanon that I could justify based on that. Still, I think there was some decent fleshing out of some the periods. My version of the history does seem to contradict some popular fanon, such as connections between Star Swirl and Celestia/Luna, but I don’t think I really lose all that much doing that. And of course Season 4 is coming in a few months, so who knows what might be overridden. Unless comics and/or books discuss these issues. If any new information comes out in the show, comics, Equestria Girls, or books, I’ll release articles updating those specific periods. I seriously do hope Season 4 will take position of Twilight’s new position to expand more on Equestria.