The Ursanian Empire was one of the largest nations in the history of Axeoth. It's unknown just how large or old it was, but what's known is that an Ursanian expeditionary force first made contact with the half-orcs of Chedian around 500 B.C.
Most of the surrounding peoples tried to resist the Empire's efforts to absorb them, but there is some evidence that the elves actually asked to be part of the great Ursanian Empire. They were allowed to retain their sovereignty as long as they paid tribute to the ruling Emperor. The Ursanian Imperial Guard had a garrison in the elven town of Etendar.
Around the year 200 B.C., the mage Verhoffin constructed a tower on what would later become the Isle of Ashes. Claiming the surrounding area as a sovereign province, he declared himself independent of the Ursanian Empire. Emperor Ralfor and his successors mounted several campaigns against the spellcaster, but were unsuccessful.
Somewhere near 10 B.C., Emperor Trandis had grown tired of the mage and sent the assassin Nazrim to get rid of him. Nazrim spent ten years preparing himself and gathering magical artifacts before he struck, but he failed. In response to the attempt, Verhoffin climbed to the top of his tower and cast a spell that destroyed half the Empire, wreaking havoc for thousands of miles around him. The land surrounding the tower was torn asunder, creating the Verhoffin Sea. Most of the population were now homeless and grieving, and the event, known as the Great Cataclysm, was thereafter associated with the subsequent fall of the Empire.
Many of the survivors of the Cataclysm eventually ended up in Chedian, the region least affected by the spell.