One of the greatest problems with constructing a canon Chronology of events in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic is that very few past events are granted a date. Even events on-screen seem to occur in difficult-to-judge time intervals, something made more difficult to deal with because they seem to have been aired in semi-random order, relative to what you would assume were the natural progression of events. Because of this, any attempt to create a chronology ultimately turns into fanon.
So, I'm not going to fight it. Here's my fanon (presented in a somewhat in-universe style). I'm going to try to stay fairly close to canon wherever I can.
Thanks to a series of natural and unnatural disasters through the ages, less is known about the Prehistory of pony civilisation than historians would like.What is known is that, some time in the very ancient past, so long ago that only the most confused of tales have endured to the modern era, ponies encountered a bipedal primate species that contemporary popular culture calls the 'humans'. These creatures no longer exist anywhere in the explored world but the mark of their influence on ponies can be seen in many parts of popular culture and their curious tendency to use the shape of humans' 'hands' in various signs and other symbolic representations.
Another common aspect of the myths of prehistory that is a self-evident fact is that the sun and moon did not always require magic to move. Whilst as far back as the Pre-Classical Era, the unicorn priesthood was responsible for the movement of the celestial bodies, the further back in time one goes, the less likely it is that a sufficient number of sufficiently-trained unicorns could have existed who would have been willing to work together to achieve such a goal. Most scientists agree that, at one time, the sun and moon moved themselves and it has only been a comparatively recent achievement of pony magic that the celestial bodies have been under intelligent control.
The Legend of Megan
Of all the legends of prehistory, none is more widely known or as influential as that of Megan.
According to the legend, Megan was a human child or young adult who visited the Dream Valley (the legendary birthplace of pony civilisation) on numerous occasions to save the then primitive and only semi-self-sufficient ponies from a variety of evil creatures (likely simply hippomorphic representations of some pony character flaw) such as Tirek the Abomination. Amongst other things, Megan is also credited with establishing a pony society capable of independent survival after the death of Queen Majesty, another legendary figure who, it is told, had created a magical world where all ponies needs up to and including creating foals could be obtained by 'wishing'. The legends of Megan suggest that she was the one who taught ponies how to use their magic to grow crops, control weather and taught them the far more subtle and vital magic of love, friendship and family.
The likely mythical and cultural underpinnings of the intreguingly-consistent persona of Megan is the subject for a separate study. Suffice to say that the entire legend of the fall of Queen Majesty and the coming of Megan is likely a very figurative and allegorical tale of the development of a settled agrarian pony society after the species' pre-civilised origin as herd grazer/gatherers. "Dream Valley" itself is clearly a typical mythical 'primordial paradise' in which ponies lived before they were forced to move to the harsher life of working to survive.Megan is shown in her legends to be a fascinating figure: a protector, law-giver, teacher, arbitrator and even healer. She is said to have come to the Dream Valley across a 'Rainbow Bridge' and wielded a magical weapon called 'The Rainbow of Light'. This bears a remarkable historical parallel, although probably only a coincidental one, to the visible magical effects created by the Sonic Rainboom and the Elements of Harmony.
In any case, this remarkable figure stars in many dramatic legends where she aided ponykind against a variety of magical and mundane threats. Then, as is the wont of all legends, she vanishes along with the Rainbow Bridge, leaving behind just one last enigmatic prophecy, one that has gained greater popular attention in recent years with the rediscovery and use of the Elements:
"There is always another rainbow."
The Castle of the Princesses Ponies
Another legend, one that almost certainly is merely an allegorical tale trying to explain the origin of that universal force known as magic, is that of the Castle of the Princess Ponies. Not to be confused with our very real alicorn princesses, this legend speaks of a mythical castle in which is held The Heart of Equestria, the font and source of all magic. This castle is guarded by six ponies known as the 'Princess Ponies', who are assisted by furry creatures called 'Bushwoolies'.
This legend, like all legends, may have a germ of truth in it. The 'Heart' may be a distorted recollection of the ancient and ill-understood Crystal Pony artefact The Crystal Heart or possibly one of the few extant clues to the mystery that is The Tree of Harmony. The Princess Ponies themselves may be a distorted recollection of some ancient unicorn mages merged in more recent millennia with the secret origins of Princess Celestia and Princess Luna.
Some versions of this tale include Megan, this near-omnipresent figure of legend teaching the Princess Ponies the Magic of Friendship and thus enabling them to use their magic that much more effectively both to protect and preserve the natural order of the world.Ponyville and the capital of Canterlot.
The Everfree is a strange place of the most powerful primeval magic. Centred on and apparently sustained and controlled by The Tree of Harmony, the Everfree is a place where the accepted natural order does not seem to endure. The weather is 'wild', largely uncontrollable to pegasi magic. The flora is mostly-untameable by earth pony magic and the mightiest unicorn cannot alter the progression of seasons within its limits. In the Everfree, nature is red in tooth and claw, so different from the peaceful order of the rest of Equestria. Even the sunlight and moonlight in the Everfree seems to defy the will of Celestia and Luna.
It is unclear why such a dark, fearful and chaotic place should be apparently sustained by the magic of an artefact that is named for the force of Harmony. Nonetheless, it is a self-evident fact. Analysis of the grotto of the Tree suggests that it is far older than pony settlement in Equestria and may originate from the mists of pre-history, approximately five millennia in the past.
Other features of the legendary times are two supposedly-lost races of ponies. One, the Flutter Ponies may be ancient alicorns, as they are pegasi-like creatures with immense magical powers. The other, the Sea-ponies, seems more like an understandable leap of intuitive logic - Pegasi rule the air, Earth Ponies the land, Unicorns can control fire, so where is the race that controls the water?
If either of these races had ever truly existed, only the legends endure to our day. They followed the humans, either into extinction or to some other 'beyond' alluded to in the legends of Megan.
The Pre-Classical Era
The Pre-Classical Era is the earliest part of pony history where legend becomes verifiable history, approximately three-and-a-half thousand years before the present day. It is in the Pre-Classical Era that most of the modern fabric of Pony social order is known to have originated. It is also the home of some of the most celebrated heroes of Pony history and the place where we find some of history's most important events.
Starswirl remains the standard to which magical researchers endeavour to attain. Although often portrayed as eccentric and irascible, the quality of his scholarship has never been questioned. His development of the magical art of temporomancy, almost from whole cloth, remains his most astonishing achievement.
Like all the greatest historical figures, Starswirl's life story has become somewhat clouded with legend. Whilst there is no doubt that he was tutor to one of the founders of modern Equestria, Clover the Clever, he appears in other points of the stream of time, seemingly in random points, long before or after a pony with a normal life-span could be alive. This is either indicative of imposters using his name, the use of his time-travel spells to a degree that has never been achieved by any other mage or indicative that he was tremendously long-lived.
For all of reliable recorded history, the ponies have been divided up into three distinct races, the pegasi, earth ponies and unicorns. Tensions between these races have also existed on-and-off for all of history. However, at the very end of the Pre-Classical era, these tensions reached a boiling point and brought the pony species as a whole tumbling to the very brink of extinction.
The traditional retelling of these events invokes a now-unknown magical creature, the Windigo, as the vector of this catastrophe. Whether there truly was a creature that created icy cold from the inter-racial hatreds and suspicions of this time or whether it was some other cause, the Eternal Winter is a fact of history. It was an unbroken icy period that stretched for nearly four years, defying all pegasi and unicorn attempts to dispel it and with a non-existent growing season. Famine gripped the lands north of the Sundering Mountains where the majority of ponies lived at this time. Tensions between the nations rapidly descended into open warfare with all three tribes blaming the other two for this disaster. By the time of the exodus (bordering on a rout) south across the Mountains, modern estimates show that the pony species may have dwindled to fewer than 3,000 survivors.
Upon resettling in the more-temperate southern lands, the survivors seem to have come to a mutual epiphany that, if they were to survive, they had to co-operate. A new unified nation, Equestria, was born.Historians are divided as to whether the semi-mythologised figures of Clover the Clever, Private Pansy and Smart Cookie did truly discover some new magic that dispelled the Eternal Winter before it could also claim this new land. Some scholars note that, along with their leaders, they formed a Sectumverate, a six-pony group that wielded otherwise unknown magic that suggests a parallel between the Elements of Harmony and the Fires of Friendship. Others dismiss the more mythical aspects of the story of the founding of Equestria as the recycled remains of a pre-unification Winter Solstice tale (Hearth's Warming Eve originally falling on the longest night of the year but since moved to the first New Moon after the solstice, vacating its original day to the modern Midwinter Moon Festival). They suggest that this national legend was used by the leadership of the new nation to attempt to unite their battered, near-hopeless and desperate people under their new unified banner.
In any case, the first Hearth's Warming Eve represents the dividing line between the Pre-Classical Era and the Classical Era, otherwise known as the First Age of Harmony.
The Classical Era
Beginning two millennia before the present day, the Classical Era represents something of a golden age of Equestrian history. After a harsh first decades of re-establishing their civilisation, their schools, industries, agriculture and magical arts, the resettled ponies quickly spread across the continent that they had named 'Equestria' after their nation, starting from the founding colony in the North-East down the East coast, through the agricultural interior to the desertified south-centre and west.
Through this period came first contact between the ponies and several other races who would act as both friend and foe through the centuries to come. These included the Griffons the Dragons, the Diamond Dogs and the Buffalo.
Relations with the predatory and aggressive griffons would be particularly fraught and the Classical Era is also the historical venue for some of Equestria's largest and bloodiest wars. It was in these conflicts that the union of earth pony tools, pegasi flight and unicorn magic would prove decisive advantages. By the mid-point of the Classical Era, the ponies were the unquestioned masters of the continent of Equestria and had begun to explore the wider world, making contact with other races of the planet Equis, the Zebra and Saddle Arabian Horses.
The Classical Era was the era of some of the greatest works of art and philosophy. To this day, the term 'Classical' still means the best that can be achieved in the arts, the physical sciences and the arcane.
It is in this time that it is now accepted that two remarkable beings would first appear in history. The exact origins of Celestia Dawntreader and Luna Stardancer are unknown. It is widely accepted that these names are not those with which they were born and most researchers respect their wish that their true origins and ancestries be lost to history to prevent the victimisation or deification of their modern blood relatives. Suffice to say that they choose to be sisters in heart even if they are not in blood (and no-one knows if that is the case). They were students at the greatest magical college of the Classical Era. So great was their mastery of the celestial magic used to move the sun and moon that they were the first adepts in known history to be able to perform these spells unaided. This incredible power led them to ascend to the ranks of High Priestess and High Prioress of the unicorn priesthood whilst both still barely out of their novitiate.
Unquestioned masters of their land and seemingly far above all the other species of the world, ponies told themselves that nothing stood in the way of an endless summer of peace and prosperity.
They were wrong.
The Age of Chaos
No-one, perhaps not even the being himself, knows from where Discord came. What is known is that the period when this fantastically powerful being, seemingly a living avatar of the concept of chaos, dominated the world cuts a violent, traumatic stroke across history, ending the Classical Era in the most decisive manner possible.
Histories of these times are notoriously inaccurate. After almost-effortlessly overcoming and destroying all the forces of government and order in Equestria, Discord proceeded to unbalance all of the natural order. Day, night, the seasons, even something as simple as the concepts of 'up' and 'down' could vary wildly from moment to moment and location to location in whichever manner amused this creature at the time. Many ponies died, more still either succumbed to madness or their minds were twisted into bizarre parodies and inversions of themselves seemingly for no other reason than the sheer sadistic joy of inflicting endless cruelty on the helpless. Education was forbidden and punished mercilessly. Histories were immensely difficult to keep as cause-and-effect no longer strictly applied and, in most cases they were not even kept.All hope had seemingly faded when High Priestess Celestia and High Prioress Luna stepped forward, having somehow survived Discord's merciless annihilation of all parts of the Classical Era's governing structures. Some time after their initiation into the mysteries of the celestial school of magic, the two had become alicorns, a wondrous merging of all the characteristics of the three races of ponykind. Together they became beacons of harmony and hope, somehow helping some remainder of order and structure to survive in Equestria.
Finally, they confronted Discord and, aided by the Elements of Harmony, were able to defeat him. The mad God of Chaos was petrified, seemingly forever, and all of his works were undone with a single mighty spell.
Or... at least most of them were.
As unimaginably powerful as they are, the Elements could not restore the dead. The leadership of Equestria were all gone, slaughtered or tortured into hopeless and irreversible insanity. Even after only a few years of Discord's seemingly-purposeless destructive rampage, few remained who could recall any harmonious way of life or the means with which to enjoy it. So, it fell to the two last remnants of the old order to remake the world anew.
The Diarchy of EquestriaOne thing both princesses have stressed in every interview they have ever given on the subject - they have never desired to rule. In the aftermath of Discord's cataclysmic actions, there simply was nopony else to restore government, law and order. So it was that the two priestesses took charge, reforming institutions, restarting education, agriculture, industry and commerce. They had always claimed that their intention was to return power to the triumvirate of the monarch of the unicorns, commander of the pegasi and chancellor of the earth ponies once the crisis had passed. However, ponies do not forget their saviours and nopony felt themselves worthy of succeeding these two kind, wise, powerful but ultimately good ponies.
So it was, thirty years after the fall of Discord, that the two reluctantly accepted their acclamation as life rulers of Equestria. However, even now, they have not forgotten their origins and the standard vestments of a Princess of Equestria are those of priestesses of the ancient celestial school of magic.
The coronation of Celestia and Luna is traditionally considered to be the starting point of the Second Age of Harmony.
Things were harsh during this time of restoration. Many groups had fled Discord's mania (which, for some reason, had been restricted to the area of the nation-state of Equestria) and now declined to return, especially not to be ruled over by two god-queens, no matter how benevolent their claimed motives.
The two Princesses (they had utterly refused the title of 'queen', which, in their view, belonged solely to the monarch of the unicorns) quickly developed a dynamic team-work. Celestia was a great legist, diplomat, teacher and arbitrator. Luna was a dynamic warrior, healer, philosopher and artisan. Between the two of them, they quickly set about restoring Equestria. Although their methods were different, they worked together in harmony. Equestria would never reclaim the high glories of the Classical Era but would exceed it in some ways.
However, some tensions quickly developed. Celestia, whose province was the day, the light and the overt, had a far more public and favourable profile than her sister-Princess, whose province was the night, the shadow and the subtle. Although Luna was as dedicated to the well-being of her little ponies as Celstia was, it was simply the case that she was not as public and beloved a figure. Most ponies simply did not care about her guardianship of the night and of their dreams. Some even created grotesque fantasies about her use of the neuromantic arts and, in whispers, slandered her with the surname 'Nightmare'.
Eventually, something had to break.
The Crystal Ponies were descendants of a group from all three tribes that were foresighted enough to flee north across the Sundering Mountains before Discord turned his attention to them. There, in the long-abandoned northern wastes, still devastated some five centuries after the Eternal Winter, they founded their own nation, the Crystal Empire. This new nation was centred on a city of crystal, protected and empowered by a magical artifact called The Crystal Heart.
This offshoot of the pony race was one of the many groups that declined to rejoin Equestria after Discord's fall. With its own monarchy and democratic system, somewhat reminiscent of the old unicorn and earth pony governments, they seemed secure and content in their own lands.
This was shattered approximately half a millennium after Discord's fall, with the rise of a usurper-king named Sombra. Originally the Court Wizard of the Crystal Empress, Sombra delved deeper into the magics of the ancients than any since Starswirl the Bearded himself. A brilliant scholar, he came to the attention of Princess Luna and, together, they progressed further still, even to the point of utilising the dangerous 'dark' magic powered by ponies' emotions that only alicorns can use with a modicum of confidence that it would not corrupt them.
Either by accident or his ultimate design, Sombra was corrupted, body and soul, by this magic. He became a monster; a mutated parody of a unicorn motived solely by cruelty, hatred and lust for both power and wealth. After murdering the Empress and destroying most of the royal line (apart from a few who had fled to another non-Equestrian pony colony - Marelan - during the early weeks of his rise) he turned The Crystal Empire into a totalitarian prison camp. Ponies were driven from their homes into the most terrible bondage in slave mines and farms.
Princesses Luna and Celestia could not permit such horrors to be inflicted on ponies. Sombra had sunk to depths that even Discord, perhaps due to his chaotic nature, had not tried to plumb. At the head of the greatest army in the history of the Diarchic Era, they marched on the Crystal Empire.
For all his arcane knowledge, Sombra did not have much strength with which to confront an external threat. Although the Crystal Heart was in his possession, he could not control its immense powers. His 'army' was little more than brutal slave overseers who were mostly useless against anything except terrified civilians and his own magic, though formidable, was no match against two alicorns, backed up by a legion of battlemages.
After one brief and decisively one-sided engagement, Sombra's rabble of an army fled in rout. His few senior henchmen, along with their small and well-paid personal bodyguards, attempted a rear-guard action of ambushes and booby traps but nothing delayed the Equestrian army's advance until they surrounded the Crystal City itself, their advanced siege weapons ready to rain down projectile and megaspell alike on the almost-undefended city.In response to a contemptuous ultimatum from his one-time friend (and, some whispered, secretly his wife) Princess Luna, Sombra rose to defy the alicorn princesses. From a balcony on the side of the royal palace, he screamed abuse at them as he poured all his might into attempting to cast a megaspell that would wipe all life from the Northern Plains. His magically-amplified obscene, mocking screams at Luna echoed across the plain as the two alicorns, surrounded by the Elements of Harmony rose from the Equestrian lines to confront him. The rainbow power of the Elements lashed out and stripped the spirit from Sombra's body, his physical shell vaporising as the power of his last spell went out of control. Then, something happened that nopony had anticipated. A final curse from the dark king suddenly snuffed the Crystal City from existence, leaving only a barren plain in its place, snow beginning to fall as the power of the Crystal Heart faded away.
The Nightmare War
In more ways than one, Sombra had the last laugh. His loud, public mockery of Luna, calling her Celestia's 'tame pet' and 'poor lesser partner', had struck deep in a heart weakened by years of the less prominent and trusted place and weakened still further by by the use of Dark Magic. Luna's already fractious relationship with Celestia began to degenerate further.
After a fairly short period of increasingly-public clashes, Luna, in a deliberate and chilling riposte to the slanders that called her the 'Nightmare', adopted the name 'Nightmare Moon'. At the head of a magically-mutated army of pegasi known as the 'Negasi' as well as thousands of other ponies (both those who believed in her claimed cause and those corrupted by magic or the promise of wealth or power), she led a military uprising, stating her intention to break the pseudo-monarchy of the Diarchy and replace it with a true republic, ruled by popular mandate.
No matter what her stated intentions, Luna's methods were anathema to the majority of ponies. Terrorism, 'soft target' attacks against locations considered emblematic of Celestia's philosophy and the misuse of neuromancy to terrorise prominent pro-Celestia ponies, all succeeded in turning the majority of Equestria against her in just a few months.It was then that Luna, who had been dutifully keeping her responsibilities regarding the movement of the celestial bodies, suddenly revealed her true goals. She refused to lower the moon and instead moved it in front of the sun to prevent daylight from being seen in Equestria. She would create a world where the night that the ponies seemed to scorn would be eternal; all would learn to love her or perish.
Luna never had the strength to make her dreams come true. Her fanatical but vastly-outnumbered army was swept aside by the Equestrian military and Luna herself fled to the sister-Princesses' home and capital, the Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters, hoping to win a victory against the odds by slaying Celestia.
Nopony saw the battle that followed. Aware of Luna's approach, Celestia had already ordered the castle evacuated and confronted her sister alone. All that is known is that the Elements of Harmony were used by the Princess of the Sun for one last time and, the next evening, the moon rose with a terrible new face, the face of a screaming alicorn - The Mare in the Moon.
The Modern Era
Celestia never publicly mourned her sister, although history notes that both the sun and moon were strangely brief in their appearances for weeks after the battle in the now-ruined and abandoned castle. Finally, though, the remaining alicorn princess went about her duties, building alliances, rebuilding after the losses of the brief Nightmare War and trying to reintegrate those who, honestly or with dark motives, had followed her sister's mad course. The seat of government was re-established in a purpose-built mountaintop city, Canterlot. Also re-established there was the New Celestial School of Magic, Luna's long-term personal project.
As lone ruler, Princess Celestia endured much loneliness during the period that followed. Venerated by many as demi-divine, she struggled against being seen as an infallible, immortal and eternal goddess. She had the example of both Sombra and Luna to fear and keep her wary of coming to love power too greatly. Nonetheless, ponies often unconsciously twisted things in the belief that it would please her or simply because they did not wish to accept the implications of the truth. For example, the New Celestial School of Magic, founded by Luna after Discord's fall, was quietly and slowly renamed The Princess Celestia School for Gifted Unicorns.
Celstia encouraged both technical and agricultural growth during her long lone reign. Amongst the startling developments was the technology that would allow non-pegasi to fly. Also the fertile south central interior of the continent was settled in an organised, progressive way, a move that would vastly increase Equestria's self-sufficiency of food. Diplomacy would see people of all the races of Equis coming to live in Equestria. Even some of the fractious tribes of the griffons would choose to throw in their lot with the Equestrians, becoming citizens of this thriving and growing cosmopolitan nation.
The township of Ponyville, founded 900 years after Luna's exile, would become symbolic of the achievements of Celestia's lone reign, with pegasi, earth ponies and unicorns all living together in a harmonious mixed community with cross-racial families and children of all three races playing together.
One of the most startling revelations of the post-Nightmare era was the appearance of a third alicorn.Mi Amore Cadenza was a young pegasus of the exiles of the Crystal Empire. Born a few weeks after Sombra's rise and having spent her entire life as a refugee, she came to Celestia's attention a year after Luna's exile. She had shown startling aptitude for the empathic school of magic, despite the fact that pegasi are supposedly only able to perform air and water magic. After healing the rift between two lovers, the young pegasi changed into an alicorn and the monastics with whom her family were sheltering sent her to the Princess of the Sun to learn to use her vastly-increased power.
Celestia and Cadence both candidly admit that their early relationship was an awkward one. Cadence was a typically-rebellious teen; Celestia was torn between her subconsious need to find someone to heal the hole in her heart left by Luna and the drive to teach the young alicorn the lessons she needed to learn to avoid her from sharing Luna's fate.
In an attempt to keep the younger pony from being exposed to the awe under which she suffered, Celestia successfully hid the alicorn's existence from most eyes, with Cadence simply known as a 'niece' of the Princess of the Sun, periodically emerging in the court over the next millennium with different names and moderately-changed appearances to hide her alicorn eternal youth.
The Return of Luna
As Celestia had prophesied, one thousand years after their climactic battle, Nightmare Moon, long since driven to insanity by her long solitude, broke free of her lunar prison and returned to Equestria, seeking revenge.
Her sister was ready but not in the way the Princess of the Moon had expected. Instead of confronting her sister, something that would likely prove fatal for one or the other, she had been preparing for a masterly counter-stroke. Through a careful placement of clues, she had been leading her current personal apprentice, Twilight Sparkle, a most remarkable young unicorn, to the necessary mental and emotional condition to find and wield the long-dormant Elements of Harmony against Nightmare Moon.
The plan had almost failed because Twilight had shared Luna's borderline-obsessive personality and difficulty in forming friendships. However, in Equestria's darkest hour of the modern era, Twilight had enjoyed an epiphany. Together with her new-found friends, Rarity, Applejack and Pinkie Pie of Ponyville and Rainbow Dash and Fluttershy of Cloudsdale, she passed through the dangers of the Everfree Forest to the ruined Castle of the Royal Pony Sisters. There they recovered and activated the Elements.
However, something happened that, seemingly, nopony had anticipated. Instead of finally destroying the corrupted alicorn of the night, the Elements instead healed Luna, sweeping away the bitterness, hatred and insanity Sombra and harsh experience had bred in her. In her place was the loyal and loving younger sister that Celestia had feared was gone forever.With the restoration of Luna, almost precisely two thousand years after the foundation of the nation of Equestria, a new and fantastic era of Equestrian history began, one that promises to be as legendary as the Pre-Classical Era. With the return and seeming rehabilitation of Discord, the reappearance of the Crystal Empire, the enthronement of Princess Cadence as its rightful Empress and, most recently, the ascension of a fourth alicorn princess, it appears that this is an era in which the possibilities are truly endless.