Dragon Age's interest in historical eras is right there in the name: it's about the age of dragons. In-setting, each hundred years the high priest of the Chantry decides on a new theme for the next century, and the current one was dubbed the Dragon Age due to the reappearance of the scaly creatures after they were driven almost to extinction in the distant past. The Dragon Age is the ninth of these named centuries, before which there was a millennia-long Ancient Age. What that means is these games have a lot of history.
While the first Dragon Age game was still being developed, a tabletop RPG was also being written and fleshing out the world's backstory, and the inevitable novels and comic books and web series followed. This gives the Dragon Age games a wealth of history and legends to draw on, like the classic fantasy they emulate. It's surprisingly detailed for a world whose name, Thedas, was originally a placeholder abbreviation of "The Dragon Age Setting".
The Ancient Age
Elves found the city of Arlathan, capital of Elvhenan.
Dwarves and elves meet for the first time.
According to the histories written by elves, humans arrive in Thedas around this time, having traveled south from the island of Par Vollen.
The old gods, who appear in the mortal realms as dragons, teach magic to human tribes.
Darinius, a powerful mage of the Tevinter Dynasty, declares himself the first Archon and begins the Tevinter Imperium, a magocracy that remains powerful for centuries to come.
King Endrin Stonehammer moves the capital of the dwarf empire to the great thaig—as the dwarves call their underground settlements—of Orzammar.
A group of Tevinter's magisters open a portal to the Fade and travel to the Golden City, the home of the gods. What happens when they find it differs depending on whose version of history it is, but what all agree on is that the magisters return cursed, and become the first darkspawn. They then corrupt the dragon Dumat, transforming the former old god into an archdemon, and begin the First Blight.
The Order of the Grey Wardens is founded to fight back against the darkspawn.
After over a century of war with the darkspawn, the dwarves create the first golems and use them in battle, reclaiming some of their lost ground.
After a hundred years of trying, the Grey Wardens learn of a way to permanently kill an archdemon. At the Battle of the Silent Plains, joined by armies of the dwarves and several human nations, they slay Dumat and end the First Blight.
Having been devastated more than any other species by their war with the darkspawn, the dwarf thaigs become separated and each institute their own king while still technically remaining loyal to the high king in Orzammar.
The prophet Andraste is burned at the stake by the Archon of Tevinter.
The first Inquisition is founded to protect people from the dangers of magic.
High King Threestone declares the Deep Roads connecting the dwarf thaigs too unsafe to remain open, as they are overrun by darkspawn.
The Divine Age
Justinia is elected first Divine. Magic use by anyone who isn't authorized by the Chantry is banned.
The dragon Zazikel is corrupted and becomes a new archdemon, leading the Second Blight. Its first action is to strike against the Grey Wardens.
The Nevarran Accord is signed, bringing the Inquisition into the Chantry to form the Templar Order, and creating the Circle of Magi to regulate the use of magic so it can be used against the darkspawn.
The Second Blight is ended when the Grey Warden Cordin slays Zazikel at Starkhaven.
The Glory Age
An attack on the Orlesian town of Red Crossing by elves leads to war between the human nation of Orlais and the elven Dales. A year later, Divine Renata declares an Exalted March—the Chantry's equivalent of a holy war—against the elves.
The Dales are conquered by Orlais and their population forced to either settle in slums called alienages or scatter to the winds.
Another Exalted March ousts the Tevinters from Starkhaven, an independent city-state of the Free Marches.
After an abomination kills mages and templars alike in the Nevarran Circle, Divine Galatea declares that all grand clerics of the Chantry have the Right of Annulment, which allows them to execute all mages in a circle if deemed necessary.
The Grand Cathedral of Orlais is completed in Val Royeaux, and the subsequent age is named for its two tall towers.
The Towers Age
The Third Blight is led by an archdemon named Toth. It ends sooner than previous Blights, but the numbers of darkspawn are larger.
After being pressured by the Grey Wardens, Orlais and Tevinter come to the defence of the Free Marches.
The Third Blight is defeated in the Free Marches but the armies of Orlais and Tevinter refuse to leave, remaining to occupy the territory they have freed from the darkspawn.
A schism based on differing beliefs about the role of magic in society results in the founding of the Imperial Chantry in Tevinter, distinct from the Orlesian Chantry, complete with their own Divine.
The Black Age
Werewolves reappear in Ferelden.
A famous assassin of the Antivan Crows known as Finesse murders King Guiomar the Younger.
The Chantry declares an Exalted March on the heathens of the Tevinter Imperium, gathers its forces, and marches on the empire. They fall short of their goal, the Tevinter capital of Minrathous, but it doesn't stop them from trying again with three more Exalted Marches over the subsequent 60 years to the same effect.
The Orlesian Empire attempts to invade Ferelden, sending an army across the Frostback Mountains. The bickering Fereldan lords unite against them, and after three years of fruitless conflict, the Orlesians retreat.
The Exalted Age
The nation of Antiva is taken by surprise by the Fourth Blight and its capital, Antiva City, falls. This Blight is more easily driven back in Tevinter and especially Orlais, but rather than uniting the countries send either token aid or none.
The Fourth Blight is ended by the Grey Wardens once again, this time thanks to their canny use of griffon mounts.
Queen Madrigal of Antiva is murdered during a hunt, found with four steel swords piercing her body. The Antivan Crows are suspected of the assassination, but nothing can be proved. The following century is dubbed The Steel Age in reference to this event.
The Steel Age
The Qunari conquer the island of Par Vollen, an isolated outpost of the Tevinter Imperium. Due to its distance from the rest of Thedas, word does not reach the continent for some time.
Qunari ships attack northern Rivain and the island of Seheron, and the First Qunari war begins. Those the Qunari conquer are offered the chance to be converted to the Qun belief set, and join them as fellow Qunari. In the years that follow they continue into Antiva and Tevinter.
Opposition to the Qunari finally solidifies, with captives rebelling against them and managing to free the Tevinter Imperium from their grasp.
The Storm Age
When the king of Ferelden dies without an heir, two claimants vie for the throne. Arland Theirin and his cousin Sophia Dryden both have claims, but when Arland's wins out Sophia refuses to back down. She is charged with treason but rather than being executed is allowed to join the Grey Wardens. She then uses the Wardens as part of a failed coup, after which the Order is forced out of Ferelden.
At the Battle of Nocen Sea, the largest naval engagement in history, the Qunari are fought to a standstill.
On the neutral island of Llomerryn a treaty is signed between all the nations of Thedas bar Tevinter and the Qunari, granting them the archipelago surrounding Par Vollen in exchange for a cease in hostilities.
The Blessed Age
Kirkwall rebels against Orlais and becomes an independent free city.
The second Orlesian invasion of Ferelden is ordered by "the Mad Emperor" Reville Valmont, and the fort of Vigil's Keep falls to his armies.
The Orlesians take the city of Denerim and the Fereldan King, Brandel Theirin, is driven into hiding while his country is occupied.
War between the Qunari and the Tevinter Imperium—the one human nation who did not sign the Llomerryn Accords—continues with the Qunari conquest of Seheron.
The Dragon Age
Dragon Age: Origins beings, as does Dragon Age 2 (although the framing device of the interrogation takes place 10 years later). The Fifth Blight brings about the Battle of Ostagar, at which King Cailan of Ferelden is killed. The country falls into civil war.
Dragon Age 2 reaches its climax. Conflict between the Circle of Magi and the Templars in the city of Kirkwall leads to open conflict among the two factions in the Kirkwall Rebellion.
Dragon Age: Inquisition begins. During a Divine Conclave held to negotiate a peace between mages and templars, a massive explosion kills all but one of those present. It leaves behind the Breach, a tear that leads to the Fade and allows demons passage into Thedas. The sole survivor of the explosion is vital to the formation of a new Inquisition devoted to closing the Breach.
Inquisition's final expansion Trespasser begins. Divine Victoria calls together an Exalted Council to discuss what the future of the Inquisition will be.