Centauri (Babylon 5)

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The Centauri are a humanoid species in the fictional universe of the Babylon 5 television series.

As a species they bear a close physical resemblance to humans including much of their body chemistry, structure and hair but taxonomically differ greatly, especially in the arrangement of internal and reproductive organs. The species is separated into two sexual genders correlating well with the accepted male and female aspects. They are warm-blooded and live-bearing. The females nurse the young in similar fashion to humans, showing some parallel to Earth mammals. Cultural norms are for the males to fashion the head hair into large crests from one side to the other - rather like a sideways Mohawk. The size of the crest was originally used to indicate social status, age and wealth but with the decline of the republic are subject more to fashion - one later emperor in particular was known to follow such and consequently displayed a much smaller crest representative of youth. Females are seen mainly to go shaven headed (or sometimes with a "ponytail"). The head crests figure on idols of Centauri deities, even those that display hermaphroditic body features.

They were the first alien species to make open contact with the human race,[1]:154 trading technology (including the jumpgate, required for Hyperspace travel) and medical treatments for Earth's "Art and trinkets" and the trimmings of decadence.

Their homeworld is Centauri Prime, a small Earth-like planet consisting of two large continents and several smaller islands divided by large oceans of water. The government of the Centauri Republic is, despite it being called a republic, ruled by an Emperor and an assembly of Ministers and heads of various Houses that form the Centaurum.[1]:161 Despite the name, the Centauri are neither from nor associated with the Alpha Centauri star system (within the context of Babylon 5, this inaccurate naming is explained as having resulted from a mistranslation during first contact between humans and the Centauri; however, there are also a number of other stars named Centauri). In addition, the naming of Alpha Centauri was a result of traditional human mythologies and thus simply a coincidence.


Centauri Prime
'Babylon 5' location
Centauri prime.jpg
The Emperor's palace
Created byJ. Michael Straczynski
Notable characters

Centauri Prime is the throne of the once-expansive Centauri Republic. It has fewer land masses than Earth; there are only two main continents with an abundance of small islands and extensive marine habitats. The planet has a population of about 3.4 billion[2]:110 – considerably fewer than the home worlds of many other alien races. It is also the third planet in the Zeta Tucanae system.

In January 2261, the island of Selini, in the southern hemisphere of the planet, was occupied by Shadow forces, who established a base for over a hundred of their ships. However, in the interregnum after Emperor Cartagia's death, the base's destruction was ordered and the island was obliterated with fusion-based nuclear bombs.


The Centauri Republic is a major power in the Babylon 5 universe and noted for being the first alien civilization with which Earth had open contact. The Republic is based on Centauri Prime but spans a number of other colonies and worlds. Despite its "Republic" moniker, the Centauri Republic is a nominal constitutional monarchy ruled by an Emperor, or, in the event of an interregnum, a Regent. The Emperor has enormous power in Centauri society, and all Centauri are taught to be deferential to the ruling monarch. The Centauri are not a democracy; the average citizen has little or no political power within the Republic. The Centauri Republic considers slavery legal, but as a form of social stratification, not racial discrimination – many slaves are disenfranchised nobles.

The only real check on the monarch's power resides in the Centaurum, an assembly of the leaders of the major noble houses. Nobles able to manipulate the Centaurum successfully are able to wield great power. The Centaurum can vote to overturn a decree of the monarch, although this would appear to be a rare practice. An exception to the power of the Centaurum came about during the brief reign of the Emperor Cartagia, whose personal madness drove him to have his enemies in the Centaurum assassinated, allowing him to rule despotically. The Centauri appear culturally obsessed with rank, social position, wealth, and power. They are quite Machiavellian in their political games and treachery. Everything seems to involve strategic moves and countermoves, strategy games "for keeps" with covert or overt ruthlessness.

The Centauri Republic is reflective of many imperial cultures on Earth, although J. Michael Straczynski makes a specific comparison: "the British Empire once upon a time... It was a great military power. But slowly, as can happen, they grew content, and lazy, and gradually their own empire began to slip between their fingers".[3] In the film The Gathering, Babylon 5 ambassador Londo Mollari laments that Centauri Prime has been reduced to "A tourist attraction... See the Centauri Republic, nine to five... Earth time"'.[4]


Early history[edit]

The first Centauri Empire was founded in 262. The Emperor, Tuscano commissioned the building of the first Royal Palace and the Palace Guard, who incorporated the Emperor's family crest on the buttons of their uniforms. Also commissioned was an elaborate jewel called "The Eye" that became a symbol of power associated with the Imperial family.

As the Centauri spread across their homeworld travelling in vessels across their ocean, the Centauri encounter the other sentient species living on the planet called The Xon. While this encounter was peaceful, years later the Centauri decided there wasn't room for two species competing for resources and war broke out between the two races.

Defeat of the Xon in 1258 gave rise to the current class structure of modern Centauri society. The great houses of the Centauri formed the Centaurum. A new Emperor was elected who received the blessing from three Technomages before taking the throne. These noble families would maintain their power and privileges for hundreds of years, even after the planet's population had grown into the billions. Furthermore, Centauri females were relegated into the roles of mothers and housewives, as the nobles believed that females needed to focus on bearing children and rebuilding the population instead of competing with males for power and social position. Even in the 23rd Century, Centauri females are discouraged from seeking power or careers for themselves – though many females are the "power behind the throne" in their houses, skilled in deception and manipulation. The widows of many powerful leaders are often considered conduits to their deceased spouses, and wield impressive power.

An invasion by The Shoggren is repelled during early years of the new Emperor's rule.

Before 2258[edit]

A Centauri fleet

Although the Centauri population did eventually grow, by the time the Babylon 5 station opened in 2257 AD. the population of Centauri Prime was only about 3.4 billion,[2] considerably less than that of the galaxy's other major planets, such as Earth, Narn, or Minbar. However this is a small part of over forty billion Centauri that Adira says Londo will eventually rule in "Day Of The Dead". Having a minority of the population on the homeworld is a legacy of the Centauri's rapid interstellar expansion while their own population was still quite small, and the many centuries that have passed since that time – the populations of some older Centauri colonies are comparable to that of Centauri Prime.

The Centauri Republic quickly began a period of expansion spanning the centuries before the second Shadow War and the birth of the Interstellar Alliance. The Centauri first left their home world just as the first Shadow War was ending and consequently played no part in that struggle. Ships and some outposts fell to the Drakh suggesting the Centauri did encounter Shadow forces to a limited degree. These defeats were stricken from public record by the Emperor's order, yet surviving crewmen and colonial defenders brought stories back to Centauri Prime.

At its greatest extent, hundreds of worlds were subject to the Centauri Republic, hence its epithet, 'Lion of the Galaxy'. The occupation of the Narn homeworld began in 2109. For the next hundred Narn years the agrarian and technologically primitive (to the Centauri) Narns were exploited and their world stripped of resources. The Centauri withdrew in 2231 after a long campaign of attrition waged by the Narn resistance (see Narn Regime). By 2258 the Centauri Empire had dwindled to a few colony worlds and Centauri Prime itself, seemingly more through the growing apathy and decadence of the Republic than military inferiority.


Beginning in 2258 the Centauri once again mapped out a path of conquest, taking over not just Narn space but also worlds formerly belonging to the Drazi, pak'ma'ra, and other members of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. A non-aggression treaty between the Earth Alliance and the Centauri Republic ensured that, unlike the situation in the earlier Dilgar War, the Earth Alliance would not come to the League's aid, making resisting the expansion of the Centauri Republic much more difficult.

The revival of Centauri power and territory was made possible by their covert alliance with the Shadows, an ancient and extremely powerful alien race which was using the Centauri for their own ends. The Shadows were allowed to base a fleet of their ships on an island on Centauri Prime by the Centauri Emperor Cartagia. This move nearly led to the total destruction of Centauri Prime by a massive Vorlon warship which had traveled to Centauri space to eradicate any Shadow influence from the planet. The Shadow vessels were destroyed by Londo Mollari, the acting Prime Minister, and the planet was saved. However, by 2261 the Shadows had departed the galaxy along with the Vorlons and other First Ones. The Shadow's former servants and soldiers, the Drakh, were driven from their home world by the forces of Captain John Sheridan and the Interstellar Alliance. The Drakh decided to secretly settle on Centauri Prime, which they remembered from the Shadow occupation under Cartagia, and make it their new home. The Drakh secretly gained control of the Regent and used him to start a war with the other worlds of the Interstellar Alliance in 2262. The destruction of civilian shipping by the Drakh was blamed on the Centauri. Thanks to the Drakh's random attacks on alien shipping, almost every other race fought the Centauri during the war, leaving them almost completely isolated, which was the Drakh's intention. Near the end of the conflict a large force of Narn and Drazi warships made for Centauri Prime, while Drakh agents forced the Regent to deactivate the planetary defences and send any warships defending the planet away on a false emergency.

Centauri ship destroyed

The Narn-Drazi fleet bombarded Centauri Prime and the planet was laid waste, with most of its major cities reduced to rubble and many civilians killed. The Drakh then forced Londo Mollari to accept their secret control of Centauri Prime by threatening to detonate nuclear bombs hidden under the planet's major cities, which would have killed billions more people and totally destroyed Centauri civilization. The Regent was then killed, and Londo was crowned the Emperor of the Centauri, but he was merely a puppet for the Drakh. Under the Drakh's direction the Centauri severed all relations with the Interstellar Alliance. By 2278 little was left of the grandeur of the Centauri save their pride, their patriotism, and their determination to rebuild their devastated planet.

Centauri Prime in flames

After 2278[edit]

After John Sheridan, the President of the Interstellar Alliance, and his wife Delenn had saved their son David from the Drakh and fled from Centauri Prime, the Emperor Mollari died. Vir Cotto, the Emperor's close aide, went to Minbar, and met with the surviving leaders of the Centauri noble houses. In keeping with Lady Morella's prophecy, Vir's claim to the throne was accepted, and he became Emperor Cotto.

The Interstellar Alliance, finally realizing that they were both the victims of a massive Drakh manipulation, joined forces with the Centauri military to liberate the home world and then hunt down the Drakh. With help from the Alliance, Emperor Cotto spent the next several decades rebuilding his home world to its former glory - without the need for conquest and imperial expansion.



The Centauri are humanoid in appearance, similar enough to humans that the species can easily pass for one another under casual inspection. Upon first contact with humans, the Centauri told the Earth representatives that Earth must have been a lost Centauri colony, though that theory was quickly discounted. However, in terms of internal structure there are several important differences between the two species. For example, the Centauri have two hearts; the extra heart serves the same function as human kidneys (which Centauri lack). Additionally, Centauri teeth are somewhat pointed, and unlike Humans, the Centauri have no major arteries in their wrists. In terms of physical strength and endurance, and intellectual ability, the Centauri are relatively equal to Humans.

Centauri males: Lord Antono Refa, left (played by William Forward), and Ambassador Londo Mollari, right (played by Peter Jurasik).

Centauri males of high social status typically wear their hair in Peacock-tail shaped fans, the length and style of which are determined by relative social class. Low-class Centauri males have not been seen without helmets. Centauri females mostly or entirely shave their heads.[5][6] The social significance (if any) of complete versus almost-complete baldness on a female is not specified outright; however, in the televised episodes, older females are shown completely bald, and younger (up to the apparent human age range of the 30s, and often but not always unmarried) with ponytails.[5][7][8][9]

Their dress and customs reflect their imperialistic culture, with militaristic clothing reminiscent of the Earth 18th century for the men, gowns for the women the design of which is comparable to those of the same Earth era, and a generally courtly manner one would expect to find in Victorian England (without the Puritanical streak) or Imperial France (with the associated decadence).

Reproductive biology[edit]

The sexual organs of the Centauri are quite different from those of humans, and they are in a different location than the human sex organs. Male Centauri have six tentacle-like genital organs that extend out from the sides of the body and "fold" in over the solar plexus when not in use. The males can stretch the tentacles out to four feet.[2]:9 These tentacles are somewhat prehensile, to the extent that they can be used to cheat in card games. Females have six narrow receptive orifices, three on either side of the base of the spine, just above the hips. During sexual intercourse the male inserts his tentacles in the female's orifices individually. Only a single insertion is necessary to inseminate, but "each [successive] one is a different level of intimacy and pleasure" – Centauri males grade their sexual encounters by the number of insertions in a manner similar to American baseball metaphors for sex.

Cardio-vascular system[edit]

The cardio-vascular system of Centauri includes two hearts instead of the single heart that humans have. The right heart is a solid mass of muscle which provides most of the force behind the body's blood circulation. The left heart is much more complex - this heart is made up of an intricate system of thousands of veins that help cleanse the blood in a manner similar to the human kidneys.[1]:160 As a result, a heart attack in the left heart is a very serious matter because the left heart is very difficult to repair. Their network of blood vessels is also somewhat different from in humans, as they do not have major blood vessels in their wrists.

ESP and telepathy[edit]

The Centauri have extra-sensory perception to varying degrees, including precognitive abilities. Most Centauri have limited perceptions, enjoying only rare fleeting glimpses of the future. All Centauri, as stated by Londo Mollari in Midnight on the Firing Line, throughout their lives experience vivid prophetic dreams telling them of the time and the circumstances of their deaths. A rare few Centauri, exclusively female, have very strong prophetic abilities. These females are often given a special status in Centauri society that is much higher than would normally be given to a female. The widow of Emperor Turhan, Lady Morella, was one such.

A number of Centauri have telepathic ability. Like humans, the degree of telepathic ability varies with the individual. Unlike humans, who have had proven telepaths for only a few generations, Centauri possess a far greater understanding of the skill, and permit those who possess it far more latitude. The Telepath's Guild is a respected institution, and the skill of their average members is great enough to overcome mindwipes. (A mindwipe is a sentence by the Earth Alliance destroying the personality of the convict, and implanting another. The Official Term is "Death of Personality", in favor of the Capital Punishment, making the convicted a new person to do beneficial things for society. A very Powerful Telepath can break those and restore the old personality. This is also called a "mindwipe" as slang for the punishment. Reference-> B5 Episode: "Passing through Gethsemane")

The Centauri Emperor was rarely seen without the Imperial Tetrapathy – a quartet of female telepaths who have maintained a telepathic link since infancy. This link is thus so strong that it has effectively unlimited range. Whenever the Emperor leaves Centauri Prime, two of the Tetrapathy accompanied him and two remained at the royal palace, allowing rapid communication between the Emperor and the home world at all times. This, however, changed upon the accession of Emperor Cartagia, who had them executed as one of his first official acts.


  1. ^ a b c Sprange, Matthew (2003). Babylon Five Role Playing Game and Factbook: Signs and Portents. Warner Bros.
  2. ^ a b c Hahn, August (2004). The Centauri Republic Factbook. Warner Bros.
  3. ^ [1]
  4. ^ [2][clarification needed][unreliable source?]
  5. ^ a b J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Janet Greek (dir.) (1995-02-01). "The Coming of Shadows". Babylon 5. Season 2. Episode 9. PTEN. In this episode Centauri emperor Turhan specifically states that Centauri females shave their heads, and his wives are shown to be completely bald.
  6. ^ The Centauri Republic Factbook (op. cit., p. 8), which is non-canonical, incorrectly reports that only Centauri males grow hair at all.
  7. ^ Larry DiTillio (writer), Bruce Seth Green (dir.) (1994-02-09). "Born to the Purple". Babylon 5. Season 1. Episode 3. PTEN. In this episode, the unmarried Centauri female Adira Tyree is shown to have a ponytail.
  8. ^ Peter David (writer), John C. Flinn III (dir.) (1994-12-14). "Soul Mates". Babylon 5. Season 2. Episode 7. PTEN. In this episode, the youngest of Mollari's three Centauri wives has a ponytail, while the elder two are completely bald.
  9. ^ J. Michael Straczynski (writer), Jesus Trevino (dir.) (1996-04-15). "Sic Transit Vir". Babylon 5. Season 3. Episode 12. PTEN. In this episode, Vir Cotto's fiancée Lyndisty is shown to have a ponytail.