Galactic Empire (Star Wars)
|First appearance||Star Wars (1977)|
|Last appearance||Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018)|
|Founded||19 BBY from the Galactic Republic|
|Defunct||4 ABY, fractured into the Imperial remnants during the Battle of Endor, 5 ABY, dissolved after the Battle of Jakku|
|Location||Senate District, Coruscant (Imperial Center: Capital), Star Wars Galaxy|
|Leader||Galactic Emperor: |
Sheev Palpatine (19 BBY-4 ABY)
Mas Amedda (4 ABY–5 ABY)
Rae Sloane (5 ABY)
Gallius Rax (5 ABY)
|Key people||Darth Vader|
Grand Moff Tarkin
Grand Vizier Mas Amedda
Grand Admiral Thrawn
|Employees||Boba Fett, Dengar, Bossk|
|Purpose||To bring order to the galaxy|
|Technologies||Imperial Star Destroyer, medical droids|
|Affiliations||Imperial Army, Imperial Navy, Imperial Starfighter Corps, Council of Moffs, Royal Guard, Order of the Sith Lords|
Saw Gerrera's Partisans
Yuuzhan Vong Empire (Legends)
New Jedi Order (Legends)
|Currency||Galactic Standard Credit (Imperial Dataries)|
|Founding documents||Declaration of a New Order|
|Official language||Imperial Basic|
The Galactic Empire is a fictional autocracy featured in the Star Wars franchise. It was first introduced in the 1977 film Star Wars and appears in its two sequels: The Empire Strikes Back (1980) and Return of the Jedi (1983). It is the main antagonist faction of the original trilogy. The government collapses a year following the conclusion of the Galactic Civil War in Return of the Jedi, and the First Order is formed by Imperial remnants. An oppressive, autocratic regime with a complicated bureaucracy, the Galactic Empire seeks to ensure singular rule over every planet and civilization within the galaxy.
At its peak, the Galactic Empire sprawls over much of the known Star Wars galaxy, which consists of millions of star systems and billions more fringe colonies, shipyards, fortress worlds, and outer territories. The Empire's origins are depicted in the prequel Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (2005), where it replaces the Galactic Republic at the end of the Clone Wars orchestrated by Sheev Palpatine, who was then the Republic's Supreme Chancellor. Palpatine is also secretly a Dark Lord of the Sith named Darth Sidious, intending to purge the Jedi and restore the Sith to power.
Palpatine falsely accuses the Jedi of causing the Clone Wars, a secessionist war, to weaken the Republic and gain power. Palpatine manipulates the Galactic Senate into using clone troopers created during the conflict to kill the Jedi. After engineering these threats himself, Palpatine reorganizes the Republic into a state that could "ensure the security and continuing stability, and [provide] a safe and secure society" – a Galactic Empire with himself as its Emperor. The Senate overwhelmingly applauds this decision and lauds Palpatine's apparent resolve, bravery, and selflessness.
Though Palpatine's Sith identity remains a secret to all but a handful of individuals, his apprentice, the Sith Lord Darth Vader maintains a more public presence, acting as a personification of the Empire's power. By the time of Episode IV – A New Hope, the Empire has transformed into an authoritarian regime, opposed by the Alliance to Restore the Republic. The completion of the Death Star, a doomsday weapon, allows Palpatine to dissolve the powerless Imperial Senate. The Galactic Empire is described and portrayed in various Star Wars media as an arrogant and brutal dictatorship, one based on "nationalization, state terrorism, xenophobia, enslavement and genocide of non-humans, power projection, threat of lethal force, and, above all else, constant fear".
Star Wars creator George Lucas sought to make the Galactic Empire aesthetically and thematically similar to Nazi Germany and to appear to be fascist. Similar to Nazi Germany, the Galactic Empire is a dictatorship based on rigid control of society that dissolved a previous democracy and is led by an all-powerful supreme ruler. The Empire, like the Nazis, desires the creation of totalitarian order and utilizes excessive force and violence to achieve their ends. The name of the Empire's main soldiers, the Stormtroopers, is somewhat similar to the name given to Hitler's Sturmabteilung (SA, "storm detachment") paramilitary bodyguards. The visual appearance of Darth Vader in his all-black uniform combined with his devout obedience to the Emperor has allusion to the black-uniformed Nazi Schutzstaffel (SS). The uniforms of Imperial military officers also bear resemblance to uniforms used in Nazi Germany as well as nineteenth-century Germany's ulans (mounted lancers)—who wore a tunic, riding breeches, and boots like the Empire's officers wear—as well as the Imperial officers' cap resembling the field caps historically worn by German and Austrian troops. In addition to Nazi Germany, there was also at least one portion of the Galactic Empire that was based on the Soviet Union, which is the various military personnel and TIE Fighters are flying in formation as Palpatine arrives on the Death Star in Return of the Jedi. In the commentary track for the film's DVD release, Lucas said that the ceremony for the Emperor's arrival was inspired by May Day military parades in the Soviet Union. Lucas has also indicated that the Galactic Empire's struggle against a smaller guerilla force was inspired by America's involvement in the Vietnam War and his surprise at how few people spoke up against the war.
Palpatine's consolidation of power and declaring himself emperor is like the Roman political figure Octavian (later renamed Augustus), in that Octavian manipulated the Roman Senate as Palpatine did with the Galactic Senate; he legitimized authoritarian rule by saying that corruption in the Senate was hampering the powers of the head of state; he pressured the Roman Senate to give him extraordinary powers as Consul of the Republic to deal with a crisis and he falsely claimed that he would rescind those powers once the crisis was over; and, like the transition of the Roman Republic into the Roman Empire, Octavian, like Palpatine, relied on his strong control over military force.
The Galactic Empire was born out of the collapsing Galactic Republic. However, its seeds are planted during the Clone Wars, the epic war between the Republic and the separatist Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS) depicted in Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith.
In Episode I: The Phantom Menace, amid a trade dispute and invasion of his home world, Senator Palpatine convinces Queen Padmé Amidala to call for a vote of no confidence in Supreme Chancellor of the Republic Finis Valorum. Palpatine is elected Supreme Chancellor.
As fighting intensifies in Episode II, the Galactic Senate, the legislature of the Republic, grants Palpatine emergency powers to deal with the crisis. Palpatine promises to return his powers once peace and order is restored. His first order is to create a massive army of clone troopers. He exploits the Clone Wars to amass political power, and, by the time of Episode III, he is effectively a dictator.
The Jedi distrust Palpatine's motives, fearing he has come under the influence of a Dark Lord of the Sith named Darth Sidious. Their concerns are shared by several senators, who suspect Palpatine may not return his emergency powers. Among them are two who had long supported Palpatine: Padmé Amidala and Bail Organa. The film eventually reveals that Palpatine and Sidious are one and the same, and Palapatine engineered the conflicts as a false flag.
Palpatine reveals himself as a Sith Lord to Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker, promising to save Padmé and her unborn child. Skywalker reports Palpatine's true identity to the Jedi. However, when Jedi Master Mace Windu confronts Palpatine, Skywalker comes to Palpatine's aid and helps him kill Windu. Knowing that his involvement in Windu's death will cause him to be expelled from the Jedi Order, Skywalker is left with no choice but to become Palpatine's third apprentice, Darth Vader. Palpatine declares the Jedi to be traitors and all but exterminates the Jedi Order in a massive galaxy-wide slaughter.
Secure in his power and position, Palpatine reorganizes the Republic into the Galactic Empire, with himself as Emperor for life. The Senate enthusiastically supports Palpatine, although a few senators, like Padmé and Bail Organa, see through the plot. Two remaining Jedi, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda, mount a counterattack. Obi-Wan defeats Vader and leaves him for dead, but Yoda's duel with Palpatine ends in a stalemate and he is forced to flee for his life; both Jedi are forced to go into exile. Grievously wounded, Vader is rescued by Palpatine and fitted with cybernetics and a black suit of armor with a life support system. Padme's children, with their mother dead and their father a Sith Lord, are placed into adoptive families.
With the end of the Clone Wars, the purge of the Jedi Order and the formation of the First Galactic Empire, Palpatine rules with absolute power as Emperor. Between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope, Palpatine rules the galaxy from the confines of his heavily guarded Imperial Palace on Coruscant, once known as the Jedi Temple. Coruscant was introduced in Timothy Zahn's non-canon novel Heir to the Empire. Its film debut was in the special edition of Return of the Jedi. Inspiration for the world-spanning city came from 1940s science fiction works, especially Isaac Asimov's Trantor. Visually, it resembles the Art Deco skyscrapers of Manhattan.
Star Wars Battlefront II depicts Palpatine as intentionally having no clear line of succession, desiring either immortality or the destruction of the Empire. Lord Darth Vader is the Emperor's ruthless chief enforcer, greatly feared throughout the galaxy; a command from Vader is to be considered a command from Palpatine. Darth Vader and the Inquisitors are routinely given control over Imperial assets but lay outside the traditional chain of command; they travel extensively to most of the galactic regions to enforce the Emperor's rule and exterminate nearly every Jedi survivor of the purge. His personal Imperial armada—the 501st Legion and Death Squadron—participate in the capture of Princess Leia Organa, the Battle of Hoth and the Battle of Endor.
The Senate, now known as the Imperial Senate, nominally continues to exist, though it is virtually powerless. Palpatine dissolves the Senate (off-camera) in A New Hope after discovering that several members of the Senate are founding members of the Rebellion.
Aside from Palpatine, power resides in the hands of "Administrators" (planetary governors), the "Moffs" (sector governors) and the "Grand Moffs" (quadrant governors). Through this chain of command, Palpatine dictates direct control over all population centers. Grand Moff is a political title in the hierarchy of the Galactic Empire. Governor Wilhuff Tarkin suggests the creation of the role and becomes the first ever Grand Moff.
In Star Wars, Grand Moff Tarkin explains the Empire's military doctrine of peacekeeping, internal security, and counter-insurgency; describing its state terrorism-philosophy as "rule through fear of force rather than force itself". The instrument of this power is the military, which includes the Imperial Stormtroopers, a massive fleet of 25,000 Star Destroyers, and the Death Star, a moon-sized superweapon capable of destroying entire planets.
Plans for the Death Star first appear (in universe chronology) in Attack of the Clones and construction begins at the end of Revenge of the Sith. Summarized measures set forth by the Tarkin Doctrine:
- Establish "Oversectors" which contain tumultuous systems; to monitor and react to rebellious activities within those systems. Oversectors would be formed without regard for the borders of standard sectors and would receive more forces than other regions of the Empire. This Imperial presence would be designed to stop small rebel factions before they could become a larger established threat. An average of three Sector Groups would be deployed in an Oversector.
- Assign command of each Oversector to a single individual who reports directly to the Emperor, in order to eliminate any delays created by political opportunism by Imperial advisors.
- Improve communication resources and Imperial response time by placing modified HoloNet transceivers (cannibalized from existing HoloNet transceivers) aboard each flagship of every Sector Group within an Oversector command. Place similar facilities aboard the Emperor's flagship and in Imperial City on Imperial Centre (formally Coruscant).
- Control unruly portions of the Galaxy through a fear of force rather than force itself. Through the combination of superior coordination of multiple Oversector groups and the control of information (news media) an impression of overwhelming force will be installed within the citizenry, thereby instilling the idea that resistance is futile.
- Continue to research and develop new and more powerful starships and weapons designed to inspire fear in the resistant systems. Present the citizen with a weapon so powerful, so immense as to defy all conceivable attack against it, a weapon invulnerable and invincible in battle, that shall become a symbol for the Empire. This weapon must possess a power great enough to dispatch an entire system. Only a handful or one of these weapons would be required to accomplish this task.
The Imperial Naval Command (INC), also referred to as the Imperial Starfleet, is the military arm of the Galactic Empire in charge of maintaining security, peace and order in the galaxy. Commanded by Darth Vader, it absorbed the military forces of the Galactic Republic after Palpatine's declaration of the New Order. Organization of the Imperial Navy is assigned to the Moffs.
At its peak, the Imperial Navy fields millions of warships, including an estimated 25,000 Star Destroyers, fulfilling the Emperor's will throughout the galaxy. The Empire's central warship cadre is well structured and uniformed, but the Imperial Navy suffers against strike craft, largely due to the inadequacies of its own starfighters and point defense. The Empire's focus on size, firepower, and terror comes at the expense of a well-balanced fleet. After its defeat at the Battle of Endor, the Galactic Empire splits up into warring factions, and the Imperial Starfleet along with it. While much of the remnants of the Imperial Navy are later reunited under impressive Imperial commanders, the military organization ceases to exist shortly after the death of the Emperor.
Specific responsibilities of the Imperial Navy include defending Imperial citizens from space-based threats (such as pirates, smugglers and rebel contingents), enforcing Imperial will, and overseeing commerce through customs and blockade operations. The Imperial Navy also performs orbital bombardments and transports major ground force deployments, supporting them with space, orbital, and aerial support. Imperial Navy officers wear the same standard uniform that their Army counterparts use but is colored grey, and both services use colored chest plaques to denote rank.
Imperial Starfighter Corps
The Imperial Starfighter Corps (ISC) was the starfighter pilot branch of the Galactic Empire. Although the Corps was a component of the Navy, most pilots were assigned to ground operations with the Imperial Army. Some Imperial starfighters include TIE (Twin Ion Engine) fighters, TIE Interceptors, TIE Defenders, TIE Strikers, TIE Silencers (by the First Order), and TIE Bombers. The corps was scattered after the Battle of Endor (4 ABY).
Imperial Stormtrooper Corps
Imperial Stormtrooper Corps (ISC) are elite corps of rapid response all-environment shock troops—organized like the Marine Corps with their own separate divisions. The Stormtroopers operate in conjunction with the Army Ground Troopers and Navy Marine Troopers—who were used as garrison forces—to reinforce and hold defensive positions until the regular military arrived. When not in their signature white armor, Stormtrooper officers wear black uniforms.
Galactic Civil War
With the formation of the Empire and the purge of the Jedi now complete, martial law is immediately declared throughout the galaxy. Those in hiding, or attempting to either flee from or oppose the New Imperial Order, are subject to persecution or death. This is the start of the bloody decades-long Galactic Civil War fought between the Empire and the Rebel Alliance.
While Force-sensitive kyber crystals are sacred to the Jedi and are at the core of every lightsaber, the Empire explores ways to weaponize them. They mine for kyber crystals across worlds and are thwarted twice in securing massive crystals by the Ghost crew and Saw Gerrera. But on Jedha they uncovered a surplus of kyber, which would be enough to power their dreaded Death Star.
The Death Star, a moon-sized battle station with sufficient firepower to destroy an entire planet, is designed to be the supreme weapon of the Empire's power. Grand Moff Willhuff Tarkin, the station's commander, shortly after informing the heads of the Imperial Military that Palpatine has dissolved the Senate, demonstrates that power in A New Hope, when he destroys Alderaan as a show of force. In the film's climactic scene, however, the station is assaulted by a small force of Rebel starfighters who have come into possession of the station's blueprints. The battle ends with the Death Star's destruction at the hands of Luke Skywalker, which is the Rebel Alliance's first major success against the Empire.
After three more years of conflict, the Alliance achieves a decisive victory over the Empire in Return of the Jedi. In the film's climactic battle, the Rebellion destroys the second Death Star and a number of capital ships that contain a great portion of the Imperial Navy's highest-ranking officers. During this battle, Vader redeems himself by killing Palpatine in order to save his son Luke Skywalker, but in this act of self-sacrifice he is himself mortally wounded in the process.
In the aftermath of Endor, the loss of the Emperor and the majority of decorated military leadership creates chaos and instability. The Empire is a wounded beast thrashing around in a hundred directions, causing random and wanton destruction across the galaxy. By design, the Empire had no clear line of succession; and there was no second-in-command. The insidious kratocratic-philosophies of the Sith were engineered into the Imperial administration and have permeated military culture of the Empire's remaining upper echelon. Revolts, infighting and warlordism gradually fracture the Empire apart more effectively than any damage capable of being inflicted by the Rebel Alliance, as the Moffs and Grand Moffs maneuver to grab power for themselves.
Palpatine left posthumous orders. Upon verification of the Emperor's death, messenger droids are sent to select Imperial officers to relay the last orders of the Emperor: to begin Operation: Cinder at once. Operation: Cinder—a central piece of the late Emperor's contingency plan—tasks hardline Imperial fanatics to destroy entire planets, heedless of their former loyalties, as part of Palpatine's scorched earth policy. Palpatine does not desire the Empire continue without his presence; if he cannot live forever as the galaxy's Emperor, he would rather see it destroyed.
If an Empire cannot protect its Emperor then that Empire must be deemed a failure. It collapses not only because its central figure is gone, but because it must not be allowed to remain!
The Galactic Empire no longer exists as an official government or a major power, being replaced by warlords and rump states competing with each other and the Galactic Republic over the power vacuum left behind. These "Imperial remnants" each claim true legitimate successorship to the Empire. The most successful remnants of the Empire reforms as the First Order, led by Supreme Leader Snoke and former Imperial officers. They become a major faction in the galaxy in The Force Awakens and face a reformed Rebel Alliance called the Resistance.
With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the original 1977 film, known as the Expanded Universe, were rebranded as Legends and declared non-canon to the franchise in April 2014. In Legends, the New Republic fights to claim the galaxy from remaining Imperials styling themselves as independent controllers of portions of the galaxy.
The successor to the Empire was Trioculus's Empire (ruled by Trioculus) whose successor was Thrawn's Empire (led by Grand Admiral Thrawn from Wayland in the Wayland System of the Ojoster Sector of the Outer Rim Territories) whose successor was the Dark Empire (ruled by Emperor Palpatine from Byss in the Byss System of the Deep Core) which successor was the Crimson Empire (by Carnor Jax from Ord Cantrell of the Ord Cantrell system of the Fath Sector of the Outer Rim Territories) whose successor was the Imperial Remmant whose successor was the Fel Empire.
In the Jedi Prince novel series, a group of impostors calling themselves the Prophets of the Dark Side install a three-eyed mutant named Trioculus as Emperor by claiming that he is Palpatine's son, reforming the Empire (as Trioculus's Empire). By the end of the series, Palpatine's true son, Triclops, helps the Rebels defeat this new enemy.
In the Thrawn trilogy book series, the New Republic is almost brought to its knees by Grand Admiral Thrawn, the new leader of the remnants of the Empire (which are known as Thrawn's Empire or Empire of the Hand) and a military genius. By the time of the third book in the series, Thrawn has nearly defeated the New Republic, but they claim victory in a last-ditch effort, and Thrawn is killed by his own bodyguard, shattering the Empire's unity.
In the Dark Empire comic book series, Palpatine is reborn in a clone body and unites most of the scattered remnants of the Empire (forming the Dark Empire), hoping to retake control of the galaxy. By the sequel, Empire's End, he is defeated and destroyed once and for all.
Jedi Academy trilogy
In the Jedi Academy trilogy, an Imperial admiral named Daala commandeers the remainder of the Imperial Navy (the Crimson Empire) and mounts a ferocious assault on the New Republic. She nearly succeeds in taking over the galaxy, but is foiled by New Republic pilots Wedge Antilles and Lando Calrissian in the final entry, Champions of the Force.
In the novel Darksaber, Admiral Daala, frustrated with the Imperial warlords in the Core fighting and bickering amongst themselves, orchestrates the warlords' deaths and unites and becomes the leader of the remaining Imperial forces. After being defeated in battle once again by the New Republic, she resigns and selects Gilad Pellaeon (originally in the Thrawn Trilogy) as the new leader, where he becomes Grand Admiral Pellaeon.
New Jedi Order
By the time of the New Jedi Order series, the remaining Imperial military factions sign a truce with the New Republic, becoming the Imperial Remnant. The former enemies then become allies against the invading Yuuzhan Vong. A few years later, the Remnant help the Galactic Alliance fight an assimilating insect species known as the Killiks, and in the early Legacy era they are a third party in the Second Galactic Civil War but made peace with the Alliance and Confederation. All three of these were represented by former Imperial commanders.
The Star Wars: Legacy comic book series, set 127 years after the original Star Wars film, explains that, during a civil war, the New Galactic Empire known as the Fel Empire declares war on the Galactic Federation Of Free Alliances (Galactic Alliance), the successor state of the New Republic, after 83 years of a cold war that began in 44 ABY. This conflict begins the Sith-Imperial War, which after three years leads to the eventual defeat of the Galactic Alliance and the Galactic Empire asserting its domination over the galaxy once again in 130 ABY. A few months later the Sith overthrew the Fel Empire in a coup and the Sith Lord Darth Krayt the leader of the One Sith, usurped the throne and forces Emperor Roan Fel to take refuge in the fortress planet of Bastion and the Sith renamed the Fel Empire as Darth Krayt's Galactic Empire. In 138 ABY, the Galactic Alliance Remnant led by Admiral Gar Stazi, Fel's forces known as the Empire-in-exile led by Empress Marasiah Fel, and the New Jedi Order led by Jedi Master K'Krukk united against Darth Krayt's Galactic Empire and successfully destroyed it in the Battle of Coruscant and the three united factions then formed a new galactic government out of their organizations called the Galactic Federation Triumvirate, but the former Empire-in-exile still technically carried on the New Order that Palpatine had created. The One Sith however, led by Darth Wredd, remained at large and waged a war against the GFT known as the Darth Wredd's insurgency but one year later in 139 ABY, the former Empire-in-exile worked with the other two factions, killed Wredd and dissolved the One Sith. A year later in 140 ABY, the GFT would defeat the secular alliances of the One Sith and in the aftermath of that conflict, the Galaxy had entered an era of peace.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Galactic Empire (Star Wars).|
- Galactic Empire in the StarWars.com Databank
- DomusPublica.net (No longer active, this archive as of September 27, 2005 has at least some of the essays intact)
- The Case for the Empire, The Weekly Standard
- Web.Archive.org, "No Case for the Empire"
- Why did The Galactic Empire Hate Aliens?