Old Empire (Dune)

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The Old Empire is a fictional galactic empire in the Dune universe created by Frank Herbert. The term has been applied to two distinct eras in the fictional history of the Dune series.

The Padishah Empire[edit]

In the Appendix of Dune, Frank Herbert notes that there are over 13,300 worlds under Landsraad influence immediately after the Butlerian Jihad,[1] humankind's "crusade against computers, thinking machines, and conscious robots."[2] Over 10,000 years later, Paul Atreides deposes the 81st and last Corrino Padishah Emperor Shaddam IV. Paul's son, the God Emperor Leto II, rules with an iron fist for over 3,500 years. His death effectively abolishes the Imperial throne, and throws humanity into chaos. The breakdown of Leto's empire, severe famine on many worlds and the introduction of Ixian navigation machines causes trillions of people to leave the settled worlds, striking off into unknown space in an event known as the Scattering.

Beginning in Heretics of Dune, 1500 years after Leto II's death, some of the people who had fled into the unknown begin to return. The originating universe, which still revolves around spice production on the planet Rakis, is referred to as the "Old Empire" in comparison to the "Lost Ones" returning from the Scattering. In Heretics, Sheeana asks if the Honored Matres will come to Rakis; Darwi Odrade responds, "I'm afraid so. They want to control the core of the Old Empire because they see us as an easy conquest." In Chapterhouse: Dune, Odrade has at her disposal "spies and agents throughout the Old Empire, [and] countless workers who looked to the Sisterhood to protect them from Honored Matres." In the same novel, the Honored Matres refer to the Old Empire as "the Million Planets."

Pre-Butlerian Jihad[edit]

According to the Legends of Dune prequel trilogy by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson, the original "Old Empire" is a Great Empire of humanity which precedes the Butlerian Jihad and the Corrino-led Padishah Empire. The Old Empire stands for many thousands of years, ruled by emperors, of whom the last comes from the Boro family.[3]

As established in the Legends series, this Old Empire is a feudal regime. This differs from earlier indications by Frank Herbert that it is the lack of computers following the Butlerian Jihad which led to humanity entering a "second middle age."

The people of the Old Empire in time come to depend on artificial intelligence, which eventually leads to their overthrow by the Twenty Titans. The Titans rule for some 100 years (called the Time of Titans) before they are overthrown themselves by the sentient computer network Omnius. Omnius and his thinking machines remain in control of the universe for a millennium before humankind defeats them in the Battle of Corrin, ending the Butlerian Jihad.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Herbert, Frank. Dune, Appendix II: The Religion of Dune. "Historians estimate the [anti-ecumenism] riots took eighty million lives. That works out to about six thousand for each world then in the Landsraad League."
  2. ^ Herbert, Frank. Dune, Terminology of the Imperium (Jihad, Butlerian)
  3. ^ a b Herbert, Brian and Anderson, Kevin J. Legends of Dune.