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The Sith Order are the main antagonists in the space opera franchise Star Wars. They are depicted as an ancient monastic and kraterocratic organization of supernaturally gifted warriors driven by a machiavellian agenda of galactic domination and revenge against their arch-rivals, the Jedi Order.
The Sith Order is a totalitarian organization in which a supreme authority is concentrated in a single individual granted the honorific Dark Lord of the Sith. Transfer of power is conducted through state-sanctioned assassinations: when a Sith Lord grows complacent, begins to shows weakness and is eventually killed, their property and authority are transferred to the apprentice who killed them. This kratocracy system ensures that Sith are only governed by those strong enough to seize control.
Sith philosophy lionizes conflict as a catalyst for growth and as a tool for purging the unworthy. Sith viewed restraint as a weakness. Members adhere to master morality, are characterized by the desire to seize power by any means necessary, leveraging force (both physical and supernatural), social maneuvering, and political cunning to their advantage. The Sith cultivate a connection to the dark side of the Force, which provides them with easy access to superhuman power and arcane knowledge; however, the trade-off is the severe cost of adapting a dark triad personality, that corrodes their basic capacity for empathy, kindness and love.
Throughout Star Wars media and in popular culture, the Sith are infamous as the dualistic antagonists to the Jedi, an affiliation of altruistic warriors who strive to use their own martial training and connection to the "Light Side" of the Force to promote peace and the common welfare throughout the galaxy. Over their long history, the Sith have established great empires, come close to realizing their ambitions of galactic conquest, and nearly eradicated the Jedi. Ultimately, however, they are self-defeating, their grand plans undone time and again by internal strife, rebellion inspired by their vicious tactics, and the psychologically noxious effects of their dark arts and philosophy.
- 1 Influences and parallels
- 2 Development
- 3 Overview
- 3.1 Fictional members of the Sith
- 3.2 Shadow Hands of the Sith
- 3.3 Legends non-canonical members of the Sith
- 4 In popular culture
- 5 References
- 6 Further reading
- 7 External links
Influences and parallels
Origin of the word Sith
The word Sith was first used in the 1976 novelization of Star Wars as a title for the key villain Darth Vader, the "Dark Lord of the Sith." Sith characters had also been named in some Star Wars "Legends" works prior to the release of The Phantom Menace, and in archived footage for the original Star Wars. Prior to the formal introduction of the Sith, the term "Dark Jedi" was sometimes used for characters who would be later identified as Sith, or had goals and practices similar to the Sith. In his novel series The Thrawn Trilogy, author Timothy Zahn labeled Sith Lord Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine as "Dark Jedi," and the term "Sith" was never mentioned in the series until later reprints of the novels. "Dark Jedi" is also the name given in the Star Wars universe to antihero fictional characters attuned to the Force and adept in its dark side. However, the concept of "Dark Jedi" is not referenced anywhere in any of the eight Star Wars films, and they exist by that name only in the Legends non-canonical media, including video games such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the Star Wars: Jedi Knight series. They were mentioned by name in canonical stories, until the prequel trilogy used the word on film starting with 1999's The Phantom Menace.
Influences from real world culture and mythology
George Lucas acknowledged that the Jedi, Sith, and other Force concepts have been inspired by many sources. These include: knighthood chivalry, paladinism, samurai bushido, Shaolin Monastery, Feudalism, Hinduism, Qigong, Greek philosophy, Greek mythology, Roman history, Roman mythology, parts of the Abrahamic religions, Confucianism, Shintō, Buddhism and Taoism, not to mention countless cinematic precursors. The works of philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche and mythologist Joseph Campbell, especially his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces (1949), directly influenced Lucas, and was what drove him to create the 'modern myth' of Star Wars. In particular, the contrasting narrative relationship between the Dark Side-using Sith and Light Side-using Jedi mirrors several modern and classical literary tropes:
Most prominently, the conflict between the Sith and Jedi employs the classic trope of black and white moral dualism—an elemental contrast between evil (the "darkness") and good (the "light"). The ongoing struggle of the humanistic "Light Side"-affiliated Jedi to permanently defeat the egoistic "Dark Side"-affiliated Sith is framed not only as a contest of values, but as a deep metaphysical conflict: The Dark Side of the Force is viewed by the Jedi, and generally represented within Star Wars media, as not only a dangerous expedient but as a form of existential corruption which must be purged for the universe, or a person, to attain spiritual balance. Jedi are often depicted as imperfect individuals, but their cause of selfless heroism is ultimately on the right side of an inexorable cosmic struggle against evil, embodied in the power-hungry Sith and the Dark Side of the Force.
The dualistic relationship between the Sith' and the Jedi' concepts of "purity" mirrors the philosophical and literary concept of "Apollonian and Dionysian": the Jedi are portrayed as embracing purity, reason, temperance, altruism and other humanistic virtues; the Sith, by contrast, embrace curiosity, emotion, conflict, power, instincts, unfettered self-interest and other hedonistic vices. However, whereas the classic Greek concept did not necessarily view the Apollonian and Dyonisian principles as opposed, Star Wars frames the Jedi and Sith as opponents in a dire moral struggle, with the Sith cast as corrupted villains apparently destined to defeat or self-destruction in the end. Although a path to temporary power, the Sith way inevitably leads to ruin.
Within the Star Wars narrative universe itself, the Jedi and Sith naturally have different self-understandings. In Sith rhetoric, the relationship between the philosophies of the Jedi and Sith closely mirrors Friedrich Nietzsche's concept of master–slave morality. Sith value "master" virtues, such as pride and power, whereas the Jedi value altruistic virtues like kindness and empathy. The goal of the Sith is tangible greatness: the ability to shape and destroy the world according to one's will alone. The goal of the Jedi is moral goodness: freedom from inner, and outer, turmoil and suffering. However, the Sith consider the Jedi's aspirations to be either hopeless or pathetic. To the Sith, greater power is the only authentic goal.
Originally, George Lucas conceived of the Sith as a group that served the Emperor in the same way that the Schutzstaffel had served Adolf Hitler. In developing the backstory for The Empire Strikes Back, Lucas condensed this into one character in the form of Darth Vader.
The Sith are dedicated to the "Sith Code" and to mastering the dark side of the Force. The Sith Code identifies conflict as the fundamental dynamic of reality, and holds that the search for lasting peace, within or without, is both quixotic and misguided. Rather, Sith embrace strife and dark passion as salutary and emancipatory forces, as they believe that violent struggle purges the decadent and weak, and that emotions such as aggression and hate provide the strength and resolve to secure freedom through victory. Although Sith seek dominion, Sith philosophy stresses that power belongs only to those with the strength, cunning, and ruthlessness to maintain it, and thus "betrayal" among the Sith is not a vice but an endorsed norm. Accordingly, the Sith reject altruism, self-abnegation and kindness, as they regard such attitudes as founded on delusions that fetter one's perceptions and power. In connection with their philosophy, the Sith draw on the Dark Side of the Force through severe negative emotions, a technique antipodal to that of their archenemies, the Jedi, who rely on the Force's "Light Side," i.e., the Force as experienced through disciplined states of quietude and compassion. Notably, both the Jedi and Sith shun romantic and familial love, as the Jedi fear such love will lead to attachment, and thus selfishness, and the Sith fear it will compromise their ruthlessness and connection to the Dark Side of the Force. Although the Sith are intimately linked to the Dark Side, not every "Dark Side"-user is a Sith; nor is every "Light Side"-user a Jedi.
Yes, a Jedi’s strength flows from the Force. But beware of the dark side. Anger, fear, aggression; the dark side of the Force are they. Easily they flow, quick to join you in a fight. If once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will, as it did Obi-Wan’s apprentice.
The Dark Side of the Force is stigmatized as seductive, corruptive and addictive by the Jedi, who view it as evil, whereas the Sith consider the Dark Side of the Force to be its most powerful manifestation, and regard the abstemious Jedi as blinded by false virtue. As portrayed in all Star Wars-related media, the Dark Side provides users with powers similar to those of the Light Side-using Jedi, but as it leverages passion and violence, its use is enhanced by negative raw and aggressive emotions and instinctual feelings such as anger, greed, hatred, and rage. By deciding to learn the ways of the Dark Side of the Force, the Sith may also acquire powers and abilities considered by some in the Star Wars universe to be unnatural. A notable example is a form of directed dielectric breakdown called "Force Lightning," infamously used by the Sith Lord Darth Sidious to torture Jedi-initiate and rebel Luke Skywalker. Darth Sidious claimed that his own master, Darth Plagueis, could even use the Force to avert the natural deaths of those whose lives he wished to save. Being uninhibited in their use of the Force, Sith could also repurpose abilities shared with the Jedi, such as telekinesis, to new and terrifying effect: Darth Vader was infamous for his use of telekinetic strangulation, or "Force Choke," as a means of execution or intimidation.
Beneath anger is always fear. Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering. I sense much fear in you. Train yourself to let go everything you fear to lose.
Extended indulgence in the Dark Side reshapes the user's psychology, resulting in a loss of humanity, morality, empathy, and the ability to love, leaving every Sith, to varying degrees, amoral, cruel, sadistic and violent. Considering this dark change in personality to be a transformation into a different person altogether, some who turn to the Dark Side take on a different name, as they regard their former persona as dead and destroyed. Sith Lords in particular adopt a new name upon their initiation into the Order, prefixing it with the title Darth (e.g., "Darth Vader"). Severe saturation in the Dark Side may even lead to physical degradation. Although Sith are deeply affected by the Machiavellian methods and dark arts they practice, they are not portrayed as necessarily irredeemable: Some Sith, most famously Darth Vader in the final moments of his life, have renounced the Order and the Dark Side of the Force.
The dark side is generous... It is patient and it always wins – but in the heart of its strength lies its weakness: one lone candle is enough to hold it back.
Martial arts are a core part of the Sith tradition, and Sith featured in the Star Wars film series have all been highly trained warriors who further augment their abilities with the Force. Like the Jedi, the Sith's signature armament is an extremely lethal focused energy melee weapon known as a lightsaber, which (generally) only those trained in the ways of the Force can use effectively. Sith use lightsabers in combination with Force-derived powers, such as telekinesis, enhanced dexterity and precognition, to achieve superhuman combat prowess. A fully trained Sith is depicted as being at least a match for a well-trained Jedi Knight, and either can handily defeat multiple ordinary attackers armed with projectile weapons. In matters of dress, Sith may adopt any attire consistent with their plans or guise; they commonly favor black robes, armor and gis when presenting themselves authentically.
The schemes of the Sith are key to the overarching plot of the Star Wars films and much other fictional material in the franchise. Their background has varied among depictions, but the Sith have always been insidious archenemies of the Jedi leveraging dark arts in pursuit of power and revenge. The Sith were first mentioned in A New Hope in a scene ultimately cut from the film. They were expanded upon heavily in the following years in books, comics, games and other multimedia. The Sith were formally introduced on-screen with the release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace in 1999 as a shadowy martial order manipulating the movie's political factions into a galaxy-spanning civil war.
The Star Wars saga began with the film Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, which was released in 1977. Since then, films, books, computer games and comics have been released, all set in the fictional universe of Star Wars, which has expanded the history of the Sith within their stories.
Star Wars: The Clone Wars first aired on Cartoon Network in 2008. This series took place between Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. During this time, Anakin Skywalker is a full-fledged Jedi Knight and the series shows how he progresses into his fall to the dark side of the Force. Count Dooku is the active Sith Lord and leader of the Separatist Alliance. The series also explores Dooku's attempts at training secret apprentices like Asajj Ventress and Savage Opress in order to eventually defeat Darth Sidious and become the ruling Sith Lord.
Emergence of the Sith Order
- This section outlines early Sith history based on currently official Star Wars canon. For previous depictions, refer to Sith#Star Wars "Legends" media.
The origin, agenda, abilities and philosophy of the Sith are intertwined with their relationship to the Force. With proper training, the Force may be called upon by rare individuals capable of "sensing" or "touching" it to achieve extraordinary feats such as telekinesis, precognition and mental suggestion. Not all psychological states are conducive to employing the Force; discipline is required. However, both quietude and focused, intense passion alike can be effective. The Sith originated in a species of Force-sensitive warriors who discovered the efficacy of passion as a tool to draw on the Force approximately 6,000 years prior to the events of the first Star Wars film. Fully embracing this approach, they became defined and corrupted by it.
The warriors who would become the first Sith were apparently heterodox members of an older martial order of Force-sensitive sapient beings in the Star Wars universe: The Jedi. The Jedi served as a space-faring knightly order within the Galactic Republic, a representative democracy encompassing most developed worlds. The Jedi Order sought to use the powers of the Force to help defend the weak and advance the rule of law across the galaxy, in keeping with their ethics of self-sacrifice and service to the common welfare. The Jedi creed mirrored their method of utilizing the Force, and Jedi doctrine favored states of serenity, detachment, compassion, and humility as the proper means of accessing its power. When members of the Jedi Order began to experiment with passion as an alternative, controversy emerged. The Jedi establishment saw these innovations as a threat to the ethos of the Jedi, opening members to the seduction of aggrandizement and cruelty. Eventually, this controversy led to a sectarian conflict in which the heterodox Jedi were defeated and exiled.
In exile, the dissident Jedi were free to explore the relationship between passion and the Force. They concluded that the martial and ethical disciplines of the Jedi establishment were foolish and misguided: Passion, not quietude, was the most potent means of accessing the Force, and conflict, not peace, was the natural and healthy state of the universe. Rejecting the self-abnegation of their forebears, the exiles now embraced ruthless personal ambition, believing that power belonged to those with the cunning and strength to seize it. In their training, the dissidents would seek to master the Force by cultivating dark passions such as anger and hate, a practice anathematized by the Jedi as taking recourse to the Force's "Dark Side." Guided by their kratocratic and egoistic philosophy and armed with taboo Dark Side techniques, the former Jedi exiles would reemerge to menace the galaxy as the Sith Order, aiming to conquer the Galactic Republic and exact revenge against the Jedi.
A succession of Sith-led regimes would arise to challenge the Jedi and the Galactic Republic. However, internal power struggles would prove decisive in thwarting the Sith's designs. The paradox of reconciling endless personal ambition with corporate action would become a great practical and philosophical concern for the Sith. Ultimately, this paradox would be “resolved” through a drastic reorganization effected by a leader named Darth Bane, who recast the Sith in an esoteric lineal master-apprentice tradition known as “The Rule of Two.” Thereafter (at least, as a matter of orthodoxy) there would be only two Sith at a time: One to embody power, and another to crave it. While concealing their identity as Sith, a succession of Sith masters and apprentices would work through the centuries to inveigle or force themselves into positions of power and undermine responsible government, preparing the Galactic Republic for eventual usurpation. The Banite tradition encouraged each apprentice to eventually challenge and slaughter his or her master, and take an apprentice in turn. In this way, Darth Bane guaranteed the conspiracy remained a secret for a thousand years; he believed that the kratocratic essence of Sith philosophy could be reconciled with a sustained project of galactic domination and revenge against the Jedi. The first six Star Wars films chronicle the consummation, and eventual undoing, of this ancient scheme.
Ascent to power and demise
Darth Bane’s plan would come to fruition through Sheev Palpatine, a Naboo Senator, later Supreme Chancellor, of the Galactic Republic, and secretly a Dark Lord of the Sith (“Darth Sidious”). By manipulating disgruntled factions within the Galactic Republic, Palpatine orchestrated a civil war. This conflict, known within the Star Wars universe as the “Clone Wars,” provided a justification for consolidating power in the Galactic Republic’s chief executive and assembling a large army of hastily cloned soldiers—surreptitiously conditioned to obey certain key commands issued by Palpatine. Although the Jedi eventually discovered Palpatine’s identity as a Sith and attempted to arrest him, this action was anticipated by Palpatine, who successfully framed their actions as an attempted coup, providing in turn a pretext for annihilating the Jedi by activating “Order 66,” one of the clone soldiers’ embedded protocols. In the course of effecting his designs, Palpatine also manipulated the Jedi’s most powerful initiate, Anakin Skywalker, into his service, by promising to teach Skywalker Dark Side techniques that could save the life of Padme Amidala, a Galactic Senator to whom Skywalker was secretly married in violation of Jedi rules, and whose death in childbirth Skywalker had preternaturally foreseen. In a tragic irony, Amidala’s sheer horror at discovering Skywalker’s collaboration with Sidious in destroying the Jedi would itself be the cause of her death during childbirth, though Sidious would trick Skywalker into believing that an episode of Skywalker’s physical abuse of Amidala had been the actual cause of her death. Skywalker’s subsequent emotional collapse would lead him to fully embrace the Dark Side of the Force and assume the persona of Darth Vader, Lord of the Sith.
With Darth Vader at his side, the Emperor would rule the newly styled Galactic Empire for approximately 20 years as its Emperor. Initially unknown to Vader and Sidious, two children were successfully delivered by Padme before her death. One, Luke Skywalker, would be secretly tutored in the ways of the Force by Vader’s own former Jedi master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, and a powerful elder Jedi, Yoda, who also survived Palpatine’s purge. Along with his sister, Leia, Luke would become a key member of a rebellion to restore the Galactic Republic. Ironically, during a final confrontation between Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and the Emperor aboard a mobile battle station known as the Death Star, the Sith lineage would end as Darth Bane prescribed that it proceed. Darth Sidious offered Skywalker an ultimatum to enter his service or die, and proceeded to use his Force-derived powers to torture and kill Skywalker when the latter refused to embrace the Dark Side of the Force. Experiencing a crisis of conscience at the imminent death of Skywalker, whom Vader now knew to be his son, Darth Vader chose to intervene and kill his former master, Sidious. Vader would die of his own injuries shortly thereafter, thus apparently bringing an end to the Sith and their ancient vendetta.
Fictional members of the Sith
Members fictional timeline
- Before the films - At an unknown point in time after Atrius’ death, Bane creates the Rule of Two, and has an apprentice. A millennium after Bane and his apprentice dies, Plagueis trains Sidious (who kills Plagueis in his sleep.)
- Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Sidious and Maul) - [Film]
- Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (Sidious and Tyranus, Maul lives but is absent from the film due to being thought dead) -[Film]
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars film and series (Sidious and Tyranus, both use Asajj Ventress as a Shadow Hand. Maul is discovered to be alive and on his own trains Savage Oppress as his own Sith apprentice. Sidious kills Savage and Tyranus kills Ventress.)-[Animated Series and novel]
- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (Sidious and Tyranus, until Tyranus is killed and replaced by Anakin Skywalker, who becomes Vader under Sidious teachings. Maul lives but is absent from the film.)-[Film]
- Star Wars Rebels (Sidious and Vader, both train inquisitors as Shadow Hands. The Inquisitors are killed. Maul lives but no longer considers himself a Sith and in the episode Twin Suns he is killed by Kenobi) - [Animated Series]
- Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (Vader. Sidious lives, although he is not in the film, he is mentioned as “The Emperor”)-[Film]
- Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (Sidious and Vader)-[Film]
- Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (Sidious and Vader, until Sidious is killed by Vader before he died.)-[Film]
- Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (Vader, mentioned)
- Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (Sidious and Vader, both mentioned)
- Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (Sidious, in an unknown capacity)-[Film]
Darth Atrius was an ancient Dark Lord of the Sith who existed long before the Rule of Two was created. He owned two crossguard lightsabers, which were found and given away by the smuggler Sana Starros after the Battle of Yavin. The anger possessed by Atrius when wielding both these crossguard lightsabers at the same time, carried over to the weapons themselves, and can transfer over to their new owners. These lightsabers were eventually destroyed by Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker, thus possibly erasing all knowledge about Atrius himself.
Darth Bane was the legendary Dark Lord of the Sith who established the Rule of Two within the Star Wars canon. This rule stated that there must be only two Sith Lords at a time: a master to embody power, and an apprentice to crave it and eventually overthrow his/her master and adopt an apprentice of his/her own. He is the main character of the non canonical Darth Bane Trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn.
Darth Plagueis was a male Dark Lord of the Sith and master of Darth Sidious, first referenced in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith by Palpatine to Anakin Skywalker, then appeared as the protagonist of the non canonical novel Star Wars: Darth Plagueis. He was the master of Darth Sidious, who claimed that Plagueis' abilities in the Force grew to such an extent that he could create life by influencing microscopic force-sensitive entities called "midi-chlorians," and even save people from dying. The novel reveals that Plagueis maintained a public influence as a member of the Intergalactic Banking Clan as Hego Damask, a benevolent Muun, until he was eventually killed in his sleep by Sidious. In Attack of the Clones, it is revealed that the Banking Clan was one of the various groups to ally themselves with the Separatist Alliance.
Darth Sidious (Sheev Palpatine) was a male human Dark Lord of the Sith who appeared in the first six Star Wars saga films. Originally the oldest son of an aristocratic family from the planet Naboo, he rose to power within the Galactic Republic's government system starting from Senator of his homeworld, then to Supreme Chancellor of the Republic, and finally to self-proclaimed Emperor of the Galactic Empire. This was done by cultivating a public image as a humble and competent politician while secretly mastering dark Sith arts studying under Plagueis, and planning the destruction of the Jedi Order and Republic. Eventually, by manipulating disaffected political groups and using double agents to sow discord, Palpatine fomented a civil war that provided an opportunity for him to seize absolute power. He had three known Sith apprentices: Darth Maul, Darth Tyrannus and Darth Vader. He was eventually killed by his last, Vader, at the end of Return of the Jedi. He is confirmed to return in Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker in some capacity.
Darth Maul (Maul) was a male Dathomirian Zabrak Sith apprentice who served as the first apprentice of Darth Sidious. He first appeared in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace, in which Sidious sent him to find the escaped Queen Amidala and bring her back to Naboo to sign a treaty that would legalize the Trade Federation's invasion there. After tracking the Queen's personal starship to Tatooine, he briefly attacked Qui-Gon Jinn, the Jedi sent to escort Amidala to Coruscant, near its landing zone until the latter escaped by leaping aboard. Later, Maul was sent back to Naboo to aid the Federation in their struggle to fight Amidala's counterattack, where he again battled Jinn and his Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi in the plasma refinery complex beneath Theed Palace. Although the vicious Zabrak was able to defeat Jinn, he fell to Kenobi when the Padawan used his master's lightsaber to slice Maul in half. Twelve years later, during the Clone Wars, his fellow nightbrother Savage Opress discovered Maul on the junk planet Lotho Minor, where he had been dumped after surviving the apparently fatal battle with Kenobi. Maul would use his strength with the dark side of the Force and anger against Kenobi to heal and rise again with a new pair of robotic legs. Years later he would go on to found the crime empire Crimson Dawn. He would ultimately be killed duelling Kenobi one last time on Tatooine.
Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku) was a male human Sith Lord and the second apprentice of Darth Sidious. Dooku was a former Jedi Knight who became disillusioned by the rampant corruption within the Galactic Senate, realizing that immediate change was needed in order to maintain peace. He first appeared in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones, which reveals that he had a prominent role in engineering the Clone Wars, recruiting bounty hunter Jango Fett to become the template for an army of clones to be used by the Galactic Republic. Dooku led the Separatist Alliance as its public figurehead during the Clone Wars until he met his demise while dueling Anakin Skywalker aboard the Invisible Hand in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith.
Darth Vader (Anakin Skywalker) was a male human cyborg Sith Lord and the third and final apprentice of Darth Sidious, who first appeared in the Star Wars original trilogy, and later in the prequel trilogy. As the Jedi hero Anakin Skywalker, he fought alongside his master Obi-Wan Kenobi during the galaxy-wide Clone Wars, but was slowly seduced to the dark side by Darth Sidious. After helping Sidious kill Jedi Master Mace Windu, he swore allegiance to the Sith and was given the name Darth Vader before setting out to destroy all Jedi left on Coruscant. After being sent by Sidious to assassinate the Separatist council members on Mustafar, Vader was badly injured in a duel with Kenobi, resulting in the loss of his remaining organic arm, both legs and severe burn injuries. He was saved by Sidious, and encased in a black suit of armor with extensive cybernetics which kept him alive. As the Galactic Empire was established and continued to grow, Vader became the Emperor's immensely feared second-in-command and was given the task of finding surviving Jedi and the Rebel Alliance's base. After the destruction of the First Death Star, Vader was charged with tracking down the Rebel Alliance and destroying their headquarters. However, the actions of his son, Luke Skywalker, eventually turned Vader against his master, resulting in both Sidious' and Vader's deaths, as well as the fulfillment of the Chosen One prophecy.
Shadow Hands of the Sith
Asajj Ventress was a female Dathomirian Sith Shadow Hand trained under Darth Tyrannus and an antagonist of the Star Wars: The Clone Wars. She first appeared in the 2003 series Star Wars: Clone Wars, in which Darth Sidious assigned her to kill the then-Padawan Anakin Skywalker. After tracking the young war hero to the planet Muunilinst, Ventress engaged Anakin's Republic fighter forces fighting above the Separatist-occupied world and baited him in a chase to Yavin IV, where a fierce battle from the forest to the Massassi temple took place. Though she initially gained the upper hand in the ensuing lightsaber duel, Anakin called upon his immense connection to the Force to brutally overpower her, causing the Dathomirian to fall over the edge of a cliff. She luckily survived the landing, and continued to serve her master throughout the Clone Wars on several occasions. Some of which included helping form an alliance between the Toydarians and the Separatists until Yoda thwarted it, spying on Kamino in a Separatist plot to destroy the clone production facilities while stealing Jango Fett's DNA template, and freeing Trade Federation viceroy Nute Gunray from the custody of Luminara Unduli and Ahsoka Tano while fighting the two Jedi before ultimately succeeding in her mission. After being replaced with Savage Opress for her failures, Ventress returned to the Nightsisters until General Grievous led a massacre against them, which only she and Mother Talzin survived. From there, she helped Boba Fett's team of bounty hunters on a dangerous mission, which thus marked the start of her own bounty hunting career.
Savage Opress was a male Dathomirian Zabrak Sith Shadow Hand first trained under Darth Tyrannus and later under Darth Maul (who was a fellow Nightbrother), as well as a major antagonist in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Originally a Nightbrother under Mother Talzin on Dathomir, he was hand picked by Asajj Ventress as part of her scheme to kill Darth Tyrannus for the attempt on her life. His mind was eventually altered by the Nightsisters, making him more of a berserker on Ventress' call to the point of killing his brother Feral without remorse. Opress managed to become Tyrannus' new Shadow Hand and learned only a bit in the ways of the Sith before Ventress had him help her fight their master due to his actions under him getting unwanted attention from the Jedi. However, in the heat of the moment and provoked by both of them, Opress tried to kill both Tyrannus and Ventress before escaping back to Dathomir. There, he was instructed by Mother Talzin to find Maul so he can complete his training to defend himself against the numerous enemies he made. After finding the fellow Nightbrother in question as a shell of his former self on a junk planet, Opress managed to stir up Maul's grudge with Obi-Wan Kenobi to aid him in his revenge against the Jedi. From there, the Zabrak duo were able to set up a Confederacy against the Republic separate from the Separatists, only for Opress to be killed by Darth Sidious on Mandalore.
With the 2012 acquisition of Lucasfilm by The Walt Disney Company, most of the licensed Star Wars novels and comics produced since the originating 1977 film Star Wars were rebranded as Star Wars Legends and declared non-canon to the franchise in April 2014.
Many of the stories featuring the Sith belong to a branch of the Star Wars canon now known as "Star Wars: Legends," and previously as the "Expanded Universe" (or "EU"), consisting of a variety of media created prior to the advent of the 2015 feature film Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Future authors and screenwriters are not required to honor all of the events depicted in this material, but the Expanded Universe has apparently remained a source of creative inspiration. The EU thoroughly details the schism between the dissident “Dark Jedi” and the Jedi establishment that led to the creation of the Sith Order, as well a series of conflicts between the Sith, Jedi and the Galactic Republic spanning the millennia prior to the events of the Star Wars motion picture series, and certain events thereafter.
In the EU, the Sith trace their origins to the followers of a dissident Jedi named Ajunta Pall, who endorsed the use of the Dark Side of the Force, contrary to Jedi orthodoxy. After Pall and his “Dark Jedi” followers were exiled for their practices, they eventually settled on a planet named Korriban, which was occupied by the “Sith,” a red-skinned humanoid race with a high prevalence of Force-sensitives. Over the course of centuries of intermingling between the ethnic Sith and Dark Jedi, the name “Sith” would come to apply to the martial philosophy and political affiliation created by the former Jedi exiles on Korriban, rather than a specific race. This Sith regime would strike out at the Galactic Republic and Jedi on numerous occasions. Notable conflicts between the Sith and the Galactic Republic include the “Great Hyperspace War,” in which the Sith would launch a massive invasion of the Republic but succumb to infighting, and the “Sith Holocaust,” in which the Galactic Republic would unsuccessfully attempt to exterminate the Sith from known space, leading the Sith survivors to take a vow of eternal vengeance on the Galactic Republic. The EU also describes the exploits of Sith characters following the collapse of Emperor Palpatine’s Galactic Empire and the restoration of the Republic, such as the attempt by “Darth Krayt” to establish a New Sith Order on Korriban.
The first Expanded Universe novel was Splinter of the Mind's Eye, written by Alan Dean Foster and published in 1978. The setting for the novel takes place between Episode IV: A New Hope and Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. It provides a new adventure that includes Princess Leia, R2-D2, C-3PO, Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. In the story, Darth Vader tries to get the Kyber Crystal to use it for his evil schemes.
Other novels that depict Sith characters are Darth Maul: Saboteur and Cloak of Deception by James Luceno. Cloak of Deception describes the political background surrounding the Republic in the time period before The Phantom Menace, as well as Darth Sidious' plans to rule the galaxy, starting with the blockade of Naboo. In Darth Maul: Saboteur, the Sith Lord Darth Sidious sends Darth Maul to destroy InterGalactic Ore and Lommite Limited.
In Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, by Michael Reaves, Darth Sidious sends his apprentice, Darth Maul, to investigate the traitor who leaked the secret of his plan to take down the Republic. Shadow Hunter provided insight into the Sith while detailing how Darth Sidious brought his plan of usurpation into action.
Dark Horse Comics purchased the copyrights to several Star Wars stories. With their publication of Star Wars: Dark Empire #1 in 1991, they initiated what has become a large line of Star Wars manga and comics. The Sith appear as major antagonists throughout this story's plot. Many of the comics that were published helped expand the backstory of the characters and followed the rise and fall of the Dark Lords of the Sith.
Star Wars video games have also been adapted from the plots of the films, novels, and TV shows. The games follow the basic plot of the story, but they can also include alternative, non-canonical, endings depending on which character is being played. Some of the video games that have a heavy focus on Sith characters and lore are Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, released in 2003, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords, released in 2004 and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, released in 2008.
Darth Caedus (Jacen Solo) was a Dark Lord of the Sith born as the oldest son of Han Solo and Leia Organa Solo. A Jedi hero of the Yuuzhan Vong War, he eventually fell to the dark side years later and masterminded the Second Galactic Civil War. He was however killed by his twin sister Jaina for his actions.
Darth Revan first appears in the video game Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. A Jedi hero who led the Republic to victory in the Mandalorian Wars, he and his comrade, Malak, later unwittingly discovered the Sith Empire, hidden in the Unknown Reaches of space. The Sith Emperor, using Sith sorcery, turned Revan and Malak to the dark side, but the two broke free from their control and formed their own Sith Empire to wage war on the Republic, with Revan as the leader and Malak as his Shadow Hand. As a Sith, Revan prepared to battle with the Jedi who boarded his flagship, and Darth Malak, in the hopes of destroying both Revan and Bastila Shan, betrayed his master, ordering the ships under his command to fire on Revan's flagship's bridge. Revan was critically injured and taken by Bastila Shan to the Jedi Council Enclave. The Council chose to wipe Revan's memory, and imprint him with a false identity. Revan later awoke on a starship under attack and encountered Malak, who eventually revealed the truth of his identity. Following this, Revan defeated Malak in a final battle, claiming victory for the Republic. Revan later married Bastila Shan with the approval of the Jedi Council and eventually departed into the Unknown Regions to confront the Sith Emperor, but got imprisoned by the Sith Emperor for 300 years until his descendant Satele Shan rescued him.
Darth Traya (Kreia) is a mentor to the "Jedi Exile" in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II – The Sith Lords. She is revealed to have been a Sith Master at the end of the game.
Known for much of his 1300-year life as "the Sith Emperor", Lord Vitiate was a sociopathic young lord in one of the earliest iterations of the Sith Empire. When that empire fell, he led an exodus of survivors to the other side of the galaxy to establish a continuation of it, with himself as Emperor. It was Vitiate who corrupted Revan and Malak, but Revan's redemption and Malak's defeat seemingly derailed his plans. Three hundred years after Revan's disappearance, the Emperor launched a surprise attack on the Republic, setting the stage for the video game Star Wars: The Old Republic.
In popular culture
Prominent Sith Darth Vader and Emperor Palpatine have become iconic villains in popular culture. Their personae are frequently used as exemplars of Machiavelianism, authoritarianism, brutality and evil in serious, humorous and satirical settings. Darth Sidious is archetypal as the "Evil Emperor"—a cunning tyrant who rules through deception, propaganda, fear and oppression. Although usually considered as a villainous "enforcer" of such power, Darth Vader has also been regarded as a tragic figure and cautionary study in the corruption of a hero who loses sight of the greater good and resorts to evil practices out of fear and desperation. A "turn to the Dark Side" has become a popular idiom to describe an (often misguided) individual or institution's embrace of evil out of a desire for power.
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