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The Sith is an organization in the fictional Star Wars universe. It is an ancient interstellar quasi-religious kratocratic government led by those who seize power through force or cunning. Sith characters are characterized by their lust for power and their desire to destroy the Jedi Order; they are frequently depicted throughout the franchise as amoral, sadistic, vindictive and violent.
The term "Sith" originally referred to a species of Force-sensitive sentients indigenous to the planets Korriban and Ziost; these people were later enslaved and ruled by exiled "Dark Jedi" from the Galactic Republic. Following centuries of interbreeding and mixing of cultures between the aliens and the exiles, the Sith would no longer be identified by their race, but by their dedication to the ancient Sith philosophy. The Sith Order established several Sith Empires, initiated many galactic wars, and have undergone numerous incarnations throughout their existence. The Banite Sith Order, as depicted in the Original trilogy and Prequel trilogy, was founded by Darth Bane; this Sith dynasty lasted between circa "1,000 BBY-4 ABY"; (Before Battle of Yavin/After Battle of Yavin; "0 ABY" being the destruction of the first Death Star) ending with the death of Palpatine and Darth Vader. During this "Banite dynasty" there existed only two Sith members at a time: a master and an apprentice. As Darth Sidious explained in the Prequel trilogy, "the Dark Side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural".
- 1 Overview
- 2 Background and origins
- 2.1 Before the Battle of Yavin
- 2.2 After the Battle of Yavin
- 3 Organization
- 4 Notable affiliated characters
- 5 In popular culture
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
The Sith are dedicated to sith philosophy and to mastering the dark side of the Force. The Sith members, known as Sith Lords or Dark Lords of the Sith, traditionally use the title Darth-prefix before their Sith name. The Sith are the archenemies of the quasi-religious Jedi and, like them, their main weapon is the lightsaber. While Jedi are subservient to the Force and aid the Galactic Republic by utilizing the Force for peace, knowledge and defense, the Sith prefer to exploit the Force for power, aggression or personal gain; desires that inevitably led to both imperial conquest and their own self-destruction.
Sources and analogues
The word "sith" was first used in the novelization of Star Wars, as a title for Darth Vader, the "Dark Lord of the Sith". The Sith were not formally introduced or mentioned on-screen until the release of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, in 1999, though they had been named in some Expanded Universe works before that time.
Not every "Dark Side"-user is a Sith; nor is every "Light Side"-user a Jedi. Dark Jedi is the name given in the Star Wars universe to antihero fictional characters attuned to the Force and adept in its dark side. The concept of "Dark Jedi" is not endorsed anywhere within the movie trilogies. They exist by that name only in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, including video games such as Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and the Star Wars: Jedi Knight series; the term is never used in any of the seven Star Wars films.
Because the term Sith was never spoken in the original trilogy (although Darth Vader was described as "Lord of the Sith" in the published screenplay), early Expanded Universe products usually considered the "evil Jedi," those who joined the dark side of the Force, as "Dark Jedi." 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.
Appearances (chronological order)
- Star Wars Saga series
- Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace (Sidious and Maul)
- Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (Sidious and Tyranus)
- Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith (Sidious, Tyranus, and Vader)
- Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (Vader)
- Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (Sidious and Vader)
- Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (Sidious and Vader)
- Star Wars Anthology series
- Star Wars TV shows
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars film and series (Sidious, Tyranus, Maul and Vader (visions))
- Star Wars: Clone Wars (Sidious, Tyranus and Vader)
- Star Wars Rebels (Sidious and Vader)
Background and origins
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. Throughout their existence, the Sith Order established several Sith Empires.
The Galactic Standard Calendar was the standard measurement of time in the Star Wars galaxy. It centered around the Coruscant tropical year. The Coruscant solar cycle was 368 days long with a day consisting of 24 standard hours. Numerous epochs were used to determine calendar eras. The most recent of these calendar eras used the Battle of Yavin as its epoch, or "year zero": BBY (Before the Battle of Yavin), and ABY (After the Battle of Yavin).
Before the Battle of Yavin
The Tales of the Jedi comics series takes place in this era, chronicling the immense wars fought by the Jedi of old, and the ancient Sith. The Knights of the Old Republic series and the MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic takes place during this time, as well as the Darth Bane series. The Sith Era also takes place during this time.
Third Great Schism
After the Third Great Schism came to an end, and the last twelve ‘Dark Jedi’ surrendered, the public demanded their execution. Ever the merciful diplomats, the Jedi chose to spare the lives of their fallen brethren and their followers. They then proceeded to strip their former allies of their weapons and armor, boarded them onto unarmed transport ships, and sent them into deep space. When the helpless prisoners found the race of red-skinned Sith on the planet Korriban, they did what Jedi do: shared their beliefs and technology and laid the foundations of a new empire.
Great Hyperspace War
Old feuds die hard, so once the Sith had emerged as a suitable army for their Dark Jedi leaders – now Sith Lords – the Great Hyperspace War began. In 5000 BBY the Sith Lords under the rule of Naga Sadow invaded Republic space. The Sith ultimately succumbed to infighting, and the Republic and Jedi were victorious. Their actions 1,900 years earlier hadn’t worked: the Dark Jedi had survived, and now ruled over a previously-unknown race of Force-sensitive humanoids.
The Sith Holocaust
Supreme Chancellor Pultimo realized that this new enemy posed a credible threat to the Republic. He ordered the Jedi and Republic armed forces to invade Sith Space and destroy any remains of the empire and its citizens. This purge – known as the Sith Holocaust – ultimately failed, leaving the survivors to take refuge on Dromund Kaas. They rebuilt their empire and vowed eternal vengeance on those who had tried to exterminate them.
The Great Galactic War
After the death of Naga Sadow and near the end of the Great Hyperspace War, an immortal Sith Lord named Lord Vitiate brought the survivors to Dromund Kaas. There, they established a new Sith Empire under the rule of the Sith Emperor Vitiate. During this time, two Jedi Knights, Revan and Malak, found Dromund Kaas. After being corrupted by the Sith Emperor, they were sent as a vanguard to prepare for the eventual invasion of the Republic. Centuries later, the Sith Empire would invade Republic space, starting the Great Galactic War. The war raged from 3681 BBY to 3653 BBY, and was the most bloody war between the Jedi and the Sith at the time. The end result was inconclusive however, as both the Republic and Sith ruled approximately half the galaxy each. Eventually, the Sith Emperor died, and his Empire crumbled around him as a result of the power vacuum.
Revan's Sith Empire was established by Darth Revan and his apprentice, Darth Malak, during the Jedi Civil War. It was originally founded as a vanguard for the forces of the Sith Emperor Vitiate's eventual invasion of Republic space. However, Revan and Malak threw off the Sith Emperor's mental control, and instead sought to seize the Republic for themselves. Revan's Empire was built upon a hardened core of veterans from the Mandalorian Wars and a host of Jedi converts, and this new galactic power very nearly succeeded in conquering the Republic. After the redemption of Revan and the death of Malak, the Empire splintered into factions before finally dissolving entirely circa 3950 BBY (Before Battle of Yavin). The Sith Triumvirate emerged as a loose alliance of what remained of Darth Revan's Sith Empire that almost destroyed the Jedi Order during the era of strife that took place after the Jedi Civil War. It was solidified sometime after the Battle of Rakata Prime. It was responsible for the near complete destruction of the Jedi Order during the First Jedi Purge and the attack on Katarr.
The Brotherhood of the Sith
The Brotherhood of the Sith was established by Darth Gadd during The Great Sith War. This history of the Sith was officially described by George Lucas himself in the novelization of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, written by Terry Brooks. There, it is explained that the Sith Brotherhood of Darkness was established two thousand years before the events of Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace by Exar Kun, a rogue Jedi who believed that the true power of the Force lay in its dark side, and that denial of power was a waste. The Jedi Council of the time disapproved of such beliefs and the dissident Jedi left the order, swearing vengeance against them.
Exar Kun soon gained many followers, some of whom were Jedi who agreed with his views and beliefs. However, the greed and hunger for power from the Brotherhood's members was so great that it was destroyed from the inside. With a fragile alliance based on mutual hatred, and weakened by centuries of infighting, the divided Sith factions were easily wiped out by the unified Jedi Order. Still, in the midst of destruction, one member was able to survive: Darth Bane.
The Order of the Sith Lords
Learning from the order's past mistakes, Darth Bane established The Rule of Two and restructured the Sith so that there could only exist two members at a time: a master and an apprentice. This would concentrate the Dark Side of the Force into two powerful beings rather than spread it amongst legions of ineffective warriors. It also was a measure to prevent the Sith from destroying themselves through the constant infighting that was commonplace before the Rule of Two. Bane also adopted cunning, subterfuge, and stealth as fundamental tenets of the Sith. Darth Bane predicted that this kratocratic cycle would continue for a period of 1,000 years, until the Sith were ready to enact their vengeance against the Jedi.
Centuries later, the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Sidious, carefully schemed to exact revenge against the Jedi and restore Sith theocratic control over the galaxy, which led to the Clone Wars, the destruction of the Jedi Order, the enslavement or genocide of non-human species, and the transformation of the Galactic Republic into the Galactic Empire. During his final duel with Sidious, Jedi Master Yoda realized that Sidious represented a small but powerful Sith Order that had changed and evolved over the years, whereas the Jedi had not: "He [Yoda] had lost before he started." George Lucas has stated that Palpatine considers himself the "savior" of the galaxy. Emperor Palpatine passed laws criminalizing the ownership of any lightsabers, as well as forbidding the trade of the crystals needed to make lightsabers across the galaxy, no matter what planet they grew on. Darth Vader has special dispensation to wield his lightsaber.
After the Battle of Yavin
However, while Sidious and his powerful apprentice Darth Vader were successful in killing most of the known Jedi, the Sith would not be completely victorious. An alliance of dissident worlds began a great rebellion against the Galactic Empire, which culminated in a rebel fleet destroying the Empire's second Death Star, and Darth Vader's son, Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker, redeemed his father by turning him back to the light side of the Force. Vader killed his master Darth Sidious to save his son, and Vader's subsequent death meant the destruction of the Banite Sith Order.
Galactic Federation of Free Alliances
The Galactic Federation of Free Alliances was established under Darth Caedus, a Sith Lord who turned against his family and friends, betraying his former principles and leading the Galactic Alliance he once championed into a reign of terror as he attempted to bring order and stability to a fractured galaxy. Caedus desired to protect the galaxy, and was increasingly willing to accept any cost in exploiting the Dark Side.
The One Sith
Following the end of the Sith–Imperial War, before 30 ABY (After Battle of Yavin), a Sith known as Darth Krayt founded The One Sith or the New Sith Order on Korriban, the ancient Sith burial world. In this new Sith cult, most of the followers were trained from birth, sported a red-and-black tattooed appearance and carried lightsabers with a yorik coral-styled hilt design. This Sith Order was considered heretical by the holocrons of Darth Andeddu and Darth Bane. By the year 130 ABY, the One Sith had risen to take the place of Lumiya's Sith faction, itself the remnant of Darth Bane's Order.
The Rule of Two
The "One Master and One Apprentice" rule is the principle upon which the Order of the Sith Lords was founded. The Rule of Two was created by Darth Bane, a Dark Lord and former member of the Sith Brotherhood of Darkness who created this law after his organization fell into warlordism, becoming disorganized and weak. This ultimately resulted in their eradication by the Jedi Order. From then on, to ensure no competition, the only Sith allowed to be active are a Sith Lord and an apprentice.
The Dark Side
The dark side of the Force is a concept which represents a corruptive and addictive aspect of the Force that is rejected by the Jedi, who view it as evil. The series' villains, the Sith, embrace the dark side in order to seize power. As portrayed in all Star Wars-related media, the dark side provides powers similar to those of the Jedi, but draws energy from passion and violence, an energy that is enhanced by negative raw and aggressive emotions and instinctual feelings such as anger, greed, hatred, and rage. It is embraced by the Sith as their source of power. Extended indulgence of the dark side creates a loss of humanity, morality, empathy, and the ability to love, leaving the Sith amoral, cruel, selfish, sadistic and violent. Considering this dark change in personality to be a transformation into a different person altogether, when some turn to the dark side, they take on different names, as their former persona is dead and destroyed. By deciding to learn the ways of the dark side of the force, the Sith are given powers and abilities, which are considered to be unnatural. Some of this unnatural abilities are for example, force-lightning (which is mostly used by the Sith Lord Darth Sidious) and force-choking (an ability mostly used by the legendary Sith Lord Darth Vader). The Jedi's compassionate and selfless use of the Force has come to be known by inference as "the light side." In Star Wars: The Clone Wars, it is explained that two versions of the Force exist: the Living Force that resides in all life forms and the Cosmic Force which feeds on the Living Force and binds everything together through the midi-chlorians.
Notable affiliated characters
Star Wars Canon characters
Darth Bane (Dessel) 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 master and adopt an apprentice of his own. He is the main character of the Darth Bane Trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn.
Darth Plagueis was first referenced in Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. Plagueis is the main character of Star Wars: Darth Plagueis. He was the master of Darth Sidious, as the latter told Anakin, and became so powerful that he was able to create life by influencing the midi-chlorians, and could also save people from dying. The novel Star Wars: Darth Plagueis reveals that Plagueis' alternate identity was a member of the Intergalactic Banking Clan (which served as one of the Separatist groups during the Clone Wars) and was eventually killed in his sleep by Sidious.
Darth Sidious (Sheev Palpatine) appears in the Star Wars saga films. Palpatine was a male human Dark Lord of the Sith who rose to power from being a Senator of Naboo, to Supreme Chancellor, and then to self-proclaimed Emperor of the Galactic Empire. This was achieved through double agents and a cleverly orchestrated sequence of events done under his alternate identity, Sheev Palpatine, who gained respect in the Republic while secretly participating in Sith practices and planning an end to the Jedi Order. He had three known Shadow Hands (apprentices): Darth Maul, Darth Tyranus and Darth Vader. He was eventually killed by his last, Vader, at the end of Return of the Jedi.
Darth Maul appears in Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace. Maul is the first Shadow Hand of Darth Sidious in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace. Sidious sends Maul to find and capture the escaped Queen Amidala. Later on, he dueled Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi, the Jedi sent to protect Amidala, in the plasma refinery complex beneath Theed Palace. Although Maul was able to defeat Qui-Gon Jinn, he fell to Kenobi when the Jedi Padawan used his master's lightsaber to slice Maul in half. 12 years later, during the Clone Wars, his fellow nightbrother Savage Opress found him dumped on the junk planet Lotho Minor, where it was revealed that Maul survived the injuries from his last duel, due to his strength with the dark side of the Force as it fueled his anger against Kenobi.
Darth Tyranus (Count Dooku) appears in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones and Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith. Dooku is the second Shadow Hand of Darth Sidious in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which reveals Tyranus 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. Tyranus led the Separatist Alliance 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) appears in the Star Wars saga films. Anakin was a male human cyborg Sith Lord and the third Shadow Hand of Darth Sidious. A Jedi hero of the Clone Wars, he fought alongside his master, Obi-Wan Kenobi, 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 before setting out to destroy all Jedi left on Coruscant. After being sent by Sidious to murder the Separatist council members on Mustafar, Vader was badly injured in a duel with Kenobi. He was saved by Sidious, and encased in a black suit of armor with extensive cybernetics. As the Galactic Empire was established and continued to grow, Vader became the Emperor's greatly feared second-in-command and was given the task of finding 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.
Star Wars Legends characters
Darth Revan (Star Wars Legends)
Darth Revan is in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic. A Jedi hero who led the Republic to victory in the Mandalorian Wars, he and his Padawan, Malak, later unwittingly discovered the Sith Empire, hidden in the Unknown Reaches of space. The Sith 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.
Darth Caedus (Star Wars Legends)
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 Traya (Star Wars Legends)
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.
In popular culture
Expanded Universe novels
The first Expanded Universe novel was Splinter of the Mind's Eye, written by Alan Dean Foster and published in 1978. The setting for this 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 Kaiburr Crystal to use it for his evil schemes.
Other novels that depicted Sith characters were 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.
Darth Maul: Shadow Hunter, by Michael Reaves, also showed insight into the Sith. This story is about how Darth Sidious brings his plan into action; however, he soon finds out about a traitor who knows of his plan. He sends his apprentice, Darth Maul, to scope out the traitor who leaked the secret of his plan to take down the Republic.
Star Wars comics
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 TV series
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.
Star Wars video games
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.
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