This document is intended as a quick look at the most essential history and lore that has a direct bearing on the game. Spoilers for KOTOR in the ‘Jedi Civil War’ section.
As Star Wars: The Old Republic begins, 10 years have passed since a controversial treaty ended a devastating war between the Sith Empire and the Galactic Republic. The signing of the treaty becomes a new dating standard. Dates are given as BTC or ATC (before/after the Treaty of Coruscant). Thus, the Old Republic proper begins in 10 ATC. The Galaxy is currently in a state of uneasy truce; a cold war marked by proxy conflicts and espionage with both sides fighting for advantage before war inevitably reignites. Let’s take a look at exactly what happened and where everything sits as the game begins.
- Ancient History & The Founding of the Republic and the Jedi Order (32,800 – 3,350 BTC)
- Rise of the Sith and the Great Hyperspace War (3,350 – 1347 BTC)
- Rise of the Mandalorians (347 – 307 BTC)
- The Jedi Civil War (306 – 303 BTC) SPOILERS FOR KOTOR!
- The Great Galactic War (28 BTC)
- The Cold War (0 BTC – 10 ATC (Present))
Ancient History & The Founding of the Republic and the Jedi Order (32,800 – 3,350 BTC)
Roughly 32,800 years ago, in a time before the galaxy was united under any single power, its greatest philosophers, warriors and priests gathered on the planet Tython to investigate the mysterious energy field known as ‘The Force’. The Force is created from the life-essence of all living creatures, and can be manipulated by certain beings born ‘Force Sensitive’ to accomplish seemingly magical feats. The Tythonians soon came to understand that the force has a dual nature, a light side and a dark side that exist in a state of opposing balance. Broadly, the light side emphasizes non-violence, understanding, and finding peace through acceptance while the dark side emphasizes competition, domination and the accumulation of power. The Tythonians dedicated themselves to the study of the Force and formed a peaceful order known as the Jed’aii after an ancient word meaning ‘mystic center’.
By 26,350 BTC, 5500 years later, the galaxy was ruled by a powerful race known as the Rakata. The Rakatan Infinite Empire terraformed many worlds and influenced the development of many then-nascent civilizations. The Empire was brutal, embracing slavery and creating powerful technologies that harnessed the power of the dark side of the force. Continual use of these technologies corrupted the Rakata over centuries, turning them against one another in a bloody civil war. This, combined with large-scale slave revolts and a plague that stripped the Rakata of their ability to control their force-powered technology caused the Empire to collapse completely around 21,500 BTC. The legacy of the Rakata remains strewn throughout the galaxy in the form of advanced technology which lies dormant and buried on many worlds.
In the power vacuum left by the Rakata, the widespread adoption of hyperdrive technology led to the foundation of the Galactic Republic 21,400 years ago. The Republic is a democratic union comprised of many thousands of worlds and species working together in common cause. Its capital is the city-world of Coruscant, where the Galactic senate convenes under the guidance of an elected Supreme Chancellor.
The Je’daii, now Jedi, Order which had flourished on Tython for thousands of years had by this time relocated to the planet Ossus where it invited many other galactic scholars and groups to join its studies. After working together to defeat a group of dark side followers, the Republic and the Jedi began an alliance that would form the bedrock of Galactic peace. The Republic would maintain political control over the Galaxy while the Jedi would act as independent mediators and peacekeepers, strengthening the coalition against both internal and external threats.
For the next 18 millenia, the Republic continued to expand and explore while the Jedi Order continued to defend justice and virtue and to explore the mysteries of the force.
Rise of the Sith and the Great Hyperspace War (3,350 – 1347 BTC)
3,360 years ago, conflict between the Jedi Order and a group of fallen dark Jedi led by Ajunta Pall escalated into a bloody war known as the hundred-year darkness. After their defeat, Ajunta Pall and his followers were exiled into deep space where they discovered the uncharted world of Korriban. Finding Korriban’s native species, the primitive red-skinned Sith to be naturally powerful with the dark side, they subjugated them and became the first Lords of the Sith. As the centuries passed, the Sith and the dark Jedi built an enormous Empire far from the Republic, subjugating hundreds of worlds. Many great Sith Lords rose and fell, and many evil and powerful dark side techniques and artifacts were developed. The Sith and the human descendents of the fallen Jedi interbred and the term ‘Sith’ gradually came to mean anyone who followed the ideology of the Empire.
1357 years ago, two Republic explorers inadvertently discovered the flourishing Sith Empire, then led by the Dark Lord Naga Sadow, and the Great Hyperspace War began. After a long, bloody and destructive campaign, the Sith were decisively defeated by the Republic and the Jedi Order pursued the survivors far into Sith territory, destroying every Sith stronghold they could find. The old Sith Empire was no more.
During the Republic’s counter-invasion and unknown to them, a lone Sith Lord was able to rally the surviving remnants of the Sith population to his side. Declaring himself the new Sith Emperor, he led the survivors far into the Unknown Regions where they would eventually settle on the lost world of Dromund Kaas. These Sith would re-found their Empire in self-imposed exile and spend the next 1300 years rebuilding their power, all the while nursing dreams of vengeance against the Republic.
Rise of the Mandalorians (347 – 307 BTC)
The Mandalorians are a nomadic warrior clan-based culture who believe in testing themselves in combat against the strongest foe they can find. In 311 BTC, they attacked the Republic under the command of Mandalore the Ultimate. This conflict, known as the Mandalorian Wars, would last for four years. What no-one knew at the time is that Mandalore the Ultimate had been manipulated via the Force by none other than the very same Sith Emperor who led his people to Dromund Kaas a thousand years earlier. The Mandalorian Wars were in fact designed by the Emperor to test the Republic’s ability to defend itself.
The war created a serious disagreement within the Jedi Order. Many Jedi believed that engaging a violent culture in a bloody war would corrupt the Jedi way, while others believed it their moral duty to fight. Dubbed the revanchist, after the word revanchism, meaning to take back territory lost in war, one especially charismatic Jedi became a figurehead to those who wished to fight. Assisted by his star pupil, Malak, Revan, as he became known, would eventually defeat the Mandalorians and Mandalore the Ultimate in combat at Malachor V in 315 BTC.
The Jedi Civil War (306 – 303 BTC) SPOILERS FOR KOTOR!
Revan and Malak pursued the retreating Mandalorians into deep space and eventually made their way to the Imperial capital of Dromund Kaas, discovering that the Sith had once again formed a massive empire and a huge war machine in secret. Here, they attempted to assassinate the Sith Emperor and prevent his inevitable invasion of the Republic. They failed. The Emperor dominated their minds and turned them to the dark side of the Force, making them his servants. He intended to use the two to attack and destabilise the Republic, allowing him to invade centuries ahead of schedule. They were tasked with locating an overwhelmingly powerful ancient Rakatan space station, the Star Forge, capable of creating entire fleets out of raw dark side energy.
Revan and Malek succeeded in discovering the Star Forge, but broke free of the Emperor’s control and founded their own Sith Empire loyal only to them. The pair and their followers invaded the Republic with the power of the Star Forge. Wounded in battle and captured by the Jedi, Revan’s memories were re-written and he was retrained in the light-side of the force. The new Revan, assisted by powerful companions, tracked down and slew his former apprentice, destroying the Star Forge in the process. Tormented by the knowledge of the Sith Empire’s existence, Revan eventually returned to Imperial space and was never heard from again.
The Great Galactic War (28 BTC)
Although the Sith Emperor’s plans to invade the Republic had been delayed for several centuries, the invasion itself was inevitable. The Empire’s agents had operated in secret throughout Republic space for many decades, secretly building alliances and destabilizing planetary governments. Meanwhile, the Mandalorians, scattered since their defeat by Revan and Malak 300 year prior, were reunited under the banner of a new Mandalore, secretly an Imperial puppet, and pledged their allegiance to the Empire.
In 28 BTC, the Sith Empire appeared in Republic space with a bang, recapturing their ancient homeworld of Korriban in a surprise attack. During their 1300 years of exile, the Sith fleet had grown to mammoth proportions and the Republic, at peace for too long, was caught unprepared. The ensuing conflict dragged on for almost 30 years and constituted the most destructive war in Galactic history. Thousands of worlds were ravaged. The Sith retook much of the Outer Rim Territories before advancing towards the Republic core, but the Republic and the Jedi managed to halt their advance and a war of attrition set in.
In 0 BTC, as the long and brutal struggle dragged on and on, the Empire unexpectedly offered the Republic terms for peace. Although suspicious, the war-weary Republic agreed to begin negotiations on Alderaan only for the Sith Empire to launch a surprise attack on Coruscant itself, the Republic capital world. In what came to be known as the sacking of Coruscant, the Empire destroyed the Jedi temple, killing many Jedi, and executed the Supreme Chancellor of the Republic within the senate building. The planet was effectively held hostage.
Left with no choice, the Republic was forced to agree to a highly unfavourable treaty on Imperial terms to regain control. The ‘Treaty of Coruscant’ as it became known, acknowledged the Empire as legitimate ruler of the territories it currently held, which amounted to half the Galaxy. It also required additional worlds to be ceded to Imperial control and that all Republic forces and Jedi stand down and return to Republic space immediately. The war ended and an uneasy peace began.
The Cold War (0 BTC – 10 ATC (Present))
It is currently 10 years into that peace. The controversial signing of the Treaty of Coruscant, has proved highly unpopular on both sides. Many in the Empire expected that the sacking of Coruscant would lead to the complete conquest of the Republic, and remain disappointed that it was used only as leverage in peace talks. Meanwhile, the unfavourable terms to which the Republic agreed has caused much resentment in the Republic military and the civilian population, who are unhappy that half the Galaxy remains under Sith control.
The Sith Emperor himself has mysteriously disappeared, withdrawing from the ministrations of the Empire to pursue obscure designs in secret. De facto leadership now lies in the hands of the Dark Council, a ruling body of 12 powerful Sith. Many Sith now train at the Sith Academy on the recaptured Korriban and the Empire’s territorial power is at its zenith. The Mandalorians are led by Mandalore the Vindicated who challenged his predecessor, the Imperial puppet, and won. This Mandalore is far less trustful of Imperial motives, though for now the allegiance between the Mandalorian clans and the Empire remains strong.
The Republic strives to help those under the oppressive yolk of Sith occupation without violating the Treaty of Coruscant, deploying its troops in secret and using smugglers fringe elements to conduct unofficial business. The Jedi Order, having lost its temple on Coruscant, has relocated to its ancient homeworld of Tython, where it trains a new generation of Jedi.
Proxy wars, covert operations and border skirmishes abound, and both sides compete to secure alliances with neutral powers such as the Hutt Cartel, vying to gain the upper hand before war inevitably breaks out once again.