trength. Passion. Crimson blades and sparkle fingers Force lightning. The Sith form the cornerstone of the light-dark duality at the very heart of the Star Wars franchise. While we have only followed the story of a few key Sith Lords in the films themselves, the Expanded Universe has Sith lurking under every rock—from the days set millennia before the Skywalker Saga, to the far-future in the Legacy era. It’s a daunting topic to be sure. Really makes Bane’s idea to wipe the slate clean seem like a good one, doesn’t it? Let’s break it all down.
If “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” wasn’t enough for you, don’t worry. Because the Expanded Universe will take you back even farther. Eons even.
Before the Sith were decrepit old men sitting atop thrones waxing poetic about galactic domination and whatnot while commanding black-clad, menacing androids, the Sith were a red-skinned, tentacle-faced species. Hailing from Korriban, the Sith species predated the Republic by about 75,000 years. During this era, the Sith fought off a Killik invasion, learned how to craft holocrons from the Rakatans (then fought them off too), and developed a culture centered around the dark side of the Force. Most notable of this era was ax-wielding King Adas, whose holocron was later discovered by Freedon Nadd, the Jedi-turned-Sith King of Onderon.
The Sith Order formed around 7000 BBY when a seditious band of Dark Jedi sought out the Sith species in order to learn more about the dark side of the Force. Among them was Ajunta Pall, who established a Sith empire throughout the galaxy. Thus the term “Dark Lords of the Sith” originated as a moniker to denote the rulers of the warlords and a line of succession to continue the legacy with a little less infighting—because infighting and splinter groups had become par for the course.
Golden Age of the Sith
One individual is to credit or to blame for much of the legacy and strife of the Sith in the age to come: Marka Ragnos.
Around 5000 BBY, Marka Ragnos ruled the Sith Empire. His reign ushered in the “Golden Age of the Sith,” with Sith/human half-breed Ragnos ruling the galaxy for over 100 years. His death was marked by a schism among the Sith; Naga Sadow and Ludo Kressh carved up the empire in a way reminiscent of Caesar’s Roman Empire. To settle the debate, Marka Ragnos’s ghost came back and proclaimed that the most worthy should rule. . . Naga Sadow won the duel and waged war against the Republic but was thwarted after attacking Coruscant. Naga Sadow fled to Yavin IV where his tormented spirit would influence wannabe Sith Exar Kun 1000 years later.
The conflict surrounding Sadow’s rise to power and the downfall of the Golden Age of the Sith is known as the Great Hyperspace War.
After 600 years of obscurity, the Sith legacy continued under a disenchanted Jedi who was passed over for Knighthood by his masters for his arrogance, Freedon Nadd. He eventually reestablished the Sith by checking off all of the usual boxes: discovered a long-forgotten Sith holocron, making the pilgrimage to Yavin IV, and unleashing all of that previously-suppressed Jedi angst. He crowned himself King of Onderon but was overthrown by banished criminals known as the “Beast Riders.”
Then came the “Great Sith War.” The Sith were reborn under the leadership of dejected Jedi Exar Kun. Power-hungry and corrupted by Naga Sadow’s Force ghost, Exar Kun’s legacy looms large in Legends storytelling. He recruited fellow Jedi Ulic Qel Droma. Ulic had previously captained a coalition to take down the dark side monarchy on Onderon who were possessed by, you guessed it, the spirit of Freedon Nadd. Ulic’s fall to the dark side and the soap opera to follow are truly legendary. When it was all said and done, Kun was defeated and imprisoned on Yavin IV. . . only to be reawakened by Luke Skywalker’s scrappy little Jedi Academy 4000 years later. Fear not! Corran Horn saves the day in I, Jedi (as well as the rest of the students in The Jedi Academy Trilogy).
The mythological Sith lore contained within and adjacent to the Dark Horse comic series, Tales of the Jedi, is without a doubt some of the most expansive enrichment to the Star Wars saga ever conceived. From Marka Ragnos to Exar Kun, the ancient Sith 4,000 years before the films are almost soap opera-esque in their pettiness and rivalries. The vast majority of the events detailed above can be found therein.
Knights of the Old Republic and beyond
Building off of the characters and story threads established in Tales of the Jedi, BioWare’s 2003 Game of the Year, Knights of the Old Republic told the tale of friends-enemies-lovers, Revan and Malak. The pair of former Jedi led a rebellious contingent of Knights against the conquering armies of Mandalore the Great. From there, stories diverge.
Some say Revan and Malak grew too fond of war and power. Others say the pair were corrupted by Darth Vitiate, the Sith Emperor who would come into play in Star Wars: The Old Republic MMO. Either way, they took control of the ancient Rakatan superweapon, the Star Forge, and conquered the galaxy in the name of the Sith. Eventually Revan was captured by a Jedi strike team led by Bastila Shan, was brainwashed by the Jedi, and turned him against Malak. This conflict is known as the Jedi Civil War.
Darth Malak’s Sith Empire overthrown and the Star Forge destroyed, a power vacuum resulted in the Sith Triumvirate and the First Jedi Purge. The story is contained in Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords. Sith Lords Darth Sion, Lord of Pain, Nihilus, Lord of Hunger, and Traya, Lord of Betrayal, sought to establish themselves atop the totem pole of darkness. They all but annihilated the Jedi. One last Jedi survivor, the Jedi Exile (known to some as Meetra Surik), stood against them. They had been one of Revan’s generals in the Mandalorian Wars and were responsible for the atrocity at Malachor V. The Jedi Council severed the Exile’s connection to the Force as a rare and extreme form of discipline. Darth Trafya infiltrated the Exile’s inner circle in an attempt to influence them to the dark side. The most widely accepted version of the story is that the Exile reestablished their connection to the Force, took down the Sith, and began training a new generation of Jedi.
Legend has it that Marka Ragnos proclaimed another successor to the Sith throne—Tenebrae (Darth Vitiate). Rather than warring against Ludo Kressh and Naga Sadow, Vitiate chose the path of secrecy, biding his time for an opportune moment. He became obsessed with eternal life, consuming the life-force of his Sith Lord underlings as well as his home planet, Medriaas. He proclaimed himself Sith Emperor and established his capital on the stormy world of Dromund Kaas in a yet-unexplored sector of the Outer Rim. He eventually crowned himself as lord of the Eternal Throne. . . What a drama queen emperor. The events surrounding the Eternal Empire’s war against the Jedi are told in the MMO, Star Wars: The Old Republic and its surrounding books, comics, and short stories.
Darth Bane and the Rule of Two
“Two there should be: One to embody the power, and the other to crave it.”
Famously known as Darth Bane’s “Rule of Two,” this philosophy redefined the Sith Order as a whole, paving the way for Darth Sidious’s rule over the Galactic Empire.
How did it come about? The story can be found primarily in the Darth Bane Trilogy by Drew Karpyshyn. Widely regarded as one of the greatest sagas ever recorded in Star Wars history, the Bane Trilogy traces one lone Sith’s rise to power and disillusionment with the status quo of Lord Kahn’s “Brotherhood of Darkness.” After overthrowing Kahn and disappearing into obscurity in order to escape notice of the Jedi in Path of Destruction, Bane begins grooming his apprentice, Darth Zannah, in Rule of Two. Finally, Bane and Zannah must face off head-to-head in a battle that determines the fate of Bane’s legacy in Dynasty of Evil.
Another excellent entry in the story of the Sith and Bane’s “Grand Plan” is Darth Plagueis by James Luceno. Ever heard of it? It’s not a story the Jedi would tell you. . .
Darth Plagueis became fanatically obsessed with manipulating life via the midichlorians in a being’s system in an attempt to gain eternal life (which backfired in pooooosibly having accidentally triggered the creation of Anakin Skywalker who eventually ended the Sith’s hold on the galaxy prematurely). Plagueis details the Sith on the precipice of prominence—with the titular Sith Lord overthrowing his master, choosing a new apprentice, plus the origins of Maul, Dooku, the Grand Army of the Republic—and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It’s dense, but it certainly worth sinking your teeth into if you love the darker side of Star Wars.
Bane’s Grand Plan finally came to fruition when Darth Sidious purged the galaxy of the Jedi Order and converted the Republic into the Galactic Empire. But how did he get there? His journey from timid dark side recruit to Dark Lord of the Sith is also detailed in Darth Plagueis. There’s a lot more to the story than the abbreviated opera house conversation between Palpatine and Anakin in Episode III.
After 1000 years of preparation, Palpatine finally ascended the throne in Revenge of the Sith. Might we suggest Matthew Stover’s masterpiece of a novelization? We at Youtini unanimously consider it absolutely the greatest Star Wars book ever written. Enough said.
Palpatine’s philosophy as a Sith involved bending the rules and manipulating events to his benefit—even the very rule that put him in power! He took on a number of apprentices throughout his years: Maul, Dooku, Vader, even—gasp—Luke Skywalker! For more on that one, you’ll have to check out Dark Empire. But beware, Palpatine appears nude a time or two.
Ultimately, though Darth Sidious takes control of the galaxy with his army of stormtroopers, fleet of Star Destroyers, and intimidating enforcer Darth Vader, his arrogance was his undoing. Perfectly balanced, as all things should be (or something like that). The Force called upon Luke Skywalker, who, through his faith in his friends and his sacrificial love for his father, overthrew Palpatine, putting an end to the Empire. Sort of. There was a clone or two to deal with, plus Imperial warlords vying for power, but ultimately the Sith were vanquished. For a time, that is.
Spoilers for the Legacy of the Force series
After a decade’s absence from the galactic stage, the next Sith to take up the Darth mantle was Darth Caedus. After experiencing an existential crisis at the hands of the Yuuzhan Vong and twisted ex-Jedi bird-woman Vergere, Jacen Solo succumbed to the dark side in Legacy of the Force: Betrayal. Jacen followed in the footsteps of his grandfather, Anakin Skywalker, in using the power available through the dark side, justifying his actions for altruistic reasoning. Jacen was led to believe that the galaxy needed a strong ruler to protect it from another threat such as the Yuuzhan Vong.
He was trained by a presumed-dead Dark Jedi of the old-school Marvel Comics days: Luke Skywalker’s former android girlfriend with a turban and a lightwhip, Lumiya. Jacen took on the Sith title of Darth Caedus (a fan-submitted name meaning “battle of darkness”) after slaying his aunt and former Jedi Master, Mara Jade Skywalker. Pour one out for Mara Jade. She attempted to bring Jacen back from his dark path, taking responsibility for him as his former Master. Her sacrifice cemented Jacen’s place as a Sith Lord. Ultimately he was slain by his own sister, Jaina Solo, the Sword of the Jedi.
Lost Tribe of the Sith
A lost tribe of Sith who crash landed on the planet Kresh during the Great Sith War reemerged in the Fate of the Jedi series. Their backstory is contained in the Lost Tribe of the Sith short story anthology (one of the most underrated books in all of Legends). Teenage Sith apprentice Vestara Kai eventually gets romantically entangled with Ben Skywalker. She and her dad team up with Ben and Luke against the Force-devouring foe, Abeloth. Sith aren’t especially known for playing nice with Jedi, however. . . What could possibly go wrong?
The One Sith
Not to be outdone by Bane’s Rule of Two, A’Sharad Hett, “Dragon of the Sith,” aka “Darth Krayt” established the “Rule of One,” and sat atop the throne of galactic domination. From creative duo John Ostrander and Jan Duursema, the Legacy comics from Dark Horse told the continuation of the Star Wars story about 100 years after the events of Return of the Jedi. Krayt’s “One Sith” saw a legion of lesser lords and apprentices loyal to his death-defying persona.
Hett was the son of a Tusken Raider Jedi Sharad Hett, of the Dark Horse Republic comics. He survived the Jedi Purge of Order 66 by going into a Sith status on Tatooine, and after an 80-year slumber began to amass a secret order of followers with a new perspective on the dark side.
When it was all said and done, Krayt was overthrown by a reluctant Skywalker descendent on his own hero’s journey: spice-addicted, womanizing, gun-slinging Cade Skywalker. It’s a great series and absolutely worth the read.
There is one more, though briefer, Legacy comics series. Legacy II followed Anya Solo in her battle against Darth Wredd.
If you’re into the historical side of things, be sure to check out some of our other historical pieces on the site, including the History of the Jedi and the History of the Expanded Universe!
Want to read more about a specific Sith Lord? We’ve got curated reading guides on quite a few of the Darths: Plagueis, Palpatine, Vader, Maul, Dooku, and even Krayt! We even have reading guides to the Sith themselves as well as a broader Villains guide. There’s certainly something for everyone.