EtymologyReduced form of sithen.
The Sith are a group of fictional characters in the Star Wars universe. Characterized by their single-minded lust for power and disdain for sentient life, they are an alliance of warrior priests who use the dark side of the Force and serve as counterparts to the Jedi Knights.
The Sith are portrayed in various Star Wars media as individuals who use the dark side to attain power at any cost. The Star Wars prequel films establish that they draw upon strong emotions, both negative and positive, as the source of their power, and care only about themselves. This is in contrast to the Jedi, who are portrayed as forsaking emotional attachment in order to serve others and the galaxy as a whole.
In their latter history, members of the Order receive the ceremonial title of "Darth" to signify their membership into the Order.
OriginThe first use of the word Sith in the Star Wars universe was in the script and novelization for Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, as a title for Darth Vader, the "Dark Lord of the Sith." Although the original Star Wars films' villains Vader and Emperor Palpatine (alias Darth Sidious) are both Sith, this description is not used until the prequel films (namely Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace).
Prequel trilogyThe predations of Darth Sidious (Palpatine's Sith alter ego) and Darth Maul indicate the presence of the Sith in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace. Meanwhile, Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn inadvertently meets Anakin Skywalker, a nine-year-old slave; Qui-Gon soon becomes convinced that the boy is the "Chosen One" of Jedi prophecy who is destined to destroy the Sith.
Darth Maul dies at the hands of Qui-Gon's apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi, but the Sith ultimately emerge victorious; Palpatine is elected to the office of Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic, and sets his sights on making Anakin his new apprentice.
In Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, former Jedi Master Count Dooku, now Palpatine's Sith apprentice as Darth Tyranus, starts the Confederacy of Independent Systems (CIS or the Separatists), which threatens the unstable Republic. A motion made in the Senate by Representative Jar Jar Binks, who is easily manipulated by Palpatine, grants the Chancellor vast emergency powers. When the Jedi discover the threat, the Clone Wars begin with a battle to rescue captured Jedi on Geonosis.
As depicted in the animated series Star Wars: Clone Wars and a myriad of Expanded Universe novels, many Jedi lose their lives at the hands of the Separatists and their military leader, General Grievous. Throughout, the Jedi suspect that the war is part of a Sith plot to destroy the Jedi.
In Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, they learn too late that their fears are correct; Palpatine reveals himself as Darth Sidious, corrupts Anakin into becoming his apprentice, Darth Vader, and orders the Republic's clone troopers to exterminate the Jedi. He then turns the Republic into the tyrannical Galactic Empire and appoints himself Emperor for life, effectively placing the galaxy under Sith control.
Original trilogyBeginning in Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, the Rebel Alliance arises to threaten the Empire's unchallenged sovereignty, and surviving Jedi Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda make plans to thwart the Sith utilizing their greatest hope, Luke Skywalker, the son of Anakin, who begins his Jedi training under Kenobi. In the film's climactic battle scene, the Rebels destroy the Empire's Death Star superweapon, and both Palpatine and Vader become aware of the young man's identity. Both Sith Lords hope to corrupt Luke to the dark side.
In Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke, by now having nearly completed his training under Yoda, nearly succumbs to the dark side when Palpatine and Vader threaten to kill his friends in the Rebellion. He pulls away from the brink at the last minute, however, and proudly declares his allegiance to the Jedi. The Emperor then tortures Luke with Force lightning. His son's suffering and pleas for help free Anakin Skywalker from the dark side's grip, and he throws his former master down the newly constructed second Death Star's reactor shaft, in the process subjecting himself to the full force of the Emperor's lightning. Mortally wounded by the Emperor's assault, the redeemed Anakin Skywalker dies a few minutes later.
Expanded UniverseThe Star Wars series' "Expanded Universe" of novels, comic books and video games flesh out the Sith as characters, providing them with an extensive backstory.
Pre-Phantom MenaceThe video game Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords explains that the Sith originated as an alien species on the planet Korriban several thousand years before the films' timeline. By the time depicted in the game, a handful of Jedi defect from the Order to form their own group dedicated to the dark side.
In the comic book Tales of the Jedi: The Golden Age of the Sith, set five thousand years before A New Hope, the Sith rule the galaxy, calling themselves the "Sith Empire". The empire is unstable, however; its two most powerful Sith Lords, Ludo Kressh and Naga Sadow, throw the galaxy into chaos as they fight each other for supremacy. By the end of the sequel, The Fall of the Sith Empire, their power struggle effectively destroys the empire from within.
In The Phantom Menace, Yoda explains that the Sith exist only two at a time — one master and one apprentice, an idea which is explored in the Expanded Universe novels Darth Bane: Path of Destruction and Darth Bane: Rule of Two.
These novels explain that, one thousand years before the Phantom Menace, the Sith are equal to the Jedi in number, but are too focused on fighting each other for power to unite against the Jedi. The title character solves that problem by exterminating the entire Order, save himself and apprentice Darth Zannah, and instituting the "Rule of Two": "Only two shall there be, a master and an apprentice: one to embody power and the other to crave it." Central to this rule is that the apprentice desires to one day overthrow the master, thus taking on his/her own apprentice and perpetuating the Order.
Post-Return of the JediThe Sith also appear in various "Expanded Universe" material set after the Empire's destruction in Return of the Jedi. Palpatine reappears in the comic books Dark Empire, and Empire's End, and Vader's former minion Lumiya is a main antagonist in the Marvel Comics Star Wars stories and the Legacy of the Force series. In the latter, she convinces Jacen Solo to learn the ways of the Sith. Solo (who, ironically, is Anakin Skywalker's grandson) becomes the Sith Lord Darth Caedus, partly to restore the galaxy to order in light of a new civil war.
In the comic books series Star Wars: Legacy, set 130 years after Return of the Jedi, the Sith (led by former Jedi Darth Krayt) once again decimate the Jedi and take control of the galaxy. Their one opponent is Anakin and Luke Skywalker's descendent, Cade, who had previously renounced his connection to the Force.
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