For over a thousand generations the Jedi Knights protected the Republic, but just what were they protecting?
This month sees the kick off of the High Republic Era of Star Wars storytelling. With it we have a new setting set at the highest of the Jedi’s power and during the glory days of the Republic, an institution whose long shadow hangs over all of Star Wars. Palpatine destroyed it, the Rebels fought to restore it, and the First Order sought to conquer it. But just what was the Republic? Lets take a look.
It all starts long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. With extra emphasis on the long ago part. The Galactic Republic, or High Republic, or Old Republic, as it can alternately be called, was once a union of thousands of worlds spread across the galaxy. And though propagandists might like to say that the “current” Republic we’re all familiar with is the same entity that has governed the galaxy peacefully for almost 25,000 years, there have been many different eras of the Republic, and it has fallen more than once in the past. But even so, the idea of a Galactic Republic endures. Where did the Republic begin?
The original Galactic Republic starts 25,000 years before the battle of Yavin. The founding of the Old Republic is a storied time whose histories have been written and re-written countless times, so the details get a little muddy depending on what version you’re going with, but it’s generally agreed that worlds like Alderaan, Chandrila, and later Thisspias (aka planet of the snake wookies) were all part of the early founding of the Old Republic. Officially called the ‘Galactic Republic’ the Old Republic shaped much of the galaxy as we know it today. The capital of the Old Republic was Coruscant, worlds could join peacefully, and in the early days of the Republic, exploration and colonization were the order of the day.
Of course, not all was blue milk and queen’s heart in the Old Republic. The Old Republic is defined as much by its conflicts as it is by its governing policies. And in the early days of the Old Republic, there were a few major wars that defined the Galactic Republic. The first of these is the Hundred-Year Darkness.
The Hundred-Year Darkness was a fractious schism in the Jedi Order. Out of their practice of the Force, a faction that would eventually become the Sith, broke away from the Jedi Order and Force users went to war with each other. The rogue Jedi faction had even gone as far as to construct a shrine to the Dark Side on Coruscant before they were defeated and exiled far from the Old Republic’s space, where they would eventually become the Sith.
In many ways this conflict between Jedi and Sith and Light and Dark sides of the Force has mirrored galactic civilization as a whole. As the Old Republic grew, it came into contact with other governing bodies in the galaxy. One of these, the Zygerrian Slave Empire, quickly made themselves an enemy of the Old Republic. The Zygerrian Empire, which as its name implies, was built on slavery, refused to comply with the Old Republic’s declaration that slavery was illegal, and the Old Republic and Jedi Order joined forces to go to war with the Zygerrians, defeating and dismantling their system of slavery.
Not long after, the Sith Empire would emerge from the shadows of uncharted space, declaring war on the Old Republic. The Sith and Jedi and Republic had many conflicts over thousands of years, and figures like Revan and Malak rose to prominence and fell to darkness in this time.
Around this time, the Old Republic also came into contact with the Mandalorian people, who immediately began attacking the Old Republic (because they could), eventually escalating a series of “unprovoked military campaigns” into all-out war, prompting the Jedi to step in to defend the republic.
This left them weakened, and the Galactic Republic fell into a slow decline, fighting both the Sith and Mandalorians and entering into a period known as the Dark Age. During this time, the Old Republic fell, the Jedi and Sith fought a devastating war across many planets, and the Sith conquered Coruscant. The High Republic fell, and out of its ashes, the Galactic Republic that gave rise to prominent senators, like Sheev Palpatine and Jar Jar Binks, was born.
May the Force be with you