Mandalorians at the Gates: A Long Time Ago, Part 3

The mystique of the buckethead brigade has only grown since Boba Fett’s first appearances in the Holiday Special and The Empire Strikes Back. Their backstory- and the historical cultures upon which it draws- have grown only more convoluted over time, as various authors have accented, overwritten, or ignored the works of previous writers. However, certain historical influences can be sussed out from the turmoil. The Mongols, the early medieval Vikings, and the ancient Celts of Gaul (with a dash of modern Celtic flavor) have all played a role in building Star Wars’ most well-known warrior culture.

The panel from Marvel Star Wars that spawned one of my favorite retcons in the history of EU continuity.

First, a bit of background. Out of universe, the Mandalorians originated with Boba Fett and the background notes established by George Lucas in The Empire Strikes Back– according to Lucas, Fett wore the armor of the Mandalorians, a group of evil warriors exterminated by the Jedi during the Clone Wars. Marvel’s “Star Wars” comic line expanded on the armored menaces, giving them a home planet (Mandalore, later rendered as ”Manda’yaim” in Mando’a) and establishing that their warrior culture still existed post-Clone Wars. The Clone Wars adventures of the Mandalorians were explained (and were later brilliantly retconned by Abel Peña in his “History of the Mandalorians” article, creating Spar a.k.a. Mand’alor Gayiyli, or Mandalore the Resurrector), with the Mandalorians eventually aiding the nascent Republic. While the Marvel era was left somewhat to the wayside in the Bantam-era EU, the Mandalorians continued to be utilized by various authors. In particular, Tom Veitch and Kevin J. Anderson laid much of the groundwork for Mandalorian culture in Tales of the Jedi, depicting the early Taung as nomadic warriors and raiders from the Outer Rim. The Knights of the Old Republic mini-franchise further expounded upon early Mandalorian warrior culture, positioning them as something of a cultural bogeyman to the Roman-inspired Galactic Republic. Later, Karen Traviss added her own substantial interpretations to Mandalorian culture, bringing in further Celtic motifs and developing the framework for a Mandalorian language.

Rohlan Dyre, of KOTOR comics fame, leading a diverse legion of troops into battle.

Generally speaking, the Mandalorians resemble various nomadic groups throughout history. They were driven from their original homeworld- Coruscant- and travelled from world to world, settling on planets such as Roon, Shogun, Basilisk, and Ordo before settling down in the Mandalore system circa 7000 BBY. One element in particular links them to the Mongols of the late Medieval period- their willingness and ability to effectively assimilate conquered groups and cultures into their ranks, whether using their technology, taking advantage of their knowledge of trade routes, or simply assimilating them into their ranks. The Mongols under Ghenghis Khan and his successors were able to utilize Chinese knowledge of gunpowder and siege equipment to conduct their military campaigns in Khwarizm, Mesopotamia, India, and the Russian steppes. They were further able to integrate far-flung regions into their (only briefly unified) empire, respecting freedom of religion, expanding trade routes, and providing military protection to the conquered (assuming one survived the initial military assault, naturally). Similarly, the Mandalorians were almost fanatical about incorporating groups who had survived their conquests. Upon settling in the Mandalore system, the ancient Taung (note: the name “Taung” comes from a young Australopithecus skull discovered in Taung, South Africa in 1924) immediately made war upon the native Mandallian Giants, who survived the buckethead onslaught and were subsequently incorporated into the Mandalorian war machine. Later in history, as the Taung themselves were gradually worn down by constant warfare, the Mandalorian culture became incredibly multiethnic, incorporating species as diverse as Rodians, Twi’leks, Herglics, and humans- humans would come to be the dominant species within the Mandalorian culture.

He’s climbing on your Capitoline Hill, snatching your Eternal City up.

Perhaps one of the most inspired elements of Karen Traviss’s interpretation of Mandalorian history and culture was her utilization of general Celtic elements to color her spec-ops warriors. The Gauls- a Celtic culture that inhabited parts of modern-day France (the Celts themselves settled as far afield as the British Isles, Northern Italy [Gallia Cisalpina], Modern Spain, parts of the Balkans, and even central Turkey [the region known as Galatia draws its name from its former Celtic inhabitants]) were something of a cultural bogeyman to the Roman Republic, similar to the role played by the Persians in Hellenic culture and the Mandalorians in the Galactic Republic. The La Tene culture- a Gallic subculture located in Northern Italy- even sacked the city of Rome itself in 390 BCE, the last time that the city would be breached by a foreign enemy until the Sack of Rome in 410 CE. Not ones to be upstaged by their real-world inspirations, the Mandalorians participated in several battles at Coruscant, such as Ulic Qel-Droma’s raid during the Great Sith War and the sack of Coruscant at the end of the Great Galactic War under the command of Darth Malgus. Interestingly, the Romans were not absolutely averse to friendly interactions with the Gauls, despite their various wars with them- the late Roman Republic and early Empire adopted Gallic-style helmets, and often preferred to hire Gallic mercenaries rather than utilize their own native cavalry. Similarly, the Mandalorians inspired the armor of the Grand Army of the Republic, and the GAR itself was partially trained by (and cloned from) Mandalorian commandos.


longship reconstruction

One last historical inspiration for Mandalorians can be found a bit farther north in Europe – the Vikings of Scandinavia. Much like the Mandalorians, the Vikings were perceived as a highly militaristic culture, the scourge of Western Europe. While recent archaeological evidence suggests that the Vikings also engaged in a great deal of long-distance trade, transmitting goods and ideas along the seas of Western Europe and the Volga and Dniepr Rivers, their reputation as successful raiders is nonetheless well-deserved. They were able to conduct long-distance raids through the use of their longships- vessels that could travel rivers, coastlines, and the open sea. The ancient Mandalorians were able to utilize their Basilisk War Droid to similar tactical effect, popping out of hyperspace astride fighter-sized technological terrors that could operate in deep space and in an atmosphere. While they at times menaced the Eastern Roman Empire, Viking mercenaries were eventually hired to form the Varangian Guard, an elite unit in the Eastern Roman military. By the 12th century, the makeup of the Varangian Guard had largely shifted from soldiers of Norse descent to men from the British Isles. While they were an almost existential menace in the Republic’s psyche, the Mandalorians were perfectly willing to work for Coruscant when it suited them. They were hired by both sides during the New Sith Wars, and as mentioned earlier trained the Republic’s army prior to the Clone Wars (which did not preclude the Mandalorians from fighting against those very clones- Mandalore the Resurrector’s 212 Supercommandos were almost entirely wiped out in an engagement with the Galactic Marines on Norval II). The aforementioned gradual shift in Mandalorian identity from a single species to a multi-species culture is also reminiscent in the make-up of the Varangian Guard.

While almost certainly unintentional, the way in which these historical cultures have been interpreted, reinterpreted, and rewritten mirrors the rather haphazard nature of Mandalorian continuity. The Vikings, who for years were seen as little more than raiders, have in recent decades been re-evaluated for their impact on trade throughout Europe and the Middle East. The Mongols have experienced a similar renaissance in Western historiography, in recognition of how their conquests aided in the exchange of scientific, social, economic, and military ideas between Europe and eastern Asia, as well as their ability to integrate a far-flung heterogeneous empire. The ancient Celts, of course, have been utilized as nationalistic symbols by their descendants in the British Isles and France- although the modern nation of France is more directly connected to the Franks than the Gauls. In a similar vein, the Mandalorians have gone from simple elite villains to a dynamic warrior culture who occasionally even get to play the hero.

Beware of Tionese Bearing Gifts: A Long Time Ago, Part 2

Who are the Tionese?Lost_Legacy_Cover

An ancient human culture, the Tionese first appeared indirectly in Brian Daley’s Han Solo and the Lost Legacy. The Tionese inhabit the Tion Cluster, in the Outer Rim just north of Mon Calamari Space. Aside from mentions in Geonosis and the Outer Rim Worlds and The New Essential Chronology, the Tionese were mostly forgotten by the EU at large until 2009, with the publication of the Essential Atlas. The Atlas greatly expanded on Tionese history, particularly the conquests of Xim. Further work was done on the Tionese during “Xim Week”- particularly Jason Fry’s The History of Xim and the Tion Cluster– and John Hazlett’s  The Written Word.

It’s All Tionese to Me


Much like the Latin Alphabet, the Greek Alphabet has been canonized within the GFFA, this time as the written language of the Tionese. According to The Written Word, the Tionese language was devised as an administrative tool by Jansari (A powerful group within the Livien League of the northwestern Tion Cluster). While it has been largely superseded by Aurebesh (and to a lesser extent in recent times, by High Galactic), the Tionese language remains in use in the Tion Cluster- most notably by several starship companies. Cygnus Starworks (Cygnus, the Latin word for ‘swan’, comes from the Greek ‘cycnus’, which refers to several characters in Greek mythology who were transformed into swans) produced various spacecraft in cooperation with the famous Sienar Fleet Systems for the Galactic Republic and Galactic Empire- spacecraft whose designations rather conspicuously utilize Greek letters, such as the Lambda-class shuttle piloted by Han Solo in Return of the Jedi, or the Theta-class shuttle which Palpatine utilized as a hyperspace-capable ambulance in Revenge of the Sith. Sienar Fleet Systems was headquartered on Lianna in the Tion Cluster, while Cygnus Starworks was based in the nearby Cygnus Star Empire. The Tionese alphabet was also utilized by various militaries in the GFFA—Delta and Omega Squads from the Republic Commando series bear such designations, and Luke Skywalker orders Rogue Squadron to adopt Attack Pattern Delta during the Battle of Hoth.

A Divided Tion


After the decline of the Rakata, the human culture that came to inhabit the Tion Cluster repurposed old Rakatan technology to develop the hyperdrive independently of the Republic. The Tionese formed a cacophony of independent states within the Tion Cluster, constantly warring and allying with each other without any one faction gaining dominance over the rest. While the Tionese shared elements of a unified culture, the Tionese did not unify into one state of their own. Multiple alliances existed between independent Tionese states- the Livien League, the Kingdom of Cron, the Ihala Spiral, and the Three Allied Kingdoms. The political state of the Tion pre-Xim greatly resembles classical Greece. While all sorts of intercity alliances were formed (such as the Delian League and the Peloponnesian League), and some states even gained the upper hand in a region for a time (for example, Athens gaining control over much of the Aegean), no one Greek city-state gained complete control over Hellas.

Xim the Despot: Alexander’s Less-Successful Fanboy

megas alexandros

First mentioned in the 1979 Han Solo and the Lost Legacy, Xim languished in the dustbin of the EU until the mid-2000s, when the New Essential Chronology and Xim Week greatly expanded upon his career. As a result, Xim the Despot has come to resemble a less successful Alexander the Great. Xim’s career owed much to the exploits of his father, Xer VII, whose conquests in the northern Tion provided a base of power from which Xim could conduct his raids and subjugations throughout the Tion. Xer conquered much of the Tion Cluster proper, and upon his death was succeeded by Xim, who finished what Xer had started and expanded beyond the borders of the Cluster. At its height, Xim’s Empire extended from the Radama Void to Kessel, and attempted to push into the Hutt Empire, that early bogeyman of humankind in the GFFA. Xim’s diplomacy and tactics were ruthless, yet he met his match in the form of the Hutts, led by Kossak the Great. After a series of three ritual battles over Vontor, Xim was thoroughly defeated by Kossak; accounts differ as to whether he died at Vontor or rotted in Kossak’s dungeons. Xim is described in some sources as egotistic, even megalomaniacal, with his vision of a large empire outstripping the practicalities that the resources at hand lent him. Xim picXim’s career resembles that of Alexander, had Alexander been crushed repeatedly at the Battle of Issus by Darius III of Persia. Like Alexander before him, Xim owed his initial powerbase to his father, who died under suspicious circumstances—regardless of whether or not Alexander’s mother actually poisoned Philip II, the rumors surfaced nonetheless, and no doubt helped to inspire Xim’s mother/wife, Queen Indrexu. Both Alexander and Xim, after unifying their normally fractious cultures (who in fact regarded them initially as barbarian foreigners), made war upon their cultural bogeymen, be they the Hutts or the Persians. Xim’s story differs in the conclusion—Alexander crushes the Persians and goes on to carve out a massive empire, while Xim’s momentum comes to a wrenching halt in orbit above Vontor. The empires formed by both figures fell apart upon their deaths- Xim’s conquests were gobbled up by the Hutts or simply broke off from his Tionese Empire, while Alexander’s generals (often called the Diadochi) scrambled to carve out the corners of his empire as their own personal kingdoms.

War with the Republic, Galactic and Roman

After the fall of Xim, the Tion Hegemony returned to its previous fractious state. Xim’s outlying conquests were conquered, declared independence, isolated, or sterilized by the Hutts. Circa 24000 BBY, scouts from the Tion encountered traders from the fledgling Republic- among whose member cultures several regarded the Tionese as their cultural antecedents. Sensing an opportunity to expand, the Tionese formed the Honorable Union of Desevro and Tion and invaded the nascent Republic along the Perlemian Trade Route, Tionese_Raidersfission-bombing multiple Republic colonies. While the war initially went in favor of the Tionese, the Republic rallied, constructing its first real navy and enlisting the aid of the Jedi Order. The Republic then took the war to the Tion Cluster, devastating multiple worlds and bombarding Desevro. The Tionese War resembles the Macedonian Wars, conducted from 190-146 BCE by the Roman Republic against the Antigonids, rulers of Macedonia. Like the Republic—particularly the planet Alsakan– the Romans viewed the Greeks as their cultural forbearers, even as they went to war with them (the Roman Republic pushed the narrative that they were ‘liberating’ the Greeks from the ‘tyranny’ of the Antigonids). The onus for starting the war differs- the Tionese outright invaded Republic Space, whereas the Romans engineered a cause for war in order to invade Greece. As I mentioned in “Senatus Populusque Res Publica Galactica”, the devastation of Desevro at the end of the war echoes the sack of Corinth at the end of the Third Macedonian War- a war fought against a recently-formed league of Greek States meant to drive the Romans from Greece. Like the Tionese, the Greek were incorporated into the Roman Republic after the Macedonian Wars, as the provinces of Macedonia, Graecia, Thracia, and Achaea.

Decline post-Tionese Wars

xim empire

Following the defeat of Xim, the Hutt expansion into former Xim-controlled territories, and the Republic conquest of the Tion Hegemony, the Tion gradually became a backwater on the Outer Rim. The momentum of expansion fell to the Republic, and that expansion for the most part was directed away from the Tionese, into the Slice and the Northern Territories. The Tion Cluster did experience a brief resurgence during the Clone Wars. Count Dooku announced the formation of the Separatist movement from the surface of Raxus Prime, and the Tion supported the CIS during the Clone Wars, even hosting the Separatist Council for a time on Raxus. After the war, the Empire further divided the Tion into several sectors in order to prevent the formation of any potential power blocs in the region. They need not have worried, as by this point in time the glories of the Tion lay far in the distant past. Xim and the Tion describes the worlds of the Tion circa-GCW as almost uniformly backwater worlds who cling to notions of past glory while being home to little more than subsistence farmers and tourist attractions- the Tion has become the statue of Ozymandias in the eponymous poem. Like the Tion Cluster, Greece and Macedonia were divided into several provinces by the Roman Empire. After the death of Alexander, the momentum of expansion in the Mediterranean and Mesopotamia shifted away from Greece itself. In the East, the Seleucid Empire (founded by one of Alexander’s generals and encompassing much of the old Persian Empire’s territory) and the rest of Alexander’s successor states fought over the remnants of his empire, while the Antigonids of Greece tried their best to simply hold onto Greece. In the Mediterranean, Rome’s star waxed as Greek power waned- first with the Romans taking the Greek colonies in southern Italy and Sicily, and then with the Macedonian Wars. While it didn’t exactly suffer under the Roman Empire, and indeed the Eastern Roman Empire later used Greece as its base of power, the Hellenes cannot be described as the masters of the Mediterranean during the era of Roman dominance.

Tune in next time, as Tyler explores the Vikings, the Mongols, and the Celts, and how they all exerted an influence upon those lovable, overrated psychopathic mercenaries, the Mandalorians.

Senatus Populusque Res Publica Galactica: A Long Time Ago, Part 1

A Republic is formed in a central region, is led by a Senate, undergoes a great period of expansion, fights wars against nomadic invaders and its cultural antecedents, and transitions from a republic to an empire under the direction of a charismatic leader who outlived his detractors. Many storylines and facets of various fantasy universes draw on Roman history, from the Malazan Empire of Malazan Book of the Fallen and the Septim Empire of The Elder Scrolls to the the Valyrian Freehold in A Song of Ice and Fire. Star Wars is no different in this regard. Several significant similarities exist between the Galactic Republic and the Roman Republic, from their languages to their enemies.

Lingua Franca Galactica


The Latin alphabet has been canonized within the Galaxy Far, Far Away as the ancient language of the Republic. For years, Latin letters have appeared in the EU- see, for example, the signatures on the Declaration of a New Republic. Latin was canonized as the High Galactic Alphabet by John Hazlett, known to TF.N posters as jSarek, in his article The Written Word. High Galactic originated with the Alsakani, one of the founding cultures of the Republic. Within the GFFA, it is still used for signatures, droid designations (note that, to paraphrase Dan Wallace, we never refer to a certain smarmy astromech as ReshTwo-DornTwo, or his flighty counterpart as Cresh-ThreePethOsk), and names of starships. Whether or not Latin itself exists within the GFFA is debatable. While various Latin and pseudo-Latin names appear frequently in Star Wars– the Imperial Navy is replete with vessel classes such as the Praetor, the Acclamator, the Venator, and the Imperator— such words could also originate other Core World tongues.



Like the Roman Republic, the Galactic Republic was governed by a Senate. The Senate was led, of course, by the Supreme Chancellor. While many of the details of the office of the Supreme Chancellor align more closely with modern European prime ministerships, it is notable that the Chancellor’s office was represented by a fanned spear, similar to the fasces, the symbol of the authority of the consul (The fasces was an axe surrounded by a bundle of sticks, symbolizing the power of a Roman consul or dictator to dole out capital punishment, if necessary). Notable differences exist, however, between the Galactic Senate and the Roman Senate. In particular, the manner of representation differed greatly between the two organizations. The Galactic Senate was composed of representatives from member worlds, systems, or regions. Every region had explicit representation in some form or another. Elections were usually left up to the individual star systems. In contrast, the Roman Senate under the Republic was appointed either through the censors or by election to a magistracy. There was no Senator of Achaea, no Senator of Mauretania- it was a Senate of, by, and for the Romans.



One of the many fascinating sections of the Essential Atlas dealt with the Allied Regions, semi-independent sectors within the Old Republic. Allied Regions often originated as the domains of early adversaries of the Galactic Republic who chose accession over violence, and were generally left to govern their own affairs. Many of the Allied Regions could be found along what had been, at various points in time, the Republic’s frontier. Allied states were also a staple of Roman administration, first in Italy and later along the frontier. During the Republic, many of the Italic cities constituted autonomous states within the Roman Republic complete with their own citizenship, language, and local governance. In exchange for obeisance, taxes, and troops, these cities were largely left to govern their own affairs. Along the frontiers of the Republic- and later, the Empire- allied client kingdoms were established in sensitive regions that the Romans did not wish to directly control. Rather, Rome ruled through client kings (who often had Roman citizenship) in areas such as Bithynia and Armenia. The Galactic Empire had similar arrangements with Hutt Space and the Corporate Sector.

I Fear the Tionese Even When They Bear Gifts


The enemies of the Galactic Republic at times bore a striking resemblance the adversaries of the Roman Republic, and to a lesser extent the Roman Empire. Early on in her history, the Republic fought a series of vicious clashes with polities in the Tion Cluster. The Tion were already an ancient human culture by the year 24000 BBY, and Tionese culture had influenced much of the rest of human culture in the GFFA– certain Core worlds, such as Alsakan, even believed themselves to be Tionese colonies. However, by this point in time the Tionese had entered a long decline- Xim was long dead, the Hutts had ravaged many of their worlds, and the cluster itself had fractured into feuding polities. The Tionese War ended in a resounding Republic victory, as the Republic glassed Desevro. This conflict rather resembles the Macedonian Wars, a series of wars fought by the Roman Republic in the 2nd Century BCE against the Antiochids of Macedonia. Like the Galactic Republic, the Romans were fighting an enemy who had exerted a great cultural influence over them- a culture that was perceived to have fallen from a putative golden age and returned to a set of small feuding city-states and kingdoms following the death of Alexander. Jason Fry’s Xim Week and John Hazlett’s The Written Word pretty firmly established the Tionese as Hellene analogues in the GFFA (more on that next time), going so far as to officially canonize the ancient Greek alphabet as the Tionese language (thereby explaining the presence of Lambda-class shuttles and Delta Squad).

Mandalorians at the Gates

mando attack coruscant

Thousands of years later, the Republic would clash with nomadic invaders from the Outer Rim: the fearsome Mandalorians. The Mandalorians would take part in several wars against the Republic, wreaking havoc from Dxun and Eres III to Duros in the Galactic Core, and even briefly striking at Coruscant itself during the Great Sith War. The Mandalorians were originally portrayed as a staple fantasy nomadic warrior culture- something of a cross between the Vikings and the Mongols. In recent years- particularly since Karen Traviss gave her own take on the Mandalorians- the trend has moved more towards portraying the Mandalorians as Space Celts. And the Romans were quite familiar with fighting Celtic cultures. To the Romans, the Gauls were a cultural bogeyman similar to the role played by the Persians in the Greek psyche. Traditionally the Gauls had harried the Romans from Northern Italy for centuries- in 391 BCE, the Gauls even managed to sack the city of Rome itself. On a more general level, the clashes between the Republic and the Mandalorians are reminiscent of the wars between the later Roman Empire and nomadic groups such as the Franks and the Goths. Notably, both the Mandalorians and the Goths served as mercenaries for the very governments they famously fought.

Transition to Imperium Galacticum

res gestae

The earliest canonical mentions of the Old Republic are found in Episode IV, when Tarkin informs the rogue’s gallery of admirals, generals and Sith Lords aboard the Death Star that the Imperial Senate has been disbanded, and “the last vestiges of the Old Republic have been swept away”. The prequels would later elaborate on the transition from Republic to Empire, a transition which occurred at the behest of one Chancellor Palpatine- a figure who was inspired by many historical figures, among them Augustus Caesar. Augustus was able to engineer his election to the consulship soon after the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44, and utilized his position to eliminate his opponents and consolidate his hold over the Roman government. Most of his powers were in fact voted to him by the Senate- during the Second Settlement tribunician power was granted to him, as well as censorial power (Tribunican power gave him the power to propose and veto legislation, while censorial power allowed Augustus to appoint and dismiss senators. This all was in addition to the executive powers he held as consul.). During and following his consolidation of power, Augustus embarked on a series of military campaigns throughout the Mediterranean world, incorporating new areas into the Empire and reasserting control over regions where control had been tenuous. All of which should sound very familiar to the career of Chancellor Palpatine. Like Augustus, Palpatine was able to effectively rewrite the history of his rise to power in order to suit his needs– Palpatine portrayed the Jedi Order as the perpetrators of the Clone Wars, as well as suppressing or rewriting accounts that contradicted his narrative. Augustus, in his Res Gestae Divi Augusti (The Accomplishments of the Divine Augustus- the funerary inscription listing Augustus’s achievements) whitewashed his actions during the Second Triumvirate and the Civil Wars, glossing over the widespread murders of his political opponents while trumpeting how he “brought peace” to the Roman people.



While it lacks a Romulus-style foundation myth, the Galactic Republic nevertheless followed many of the precedents set by the Roman Republic. The Galactic Republic’s enemies took many cues from the Roman Republic’s enemies, from culture and language to their own history. These kinds of historical references abound in the Star Wars films and Expanded Universe, and are likely to appear in Disney’s iteration of the franchise as well.


Next time on A Long Time Ago, Tyler will explain why the Tionese are Space Greeks and how Xim the Despot is a less competent Alexander the Great with beam-tube technology.