Centauri

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The Centauri are a species in the fictional Babylon 5 universe. They were the first alien species to make contact with the human race. Their homeworld is Centauri Prime. Their government is the Centauri Republic.

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Homeworld

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Centauri Prime is the homeworld of the Centauri and throne of the once-expansive Centauri Republic. It is ruled by an Emperor or Empress, or, in the event of an interregnum, a Regent. The main parliamentary body is called the Centarum, though it is unknown how much actual power it wields.

In 2260-61, the Centauri homeworld was used as a staging ground for Shadow ships and personnel, until, in late 2261, Emperor Mollari destroyed their base, an island in the southern hemisphere of the planet.

Government

The Centauri Republic is a major power in the Babylon 5 universe and noted for being the first alien government with which Earth became familiar. The Republic is based on Centauri Prime but spans a number of other colonies and worlds. The Republic is nominally a constitutional monarchy headed by an Imperial family. Events in the television series span the reigns of Emperors Turhan, Cartagia, Londo Mollari and Vir Cotto, but it is clear that while the emperor has great personal influence and important ceremonial roles, true power resides in the Centarum, an assembly of the leaders of the major noble houses. Nobles able to manipulate the Centarum successfully, such as Lord Refa, are able to wield great power.

History

2258-2278

The Centauri Republic is old, though it was not a spacefaring civilization at the time of the first Shadow War and consequently played no part in that struggle. Instead its period of expansion spanned the centuries before the second Shadow War and the birth of the Interstellar Alliance. At its greatest extent, hundreds of worlds were subject to the Centauri Republic, hence its epithet, 'Lion of the Galaxy'. But by 2258 that empire had almost completely fallen apart, seemingly more through the apathy of the Republic than military inferiority, since among the younger races only the Minbari appear to have more powerful ships or armies. The exception to this story of decline was the inclusion of the Narn homeworld in the early 22nd Century. For the next hundred years the agrarian and technologically backward Narns are exploited mercilessly and their world stripped of resources. This occupation would have deep and lasting consequences for both races long after the Centauri pull out a hundred years later (see Narn Regime).

Relations with the other spacefaring nations generally varies from suspicion to outright hostility. The Minbari have nothing to fear from the Centauri, and diplomatic and trading links between the two powers are good if not actually friendly. Drazi space on the other hand is hemmed in by the Centauri, and so they watch the return of the Centauri militarism with deep anxiety. The fact that the Centauri did nothing to prevent the Dilgar War was another source of antipathy among the smaller nations that made up the League of Non-Aligned Worlds, indeed, many maintained the Centauri had used Dilgar mercenaries themselves. The only power that has regularly maintained warm relations with the Centauri seems to be the Earth Alliance, and it was the Centauri Republic gave the humans Jump Gate technology early on in their dealings and it was this that allowed the rapid expansion of humans into space.

From 2258 onwards, the Centauri once again mapped out a path of conquest, taking over not just Narn space but also worlds formally belong to the Drazi, Pak'ma'ra, and other members of the League. A non-aggression treaty between Earth and the Centauri Republic ensured that unlike the situation with the earlier Dilgar War, the Earth Alliance would not come to the League's aid, making resisting the expansion of the Centauri Republic much more difficult.

The guarantor of the revival of Centauri power was the aid of the Shadows, but by 2261 the Shadows had departed the galaxy along with the other First Ones, and the Centauri had to play a much more defensive game. While not initially hostile to the new Interstellar Alliance, Drakh influence on Centauri Prime led to a souring of relations between the Centauri and the other worlds during 2262. Destruction of civilian shipping by the Drakh was blamed on the Centauri, and a force of Narn and Drazi ships made for Centauri Prime, while Drakh agents had managed to get the Regent to deactivate the planetary defences and send the space fleet away. Centauri Prime was bombarded and laid waste, and the Centauri severed all relations with the Interstellar Alliance. Only former allies of the Shadows remained on Centauri Prime, and for the next twenty years the Centauri found themselves in much the same situation as they had visited upon the Narns: their planet was wrecked by violence and ruin. By 2278 little was left of the grandeur of the Centauri save their pride and their patriotism, though a glimmer of hope remained that the Interstellar Alliance might intervene when John Sheridan saw the ruined world himself.

After 2278

After John Sheridan and Delenn had saved their son David and fled from Centauri Prime, Emperor Mollari died soon afterwards. Mollari and G'Kar died at each other's hand. Vir Cotto killed Londo's keeper, and escaped from Centauri Prime himself. Vir went to Minbar, and met with the surviving leaders of the Centauri houses. In keeping with Lady Morella's prophecy, Vir's claim to the throne was accepted, and he became Emperor Cotto. The Alliance, realizing that they were the victims of a massive Drakh manipulation, joined forces with the Centauri military to hunt down the Drakh. Vir returned to Centauri Prime a short time later. Shortly after Vir's return to Centauri Prime, Shiv'Kala, who was the last remaining Drakh on Centauri Prime revealed himself to Vir. With the help of Michael Garibaldi, Vir was able to kill Shiv'Kala. This act freed David from the control of a Drakh keeper, and eliminated the last lingering thread of Drakh influence from the Centauri homeworld.

With help from the Alliance, Vir spent the next years rebuilding his homeworld. In 2281, John Sheridan realized that his life was almost over. He extended an invitation to Emperor Cotto to join him and his friends for one last dinner. During the dinner, Vir remembered Londo when Sheridan proposed a toast to all their friends who had died. The next day, Sheridan left, and was carried by Lorien beyond the galaxy to live with the first ones. Vir traveled to Babylon 5 to witness the decommissioning and destruction of the station. Vir returned to Centauri Prime, and brought Zack Allen along as his advisor.

Babylon 5

At the time the Babylon 5 series begins, the Republic is at a low ebb in terms of power and influence: their former vassals, the Narns, are now creating their own empire and even threaten the borders of Centauri space (Midnight on the Firing Line). Another new power, the Earth Alliance, has inexplicably not just survived a war with the Minbari but apparently come out of it victorious. At best, the Centauri seem fated to further gradual decline, and perhaps sharing some of the vigour of the Earth Alliance (The Gathering). It is the desire to return to the days when the Centauri Republic was at its height that makes Londo Mollari the perfect pawn for the mysterious Mr. Morden and his Shadow masters (Signs and Portents).

Parallels with Earth History

The Centauri Republic reflects many imperial cultures of Earth, but the strongest parallels are with the Roman Empire and the British Empire. Like Rome, the Centauri Republic sees itself as being destined to rule and to conquer, and each generation measures itself against this ideal. Also like ancient Rome, the Centauri are governed by an Emperor and members of the aristocracy (Coming of the Shadows), while at the bottom of Centauri society are the slaves (Born to the Purple) as well as many alien labourers drafted in from the various conquered worlds (Sic Transit Vir). Straczynski regularly uses motifs that echo modern perceptions of Roman culture: feasting, polytheism (The Parliament of Dreams), social conservatism including traditions such as arranged marriages (War Prayer), and the importance of clans, known as Houses.

The parallels with the British Empire are less immediately obvious but similarly pervasive. Like the British Empire, the Centauri Republic absorbed worlds that were technologically inferior, and because it gained spaceflight so early on, there were a lot of such worlds. The Centauri did not pick on worlds that could fight back, such as the Minbari, or later on, the Earth Alliance. The strategy in this case was to use diplomacy, as by their early claim that Earth was a lost Centauri colony (Midnight on the Firing Line). But the key similarity between the British Empire and the Centauri Republic is an extended decline rather than sudden fall, with apparently little will shown by most Centauri to prevent that decline. Again, like the British, the Centauri Republic has found itself a tourist attraction rather than a power to be feared and admired (The Gathering).

Biology

Appearance

The Centauri are humanoid in appearance. While similar in appearance to humans, there are several important differences between the two species.

Centauri males typically wear their hair in Peacock-line fans. The social standing of the male determines the length and style of the hair. Females almost always shave their heads.

Sexuality

The sexual organs of the Centauri are quite different than those of humans, and they are in a different location than the human sex organs. Male Centauri have six tentacles (jokingly called "tentesticles") along the sides of their bodies. The males can stretch the tentacles out to several feet. Females have six orifices along the sides of their bodies. The male places the tentacles in the female orifices individually. Each additional tentacle the male places in a female orifice brings an additional level of pleasure for both partners. Only one tentacle is necessary to inseminate, however. (Citation: http://infinicorp.com/VEX/aliens/centauri.htm)

Cardio-vascular system

The cardio-vascular system of Centauri has two hearts instead of the single heart that humans have. The right heart is a solid mass of muscle which provides most of the force behind the body's blood circulation. The left heart is much more complex - this heart is made up of an intricate system of thousands of veins that help cleanse the blood in a manner similar to the human kidneys. As a result, a heart attack in the left heart is a very serious matter because the left heart is very difficult to repair. By contrast, a heart attack in the right heart is relatively easy for a competent doctor to repair. Centauri also do not have major blood vessels in their wrists. As a result, a cut in that area would not cause a Centauri to bleed to death.

ESP and telepathy

The Centauri have extra-sensory perception to varying degrees. Most Centauri have limited ESP, and they often become aware of the time and the circumstances of their deaths. Otherwise, most Centauri only get fleeting glimpses of the future. A few Centauri have very strong ESP, these Centauri are able to see the future much better than the average Centauri. These Centauri are almost always female.

Some Centauri have telepathic ability. Unlike humans, who only had the ability for about a century prior to 2260, the Centauri have had telepaths for a while. Like humans, the degree of telepathic ability varies with the individual.

Evolution

The Centauri were originally one of two intelligent species to occupy their homeworld. The other intelligent species was known as the Xon. The Xon was physically stronger than the Centauri, but the Centauri had the greater intellect. Both sides engaged in a savage war for control of their world, and Centauri intellect won out in the end. By about the human fifth century, the Xon race had died out, which left the Centauri the sole intelligent life form on their world.

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