- "Two there should be. No more, no less. One to embody power, the other to crave it."
- ―Darth Bane
The Rule of Two was a Sith philosophy established by Sith Lord Darth Bane in order for the Sith to operate in secret and eventually get revenge on the Jedi Order, following their near annihilation in the Jedi-Sith War. Inspired by the concept of a Force dyad, the rule mandated that only two Sith Lords could exist at any given time: a master to represent the power of the dark side of the Force, and an apprentice to train under the master and to one day fulfill their role. The philosophy of two governed the Lords of the Sith.
- 1 History
- 1.1 Prelude
- 1.2 Creation
- 1.3 Plagueis and Sidious
- 1.4 Sidious and Maul
- 1.5 Sidious and Tyranus
- 1.6 Sidious and Vader
- 1.7 Legacy
- 2 Appearances
- 3 Sources
- 4 Notes and references
Even before Darth Bane created the rule, the Sith doctrines still rotated somewhat around the idea of a pair of Force-users. The masters demanded loyalty from their apprentices, but they sometimes betrayed them if they found one with more potential. In ancient times, the Sith were often ruled by two Dark Lords while many others existed at the same time.
- "Create the Rule of Two, you did."
- ―Yoda, to the specter of Darth Bane
The Jedi Order and Sith Order were bitter adversaries for millennia. Eventually, the Sith's greed for power caused them to turn on themselves, which allowed the Jedi to defeat and decimate the weakened Sith a millennium before the Clone Wars. However, Darth Bane emerged as the sole surviving Sith Lord. Realizing that the Sith's greed led to their destruction, Bane created the Rule of Two, to allow the Sith to operate in secret and prevent them from being destroyed by their own greed again. Bane also created the rule so that the Sith could eventually gain enough power to take revenge on the Jedi.
Bane developed the philosophy after his personal experiences, by studying ancient Sith documents and to succeed the older, purer doctrine of the dyad in the Force, a unique Force-bond strong as life itself between two Force-sensitive individuals. In comparison to the dyad, the Rule of Two was a pale imitation, an unworthy but necessary successor.
Under the Rule of Two, a Sith apprentice had to kill the Sith Master in order to ascend the dark side of the Force, ensuring that the Sith grew more powerful and cunning with each generation. On the other hand, the master could train another student, and have them replace and kill the outgoing student. As a result, the relationship between the master and the apprentice lacked trust, as both constantly searched for signs of weakness in the other.
Bane took an apprentice of his own, Darth Zannah, and passed on his knowledge while establishing the new Sith way of pursuing power and revenge against the Jedi through manipulation and subterfuge. The Jedi became aware of Bane's philosophy and Bane was killed. Although historical records weren't accurate, it was considered possible that Bane was killed by his own apprentice. In either case, the Jedi went on to falsely believe that they had destroyed the Sith forever. However, Bane's plans continued through his apprentice, allowing the Sith to survive secretly for years while planning their revenge against the Jedi Order. Rumors, nevertheless, remained that the Sith continued in the shadows. The Rule of Two created a powerful dynamic by limiting the Sith to only one master and one apprentice at a time, although not all Sith followed the rule as some took apprentices of their own while still serving a master.
Plagueis and Sidious
- "Unfortunately, he taught his apprentice everything he knew. Then his apprentice killed him in his sleep."
- ―Darth Sidious, remembering Darth Plagueis
The Sith carried out their vendetta for a thousand years, gaining power in secret while the Jedi still believed that the Sith had been destroyed. During this period, the Dark Lord of the Sith Darth Plagueis took Darth Sidious, the Sith persona of Senator Sheev Palpatine of Naboo, as his apprentice. They worked for years to coax the final secrets from the dark side of the Force. Sidious called back on the wisdom of Plagueis as a planner and a prophet, knowing full well that two Sith were required to enact their means; one to serve as bait for the dark side, the other to be the vessel. Success would allow them the ability to harness the full power of the dark side and rule immortal for ten thousand years.
Sidious and Maul
- "Always two there are; no more, no less. A master and an apprentice."
While training under Plagueis, Sidious acquired a Dathomirian Zabrak named Maul as his pupil. He had initially considered Mother Talzin, Maul's mother, to be his Sith apprentice, but took Maul upon realizing his potential. Seeing no further use for his master, Sidious betrayed Plagueis by killing him in his sleep.
After killing his first Jedi, the Twi'lek Padawan Eldra Kaitis, Maul reflected that she would have made a good Sith apprentice, but that he had to finish her off to prevent his master from discovering his intended betrayal. Concurrently, Xev Xrexus from the Xrexus Cartel theorized the Sith's comeback, leading Maul to kill her as Sidious threatened him with death if they were prematurely discovered.
In 32 BBY, during the Invasion of Naboo by the Trade Federation, the Sith finally revealed themselves to the Jedi with Sidious sending Maul to Tatooine to capture Queen Padmé Amidala and take her back to Naboo so she could sign a peace treaty. The Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn faced Maul but was able to leave Tatooine with Amidala and his allies, realizing that the Sith had returned. During the Battle of Naboo, which broke the Federation's blockade, Maul killed Jinn only to be seemingly killed in turn by Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi, leading the Jedi to realize the return of the Sith.
Sidious and Tyranus
- "Remember, the first and only reality of the Sith. There can only be two. And you are no longer my apprentice. You have been replaced."
- ―Darth Sidious, to Maul
With Maul presumed dead, Sidious took the former Jedi Master Count Dooku from House Serenno as his next apprentice and bestowed him the name Darth Tyranus. During a mission on Sullust, Dooku considered recruiting the Jedi Knight Jak'zin as an ally to the Sith cause, but ultimately stopped when Sidious stated that a Sith Master needed only one apprentice and threatened to replace him with the Togorian Jedi. Dooku ensured that Jak'zin was killed, though he lamented that his death was a pity.
During the next decade, Dooku aided his master in engineering the Clone Wars, including orchestrating Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas' death, and then to use his name to order an army of clones to be created for the Republic and selecting bounty hunter Jango Fett as the genetic template for the clones. They also had biochips implanted in the clones' brains, which unbeknownst to all but Sidious and Dooku, would allow Sidious to force the clones to destroy the Jedi through his secret protocol, Order 66. In 22 BBY, with the Confederacy of Independent Systems on their side, Dooku revealed his new allegiance to the Jedi and the Clone Wars began with the First Battle of Geonosis.
The Rule of Two was violated by Dooku, who took the Dathomirian Nightsister Asajj Ventress on as an assassin and apprentice. However, Sidious, believing Dooku may have been training her to destroy him and sensing that her power had grown, ordered Dooku to eliminate her. Dooku obeyed his master and left her for dead following the Battle of Sullust. Dooku later took the Zabrak Savage Opress, brother of Maul, as his apprentice only for his plan to fail due to Ventress' intervention. Upon receiving a premonition of events to come, the Besalisk Jedi Master Pong Krell fell to the dark side in an attempt to become Dooku's new apprentice, but the clone CT-6922 "Dogma" executed him after Krell turned on the 501st Legion.
Maul later revealed himself to be alive and took Opress as his apprentice, making two rival pairs of Sith. However, Sidious tracked them down and killed Opress during the Mandalorian civil war, whilst allowing Maul to live as he had other uses for him. Dooku took the Jedi Master Quinlan Vos as his apprentice after capturing him, but his plan failed again as Ventress gave her life to save Vos.
Sidious and Vader
Fall of a Jedi
- "I pledge myself to your teachings. To the ways of the Sith."
"Good. Good. The Force is strong with you. A powerful Sith you will become. Henceforth, you shall be known as Darth…Vader."
- ―Anakin Skywalker and Darth Sidious
In 19 BBY, shortly before the end of the Clone Wars, General Grievous kidnapped Palpatine, which was a plan orchestrated by Sidious, in order to bring Anakin Skywalker to the dark side and replace Dooku as his next apprentice. Palpatine's capture led to Kenobi and Skywalker to be dispatched to rescue him aboard the Invisible Hand. During a lightsaber duel aboard the ship, Skywalker defeated and disarmed Dooku. Sidious then betrayed his apprentice by encouraging Anakin to kill the Sith Lord, paving the way for Skywalker to take the older man's place. After Dooku's death, Sidious and his Jedi rescuers eventually made it back to Coruscant. Studentless again, Sidious seduced Skywalker to the dark side by telling him about Plagueis upon discovering his fears that Amidala, his secret wife, would die in childbirth. Skywalker initially revealed Palpatine's secret to Mace Windu, who then attempted to arrest the Chancellor. Skywalker, however, was forced to turn on the Jedi to save Palpatine from being killed, leading to Windu's death.
No longer a Jedi, Skywalker became Sidious' new apprentice and was anointed as Darth Vader. Sidious issued Order 66, causing the biochips to activate and brainwash the clone troopers into turning against their Jedi Generals, while Vader purged the Jedi Temple on Coruscant under Sidious's order. Vader then executed the Separatist Council, at the behest of Sidious who no longer required their service, while Sidious proclaimed himself Galactic Emperor, reorganizing the Republic into the First Galactic Empire. Kenobi and Grand Master Yoda resolved to destroy the Sith, including the former Anakin Skywalker. However, neither Sith Lord was destroyed. Sidious survived his battle with Yoda who subsequently fled into exile. Vader sustained grievous injuries in his duel with Kenobi, and was rebuilt as a cyborg encased within life support armor. Despite learning of Amidala's death, Vader accepted his new role as Sidious' apprentice, renouncing his former identity as Skywalker. Although he struggled with his sentiment for Amidala, following the Battle of Fortress Vader he fully committed himself to the Sith, leading a doubtful Sidious to desist from seeking another apprentice.
Dark side adepts and cyborgs
- "They are abominations. This is heresy."
"You forget who is master and who is student. It is your duty to learn what I know. It is my duty to learn what there is to teach."
- ―Darth Vader and Darth Sidious
During the Imperial Era, Vader taught the Inquisitorius, a group of former Jedi who had turned to the dark side, and were tasked with hunting down the remaining Jedi, though the Inquisitors themselves only served the Sith and were not considered Sith apprentices, being mere dark side adepts. By the time of the Battle of Yavin in 0 BBY, the Inquisitorius had ceased to exist.
The New Order was put in danger when the Alliance to Restore the Republic succeeded in destroying the DS-1 Death Star Mobile Battle Station at the Battle of Yavin. In the aftermath of the Death Star's destruction, Doctor Cylo presented the Emperor with several bioengineered warriors—Commander Karbin, Tulon Voidgazer, twins Morit and Aiolin Astarte and a Trandoshan—as replacements for Vader. The scientist considered Vader a ceremonial apprentice, and therefore believed that his cybernetically enhanced creations were superior to the Sith Lord. Vader regarded Cylo's work as heresy, his creations as abominations; however, the Emperor chastised Vader who was also a cyborg. He reminded Vader that, as an apprentice, it was his duty to learn rather than preach doctrine. By then, Vader had lost favor with his master who blamed him for failing to save the Death Star.
Vader, however, eventually proved himself to his master and killed each of Cylo's creations and Cylo himself. Sidious had reflected on the triumphs of the Sith by then, from their survival as an order to the fall of the Jedi and the rise of the Galactic Empire. He recounted that it took generations before the Sith could return to power through him. He also remembered his former apprentices, Darth Maul and Darth Tyranus, and considered them tools in his ascension to ultimate power. He credited Vader as his ideal apprentice, but Vader dismissed the Emperor's words as false flattery, believing that Sidious would have made a similar speech to any of Cylo's warriors had they succeeded in defeating him.
- "There is no escape. Don't make me destroy you. You do not yet realize your importance. You have only begun to discover your power. Join me and I will complete your training. With our combined strength, we can end this destructive conflict and bring order to the galaxy."
"I'll never join you!"
- ―Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker
Upon learning the existence of Luke Skywalker, Vader's secret son and the Rebel pilot who destroyed the Death Star, both made plans to use Luke to overthrow each other. Vader desired for Luke to help him overthrow Sidious, so the two could rule the galaxy. Sidious, on the other hand, planned to have Luke kill Vader and then replace him as Sidious's apprentice. While trying to recover the Emperor's respect before Cylo's death, Vader became aware of his parenthood after the bounty hunter Boba Fett discovered the pilot's name and informed Vader of this. Focused on trying to get his son to join him on the dark side, Vader killed Karbin and prevented Luke from being captured on Vrogas Vas.
In 3 ABY, following the Battle of Hoth, Vader communicated with Sidious aboard the Executor, as the Emperor had sensed the threat Skywalker posed to the Sith. Promising his master that Skywalker would either choose joining them or be killed by his hand, Vader managed to capture the crew of the Millennium Falcon on Cloud City and manipulated Luke into saving his friends.
Upon arriving on Cloud City, Bespin, Skywalker was unable to hear Leia Organa's warnings that Vader had set up a trap for him. Skywalker then found Vader and the two engaged in a duel. Vader defeated his son by severing Skywalker's right hand before telling him that he was his father. Vader then offered Skywalker the chance to join him and overthrow the Emperor and bring order to the galaxy. Skywalker, however, refused and plunged himself into the shaft only to be rescued by the Falcon.
Fear and pain
- "I have turned his pain into fear… And his fear into anger. But he has learned and forgotten these lessons before…"
- ―Darth Sidious, about Darth Vader
In the aftermath of his failure to bring his son to the dark side, Vader unearthed some secrets about Amidala's death before the Emperor summoned him to the Imperial Palace. Believing that Vader had regressed from a powerful Sith Lord to a grief-stricken widower, Sidious destroyed his apprentice's cybernetic limbs before leaving him on Mustafar as test of Vader's resolve to survive. He also sent his Sith assassin, Ochi of Bestoon, to test Vader's abilities without relying on the Force.
Vader rebuilt himself, captured Ochi and traveled to the hidden Sith world of Exegol to discover the Emperor's plans. Finding Sidious there, Vader mocked Sidious' title as his master and declared himself to no longer be his apprentice. Following Sidious into the Sith Citadel, Vader and Ochi discovered the Emperor's creations as well as his acolytes. Though none of them were Sith, Sidious declared that they all had the potential to replace Vader.
Vader killed the Emperor's servants, but was ultimately overpowered by Sidious who used a mountain of kyber crystals as a display of the unlimited power in his possession. He inflicted pain on the kyber, a living entity connected to the Force, in accordance with the traditions of the Sith. As Vader felt the crystals' pain through the Force, Sidious issued an ultimatum to him—to share in his power, but as an apprentice once more. Ultimately, Vader returned to his master's side after experiencing a vision of his son, Luke Skywalker, telling him that he could destroy the Emperor. Concluding that there was no room for another and having witnessed the true might and purpose of the Sith, despite knowing that Luke could still be strong, Vader felt that he had no other choice than to eventually kill his son.
End of the Sith
- "I'm looking forward to completing your training. In time you will call me Master."
"You're gravely mistaken. You won't convert me as you did my father."
- ―Darth Sidious and Luke Skywalker
In 4 ABY, both the Empire and the Rebel Alliance were preparing for a definitive showdown above the Forest Moon of Endor with the second Death Star's superlaser finally operational. Still determined to find his son, Vader was sent by his master to Endor to wait for Luke to come to him. After Luke turned himself over to Vader, Luke attempted to turn Vader back to the light side of the Force. Vader refused his son's pleas and the two traveled to the Death Star where Sidious awaited.
Once in the Emperor's Throne Room, the Emperor welcomed Skywalker, promising to complete his training, yet Luke affirmed the Emperor to be gravely mistaken and that he would not be turned like his father. Eventually a duel broke out between Luke and Vader, ending with Luke cutting off his father's hand. Sidious, who betrayed Dooku to gain Anakin as an apprentice, tried to replace Vader by having Luke kill his own father. Luke spared Vader's life, however, and declared that he had become a Jedi like his father before him.
Sidious attacked Luke in anger, using Force lightning to attack the Jedi for refusing to join him. Moved by his son's compassion, Vader returned to the light side as Anakin Skywalker and prevented Luke's death by throwing his master into a reactor shaft, killing Sidious and sacrificing himself in the process. This final act of sacrifice redeemed Anakin who died peacefully, restoring balance to the Force as the prophesied Chosen One.
A sole Sith Lord
- "My boy, I made Snoke. I have been every voice, you have ever heard, inside your head. The First Order was just the beginning. I will give you so much more."
- ―Darth Sidious, to Kylo Ren
The deaths of Sidious and Vader ended the Sith lineage that dated back to the creation of the Rule of Two. But while the Sith's destruction was foretold in the Jedi prophecy of the Chosen One, it did not mean the end of the dark side of the Force. Sidious had observed the Rule of Two to the extent that it limited the Sith ranks to a master and an apprentice; beyond that, he was unwilling to be replaced and therefore sought to rule the galaxy forever as an immortal Sith Lord. Using the knowledge he gained from his late master, Plagueis, Sidious resurrected himself in a cloned body. The transference was flawed, however, and Sidious found his spirit tethered to a weak, decaying vessel.
Aided by the Sith Eternal, a Sith cult of dark side zealots, the revived Emperor oversaw the continuation of the Contingency from Exegol, where a massive invasion fleet was built to enforce his future Sith Empire. Sidious also sought a new apprentice to train; the grandson of Vader and nephew to Luke Skywalker, Ben Solo's strength with the Force was prodigious as a result of his Skywalker bloodline. Through the Force, Sidious secretly communicated with Solo in order to lure him away from the Jedi path, undermining Skywalker's plan to restore the Jedi Order. Rather than directly training Solo, he created Snoke—an artificial strandcast—through whom he could mold the Skywalker heir into a servant of the dark side. The Sith Eternal were also involved in the creation of Snoke, whom they designed to groom Solo as an heir worthy of claiming the Sith legacy.
Snoke and Kylo Ren
- "Your show of power is impressive, but that cave had stood for thousands of years."
"The past is the past."
"I hoped to bring other apprentices to it."
"You won't need other apprentices."
- ―Snoke and Kylo Ren
With the destruction of the Jedi Temple of Luke Skywalker, Sidious' efforts to turn Solo to the dark side of the Force succeeded as the fallen Jedi apprentice joined the Knights of Ren by killing their leader. Adopting the persona of Kylo Ren, he became the master of the Knights of Ren as well as the apprentice of Supreme Leader Snoke who ruled the First Order, a successor to the Galactic Empire. While neither Snoke nor Ren claimed the title of Sith, and instead represented a new generation of dark side wielders, they were nonetheless influenced by Sidious who remained hidden on Exegol.
Although Snoke had trained other apprentices before Ren, he regarded Ren as his most promising student. Snoke believed that as part of the Skywalker bloodline, Ren had the right balance of the dark side and the light in him due to his heritage as Darth Vader's grandson. Following a visit to the Cave of Evil on Dagobah, Ren reassured Snoke that he would not need other apprentices.
Thirty years after the defeat of the Sith, Ren assassinated Snoke in an act worthy of the Rule of Two. Ren subsequently gained the power and independence he coveted as the First Order's new Supreme Leader, and vowed to never return to serving powerful masters like Luke Skywalker or Snoke. In destroying his master, Ren had passed the final test in his training, achieving ascendance through his full submission to the dark side. Snoke's reason for existing had also been fulfilled; by using the former Supreme Leader as a proxy, Sidious circumvented the Sith tradition that required the apprentice to ascend by killing the master who trained him.
- "The ritual begins. She will strike me down and pledge herself as a Sith. She will draw her weapon. She will come to me. She will take her revenge, and with a stroke of her saber, the Sith are reborn. The Jedi are dead!"
- ―Darth Sidious, to Rey
A year after the Battle of Crait, Sidious broadcasted a message announcing his imminent return. Deeming the phantom Emperor a threat to his rule, Ren obtained Vader's wayfinder and tracked Sidious to Exegol. The Emperor revealed himself as the source of all the voices in Ren's mind, including Snoke and Vader. He offered to help Ren succeed to the Throne of the Sith as the galaxy's new Emperor in exchange for killing his granddaughter, the Jedi apprentice Rey.
Rey confronted her grandfather after learning about their connection. During the Battle of Exegol, Sidious urged Rey to submit to the dark side by sacrificing him, freeing his soul from its temporary vessel and allowing Sidious to possess Rey. However, she rejected him with the help of the redeemed Ben Solo, causing Sidious to unleash his power against the prophesied Force dyad. The power of their Force-bond restored Sidious' body, and he resolved to rule alone as Emperor once more. Empowered by the spirits of the past deceased Jedi, Rey sacrificed herself to destroy the Emperor in body and soul, and with his destruction, Darth Bane's long lasting vendetta and the return of the Sith were aborted.
- Star Wars Rebels: Darth Vader, Rebel Hunter!
- Star Wars: I Am a Sith
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 2 (Databank A-Z: Alzoc III–Antilles)
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 14 (Weapons & Uniforms: The Sith)
- Star Wars: The Visual Encyclopedia
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 40 (Databank A-Z: Moraband–Muftak)
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 49 (Databank A-Z: Serenno–Anakin Skywalker)
- Star Wars Helmet Collection 51 (Weapons & Uniforms: Dark Side Servants)
- Rise of the Separatists
- Collapse of the Republic
- Star Wars: The Secrets of the Jedi
- Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker: The Visual Dictionary
- Star Wars: Destiny – Covert Missions (Card: )
- Star Wars - The Official Magazine 101 (Database: Before the dark times…)
- (Indirect mention only)