How did the Galactic Empire rise, and how did it fall?

James Earl Jones, David Prowse, Ian McDiarmid, and Quentin Pierre in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). © Lucasfilm Ltd.
James Earl Jones, David Prowse, Ian McDiarmid, and Quentin Pierre in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983). © Lucasfilm Ltd. /

Since the inception of the Star Wars universe, the Empire has become one of the most popular and endearing factions among fans. But what exactly happened to cause the Empire to rise to power so quickly, and what caused its eventual downfall less than 30 years later?

The First Galactic Empire rose to power in 19 BBY as an authoritarian, dictatorial evolution of the Galactic Republic. The Empire was led by the Galactic Emperor, Palpatine. In reality, Palpatine was the Dark Lord of the Sith, Darth Sidious, who had been masquerading as the Republic’s Chancellor Palpatine in the years prior.

Palpatine had been putting his plan in place for years prior to the creation of the Empire. Once he groomed Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker into becoming his Sith apprentice, Darth Vader, Palpatine executed Order 66, initiating a galaxy-wide massacre of all of the Jedi and branding their religion as traitors to the Republic. In the aftermath of Order 66, Palpatine used this mass chaos to replace the Republic with a new Imperial government:

"In order to secure the security and continuing stability, the Republic shall be reorganized into the First Galactic Empire, for a safe and secure society!"

How did the Empire fall?

So, how did the Empire fall? After the Empire rose to power, it commanded rule over the galaxy for the next few decades, oppressing any planets that dared to stand in its wake and working on monstrous projects like the Death Star.

Resistance finally started to come after the last bastions of the Republic formed the Rebel Alliance to stand against the Empire. The Rebellion won a number of large victories, such as the destruction of the first Death Star, and began to gain more traction.

The Empire would crumble in 4 ABY when Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker helped to turn his father Darth Vader back to the light side and kill Emperor Palpatine. Without the leadership of Palpatine, the structure of the Empire began to fall apart.

In the following years, the Rebellion would keep growing in power. Eventually, the Rebels gained a decisive win at the Battle of Jakku, marking the Empire’s last stand. After this, the Imperials were forced to surrender, bringing an end to the Galactic Empire and paving the way for the eventual establishment of a New Republic.

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