|Foundation series, Galactic Empire series, and Robot series location|
The Spaceship and Sun, emblem of the Empire
At its height, the Galactic Empire spanned the entire Milky Way galaxy
|Created by||Isaac Asimov|
|Genre||Science fiction space opera|
|Notable locations||Aurora, Solaria, Terminus,|
|Notable characters||Arkady Darell, Hari Seldon, R. Daneel Olivaw, The Mule|
The Galactic Empire is an interstellar empire featured in Isaac Asimov's Robot, Galactic Empire, and Foundation series. The Empire is spread across the Milky Way galaxy and consists of almost 25 million planets settled exclusively by humans. For over 12 millennia the seat of imperial authority was located on the ecumenopolis of Trantor, whose population exceeded 40 billion, until it was sacked in the year 12,328. The official symbol of the empire is the Spaceship-and-Sun. Cleon II was the last Emperor to hold significant authority. The fall of the empire, modelled on the fall of the Roman Empire, is the subject of many of Asimov's novels.
Asimov created the fictional Galactic Empire in the early 1940s based upon the Roman Empire, as a proposal to John W. Campbell, after reading Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire when he was working at the Philadelphia Navy Yard with Robert Heinlein. The concept evolved through short stories and novellas in Astounding Science Fiction magazine during the 1940s, culminating in the publication of the Foundation stories as a trilogy of books in the early 1950s.
As of 827 G.E. (Galactic Era, the number of years after its founding), the Galactic Empire comprises millions of inhabited worlds with 500 quadrillion residents. According to the Foundation series chronology established in the late 1990s, it comes into existence approximately 10,000 CE, year one of the Galactic Era. (The establishment of the Empire was originally 34,500 CE, according to Asimov's unofficial unpublished early 1950s chronology.) The Galactic Empire was made possible by the ability of humans to travel through hyperspace. The space navy of the Galactic Empire is called the "Imperial Navy". The empire's capital, named Trantor, is the closest habitable planet to the center of the galaxy, and the novels in the Foundation trilogy describe its fall, over a period of centuries, and a period of anarchy and decay, a parallel to the fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Dark Ages.
Asimov posits that two foundations are instituted to restore the empire to its former glory. Through the use of psychohistory, a future science hypothesized by Asimov, a scientist on Trantor named Hari Seldon in about 12,000 Galactic Era predicts the fall of the empire, and institutes the two foundations.
The Periphery is a fictional location in Isaac Asimov's Foundation Series and refers to the outer rims of the Galactic Empire, including planets such as Anacreon and Santanni. Imperial control is weakest in the periphery, as planet governors there frequently possess their own fleets. Santanni revolts during Forward the Foundation. About 50 years after the First Foundation is established on Terminus, the emperor will grant the periphery autonomy. This effectively removes them completely from Imperial control, making the dissolution of the Empire far more apparent than it had been before.
In the years preceding the fall of Trantor, the periphery became any area outside the Empire. As this area became larger the Empire became less and less great.
As the Empire decreased in size and power, the stagnation that would ultimately cause the collapse of the Empire increased.
A complete list of Galactic emperors and their dynasties does not exist; however, a number of names and their rule are known:
|Frankenn I||Kamble||The first Galactic Emperor.|
|Aburanis||Introduced the "Law Codes of Aburanis."|
|Kandar V||The Earth restoration project which was started in Pebble in the Sky ground to a halt due to his fall and ensuing problems, the Empire instead resorting to transplanting the remaining population to Alpha Centauri.|
|Agis VI||Followed by Entun dynasty ca. 11,830 GE.|
|Manowell||Entun||Nicknamed the "Bloody Emperor."|
|Stannel VI||Entun||Father of Cleon I. Onum Barr stated that Sivenna prospered in his times.|
|Cleon I||Entun||Ruled from 11,988 - 12,038 GE. He was the last ruler of a relatively unified and prosperous empire, though its decline was apparent. He was assassinated by one of his gardeners over a promotion the gardener did not want.|
|Interregnum between 12,038 and 12,058 GE. Rule by a military junta.|
|Agis XIV||Third cousin of Cleon I|
|Daluben IV||Ruled during the time of the Seldon Trial.|
|Stannell VII||Died 104 FE.|
|Ammenetic the Great||Mentioned in Foundation and Empire, where Cleon II reminds that his grandfather was merely a pirate, and he now lives "in the luxurious palace of Ammenetic the Great." There is no information to position Ammenetic on the list of Emperors. and to assign him to a dynasty, except for the obvious fact that he must have lived and ruled before Cleon II.|
|Ricker||Overthrown by Cleon II's father. Referred to as "the Usurper" by Cleon and his courtiers.|
|Cleon II||The last strong Emperor. According to the introduction to Foundation and Empire, during his reign the Empire only controlled the inner third of the Milky Way galaxy - which nonetheless meant it still controlled three quarters of the galaxy's population and wealth. Many on Trantor itself failed to even notice the decline of the Empire as a result, paying little heed to the loss of the backwaters in the Periphery.|
|Dagobert VIII||Final ruler of the Galactic Empire. Fled Trantor during the Great Sack by the rebel Gilmer.|
|Dagobert IX||Resided on Neotrantor following the Great Sack of Trantor. At least one more Emperor presumably succeeded him, since the dynasty was stated to have survived for a century after the Sack.|
Asimov's Galactic Empire was the first example after Olaf Stapledon's 1937 science fiction novel Star Maker of one of the eight stages of a "consensus cosmogony". This is also called the Science Fiction Cosmology, identified by Donald A. Wollheim in the 1950s. Science fiction writers needed only hint at this cosmogony in their stories for experienced SF readers to slot into their perception of future history and envisage the background to the tale, without the writers needing to expend time and space explicitly explaining it. These stages are:
|Empire series, Foundation Series location|
|Created by||Isaac Asimov|
|Genre||Science fiction space opera|
|Notable locations||Imperial Palace, Galactic Library, Streeling University, 800 administrative sectors|
|Notable characters||Hari Seldon, Cleon I, Cleon II, Preem Palver, Arkady Darrell|
Trantor is a fictional planet depicted as the capital of the first Galactic Empire. Trantor was first mentioned in Asimov's short story, "Black Friar of the Flame", later collected in The Early Asimov, Volume 1. It was described as a human-settled planet in the part of the galaxy not ruled by an intelligent reptilian race (later defeated). Later, Trantor gained prominence when the 1940s Foundation series first appeared in print (in the form of short stories). Asimov described Trantor as being in the center of the galaxy. In later stories he acknowledged the growth in astronomical knowledge by retconning its position to be as close to the galactic center as was compatible with human habitability. The first time it was acknowledged in novel form was in Pebble in the Sky.
Trantor represents several different aspects of civilization: it is both the center of power in the galaxy and its administrative headquarters. It is also an illustration of what could eventually happen to any urbanized planet. Asimov used the Roman Empire as the creative basis for the Foundation series, so Trantor is in some sense based on Rome at the height of the Roman Empire.
The earlier history of Trantor is recapitulated in The Currents of Space, mentioning the five worlds of the Trantorian Republic growing into the Trantorian Confederation and then Trantorian Empire (evidently modeled on the Roman Republic, originally ruling only part of central Italy, developing into the vast Roman Empire).
At the time when Currents takes place, Trantor controls about half of the worlds in the Galaxy, while the other half is divided into innumerable independent worlds and miniature empires – which naturally makes a Trantorian Ambassador a person of great consequence on any of the still-independent worlds. Later on, conquest of the entire galaxy made the Galactic Empire, with Trantor as its capital planet, a reality; the planet no longer sending out ambassadors, but only governors to royal subject worlds. This situation had already existed for thousands of years at the time of Pebble in the Sky, the next chronological book on this timeline.
Its surface of 194,000,000 km2 (75,000,000 sq mi, approx. 40% of Earth's surface area), implying a radius of around 4000 km (somewhere in between the Earth and Mars), was, with the exception of the Imperial Palace, entirely enclosed in artificial domes. It consisted of an enormous metropolis (an ecumenopolis) that stretched deep underground, and was home to a population of 45,000,000,000 (45 billion) human inhabitants at its height (although Second Foundation mentions a figure ten times that of administrators alone), a population density of 232 per square kilometre (600 per square mile, similar to the current population density of Germany or Connecticut). Its population was devoted almost entirely to either administration of the Empire or to maintenance of the planet itself, including energy provided by "heatsinks" (geothermal core taps) and production of food via underground farming and yeasts, as described in Prelude to Foundation.
The Encyclopedia Galactica states further on Trantor: "As the centre of the Imperial Government for unbroken hundreds of generations and located, as it was, toward the central regions of the Galaxy among the most densely populated and industrially advanced worlds of the system, it could scarcely help being the densest and richest clot of humanity the Race had ever seen."
One of the prominent features of Trantor was the Library of Trantor (variously referred to as the Imperial Library, the University of Trantor Library, and the Galactic Library), in which librarians index the entirety of human knowledge by walking up to a different computer terminal every day and resuming where the previous librarian left off.
Near Trantor were twenty agricultural worlds which supplied food which the world-city could not grow for itself, and the "Summer Planets", where the Emperor went for vacation. Around 260 FE, a rebel leader named Gilmer attempted a coup, in the process sacking Trantor and forcing the Imperial family to flee to the nearby world of Delicass, renamed Neotrantor. After the sack, the population dwindled rapidly from 40 billion to less than 100 million. Most of the buildings on Trantor were destroyed during the sack, and over the course of the next two centuries the metal on Trantor was gradually sold off, as farmers uncovered more and more soil to use in their farms. Eventually the farmers grew to become the sole recognised inhabitants of the planet, and the era of Trantor as the central world of the galaxy came to a close. It began to develop a dialect very different from Galactic Standard Speech, and the people unofficially renamed their planet "Hame", or "home".
As revealed to the reader at the end of Second Foundation, not all these farmers were what they seemed, with the now-rustic Trantor serving as the centre of the Second Foundation. From Trantor, the Second Foundationers secretly guided the development of the Galaxy (roughly parallel to the city of Rome becoming, after the fall of its empire, the headquarters of the Papacy, with its enormous influence on the development of Medieval Europe). Indeed, their self-perception as leaders of the future Second Empire is captured in the Second Foundationers' use of the word "Hamish" to describe the farmers despite reserving for themselves use of the word "Trantorian". It is noted that it was the Second Foundation which ensured that the famed library would survive the sacking of Trantor and the destruction of its urban culture – especially significant, considering that the library was vital to the Second Foundation itself.
In the Asimov canon, where events of this time are depicted mainly from a Foundation perspective, the Fall of Trantor is mentioned only as a piece of faraway news and in various later short references. However, Harry Turtledove attempted to fill in the details in his "Trantor Falls", focusing on the efforts by the Second Foundation to survive during the sacking of Trantor (published in the 1989 Foundation's Friends, where various writers took up the Foundation universe).
According to the original Foundation Trilogy (1951), Asimov states (by way of the Encyclopedia Galactica), "the impossibility of proper administration ... under the uninspired leadership of the later Emperors was a considerable factor in the Fall." To support the needs and whims of the population, food from twenty agricultural worlds brought by ships in the tens of thousands, fleets greater than any navy ever constructed by the Empire. "Its dependence upon the outer worlds for food and, indeed, for all necessities of life, made Trantor increasingly vulnerable to conquest by siege. In the last millennium of the Empire, the monotonously numerous revolts made Emperor after Emperor conscious of this, and Imperial policy became little more than the protection of Trantor's delicate jugular vein" (Encyclopedia Galactica).
In Prelude to Foundation (1989), Asimov indicates that this was not always so: originally, most of Trantor's basic food needs were fulfilled by Trantor's "vast microorganism farms".Yeast vats and algae farms produced basic nutrients, which were then processed with artificial flavors into palatable food. The subterranean farms, however, depended entirely on care provided by tik-toks (lesser robots), and their destruction following an abortive uprising (chronicled in Foundation's Fear) left the Imperial capital largely dependent upon food brought from other worlds. Foundation's Edge mentions algae growing on Trantor, which is called a totally inadequate source of food, so it is possible some of the later Emperors attempted to rectify the situation with limited success. Trantor is, of course, again able to produce its own food after the sack by Gilmer, with the increasing amount of usable land as the metal on the surface was removed and sold.
Although by 22,500 years in the future, there had been much racial intermarriage and most people were multiracial, according to Asimov, in the Galactic Empire as a whole as well as on Trantor itself, there were still some recognizable populations primarily descended from the original races on Earth. What we call Caucasians were called Westerners, what we call East Asians were called Easterners, and what we call Black people were called Southerners. No one could remember why these names were used because no one remembered human origins on Earth. Seldon himself openly wondered why there were no "Northerners".
Each planet in the Galactic Empire is divided into administrative sectors. Trantor had over 800, averaging 50,000,000 people each, in 240,000 km2 (93,000 sq mi), about the size of Uganda or the U.S. state of Kansas. The known sectors are:
Bondanella (listed in Further reading) analyzes Asimov's Galactic Empire as an example of the influence of the myth and history of the Roman Empire upon modern fiction. Asimov himself wrote two non-fiction books on the subject of the Roman Empire, aimed at the mass market and young readerships, The Roman Republic in 1966 and The Roman Empire in 1967, reflecting the positive view of the Roman Empire that then prevailed, as it was considered the prototype of the rising American Empire.
After the cinematic release of the first Star Wars trilogy, another parallel to the Roman Empire that presents the negative view of the empire that became widely prevalent in late 20th and early 21st century popular culture as a result of the negative view of the American Empire resulting from the Vietnam War, Asimov revisited his Galactic Empire and wrote further novels in the Foundation series.
Other writers to have been influenced by the Roman Empire include, of course, those who have written novels set in Asimov's universe of the Galactic Empire, such as David Brin's Foundation's Triumph, and Robert Silverberg, who wrote of an alternative universe in which the Roman Empire never fell, and who edited Far Horizons (listed in Further reading) which contains several examples of Asimov's influence upon science fiction. Brian Herbert's and Kevin J. Anderson's Dune: House Atriedes (1999) is, similarly, a Greek parallel to ancient Rome.
Other works to have been influenced by Asimov's Empire include Donald Kingsbury's Psychohistorical Crisis, whose galactic empire, and the scholar-empire that succeeds it, are clearly based upon Asimov's Galactic Empire and the Foundations, albeit that Kingsbury was not granted permission to set his work directly in Asimov's universe. Seed calls this work "perhaps the most remarkable homage that any SF writer has received from another SF writer".
Asimov's Galactic Empire, its decline, fall, and rebirth, in particular, is characterized by Perelman as a simple repetition of the history of Western Civilization from the fall of the Roman Empire to the 20th century, borrowing freely from Toynbee, and a validation of postwar American culture of the 1940s and 1950s, with the Second Galactic Empire being "definitely suburban".
Other writers to explore the cycles of civilisations in their works include James Blish, who studied the works of Oswald Spengler and whose novel Cities in Flight (which includes 4 novels: They Shall Have Stars, A Life for the Stars, Earthman Come Home, and The Triumph of Time) portray the rise and fall of the galaxy as an inevitable cycle, of which (unlike in other dystopian SF stories of the 1940s and 1950s) the use of machine technology is merely a symptom not the actual cause, and culminate, as in Wollheim's eighth stage, with the end of the universe and the birth of a new one.
Colin Manlove characterizes Asimov's description of the Galactic Empire, its people, its culture, its history, and its planets, laid out in the Foundation novels as an aesthetic monotony: "persons are usually seen as typical rather than special, even as clichés ... the mutant Mule [...] is not given a personality, he is merely a powerful anomaly ... Nor do we hear much of landscapes, apart from Trantor and one sea-scape ... we do not know how one planet differs from another, as, say, Ursula K. Le Guin differentiates the desert Anarres from the lush twin Urras ... Nor are we given details of battles, lingering accounts of love, different customs of civilisations. There are no animals, only man. ... Thought-processes and conversations largely fill the trilogy, and nearly all these are confined to finding things out and with gaining power."
There have been some serious attempts to illustrate a planet like Trantor in the Star Wars films by George Lucas, the first being Coruscant. Coruscant is a planet-covering open-air city, while Trantor's buildings are all subterranean or under domes due to worsening weather conditions. Asimov's Trantor thus differs from Coruscant in that Trantor is more practically adapted to inclement weather, although weather control devices are used on both planets. There is a planet called Trantor in the Star Wars universe, and it is also an ecumenopolis and the home of trantor pigeons (and is located in the galaxy's Deep Core).