Contispex I is a character who, although minor in the scope of Star Wars lore, has a story that I find intensely fascinating. Mentioned for the first time in a solitary paragraph in Daniel Wallace’s The New Essential Chronology (2005), with his story being expanded in subsequent reference books, Contispex I was a human and an ancient Supreme Chancellor of the Galactic Republic who, along with his descendants, launched numerous crusades against alien species and their human allies. An adherent of the zealous and extremist Pius Dea religion – a faith which, according to The Essential Guide to Warfare (2012), taught followers that “…fallen communities should be restored to purity by purging their unredeemable elements…” (27) – Contispex took the reigns of the Republic in the year 11,987 BBY and set about reforming the corruption of the Senate and government by placing Pius Dea faithful in positions of power.
What was, at first, a small religion dedicated to the worship of a Goddess and confined to the shadows of Coruscant where it began, Pius Dea quickly exploded into galactic prominence thanks to Contispex. Referred to as the Pius Dea Era (ca. 12,000 – 11,000 BBY) in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, the millennia of Pius Dea rule which Contispex I instituted would see galactic purges, imprisonments, forced conversions, inquisitions and executions justified under the rallying cry that “The Goddess Wills It!” But it is the 30+ crusades of Contispex I and his successors which truly stand out, crusades that were launched to rid the galaxy of the scourge of alien civilizations. In 11,965 BBY the first crusade was directed by Contispex, a “pre-emptive strike against the Hutts beyond the Rim” according to The Essential Guide to Warfare (27). Subsequent crusades would be directed against other alien species: the Bothans, Lanniks, Zabraks, Herglics, and more.
Notably, during the Pius Dea Era the Jedi Order abdicated its responsibilities as peacekeepers and protectors, instead choosing to renounce its affiliation with the Republic. While individual members of the Order chose to challenge Pius Dea rule, as a whole the Order was “unwilling to take up arms against the civilization they had safeguarded” (27). This would change after almost 1,000 years had passed when the Jedi Order allied itself with oppressed species to overthrow Contispex XIX, arresting him and installing Jedi Grand Master Biel Ductavis in the Chancellorship (27).
While Contispex I truly is a minor character in the grand scope of Expanded Universe lore, as is the era of Pius Dea rule, I never-the-less find him intensely fascinating precisely because his story opens a vast window to the imagination. As someone who studied religion/theology in college and graduate school, the idea that the Old Republic succumbed to zealous theocratic rule in the name of “The Goddess” for nearly a millennia intrigues me and leaves me wanting to know more. Of course, at this point I have soaked up everything I can about Contispex I and the Pius Dea religion, having mined the tomes of Star Wars reference books for every morsel of information.
In fact, it was one very small morsel in a Star Wars reference book which led me to write this piece, a reference to Contispex I in Solo: A Star Wars Story – The Official Guide. Contained within The Official Guide to Han Solo’s standalone film is a page that is dedicated to the vast collection of rare treasures which Dryden Vos, leader of the Crimson Dawn crime syndicate, displays in the study aboard his star yacht. And, as The Official Guide notes, among this impressive collection of artifacts are “…arks that hold the ashes of Chancellor Contispex I…”
As I said, a very small morsel indeed, but one that immediately caught my attention given my interest in Contispex I. On the one hand, what makes this nod to Contispex I important is that it re-affirms his place in the Star Wars canon. A minor character in the Expanded Universe, Contispex I is now, also, a minor character in Disney’s Alternate Universe. On the other hand, this is hardly surprising. While I was NOT expecting a reference to Contispex I in The Official Guide to Solo, that author Pablo Hidalgo – a member of the Lucasfilm Story Group – found a way to incorporate Contispex I into the book makes perfect sense. With Vos’ study populated by rare and ancient artifacts, Hidalgo could easily mine the ancient history of Star Wars confined within the Expanded Universe and provide readily available information about the artifacts without entirely having to re-create ancient Star Wars lore.
In fact, Hidalgo not only identifies the ashes of Contispex I in The Official Guide but he also attaches other elements of Expanded Universe lore to items in Dryden Vos’ study. A “crystal masthead” is identified as that of Xim the Despot while a dataplaque is noted as containing the location of the Xim’s long-lost treasure ship, the Queen of Ranroon. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Xim the Despot, he was first mentioned in the novel Han Solo and the Lost Legacy while the Queen of Ranroon received it’s first mention in Han Solo’s Revenge. As well, a carver set is noted to be that of Noghri origin, the species first appearing in Timothy Zahn’s popular novel Heir to the Empire, while a set of wraith boxes come from the long-extinct Rakata, a technologically superior civilization which was originally created for the Knights of the Old Republic video game.
While I highly doubt that Contispex I, the Pius Dea era, or other elements of the Expanded Universe which have crept into the Disney Canon will be teased out in greater detail, I am never-the-less pleased by the fact that these legendary aspects of Star Wars continue to have relevance. More importantly, these elements bring with them pre-crafted stories which need-not be reconstructed. Rather, they unify the Expanded Universe and Disney’s Alternate Universe in small, subtle ways. Contispex I may only ever have this one, small reference in The Official Guide to Solo: A Star Wars Story, but that reference is packed with the already rich story about Contispex and the tumultuous era of Pius Dea rule. As far as I am concerned, unless Contispex I receives a brand new tale which changes his narrative – a highly unlikely prospect – I will move forward with my enjoyment of Star Wars knowing that he, and the Expanded Universe I love, continue to add depth and meaning to the galaxy far, far away.
I am so, so, so, so, so happy you wrote this post! There is SO MUCH in here. What fascinates me most though is the idea of “the Goddess.” From what I’ve read here, Contispex I and the crusades he waged against various species, clearly evokes the crusading tradition set loose on the world by Pope Urban II in 1098. So the use of “the Goddess” as the vision of the divine Contispex I and Pius Dea rule worship intrigues me. Obviously, both Urban II and the Muslim forces he sent his Christian crusaders against have a traditionally masculine image of God. (I grant scripture and the traditions use masculine and feminine imagery for God but through history believers have most often seen the masculine as the prominent gender identity, complications that brings notwithstanding.) Also, traditionally (albeit not universally), the Goddess is often presented in our mythic/religious traditions as the more compassionate and stabilizing force in creation. For example, in Hinduism Kali helps Shiva with destruction, but it is Kali alone who makes the movement to restart creation. Without her, Shiva just destroys and there is no rebirth. The idea of an oppressive theocratic reign and an unholy crusade flowing from an image of the Divine Feminine is jarring to say the least and adds a new level of discomfort to the notion of crusading in general.
Except for the Bothans. After reading dozens of EU novels where Borsk Fey’lya is such a huge pretentious a**hole, I think his people had it coming. Good call Contispex I. You were a ruthless guy in a lot of ways but you got this one right.
Also, I appreciate your point about the Disney Canon drawing from the Expanded Universe too. As we’ve discussed before, it only makes sense. And I think a lot of the animosity that first rose when Disney “demoted” the EU to “Legends” came from how they handled it. I think all fans were ready to see changes to the story we knew but the cavalier way it was all thrown out at once was a bit shocking. I like this move by Hidalgo because it shows the Story Group is acknowledging what we, as fans, have always known intuitively. These two canons aren’t entirely different and it makes sense – nay, it’s only natural – the one would shape the other, until they choose to tell a story that directly contradicts the information we have.
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Perhaps Borsk Fey’lya and the Bothans were a**holes because of Contispex I and his successors crusades. Just a thought…
I think you are right to note the way the demotion took shape. While there is a swath of SW fans who have no love for the EU, and those who love the EU but hate the Disney stories – both camps are pretty loud about their feelings which is pretty unnecessary – I think most fans who participated in the EU were able to understand the necessity of the move on Disney’s part while being disappointed with it. It definitely just felt odd that their sweeping statement of turning a new page back in 2014 would be so overarching. Sure, they acknowledged that they would re-incorporate information when they could, and I do think Contispex is an example of just that. But I think they could have found some information/things at the time to say “this right here is being preserved. We love this, we want to keep this and are re-upping it.” That they didn’t at that point is neither here nor there, it is what it is. And I suppose credit IS due now that they have re-upped some EU elements, albeit without much fanfare.