The Star Wars galaxy is split between the light and dark sides, which are reflective of good and evil.
On the “good” side, there were the Jedi (and other light-side Force-sensitives) who were affiliated with the Galactic Republic. Conversely, the “evil” side housed the Sith and other dark side Force-sensitives and was connected to the Galactic Empire.
These two sides have always been at odds with each other, with each ruling organization having its time in the limelight.
Both the Republic and the Empire had their moment of complete control over the galaxy while the other lay dormant. In the end, the Empire lost to the Republic, which begs the question of exactly how long it lasted.
This topic and more will be covered in this article, so keep reading as we begin.
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About The Galactic Empire
The Galactic Empire was the polar opposite of the Republic. Where the Republic ruled with democracy and fair treatment, the Empire was a dictatorship.
The Empire was something of a political extension of the Sith Order and its goals. The Sith’s true desire was to gain ultimate power over the galaxy, which is a goal that the Empire shared.
The Sith played a major role in the Empire; its ruler was Emperor Palpatine (or, by his Sith name, Darth Sidious), and his second in command was Darth Vader.
The Empire truly hit its stride after the Clone Wars when it replaced the Republic. With the dissolution of this conflict, the Empire made promises of tranquility and security from the catastrophic events of the Clone Wars.
Understandably, the inhabitants of the galaxy may have panicked in the aftermath of the Clone Wars. Especially with the massacre of the Jedi Order. This provided the perfect opportunity for the Empire to conquer and subdue a large portion of the galaxy.
Of course, this did not last forever. Eventually, the Republic rebuilt itself and regained control, but more on that later.
How Long Did The Empire Last?
Up until the end of the Clone Wars, the Republic had reigned over the galaxy for 25,034 years until it met its end after an internal political breakdown and the subsequent elimination of its rulers.
There was Count Dooku’s death on Coruscant, the mass murder of the Confederacy of Independent Systems’ leaders on Mustafar, and General Grievious’ death on Utapau.
Of course, we can’t forget Emperor Palpatine’s annihilation of the Jedi Order. Once they were out of his way, he went on to restructure the Republic into what was known as the First Galactic Empire.
From that point in 19 BBY (before the Battle of Yavin), the Galactic Empire continued to rule in some capacity for about 157 years.
Although the official Empire dissolved during the Battle of Endor in 4 ABY (After the Battle of Yavin), it wasn’t until 138 ABY that it was fully absorbed into a new organization known as the Galactic Federation Triumvirate.
How Long Did The Empire Last After The Return Of The Jedi?
Even though the Empire may have stumbled and lost control at some points during its rule, it did not officially fall apart until long after the events of Return of the Jedi.
So what exactly happened that caused this collapse?
In Star Wars: Episode VI: Return of the Jedi, Luke Skywalker (accompanied by comrades) ventured to Tatooine to rescue Han Solo from Jabba the Hutt.
At the same time, the Empire was making preparations to destroy the Rebellion with Death Star II. Luckily, the Rebel fleet was able to arrive and launch a significant attack on the Death Star.
There on the Death Star, Luke came face to face with his father and Palpatine.
To Vader’s knowledge, both he and Palpatine simply wanted Luke to give into the darkness and join the Empire. However, the Emperor had other plans. He wanted Luke to execute his father and replace him as Palpatine’s Sith Apprentice.
Initially, it seemed as though Luke took the bait as he dealt the first blow, kicking off the battle between himself and his father, Darth Vader.
Of course, Darth Vader deflected this shot and struck back. After a while of near misses, Lord Vader began invading his son’s mind looking for something he could use against him.
In doing so, Vader discovered the existence of his other child, Princess Leia Organa. Darth Vader threatened to turn her to the dark side if Luke refused to join him.
Understandably, Luke was angered by this. What followed was an intense lightsaber fight sequence in which Luke even severed his father’s right prosthetic arm.
Lord Vader found himself in a vulnerable position where he could have lost to his son. Especially since Palpatine was encouraging Luke to finish the job and become his new right-hand man.
Keeping in mind that he was a Jedi Knight above all else, Luke controlled his anger and tossed his weapon to the side.
Naturally, this angered the Emperor, who then decided that Luke must be destroyed if he refused to join the dark side. Palpatine struck Luke with Force Lightning, slowly increasing the intensity of torture of the Jedi.
Unable to sit back and listen to his son’s blood-curdling pleas for help, Darth Vader attacked Palpatine, throwing him down a reactor shaft and killing him.
In the process, Lord Vader was struck by the Emperor’s Force Lightning. This short-circuited Vader’s life support system, resulting in his death.
In that instant, both figureheads of the Empire were gone. With that, it took approximately one year for the Empire to be officially dissolved. Even so, there were still remnants of the Empire’s values and goals that popped up in other organizations.
How Long Did Emperor Palpatine Rule?
Emperor Sheev Palpatine was one of Star Wars’ most cunning, manipulative, and ingenious characters. He knew exactly how to get what he wanted and was willing to step on anyone to achieve his goals.
This, coupled with his ruthless nature, made him the perfect person to rule the Empire (and by extension, the dark side).
Palpatine longed for ultimate power and put systems in place to attain it. For a while, his methods worked as he built the Empire from the ground up.
The Emperor was there from the inception of the Empire after his puppet mastery in the Clone Wars. From that point on, Palpatine (with the aid of his second in command, Darth Vader), gained control of multiple planets in the galaxy.
This gave them more manpower, places for refuge, and pushed the Sith (and the Empire at large) towards that power they so desperately lusted after.
Needless to say, Palpatine did an exceptional job leading the people of the Empire. That was until his demise at the hands of his prized Sith, Darth Vader.
The Emperor ruled from the formation of the Empire to the day he died. So he ruled from 19 BBY to 4 ABY, which is just about twenty-three years.
Even though the Empire was arguably one of the most important political bodies in the franchise, its reign was not as long-lived as that of the Republic.
Emperor Palpatine’s death effectively ended the Empire. Despite this, there were possibly other establishments and people who would have integrated the Empire’s values into their lives.
Not to mention surviving Imperial soldiers and other dark side Force-sensitives who may have wanted to resurrect the Empire in some way or another.
Because of this, fans wondered if the Empire was truly gone. Especially since there were still some signs of the Imperial regime in The Mandalorian (which happens about five years after Palpatine’s death).
With that in mind, the Empire continued in some form or another for approximately 157 years. In that time, it accomplished a lot. Without its reign, the franchise would not have had many of the extraordinary fight sequences and characters that we know and love.