The System Lords are the few dozen of the ruling class in the Goa'uld hierarchy. Usually they assume the persona of a god and rule many worlds by force through their armies of elite Jaffa warriors. They view Earth as an enemy and have sought to destroy it, however they fear the Asgard, who have used their power to protect certain planets from conquest. Through the intervention of Thor, the System Lords Cronus, Nirrti, and Yu arrived on Earth as representatives to negotiate for the inclusion of Earth under the Protected Planets Treaty.
The Goa'uld weakness is their feudal nature. Although they will reluctantly unite to defend against outside threats such as the Asgard or the Reetou, they battle among themselves for supreme domination. The greatest danger has been the threat of a single Goa'uld rising to dominant power and overtaking the System Lord collective. Sokar had amassed a huge army and planned to launch a massive attack against six key System Lords, which would have overthrown the balance of power in the galaxy, however Sokar was eliminated by SG-1 and the Tok'ra, and Apophis gained control of his forces instead.
The shift in power resulted in Apophis and Heru'ur commanding the two largest armies of the Goa'uld. An alliance between them would overwhelm the System Lords; a war between them would decimate both sides and return the balance of power to the System Lords. Apophis and Heru'ur agreed to meet in the neutral territory of the Tobin System to discuss an alliance, however Apophis deceived his enemy, destroyed Heru'ur, and took control of his forces, giving him command of the largest of the Goa'uld armies. Apophis lost his fleet, however, when SG-1 created a supernova from the sun of Vorash, and Apophis himself was killed when his ship was infiltrated by Replicators and forced to crash into the planet Delmak.
With the deaths of Ra, Hathor, Seth, Heru'ur, Sokar, Cronus, and Apophis at the hands of SG-1, the old order had fallen, and the resultant void created a power vacuum that the remaining System Lords fought to exploit. Seven key System Lords, Ba'al, Bastet, Kali, Morrigan, Olokun, Svarog, and Yu, declared a truce and arranged a summit on a space station in the neutral territory of the Hassara System to discuss the establishment of a new order. Threatened by the reemergence and increasing power of Anubis, the System Lords voted to return Anubis to the status of System Lord, and they formed an uneasy alliance to confront their greatest challenges: dissent and disbelief within the Jaffa ranks, infiltration and subversion by the Tok'ra, and the threat from the humans of Earth. However, as Anubis consolidated his power, he rose to a position of supreme domination capable of overtaking the System Lord collective, and the uneasy alliance began to crumble.
Armed with the power of the six artifacts known as the Eyes, Anubis defeated the collective forces of the System Lords, led by Yu, and was left in possession of a powerful weapon that gave him clear superiority. As Anubis used his power to decimate the forces of the System Lords, SG-1 devised a plan to eliminate his superweapon, and Yu pledged to bring the full force of the remaining System Lords against him. However, with Yu's mental competence failing, Ba'al took command instead and led the combined forces of the System Lords against Anubis at Kelowna. Although Anubis escaped, his forces were defeated, and Ba'al rapidly began consolidating his power, taking control of the United Alliance of the System Lords, a union for which the SGC was partially responsible.
Meanwhile, Anubis rebuilt his forces from his base on Tartarus where he created an army of Kull Warriors, synthetically created Goa'uld drone soldiers, and launched attacks against rival Goa'uld, absorbing their resources in preparation for battle with Ba'al and the System Lords. Through the cooperation of the Tauri, Tok'ra, and Jaffa, more System Lords had fallen in the past seven years than in the previous seven hundred years, and Anubis next turned his attention to his greatest threat: Earth. He gathered the full force of his fleet and sent more than 30 motherships into Earth's orbit. In a massive battle over Antarctica, Anubis was defeated when O'Neill drew upon the knowledge of the Ancients and activated the Ancient defense weapon which sent thousands of energy drones swarming into orbit and annihilated Anubis's fleet.
Anubis was presumed destroyed, and his defeat created a volatile situation among the remaining System Lords. The High Council of the System Lords, an unstable and rather flimsy coalition of approximately a dozen of the most powerful Goa'uld in the galaxy who cooperate only when necessary, was unprepared for the sudden shift in power. In order to avoid open war, the System Lords came to an agreement to divide Anubis's territories and his armies evenly among them, but Ba'al broke the agreement, took command of Anubis's army of Kull Warriors, and tipped the balance of power in his favor. Many of the System Lords began to speak of capitulation, and three representatives, Camulus, Yu, and Amaterasu, approached Earth, seeking an alliance against Ba'al in the hope that the Ancient defense weapon in Antarctica would prevent his domination of the galaxy. The President authorized Dr. Weir to pursue negotiations, however no agreement was reached, and the alliance failed.
The Jaffa of the System Lords were no match for the Kull Warriors of Ba'al's army, and the war between Ba'al and the System Lords reached a critical stage when Bastet and Olokun were killed, Morrigan capitulated, and Lord Yu and Amaterasu rallied their armies for what would probably be their last stand. Unknown to the System Lords, however, Anubis had survived the battle over Antarctica, and he had returned to secretly rebuild his power base, using Ba'al to lead his forces, although Ba'al did not admit to taking a subservient position to the master he served.
In addition, the System Lords faced the threat of the Jaffa Rebellion which had amassed a significant army as well as growing numbers operating as a Fifth Column within their ranks. The greatest threat of all, however, presented itself when the Replicators, led by Carter's Replicator duplicate, entered the Milky Way galaxy and launched a full scale attack against the Goa'uld. The Replicators began systematically eliminating the System Lords and absorbing their forces at a rate which would have guaranteed them complete victory within weeks. System Lords, Rebel Jaffa, and Replicators met in a devastating battle at Dakara, but through the cooperation of SG-1 and Ba'al, the weapon on Dakara was modified and the Replicators were eliminated. Anubis intended to claim the weapon on Dakara for himself, and to use it to destroy all life in the galaxy in order to repopulate the galaxy to his own specifications. However the intervention of Oma Desala spared the galaxy as she engaged Anubis in eternal battle on another plane of existence.
In eight years, the actions of SG-1 had eliminated Ra, Hathor, Seth, Sokar, Heru'ur, Cronus, Apophis, Svarog, Nirrti, Osiris, Ares, and Anubis among the System Lords, and Amaunet, Klorel, Marduk, Zipacna, Tanith, Imhotep, Mot, Sekhmet, and Moloc among the lesser Goa'uld. Following the defeat of Anubis and the success of the Jaffa rebellion, a handful of System Lords remained, but without the support of their Jaffa armies, the Goa'uld had lost most of their power. Among the former System Lords, Ba'al alone survived with his influence nearly intact, and although he has attempted to rebuild his power base by cloning himself, infiltrating the Trust, expanding his technological advantage, recruiting a Jaffa army, and seeking the knowledge of the Ancients and the Ori, the hierarchy of the System Lord collective is no more.
See Also: Jaffa Tattoos
Cross Reference: Amaterasu, Anubis, Apophis, Asgard, Ba'al, Bastet, Camulus, Cronus, Goa'uld, Hassara System, Hathor, Heru'ur, Isis, Jaffa, Kali, Linvris, Morrigan, Nirrti, Olokun, Osiris, Oz, Protected Planets Treaty, Ra, Rebel Jaffa, Replicators, Replicator Carter, Seth, Shak'ran, Sokar, Svarog, Tok'ra, United Alliance of the System Lords, Yu
First Introduced: Thor's Hammer
Significant Episode Reference: Fair Game, Jolinar's Memories, The Devil You Know, The Serpent's Venom, Enemies, Summit, Last Stand, Full Circle, Fallen, Homecoming, Evolution, Lost City, New Order, Reckoning, Threads