Planet of Origin: Centauri Prime (not situated in the Centaurus constellation and whose name is supposedly due to mistranslation during first contact between humans and the Centauri) , a small Earth-like planet consisting of two large continents and several smaller islands divided by large oceans of water. The planet has a population of about 3.4 billions in the 23rd century.
The Centauri Republic is, despite its name, ruled by a powerful Emperoror, in the event of an interregnum, a Regent. The only real check on the monarch's power resides in the Centaurum, an assembly of Ministers and heads of various Houses. Nobles able to manipulate the Centaurum successfully are able to wield great power. Everything seemed to involve strategic moves and countermoves, strategy games "for keeps" with covert or overt ruthlessness.The Centaurum can vote to overturn a decree of the monarch, although this would appear to be a rare practice. Culturally obsessed with rank, social position, wealth, and powe, the Centauri are not a democracy; the average citizen has little or no political power within the Republic, slavery is legal, but as a form of social stratification, not racial discrimination – many slaves are disenfranchised nobles
The Centauri are humanoid in appearance, similar enough to humans that the species can easily pass for one another under casual inspection. However, in terms of internal structure there are several important differences between the two species. Centauri teeth, for instance, are somewhat pointed. Unlike Humans, the Centauri have no major arteries in their wrists. The sexual organs of the Centauri are quite different from those of humans, and they are in a different location than the human sex organs. Male Centauri have six tentacle-like genital organs that extend out from the sides of the body and "fold" in over the solar plexus when not in use. The males can stretch the tentacles out to four feet. These tentacles are somewhat prehensile. Females have six narrow receptive orifices, three on either side of the base of the spine, just above the hips. During sexual intercourse the male inserts his tentacles in the female's orifices individually. Only a single insertion is necessary to inseminate, but "each [successive] one is a different level of intimacy and pleasure". The cardio-vascular system of Centauri includes two hearts. The right heart is a solid mass of muscle which provides most of the force behind the body's blood circulation. The left heart is much more complex - this heart is made up of an intricate system of thousands of veins that help cleanse the blood in a manner similar to the human kidneys. As a result, a heart attack in the left heart is a very serious matter because the left heart is very difficult to repair. Their network of blood vessels is also somewhat different than in humans, as they do not have major blood vessels in their wrists.
The Centauri have extra-sensory perception to varying degrees, including precognitive abilities. Most Centauri have limited perceptions, enjoying only rare fleeting glimpses of the future. All Centauri, throughout their lives experience vivid prophetic dreams telling them of the time and the circumstances of their deaths. A rare few Centauri, exclusively female, have very strong prophetic abilities. These females are often given a special status in Centauri society that is much higher than would normally be given to a female. A number of Centauri have telepathic ability. Like humans, the degree of telepathic ability varies with the individual. Unlike humans, who have had proven telepaths for only a few generations, Centauri possess a far greater understanding of the skill, and permit those who possess it far more latitude. The Centauri Emperor was rarely seen without the Imperial Tetrapathy – a quartet of female telepaths who have maintained a telepathic link since infancy. This link is thus so strong that it has effectively unlimited range. Whenever the Emperor leaves Centauri Prime, two of the Tetrapathy accompanied him and two remained at the royal palace, allowing rapid communication between the Emperor and the homeworld at all times. This, however, changed upon the accession of Emperor Cartagia, who had them executed as one of his first official acts.
Centauri males of high social status typically wear their hair in Peacock-tail shaped fans, the length and style of which are determined by relative social class. Low-class Centauri males have not been seen without helmets. Centauri females mostly or entirely shave their heads. Their dress and customs reflect their imperialistic culture, with militaristic clothing reminiscent of the Earth 18th century for the men, gowns for the women the design of which is comparable to those of the same Earth era, and a generally courtly manner one would expect to find in Victorian England (without the Puritanical streak) or Imperial France (with the associated decadence).
Around the earth year 3000 BCE the first true Centauri civilization appeared. This rapid burst of technological development was the result of competition with another sapient species on their world called the Xon. First contact occurred circa 800 BCE when a Centauri expedition of three vessels happened upon a Xon coastal city. The vessels returned to the Centauri continent, carrying a Xon invasion force, its original Centauri crew having been slaughtered. As the Centauri entered a historical period similar to the Renaissance, the Xon began attacking and raiding Centauri villages in small-scale regional wars. The Xon then began a massive campaign to dominate the Centauri on a global scale. The Centauri-Xon war would last for a thousand years. Although technologically inferior to the Centauri, the Xon were physically larger and stronger and possessed superior endurance. The conflict drove the Centauri to greatly advance their level of technology, exceeding the limited capabilities of the Xon and eventually the Xon were eradicated. By this time the Centauri Republic had enteredthe Industrial Age.
Defeat of the Xon gave rise to the current class structure of modern Centauri society. Centauri families who had done the bulk of the fighting, and had the most survivors at the end of the war, became the great houses of the Centauri. This new government of nobles created the Centaurum. The nobles appointed Lord Tuscano, who led the war against the Xon, to the position of Emperor. These noble families would maintain their power and privileges for the ages to come. Centauri females were relegated into the roles of mothers and housewives, as the nobles believed that females needed to focus on bearing children and rebuilding the population instead of competing with males for power and social position. Even in the 23rd Century, Centauri females are discouraged from seeking power or careers for themselves – though many females are the "power behind the throne" in their houses, skilled in deception and manipulation. The widows of many powerful leaders are often considered conduits to their deceased spouses, and wield impressive power.
According to some sources, a species called the Shoggren attacked Centauri Prime during Tuscano's rule. Technomages supported Tuscano, providing some advanced technology. The Centauri with this outside support defeated the Shoggren. The technology acquired from the invaders and the discovery of a Jumpgate in the Centauri system allowed the Centauri to leap ahead technologically and begin the modern Centauri Republic's interstellar conquests.
The Centauri Republic quickly began a period of expansion spanning the centuries before the second Shadow War and the birth of the Interstellar Alliance. By 2257 A.D. the population of Centauri Prime was only about 3.4 billions. However this is a little over a fifth of the fourteen billion total Centauri population. The Centauri first left their homeworld soon after the first Shadow War and were oblivious to it.
At its greatest extent, hundreds of worlds were subject to the Centauri Republic. The occupation of the Narn homeworld began in the early 22nd Century. For the next hundred years the agrarian and technologically primitive Narns were exploited and their world stripped of resources. The Centauri withdrew a hundred years later in the face of growing Narn resistance. By 2258 the Centauri Empire had dwindled to a few colony worlds and Centauri Prime itself, seemingly more through the growing apathy and decadence of the Republic than military inferiority.
Beginning in 2258, the Centauri once again mapped out a path of conquest, taking over not just Narn space but also worlds formerly belonging to the Drazi, pak'ma'ra, and other members of the League of Non-Aligned Worlds. The revival of Centauri power and territory was made possible by their covert alliance with the Shadows, an ancient and extremely powerful alien race which was using the Centauri for their own ends. The Shadows were allowed to base a fleet of their ships on an island on Centauri Prime. This move nearly led to the total destruction of Centauri Prime by a massive Vorlon warship which had traveled to Centauri space to eradicate any Shadow influence from the planet. The Shadow vessels were destroyed by Londo Mollari, the acting Prime Minister, and the planet was saved. However, the Shadow's former servants and soldiers, the Drakh, decided to secretly settle on Centauri Prime, which they remembered from the Shadow occupation, and make it their new home. The Drakh secretly gained control of the Regent and used him to start a war with the other worlds of the Interstellar Alliance in 2262. The destruction of civilian shipping by the Drakh was blamed on the Centauri. Thanks to the Drakh's random attacks on alien shipping, almost every other race fought the Centauri during the war, leaving them almost completely isolated, which was the Drakh's intention. Near the end of the conflict a large force of Narn and Drazi warships made for Centauri Prime, while Drakh agents forced the Regent to deactivate the planetary defences and send any warships defending the planet away on a false mission.
The Narn-Drazi fleet bombarded Centauri Prime and the planet was laid waste, with most of its major cities reduced to rubble and many civilians killed. The Drakh then forced Londo Mollari to accept their secret control of Centauri Prime by threatening to detonate nuclear bombs hidden under the planet's major cities, which would have killed billions more people and totally destroyed Centauri civilization. The Regent was killed, and Mollari was crowned the Emperor of the Centauri, as a puppet for the Drakh. Under the Drakh's direction the Centauri severed all relations with the Interstellar Alliance. By 2278 little was left of the grandeur of the Centauri save their pride, their patriotism, and their determination to rebuild their devastated planet.After the death of Emperor Mollari. Vir Cotto, the Emperor's close aide, went to Minbar, and met with the surviving leaders of the Centauri noble houses. In keeping with Lady Morella's prophecy, Vir's claim to the throne was accepted, and he became Emperor Cotto. The Interstellar Alliance, finally realizing that they were both the victims of a massive Drakh manipulation, joined forces with the Centauri military to liberate the homeworld and then hunt down the Drakh. With help from the Alliance, Emperor Vir spent the next several decades rebuilding his homeworld to its former glory - without the need for conquest and imperial expansion.
Source: Babylon 5