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Flag of the Klingon Empire
Star chart of the Klingon Empire
Klingon core worlds

The Klingons are a humanoid warrior species which values honor in combat above all else. They are a proud, tradition-bound people whose aggressive culture has made them an interstellar military power to be respected and feared. The Klingon Empire is the official state of the Klingon people, founded approximately 1,500 years ago (1,000 years by the Klingon calendar) by Kahless the Unforgettable, who first united the Klingon homeworld of Qo'noS. Since then the Klingon Empire expanded its sphere of influence by conquering numerous systems and incorporating them in the Empire. The Empire claims space in both the Alpha and Beta Quadrant, and shares borders with the Romulans, Tholians, Gorn, and Federation.


The most distinctive feature of Klingon anatomy (except in those individuals afflicted with the Augment Virus) was a ridged forehead. The cranium was encased in an exoskeleton, which possesses a feature known as the tricipital lobe.

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Physiology of a Klingon

On average, Klingons were larger and physically stronger than Humans, though they possessed much less tolerance for cold weather. Spock said once that Klingons lack tear ducts, however Klingon myth states that Kahless once filled the ocean with his tears.

Internally, Klingon anatomy was markedly different from that of Humans. There is a great deal more multiple redundancy in their organs, a principle they call brak'lul. This allowed Klingons to survive severe injuries in battle. They had twenty three ribs, two livers, an eight chambered heart, three lungs, and even redundant neural function and multiple stomachs. Some geneticists believed that the extra organs, notably the third lung, evolved to give Klingons greater stamina on the battlefield. Surprisingly, Klingons had relatively little knowledge of their own biology and their medicine is very poorly developed. This was largely due to their warrior traditions – a Klingon who is wounded was expected to be left to survive through his own strength, die, or to undergo the hegh'bat, a form of ritual suicide.

Klingon pregnancies normally ran thirty weeks, but with mixed species, gestation times were shorter. The odds against Klingon-Human conceptions were rather high; however, when successful, Klingon and Human metabolisms sometimes clashed, causing biochemical fluctuations in the mother, which may lead to fainting. Klingon traits remained dominant for several generations, even with a single ancestor; therefore, a child even a fourth Klingon still possessed forehead ridges if he or she carried the gene.

Klingons had ridged spines, chests and feet. After birth some Klingon infants experienced a pronounced curvature to the spine, which was correctable by surgery. This "defect" tended to run in Klingon families, especially among females. Federation medicine, fortunately, advanced beyond that, allowing an additional choice of treatment involving genetic modification.

Klingon children matured far more quickly than Human children. At the age of only one Earth year, a Klingon child had the appearance a Human child had at about four. By the age of eight Earth years, a Klingon attained the maturity a Human did not reach until about age sixteen. When Klingon children began growing into adults, they went through jak'tahla, a Klingon form of puberty. Like other mammalian species, Klingon females were capable of lactating to breast-feed infants.

Klingons tended to live for over 150 years, but even into advanced old age tended to still be strong enough for combat.

Augment Virus

Klingon suffering from the Augment Virus.

In the year 2154, the Klingons gained access to the genetic material of Human Augments and tried to adapt this genetic engineering to improve themselves. An unanticipated side effect was that the Augment DNA caused the characteristic Klingon cranial ridges to dissolve.

The test subjects did gain increased strength and intelligence, but then their neural pathways started to degrade and they died in agony. One of the subjects suffered from the Levodian flu, which was modified by the Augment DNA to become a fatal, airborne, mutagenic plague that spread rampantly among the Empire, from world to world. In the first stage of this plague, Klingons lost the ridges on their foreheads and began to look more Human.

With the help of a Klingon scientist named Antaak, Dr. Phlox of the Earth starship Enterprise was able to formulate a cure that halted the genetic effects of the virus in the first stage. This retained the changes in appearance along with some minor neural re-ordering. The neural ordering caused changes in the emotional make up of the Klingons. For example, the infected started to feel fear. Even though the infected did not develop any stage-two characteristics, such as enhanced strength, speed, or endurance they did not die from it. This left millions of Klingons changed. These alterations were even passed on to their children.

Klingons were apparently so embarrassed by the fallout from their failed attempt at genetic enhancement that they refused to discuss the incident with outsiders. Due to the secrecy of the Klingon Empire, knowledge of the change became lost over time to the general population of the Federation. By the 24th century, the reason for smooth forehead Klingons was not widely known outside the Empire, and questions were generally met with a brusque answer along the lines of "we don't discuss it with outsiders."


Klingon society was extremely complex. Before its decline in the mid 22nd century and again in late 23rd century Klingon society was based on a feudal system organized around traditional Great Houses of noble lineage, to which various parts of the population owed fealty. The Great Houses are traditionally represented in the Klingon High Council, which is led by a Chancellor.

The decline of Klingon culture is demonstrated in the acts of the Klingons themselves. They stopped caring about their weapons to the point that they let them rust and even stopped caring for true honor. Sometime after the augment virus took hold of the Klingon Empire a new regime took control turning the Empire into a fascist state that kept tabs on all who served. The old ways returned in the latter half to the 23rd and the first part of the 24th century.

Males traditionally dominated public life in the Empire, assuming the leading roles in politics and the military with only rare exceptions. A notable exception to the prohibition of women serving on the High Council came when Azetbur became Chancellor of the High Council after her father, Gorkon, was assassinated in 2293. Women, in turn, traditionally dominated the household and the management of the family's affairs. Klingon women were treated as equals except in politics and matters of inheritance. They were prohibited by law from serving in the High Council and cannot take control of their Houses unless they have the money and no male successors of the lineage. Otherwise, Klingon women were expected to exhibit the same physical prowess and lust for blood and honor as the men.

Klingon society functioned through a system of family reputation and honor. Tradition was an integral part of their lives and breaking from observances was considered a grievous insult to society, an insult that is not forgotten easily. An offence usually brought shame to the offender's name for several generations. Bloodlines and relations were also taken very seriously by any "true" Klingon. Lines comprise of more than mere family members.

An integral part of tradition was the various rituals that mark milestones in a Klingon's life or the history of the Empire. Most notable of the rites was the Rite of Succession, which a future leader of the Empire must complete with a valid Arbiter of Succession (Captain Jean-Luc Picard in the case of Gowron) overseeing the proceedings. Before the Rite can begin, there was another elaborate ceremony needed to confirm the death of the previous leader. This was known as the Sonchi ceremony. Individual Klingon warriors were expected to go through the Rite of Ascension to be recognized as a full adult.

Klingons were extremely territorial. According to the first known Klingon linguist, there was no such thing as an "insignificant corner of Klingon space".

Religion and Tradition

Ritual was a very important element in Klingon society. While the Klingons were not a religious people as such, they did believe that deities existed at one time. However, Klingon warriors supposedly slew their gods as they were considered to be more trouble than they were worth. They believed that once a Klingon died, the spirit exited the body, leaving behind a worthless shell to be disposed of. In the Klingon death ritual, it was traditional for those on hand to howl into the sky as a warning to the afterlife that a Klingon warrior was about to arrive. In some cases a funeral dirge was sung in memory of the deceased, or friends sat with the body to protect it from predators, a practice known as ak'voh.

Furthermore, a Klingon who was unable to fight, and hence is unable to live as a warrior anymore, had the traditional obligation of committing the hegh'bat, which was the Klingon ritual suicide. Tradition dictated that the eldest son or a close personal friend must assist. That person's role was to hand the dying Klingon a knife so that he can plunge it into his heart, remove it, and then wipe the blood on his own sleeve.

The Klingon afterlife was supposedly divided into two branches. The dishonored were taken to Gre'thor aboard the Barge of the Dead, a vessel captained by Kortar, the first Klingon. Kortar was supposedly the one who had originally killed the gods who created him and was condemned to ferry the dishonored to Gre'thor as a punishment. Once in Gre'thor, the dishonored were watched over by Fek'lhr, a vaguely Klingon-esque figure. While it may be tempting to view Fek'lhr as the Klingon equivalent of the Human devil, according to Kang, the Klingons have no devil.

Those who die honorably supposedly went to Sto-vo-kor, where Kahless was said to await them. Klingon rituals included the R'uustai, a bonding ceremony which joined two people together in a relationship similar to brotherhood. Klingon tradition holds that "the son of a Klingon is a man the day he can first hold a blade."

If a Klingon warrior struck another Klingon with the back of his hand, it was interpreted as a challenge to the death. Klingon warriors speak proudly to each other; they did not whisper or keep their distance. Standing far away or whispering were considered insults in Klingon society.

When going into battle, Klingon warriors often sang the traditional warriors' anthem, which was essentially an invocation to Kahless and a pledge to win a good death in battle.

When choosing a mate, it is traditional for a female Klingon to bite the male's face, allowing her to taste his blood and get his scent. Klingon daughters traditionally are given a piece of jewelry called a jinaq when they become old enough to select a mate.



Kahless the Unforgettable

Around the year 900 AD, Qo'noS was ruled by Molor, a tyrannical ruler who was generally unpopular among the people. Kahless the Unforgettable emerged as a champion of the people, and slew Molor in single combat using the first bat'leth, the Sword of Kahless. This event continues to be celebrated in the Empire in the Kot'baval Festival. Kahless ruled together with his wife, the Lady Lukara, as Emperor of Qo'noS, despite the fact that he was not of noble birth.

The Sword of Kahless, the first bat'leth

Kahless was not just a warrior, but also a philosopher. During his rule, he established a strict warrior code that was adopted into Klingon culture and tradition. His words are frequently invoked by warriors about to enter battle. Among his sayings are, "A leader is judged not by the length of his reign but by the decisions he makes." Kahless' legends were recorded in a series of scrolls called the paq'batlh.


The Klingons first achieved warp capability in the Earth year 930 AD, some six hundred years after the Vulcans. Over the next 1,300 years, the Klingon Empire slowly expanded, despite a devastating conquest and sack by the Hur'q around one thousand years ago. The Hur'q were a powerful race from the Gamma Quadrant possibly using the Bajoran wormhole to reach Qo'noS. Although they did not stay long, either because of their nomadic way of life or because of fierce resistance from the Klingons, they did not leave before taking many valuable cultural treasures, including the revered Sword of Kahless.

In the beginning of the 16th century, the Second Dynasty ruled over the Klingon Empire, but was ended with General K'Trelan assassinating Emperor Reclaw then later putting to death all the members of the Imperial Family. During the next ten years, the Empire was ruled by a council elected by the people, which is referred to as "The Dark Time" by Klingon historians. Following this period a new group of Klingons, called the Third Dynasty, were given the titles and names of the original Imperial Family in order to create the illusion of an unbroken line since the true Imperial bloodlines were cut at the end of the Second Dynasty.

During the Second Empire, Chancellor Mow'ga sent a fleet to conquer the Breen, a fleet that was never heard from again.

By the 22nd century, the Klingons were a major regional power, holding several dozen star systems and fielding a formidable military, the Klingon Defense Force.

Cold War

A Klingon D7 and a Federation Constitution Class circle the civilian K7 station.

Although negotiations had proceeded intermittently since the imposition of the Organian Peace Treaty, no major progress was made in establishing any firm relationship between the two powers. The most notable meeting, however, were a series of negotiations at the Korvat colony in 2289, where Federation mediator Curzon Dax met with Kang. No lasting agreement was reached at this meeting, but Dax did manage to gain grudging respect from the Klingons and establish a lasting rapport.

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The U.S.S. Enterprise faces off against a Klingon Task Force.

The situation abruptly changed with the explosion of the Klingon moon of Praxis in 2293. The disaster caused major problems for the Klingon economy and military, as well as a major ecological crisis on Qo'noS itself. The Chancellor of the Klingon High Council, Gorkon, took the controversial move of proposing a full peace treaty and establishing a process for dismantling the military fortifications and outposts along their mutual border – the military emplacements and warships that the Klingons could no longer afford.

However, peace would not come easily. While en route to a meeting with the Federation president on Earth, Gorkon was assassinated by Starfleet conspirators from the USS Enterprise-A, who were working in cooperation with Klingon counterparts who also opposed any peace treaty between the two enemies. Gorkon's daughter, Azetbur, was appointed as the new chancellor in her father's place, and despite enormous pressure from her advisers to abandon the peace initiative, she chose to press forward and see her father's vision fulfilled. The ensuing Khitomer Conference resulted in the signing of the Khitomer Accords, a treaty which became the foundation for peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire.

The signing of the Khitomer Accords.

The relationship between the two great powers, however, remained rocky for the next several decades. By the early 2340s, the two powers once again stood on the brink of war. However, a single courageous act by the crew of a Federation starship would finally change relations for the better. The starship USS Enterprise-C responded to a distress signal from the colony on Narendra III, which was under attack by the Romulans. Despite overwhelming odds, the Enterprise-C rushed to the rescue, and the crew's conspicuous heroism in attempting to protect potential enemies left a lasting impression on the Klingons.

The negotiator Riva.

The mediator Riva gained fame for negotiating several treaties between the Federation and Klingon Empire; before Riva, there was no Klingon word for "peace-maker". By 2353, the Treaty of Alliance was signed, finally establishing a firm friendship between the two former enemies – just as the Organians had predicted almost eighty years before. The Klingons even joined the Federation in some fashion, some time after 2327 but before 2365.


Despite the establishment of a full peace treaty with the Federation, the Empire would not remain at peace for very long. During the reign of Chancellor K'mpec (the longest-lived chancellor in Klingon history), two rival factions developed in the Klingon High Council. One, led by Gowron, favored continuing the peaceful relationship with the Federation, while the other, led by Duras, advocated setting an independent and aggressive policy. Duras was also secretly allied with Romulan interests who were seeking to split the Federation-Klingon alliance. By early 2367, the two factions were on the verge of starting a new civil war.

Although Duras was killed by Worf and his relationship with the Romulans exposed, Duras's sisters, Lursa and B'Etor continued the struggle in their brother's place. They presented Toral, the illegitimate son of Duras, to challenge Gowron for leadership of the Council. Because the majority of the Council had been corrupted by the House of Duras, they sided with the Duras sisters and walked out of the Council when Arbiter of Succession Jean-Luc Picard rejected Toral's claim, making official the division of the Empire.

The civil war, when it finally broke out, was as bold and bloody as any other conflict in Klingon history. The warriors of the Empire threw themselves into the fight with typical zeal. In the first three engagements, the forces allied with the Duras family decisively defeated Gowron's allies. However, it was not generally realized at the time that the Duras forces were secretly receiving material aid from the Romulan Empire. The Romulans hoped that a victorious Duras family would end the Federation-Klingon alliance and create a new Romulan-Klingon alliance to shift the balance of power in the quadrant.

However, interests in Starfleet recognized the probability that the Romulans were interfering in the conflict. Jean-Luc Picard and the USS Enterprise-D led a fleet of starships to the Romulan-Klingon border, establishing a blockade and preventing the Romulans from sending the Duras forces further assistance. When the Romulan connection was finally revealed, support quickly fell away from the Duras family, and Gowron successfully reunited the Empire under his leadership.

Dominion War

When the Dominion annexed the Cardassian Union in mid-2373, the Klingons were quickly defeated by the Jem'Hadar and driven from all of their Cardassian conquests. Faced with the prospect of a larger war against a much more powerful enemy, Gowron agreed to re-sign the Khitomer Accords and renew the alliance with the Federation. In addition, a detachment of Klingon soldiers was assigned to Deep Space 9, commanded by Martok, who had been rescued from a Dominion internment camp.

Klingon forces relieve the Federation fleet during Operation Return in 2374. The Empire and the Federation would ultimately fight side by side in the ensuing Dominion War that broke out in late 2373; many of the most important engagements of the war were conducted in concert, including the Second Battle of Deep Space 9, the attack on Torros III, and Operation Return.

The anti-Dominion alliance gained new, unlikely allies in mid-2374 when the Romulan Empire declared war against the Dominion. Although the Romulans and the Klingons both harbored deep hatred for the other, the two former enemies managed to put aside their differences in order to successfully fight the Dominion.

However, ultimate victory would eventually come at a very high price. When the Breen Confederacy entered the war in late 2375, the use of the previously-unknown energy dampening weapon effectively nullified the power of Starfleet and the Romulan forces, leaving the Klingons to fight on their own, outnumbered twenty to one. Rather than fight a holding action, however, Gowron ordered that Martok launch a full-scale offensive against the enemy, claiming that they had the advantage of surprise.

Ostensibly, Gowron hoped to achieve quick victory against the Dominion and claim all of the glory for the Empire in winning the war without the assistance of the Federation or the Romulans. But Gowron's real plan was much more subversive and political. Gowron feared the growing popularity of Martok, who had commanded the Klingon forces on the front lines and was rapidly gaining heroic status among the soldiers of the Empire. Gowron hoped to reclaim some of that popularity for himself by personally commanding the Klingon war effort from Deep Space 9, and by discrediting Martok in sending him on numerous hopeless missions.

When no other Klingons would protest, Worf challenged Gowron to single combat, claiming that Gowron was a coward for jeopardizing the very existence of the Empire (and indeed the safety of the entire Alpha Quadrant) in order to satisfy his need for political security. Worf killed Gowron in the fight, thus claiming the right to rule the Empire himself. However, Worf declined the position and nominated Martok instead.

Ultimately, the Empire would share in victory with the Federation and the Romulans after the final defeat of the Dominion at the Battle of Cardassia in late 2375.


Officially, the Klingon Empire is a feudal monarchy, with power residing in the Emperor, who is traditionally a descendant of Kahless. In reality, however, the power lies with the Klingon High Council, which is led by the Chancellor. The position of emperor was abandoned (but not officially abolished) in the mid-21st century, but was revived in 2369 when a group of clerics created a clone of Kahless, who was accepted as the new Emperor, albeit only as a religious figurehead.

The Chancellor, the true leader of the Empire, is head of the High Council, which consists of 24 members representing various Great Houses (qorDu' Dun. Essentially, the nobility).

Women are not normally permitted to hold seats on the High Council. However, Azetbur, the daughter of Chancellor Gorkon, was permitted to succeed him as Chancellor in 2293. It is believed this was permitted because she was made the head of her house, due to the unusual circumstances of her father's death. Gorkon suspected that something might happen to him on the voyage and had arranged with his allies on the High Council for them to back Azetbur as Chancellor if he were to be killed.

Old Quarter on Qo'noS

Various factions almost constantly challenge the leadership of the Empire, and so over time the Klingons have developed a strict and rigorous Rite of Succession to determine their leader. According to tradition, one may challenge the leader on the grounds of cowardice or dishonorable conduct and fight in single combat. Should the challenger slay the incumbent, he assumes the role as the new leader.

Because of the Klingon propensity for violence, some shrewd Klingon chancellors have redirected hostilities outward, when they would otherwise cause a civil war. In the 2150s, the Klingon chancellor instructed Duras to recapture Jonathan Archer after the latter escaped imprisonment on Rura Penthe. In this way, the chancellor focused the blame for certain internal problems on an external cause. Likewise, Gowron focused his soldiers' energies on invading first the Cardassian Union and later the Federation in order to avoid internal conflicts at home.

Aside from challenges to the primary leadership of the Empire, there is also frequent feuding between the various Great Houses. Most often, the challenge is made on the floor of the High Council and resolved on the battlefield. However, on occasion, some "dishonorable" House leaders have chosen to make more insidious attacks by undermining the standing of their enemies; D'Ghor underhandedly attacked the House of Kozak in this way in the early 2370s.

Klingon Defense Force

A Klingon Bird of Prey escorting freighters.

The Klingon Defense Forces are the military branch of the Klingon Empire. As of 2373, the Klingon Defense Forces are headquartered at Ty'Gokor. The majority of Defense Force members are common warriors. In order to become an officer a candidate must pass the entrance exam. The prospective officer then must be approved by an oversight council who can reject the application. Officers usually serve on the Klingon Empire's ships and warriors are sent into battle, whether it be on planetary assaults or when boarding other vessels.

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KDF ships in battle.

The system of hierarchy aboard ships within the Defense Forces is highly structured. According to one of their systems, one that has operated successfully for centuries, the first officer of any Klingon vessel has the duty to assassinate his captain when and if the captain becomes weak or unable to perform. It is expected that his honorable retirement should be assisted by his "first". The second officer also shares similar duties with his "first".

The Defense Forces are capable of deploying a fleet of ships to destroy an entire planet. They have done so on several occasions, including an attempt to contain a mutagenic virus in 2154 and the successful destruction of the tribble homeworld.