HISTORY OF THE ANCIENTS

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The Ancients, known as such in the Milky Way, also known as Lanteans or Ancestors in the Pegasus galaxy and originally known as the Alterans in their home galaxy, sometimes calling themselves Anqueetas in their language, are a humanoid race in the fictional Stargate universe. They are one of the most advanced race known to have existed, having evolved for millions of years prior to the present day and reaching their level of technology long before humanity evolved on Earth. They are best known as the builders of the Stargates, the basis of the franchise.

The Ancients have become the most important race in both Stargate series. They belong to the same race as the Ori, the main antagonists in Stargate SG-1 since the show's ninth season, and have played a large role in the series' many story arcs. In Stargate Atlantis, the Ancients built Atlantis, the show's main setting, and are responsible for the emergence of the show's two main villain races: the Wraith and the Asurans.

HISTORY

THE ANCIENTS AND THE ORI

Millions of years ago, the (presumably) first evolution of humanity, the Alterans (from altera, Latin: the other(s)), lived in a distant galaxy along the evolutionary path to ascension. At the time, the Ori and the Ancients were not distinguished from each other, and lived in one society. However, a philosophical division emerged. The Ori grew more and more fervent in their religious belief, while the Ancients adopted a more scientific/rational outlook. Ultimately, their viewpoints diverged so much that the two groups split apart and began to oppose each other, culminating in the Ori attempting to destroy the Ancients. Instead of going to war, the Ancients decided to leave their galaxy, and began searching for a new home.

 

Ancients
Species Ascended Ancients
Homeworld Unknown planet in a distant galaxy
(Probably Celestis),
later Earth and Lantea (in Pegasus galaxy)
Governing body Unknown, formerly the Atlantean High Council
Alliances as of season 10 None
Prior Alliances Four Great Races
Key episodes "The Fifth Race" (first mentioned)
"Maternal Instinct" (first appearance)
 
After much time, believed by Daniel Jackson to be thousands of years, the Ancients discovered the Milky Way, where they eventually built an impressive empire. The Ancients built Astria Porta (Stargates) across many planets, most of which were probably colonized by the race. Among the planets they settled was Earth, which they called Terra. The status of Earth in the Ancients' empire is disputed. However, as the planet's original Stargate, eventually discovered by SG-1 in Antarctica, was the oldest gate ever encountered, Earth was probably one of their more important worlds.  It was also once the location of one of the Ancients City Ships, Atlantis, before it moved to the Pegasus Galaxy, and it was where their descendants returned to after their defeat by the Wraith.  Other important planets they have colonized were Proclarush Taonas, Dakara and Valos Cor.

Although exiled to another galaxy, the Ancients still remained in contact with their distant cousins, the Ori, evidenced by the discovery of long-range communication devices in both the Milky Way and the Ori home galaxy. Still, the two factions remained bitter enemies. Eventually, the Ancients were afflicted with a terrible plague that wiped out most of their civilization. It would later be discovered that what was known of this plague is very similar to the disease used by Ori Priors against non-believers, which had led Daniel Jackson to speculate that the pre-Ascended Ori might have been responsible for this plague.

Some Ancients apparently attempted to travel back through time to escape the plague, with not much success.  It has been stated that the Ancients who remained in the Milky Way galaxy either ascended or died out. However, according to Anubis, the Ancients had attempted to recreate life after the plague in the Milky Way using the Dakara Superweapon. The current evolution of humanity on Earth could be the result of this attempt.
 

PEGASUS GALAXY
Several million years ago, several Ancients departed Earth in their city-sized spaceship, 'Atlantis' which at that time was situated on Earth, on the continent Antarctica. The exact reason for their departure is unknown, although Daniel Jackson speculated that they might have left to escape the plague that was devastating their civilization at the time. One known Ancients (later named Ayiana by the researchers who discovered her perfectly preserved in Antarctica) was left behind. The fact that Ayiana was infected with the Ancients plague when she was revived would seem to confirm Jackson's conjections.
 

After arriving in the Pegasus Galaxy, the Ancients settled on a planet they named 'Lantea', calling themselves 'Lanteans' from that time forward (also, they have been referred to as 'Atlanteans' by members of the Atlantis Expedition - a name often used by the peoples of Pegasus to describe the expedition members). Finding Pegasus devoid of sentient life, the Ancients dispersed humans and Stargates across their new home galaxy, protecting the newly-populated planets and occasionally inhabiting them (usually concealing their true identities as Ancients ). The humans seeded by the Ancients came to know them as 'the Ancestors'.  However, at some point they encountered a leech-like organism called the 'Iratus bug', which possessed impressive healing and immunological capabilities. Through feeding on humans (and processes of evolution), this organism absorbed genetic information from humans and eventually evolved into the vampire-like Wraith.  Although it remains unknown precisely how this evolution occurred, the Ancients have confirmed that they were responsible for the species' emergence.

The Wraith, over a vast period, developed into an advanced but violent society (with vestiges of territorialism that were later harshly revived when their prey became scarce) - all the while avoiding the attention of the Ancients . When the sentient Wraith were discovered by the Ancients, it appears their ferocity, belligerence and large population were underestimated (in a rare display of imprudence uncharacteristic of the Ancients). The Ancients sent a delegation protected by their most powerful warships to negotiate with the Wraith, the ships were ambushed and destroyed. The Ancients and Wraith went to war, and despite the Ancients' technological superiority, the Wraith overwhelmed the Ancients with their sheer numbers. During their war which lasted for centuries, the Wraith eventually conquered every planet in the Pegasus Galaxy until only Atlantis, the capital of their empire, remained protected by its powerful city shield.

The Ancients were able to hold the Wraith back with their superior weapons and submerged the city in the planet's ocean to protect it from their enemy's attacks. But no matter how many battles they won, the Ancients were unable to win the war.  They started to make more desperate experiments, such as Project Arcturus, a failed attempt to draw Zero Point Energy from a our own universe, instead of from within an artificially created region of subspace as in Zero Point Modules. However, containing zero point energy in our own space-time caused serious containment issues, killing the Ancients and the people of Doranda, the planet it was based on.  They also developed a race known as the Asurans, nanites designed to fight the Wraith on a cellular level, giving them aggression codes surpassing that of the Wraith. However, their creation took human form, and believed to have developed strategies that the Ancients thought to be unethical. Deeming them flawed, the Asurans were subsequently exterminated by the Ancients . Not wanting anyone to find out their mistakes, the Ancients deleted all references to the Asurans in the Atlantis database, save for the gate address. However, a few of the nanites survived and brought up a second evolution, creating millions of themselves until they looked human.  The Ancients even created a device which caused explosive tumors to form in the bodies of exposed individuals, but this too was abandoned, as it affected all in proximity.

Eventually, the Ancients realized that the war was lost, and decided to return to Earth, the planet that had been home to them for millions of years. However, before this could happen, they came in contact with a human from 10,000 years in the future - Dr. Elizabeth Weir, who accidentally used a time machine in the Puddle Jumper bay. The Council of Atlantis, fearing further damage to the timeline, ordered the scientist who built the machine, Janus, to dismantle it. They offered Weir the chance to return to Earth with them, forbidding her to return to her time. Janus, in order to help preserve the city in the future, reconfigured Atlantis's three ZPMs to run in sequence instead of in parallel, and left Dr. Weir behind in stasis to rotate them out. The Ancients evacuated the city via the Stargate, hoping it would eventually be rediscovered by their descendants.  The remaining Ancients in the Pegasus Galaxy returned to Earth by ship, or chose to stay behind and ascend. Some of them even created a time-dilation field powered by a ZPM to speed up their path to ascension. Others attempted ascension on Atlantis by using a specific type of DNA Resequencer. This had varying results.
    
RETURN TO THE MILKY WAY
After the Ancients returned to Earth, they found only a harsh environment and primitive inhabitants. It was believed that there was no hope of rebuilding their former civilization. So they spread out to distant lands and helped to populate them. Others would depart the planet through the Stargate located in Antarctica, possibly seeking to live out their days on distant worlds within the Milky Way. The remainder chose isolation in which to meditate and seek enlightenment. This would eventually lead to a spiritual ascension for some.
 

Those Ancients who stayed on Earth and interbred with humans passed on the Ancient Technology Activation gene as well as giving civilization to the people.  They would also lay the foundation for the Latin language. Many Roman myths were also influenced by the Ancients , such as the myth that the "Ancient ones ascended to the Heavens". According to mythology, the Romans learned how to build roads from gods known as "The Ancient Ones".

The Arthurian Legends were also shown to be influenced by the Ancients , in particular the Ancients Myrddin/Merlin, who appeared to have ascended after returning from Atlantis, but to have de-ascended himself in order to create an Anti-Ori weapon. Merlin became known as King Arthur's wizard in mythology, and the Anti-Ori weapon became known as the Sangraal or Holy Grail. He also entrusted his secrets to a small group of nobles which consisted of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.

Some of the Ancients, presumably those who left Earth, set up the Alliance of Four Great Races including themselves, the Nox, the Furlings and the Asgard. Together, they created a "true" universal language. According to writings discovered on Heliopolis, this alliance lasted for centuries.  It is unknown if this event took place before or after the Ancients fled to Pegasus. In the words of the Asgard, they "moved on from our region of space long ago", which could either refer to Ascension or possibly the move to Pegasus.
 
RECENT ANCIENT HISTORY
After the Ancients' ascension, they continued to oppose their former nemesis, the Ori, who had also reached Enlightenment. Although the two factions are deadlocked in strength, the Ori are still bent on destroying the Ancients once and for all, sapping power from the second evolution of humanity created in their own galaxy to gather enough strength to attack the Ancients . In response, the Ancients chose to hide their own second evolution created in the Milky Way from the Ori.  They also probably influenced the associations of fire, the central icon of the Ori religion, with demonic imagery.  Still, they refused to take direct action.

The first ascended being ever encountered by the Tau'ri was Oma Desala, when SG-1 arrived on the planet Kheb in their search for Shifu, the young son of Apophis and Sha're. During their stay, the team discovered a Buddhist temple, where a single monk appeared to reside. The monk spoke in riddles, but spoke about a being called Oma Desala, a name Daniel Jackson translated as "Mother Nature". Eventually, when the team was preparing to defend the temple from several Jaffa warriors, Daniel discovered a non-corporal being living on Kheb.  He eventually formed a personal bond with Oma Desala, who even helped him to ascend on two occasions.

Three years later, an Ancient woman, Ayiana, was found frozen in Antarctica near the location of the Antarctica Stargate. She revived herself when thawed, but was still infected with the plague and died exhausted from healing SG-1 and others from the Plague. Apparently, she was left behind in the Ancient outpost in Antarctica, for carrying the plague, when Atlantis left for the Pegasus Galaxy.

When an Aurora class battleship was discovered by the Daedalus, adrift between the Pegasus and Milky Way galaxy, the crew was still alive. As the ship was traversing the universe close to light speed, the crew had only experienced a handful of years since the evacuation of Atlantis, due to relativistic effects. After learning that Atlantis had survived the Wraith, they reclaimed the city. However, when the Asurans returned and captured the city, all the remaining Ancients were executed.

After Daniel Jackson and Vala Mal Doran alerted the Ori to the existence of another galaxy filled with humans, starting the Ori invasion of the Milky Way, millions of humans were converted to the oppressive Ori religion, feeding them only more power. According to the Ori themselves, the entire conversion of the Milky Way would probably give them enough strength to destroy the Ancients once the crusade was over. Still, most of the Ancients refuse to intervene, even though their own existence is threatened. Exceptions include Morgan le Fay and Merlin.

SG-1 eventually discovered Merlin in stasis inside a cave on a barren planet. He was revived by the team, and assisted them with constructing the Sangraal, the weapon he had designed to combat the Ori. Although he died before he was able to complete the device, he downloaded the necessary information into a Repository of Knowledge.
 
PHYSIOLOGY
Pre-Ascension

Although the Ancients appear to be human in appearance their physiology is much more advanced. The main characteristic differentiating the Ancients from ordinary humans is the ATA gene, which occurs naturally in all Ancients. However, due to genetic inheritance from the Ancients who returned to Earth after they were forced to abandon Atlantis, a small percentage of humans on Earth possess the gene.  Also, the gene has been introduced in others through gene therapy.
 

It has been suggested that the Ancients and the Ori evolved in a galaxy far from the Milky Way, and were the first evolution of humanity.  It is implied that the current human species evolved as such due to the actions of the Ancients, since two species progressing along identical evolutionary paths is extremely improbable.  The Ancients later created the "second evolution" of their species, in both the Milky Way and Pegasus Galaxy.

Towards the end of their evolutionary development, but still before they ascended, the Ancients developed advanced abilities, such as telekinesis, extraordinary sensory abilities, and the ability to heal others.

Ascension

Eventually, the Ancients were able to ascend, thus shedding their physical form and existing as pure energy on a "higher plane" of existence. Although this new state of being grants them god-like powers, they adhere to a sort of "Prime Directive" which forbids them from influencing the unascended.

The ability to ascend is not strictly Ancients, as both humans, and even Goa'uld have been able to ascend.
 

PHILOSOPHY
The Ancients are well known for their fierce belief in free will. As such, they do not interfere on lower planes of existence at all, not even to save their own kind from being exterminated by the Ori. As punishment for breaking this law, the Ancients have been known to wipe out entire civilizations and abandon the one responsible to correct the grave mistakes caused by one of their people. They have also forced (or tried to force) transgressors to descend back to corporeal form. Ancients are, by every means, capable of drastically altering courses of events at will.
 

However, what exactly constitutes as breaking their laws is open to debate. Interfering "a little bit", as Vala Mal Doran described it, will be tolerated. Examples of this include the killing of several Jaffa troops[22] and giving the coordinates of Sahal and Castiana to Daniel Jackson. [8] Also, some Ancients, like Oma Desala, repeatedly assists "those beneath" in ascending. Those who follow her are forced to walk a very fine line. Other Ancients who have had to pay the price for interfering in the mortal planes include Orlin and Chaya Sar.

The Ancients' viewpoints completely oppose those of their distant cousins, the Ori. For example, the Ori religion states that failure to share the secrets of the universe to those on the lower planes of existence is an evil act and that anyone not following it must be eliminated. They also have no rules against taking direct control of living beings or completely changing them to behave as they desire.

This difference in beliefs is not without its reasons. According to a de-ascended Ancient, Orlin, ascended beings can be empowered by massive numbers of humans worshiping them. The Ori have fabricated an entire religion based on the false promise of ascension to drain power from their followers. The Ancients firmly resent using their powers this way, and therefore refrain from interfering in the lower planes of existence as manipulating and aligning lower life forms in some order could result in exactly this type of abusive corruption. As Morgan le Fay said, if they were to interfere, they would be no better than the Ori.

As a result, the Ancients have shielded the second evolution of humans (i.e. current human culture) in the Milky Way from the Ori (and although it has never been stated, they most likely did the same for the seeded humans in the Pegasus Galaxy and Ida galaxy [the Asgard home galaxy]) and still prevent the Ori from taking direct action in the Milky Way. However, as the Ancients will not interfere in the lower planes of existence, the Ori are allowed to send their human followers to the Milky Way in order to convert it, and anyone who wishes to worship the Ori will be allowed to do so.

Even though the Ancients do not believe in interfering in mortal affairs, it is speculated that they are responsible for generating the associations of fire with Demonic imagery in the Milky Way. This would be another method of shielding humans from the Ori, as the central symbols of Origin involve fire. As Daniel Jackson pointed out, there is no immediate illogicality with fire as a symbol of all that is good: it provides warmth, light, etc.

Also, even before their ascension, the Ancients had strict rules on time travel, although this rule has been broken as well. The Ancient scientist Janus developed time travel technology, leading to Elizabeth Weir using it to travel back to Atlantis 10,000 years previously, and to a column containing a history of future events on the Milky Way planet ruled by Harry Maybourne.
 

TECHNOLOGY
The Ancients' technology is perhaps the most advanced technology discovered by the SGC in the Stargate universe. Ori technology, which may have been created with ascended knowledge from the Priors, or the most recent Asgard technology, may usurp this title from the Ancients. Among their many achievements, the Stargates and Atlantis are perhaps their most famous, but they have also developed technology as diverse as flying cities, advanced power sources, advanced healing devices and DNA Resequencers. Much of the Ancients' weapons technology was used or designed for use in the centuries-long war with the Wraith in the Pegasus Galaxy.

Much of Ancient technology requires the presence of the ATA gene to use but numerous instances requiring only the gene to activate it, once active anyone can use it regardless.
 
LANGUAGE & WRITING SYSTEM
The Ancients' language appears to be a precursor of Latin, but it is still distinct. However, there are many similarities between the two, and someone with a decent knowledge of Latin may, given time and practice, be able to understand Ancient as well. The Athosians, and possibly other human civilizations in the Pegasus Galaxy, say their prayers in Ancient, making it a liturgical language much like Latin was in the Catholic Church on Earth. The Ancient language and writing system is also used by the Ori and their followers, who share the same ancestry. Since the Wraith were created by the fictional Iratus bug absorbing Ancient DNA, the Wraith language seems to be a derivative of the Ancient language, and the two use the same writing system; the Wraith language is therefore relatively easy to translate by experienced Ancient speakers.


 

The Ancient language has a unique writing system. Unlike the Goa'uld and Asgard writing systems, which correspond to Ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and Nordic runes respectively, the Ancient writing system has no analogues with any known Earth alphabet. Generally speaking, Ancient characters are squarish, blocky, and dominated by right angles. There are 35 distinct characters in the Ancient -English conversion. Exactly how the characters were used by the Ancients is unknown. It has been mentioned that some Ancient characters have different meanings when read upside down. The Ancient writing system has been shown to be learnable with moderate difficulty by humans. However, the pronunciation of Ancient words has fluctuated during the millennia the language was used.

The Ancients also seem to have an Octal counting system, meaning based on 8, not like the decimal system of the Tau'ri, based on 10.
 
TRANSLITERATIONS
In Stargate episodes, main characters translate important written Ancient text for the audience aloud and assert that the rules about Ancient language and writing described above are true. However, the 35 characters of the Ancient writing roughly correspond to the Latin alphabet, with 25 letters ('F' and 'U' are the same character) and 10 numerals. There are no characters for punctuation marks.

This allows transliterations into English showing that the in-show writing system rules do not necessarily apply in reality, but they sometimes reveal in-jokes or offer further (non-canon) information instead.
 

One of many Ancient writing occurrences on Stargate SG-1.

Notable moments/occurrences include:
  • The writings on the stairs in the gate-room on Atlantis translate into a sort of greeting for travelers.
  • Parts of the writings on Atlantis main screens include the beginning of the nursery rhyme Where Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone.
  • The table legs of the control room consoles in Atlantis advise people to "disconnect power before moving".
  • Puddle Jumper consoles include instructions on how to use this small ship.
  • In the episode "Affinity", Daniel Jackson is blackmailed into translating a section of Ancient text. The text shown on Daniel's laptop can be transliterated into "Actual words are hard to deciph(er) so this(')ll work".
  • The Ancient wall in "Reckoning" describes the use of the Ancient object hidden behind, and the responsibilities coming with it.
  • In "Avalon", the Ancient underground complex belonging to Merlin contains several riddle objects with Ancient writings. Daniel translates/transliterates them correctly into "Reflect on the Eightfold Path", "The universe is infinite" and "The treasure is [not] in this pot".
  • The engraved Sodan flagstones in "Babylon" give instructions on how to behave in the Sodan society.
  • The Ancient transportation device first seen in "Babylon" says "Gateway to Enlightenment" and has been used many times since.
  • In "The Quest", the Parchment of Virtues discovered in the village library is written in Ancient . When transliterated, the paper is titled "parchment of virtues", and the first (and third) passages read, "the true man will look for prudence wisdom kindness charity and faith be the truest of hearts and ye shall find the answer". The second passage is cut off, but the visible portions read, "though i wal hrough the valley of death ... ehe no evil". The last passage reads "hail mary full of grace the lord is with I just have bigger bullet launcher than you dig it." The "a" and "h" in "have" are transposed, probably by accident, given the similar appearance of the characters. The first and second written puzzle can also be clearly seen transcribed on the wall, exactly as Daniel reads it aloud.
KNOWN WORDS & PHRASES
  • Ani - Are
  • Anqueetas - Ancients
  • Atlantus - Atlantis
  • Astria Porta - Stargates
  • Adventus - Disaster
  • Aveo Amacus - Goodbye, friend.
  • Amacuse - Friends
  • Aveo - Goodbye / Farewell
  • Asordo - Help
  • Astera- star
  • Abicierum - To give up
  • Ateri - Temple
  • Clavia - Key
  • Commdo Asordo - Please Help
  • Contegia - Disease
  • Cozars - Legs
  • Cruvus - ill / sick / wrong / confused
  • Comdo - Please
  • Deserdi - Want
  • Derentis - insanity / crazy
  • Dormata - sleep
  • Domatavus - Master
  • Ego - I
  • Et - of (the)
  • Etium - Yes / Understood
  • Euge - Good / Right
  • Fallatus - ability
  • Farghus - Finished
  • Fron[d] - head / mind / brain
  • Glacius - Ice
  • Hic - this (is)
  • Illac Renin - Kingdom of the Path (Ori worshipping Jaffa)
  • Indeo - Need
  • Incursis - Overtaken / Attacked
  • Infinitus - Infinite
  • Locas - Location
  • Lacun - (of) the lost
  • Lumi - Light
  • Machinus - Machine
  • Motabilum - Uncertain
  • Navo - New
  • Noo - We
  • Orbis - Loop
  • Orus Mallum - "Place of Origin" Possible planet in the Ori home galaxy, the location of the Ark of Truth.
  • Porta - Gates
  • Pereh - Fathers
  • Perennial - Approaching
  • Proclarush Taonas - "Lost in fire" (phrase may have been coined from the planet's name)
  • San - Blood (referring to the Sangraal, Merlin's weapon)
  • Subo - Under
  • Terra - Earth
  • Tempo - Everlasting
  • Tempus - Time
  • Thessara - Treasure
  • Una - The
  • Uban - City (of); use as Uba=city - UbanAtlantus
  • Videum - Legacy / (is) left behind
  • Vintio - Wind
  • Vestul - Past
  • Vis Uban - "Place of Great Power"; Vis = Great Power; Uban = Place
  • Qua - That Which
KNOWN ANCIENTS
Although most of the Ancients had reached ascension long before the dawn of modern civilization on Earth, the Tau'ri have come in contact with Ancients on several occasions, both in ascended and corporeal form. Most of the corporeal Ancients were encountered in the Pegasus Galaxy, where their empire had collapsed only some 10,000 years ago. Also, some Ancients helped humans on the lower planes of existence ascend, like Oma Desala helped Daniel Jackson.
 
KNOWN COLONIES OF THE ANCIENTS
Milky Way
  • Dakara
  • Earth
  • Heliopolis
  • Praclarush Taonas
  • Taoth Vaclarush / Castiana
  • Valos Cor / Sahal
  • Vis Uban

Pegasus

  • Athos
  • Dagan
  • Dorandas
  • Lantea
  • Taranis