- "Serve Cardassia and Cardassia will remember you. Betray Cardassia and Cardassia—through us—will have justice."
- — Glinn Thouves Daro, Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order
The Cardassian species originates from the world of Cardassia Prime in the Alpha Quadrant. Cardassian history can be described as an uncomfortable, often painful tension between great accomplishment and great brutality by the authoritarian state.
Given the crushing iron rule under which most Cardassians have lived for the past five hundred years, it is sometimes difficult to tell exactly what constitutes true Cardassian culture and what is the cult of the state. The years ahead may soon reveal the story--after the Dominion War ended in 2375, the Cardassian Union has begun some experiments, however halting, with democracy, and only time will tell how well accepted this is by the general populace. (A Stitch in Time)
Once known as the Hebitians, of Hebitia Prime, the forefathers of modern Cardassians were a peaceful and spiritual people known for their faith as well as their artistic prowess. The dominant religion was the Oralian Way, and the people were ruled by a theocratic government. During this period, the Hebitians made their first ventures into space, and had established colonies on other worlds by the 19th century (Earth reckoning) to include at least one of the other worlds of the home system. All of this threatened to be completely overturned at the beginning of the Cataclysm, a drastic change in the homeworld's climate. Revolutionary figures like Kelor Vetar and Tret Akleen rebelled against the established order and pushed their world to the brink. (TNG: "Chain of Command", Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius--The Desolate Vigil Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Point of Divergence," "Truth, Justice and the Cardassian Way" essay.)
With Tret Akleen's killing of Oralian Guide Yavenn Pretam, his symbolic act became a turning point at which the peaceful protests of Vetar gave way to violent revolution. The Cardassian Union as it is currently understood was established in 1870 AD. Nominally led by the civilian Detapa Council, it didn't take long for the Cardassian Union to come under the rule of an uneasy alliance between Central Command and the Obsidian Order (the latter of which had its origins in Tret Akleen's personal bodyguards and spies). (Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Point of Divergence," "A Weaver of Lives")
When Tret Akleen spared the life of Yavenn Pretam, the two of them began an open and honest dialogue that led to sweeping reforms of the government, eventually resulting in the foundation of the Cardassian Theonomy, a government that mixed secular and religious influences. This version of Cardassia was invaded by the Bajorans in 2325, a devastating Occupation that was still going on as of 2370. (Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Point of Divergence," Sigils and Unions: Catacombs of Oralius--"Captives' Ransom")
Cardassians are most recognizable for the hooked ridges encircling their eyes, and the inverted teardrop-shaped protrusion at the center of the forehead. In women, this area is deeply pigmented, as well as the third scale of the neck ridges. These neck ridges sweep down towards the shoulders at a dramatic, flaring angle that has been compared at times to the cables of an old-style Earth suspension bridge. The neck ridges may also be an erogenous zone. (DS9: "Profit and Loss")
The chest exhibits a pattern of ridges and scales not unlike those of the face. Though ethnic variations exist, Cardassians usually have at least a slight grey cast to the color of their skin with most actually having grey skin.
- The conclusive existence of multiple Cardassian ethnicities is--thus far--unique to the Star Trek: Sigils and Unions continuity, which does not retcon the appearance of the Cardassians seen in TNG: "The Wounded". All other traits described herein are species-wide.
Cardassian hair is almost always straight, and typically black or dark brown, and turns grey or white with age. Men usually slick their hair back; women show a much greater variety in hairstyle. Eye color comes in similar varieties to Humans: brown, grey, and blue have all been seen in Cardassians.
Cardassians hail from a reptilio-humanoid stock (sometimes referred to as "therapsids", similar to Earth's pre-mammalians) containing a combination of reptilian and mammalian features: they are able to grow hair on their heads like numerous other humanoid species, with a minority of men also able to grow facial hair, but the top layer of their skin is scaled. The largest of the scales, such as those on the neck ridges, are referred to as "macroscales"--the much smaller scales, only visible to the naked eye from centimeters away, are called "microscales." These microscales are capable of tightening against the lower layers of the skin to retain heat when a Cardassian is exposed to cold conditions. (Star Trek: Sigils and Unions: The Thirteenth Order)
- Regarding the classification of Cardassians--it should be noted that according to Earth evolutionary biology, Class Mammalia is in fact a subset of Order Therapsidia. Technically humans and Cardassians should both be considered "therapsids," but when referring to the fauna of Cardassia Prime, the term refers to a specific combination of mammaliforme and reptilian characteristics observed in a number of species hailing from that world.
That said, Cardassians rely on their outer environment to maintain body temperature to a greater degree than more warm-blooded species. This gives them a greater tolerance for high temperatures than species such as Humans, but leaves them more vulnerable to the cold. Frostbite and hypothermia are concerns that must be taken very seriously by Cardassians working in cold environments.
Cardassian chemical tolerance, however, is quite high; Cardassians are able to metabolize toxins, including the intoxicants in kanar, to a degree that humans cannot.
As one of the races (along with Klingons, Humans, and Romulans) descended from the ancient humanoids that seeded the galaxy, they are also capable of interbreeding with a number of other species, to include Bajorans, Kazon, and possibly Humans. (Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Star Trek: Voyager)
Society and cultureEdit
The ancestors of the modern Cardassians--the First Hebitians, were once a highly religious people, with one of the most prominent religions being the Oralian Way. Following the disastrous climactic upheaval that triggered widespread famine and unrest, the militaristic Cardassian Union rose and set out to vanquish the old culture. Nonetheless, the memory of the Oralian Way would remain buried among the Cardassian people until the beginnings of a revival in the waning years of the dictatorship. (TNG: "Chain of Command", A Stitch in Time)
Modern Cardassian culture places its greatest emphasis upon two things: the family, and the state. Cardassians demonstrate great dedication to their children and reverence towards elders, with multiple generations often choosing to live under the same roof. However, orphans tend to be dismissed as having no place in Cardassian society, their care often seen as a waste of valuable resources.
The education of children is taken with the utmost seriousness, making the Cardassian education system one of the strongest in the quadrant. Critics, however, have leveled accusations against the intensity of this mental training, which begins at four years old. (DS9: "The Maquis, Part I")
Advanced age is regarded with great reverence; Cardassians generally do not seek to hide the physical signs of aging. Nor do they speak euphemistically of their age. In fact, it is quite acceptable, even polite in Cardassian society to refer to a person as "old." Conversely, terms seen as endearing by many other races (such as "young man" or "young lady") can come off as insulting.
Courtship is often marked by heated verbal sparring--something which can occasionally lead to unintended consequences when people of other races get in spats with Cardassians of the opposite sex. Great emphasis is also placed upon the woman's ability to bear many healthy children. (DS9: "Destiny")
Death and funeral rites are quite elaborate. A dying Cardassian ideally seeks to pass his or her secrets to a blood relative for use against his or her enemies in a ritual known as the shri-tal (Ilojan transliteration: çriytal). After death, Cardassians often regard it as something like sacrilege for other races to look upon the remains. Funerals themselves are elaborate, often very public affairs in the case of noted military officials. (DS9: "Duet", DS9: "Indiscretion", DS9: "Ties of Blood and Water")
One of the key forces that has shaped Cardassian culture is the hierarchical instinct, which is a source of strong family and social cohesion among the people. When abused, however, corrupt leaders are sometimes able to perpetrate abuses against the Cardassian people and other societies without serious questioning or rebellion for much longer than they might be able to get away with it in other societies, though. Assuming, however, that Cardassians are incapable of reaching their breaking point with unethical or immoral activities is a serious mistake. (Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--"Ties That Bind: Culture and Instinct in Cardassian Relations")
The state and militaryEdit
Cardassians have a reputation for arrogance and xenophobia, fueled by the brazen atrocities committed by many in the Cardassian Guard such as Skrain Dukat and Madred. Thanks to the pervasive nature of these abuses--especially the Occupation of Bajor and the Setlik Massacre, it is commonly supposed that such behavior is universally approved by Cardassian culture. However, while many Cardassians do approve of or seek to downplay the atrocities, there have been several notable encounters with those even in the military, such as Tayben Berat and Tekeny Ghemor, who defy this stereotype and have formed bonds of friendship and even love with members of races traditionally regarded as the enemy. (DS9: "Second Skin", DS9: "Ties of Blood and Water", Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--The Thirteenth Order)
Patriotism is perhaps the highest Cardassian value; nothing is more prized than loyalty to the state, and nothing more reviled than treason. The rights of the individual are generally subordinated to the desires of the state, and citizens and foreigners alike have no expectation of privacy or freedom. The state and its leadership can be said to have taken the place of gods in mainstream Cardassian society. Nowhere is this more evident than the workings of the Cardassian justice system, where before the trial even begins the verdict is always known, and is always "guilty." (DS9: "Tribunal")
The Cardassian Guard is known for a combination of ruthlessness and innovation that, despite somewhat inferior technology to other regional powers, makes them a feared opponent on the battlefield. The degree of ruthlessness varies, however: some commanders, like Dukat, Madred, and Darhe'el are known for outright atrocities. Others, like Macet and Berat take a more measured approach, even engaging in diplomacy. (TNG: "The Wounded")
- The Next Generation
- Deep Space Nine
- First Contact (assimilated into the Borg Collective)
- Bait and Switch
- Dragon Ball Z vs. Star Trek: The Beginning of Infinity
- Star Trek: Gibraltar
- The Mysterious Case of Neelix's Lungs
- Star Trek: Phoenix-X
- Star Trek: Sigils and Unions
- Star Trek: Unity One
- Star Trek: War Aftermath