Their public image is sullied by the actions of the late Batarian Hegemony, which ruled their homeworld and star cluster until the Reaper War. The stereotypical batarian, xenophobic towards the Citadel Council and humanity, was borne out of the Hegemony's concerted efforts to combat alien influence that was seen by the autocratic state as undermining their values. The stereotype of batarians being slave-driving criminals came from the Hegemony's practice of exiling their criminals and dissenters, a social class already in dire straits, to the mercy and annoyance of the rest of the galaxy.
Batarians are a bipedal species. A flat strip of ridged cartilage runs along the tops of their skulls and down the backs of their necks. They have ears pointed at the upper end, though on occasion along the edges as well. The part of their faces commonly associated with the nose among humans and asari is instead an inverted flat triangle, symmetrically ridged vertically.
The relief of cartilage on the top of the head, according to some theories, is a holdover from where an ancestor species used to have photosensitive spots, akin to a third pair of eyes. These would have been aimed at the sky, capable of discerning between light and dark and potentially spotting aerial predators even at zenith by their shadow. The organ did not carry over to the batarians, but the cartilage formation did.
Batarians also have nasal windpipes covered in thick protective cartilage. Combined with numerous and relatively thin nostrils those evolved to effectively breath the air of Khar'shan - often very hot, dry and choked with pollen and dust in summer, and even drier and freezing in winter. Also, these structures have a minor roll in vocalization as resonators. A batarian can learn to moderately alter their voice by contracting small muscles present in these windpipes, but few bother with this.
Batarians exhibit a wide range of skin tones and colors. Most batarians encountered have a dark brown hue with pale facial ridges, but batarian complexions include reddish-brown, greenish, yellow-greenish to yellow-brownish, light brown, and teal. Some batarians possess striped colorations on their heads. Observed patterns include multiple chin stripes, a single strip running from the lower lip, or a thin dagger of color above the nose. These patterns are usually colored blue, black, or red, while the nose pattern is almost always red.
Batarian blood is also red.
Apparently, they taste remarkably similar to humans, with the added caveats that the eyes nearly qualify as a delicacy, and that one should beware of anything other than the arms and legs because they tend to have intestinal parasites. It's noted that batarian has a somewhat metallic taste to it, regardless of how it’s seasoned or prepared.
Significance of Eyes
Batarians are noted for having four eyes. Four eyes is an apex evolutionary trait on Khar’shan - only predators at the top of the foodchain exhibit them. Batarians are very considerate of the eyes, as each of the four is seen as a physical representation of the soul (zayn’ir), which is split into four pieces. Without all four eyes, a soul is considered disunified, and if the eyes are removed from the body after death, the batarian can’t make it to the afterlife. “Lesser” creatures with only two eyes are considered permanently disunified.
- Mind (“Li”) - upper left eye, mental strength and intelligence.
- Body (“Nava”) - lower left eye, actions and expression.
- Heart (“Anya”) - upper right eye; compassion and faith.
- Self (“Ziku”) - lower right eye, achievement and confidence.
According to certain batarian religious traditions, the soul can be unbalanced by the four parts being ‘out of sync’ - this is common, as very few batarian souls are completely in sync, either through choice or through circumstance. Disunification is common in victims of trauma and veterans of especially gruesome battles. Should a batarian loose an eye for whatever reason, a special pilgrimage must be made, and a replacement made from one’s own hands (in wood or glass) with all other pieces of the souls unified in Sight. Cloning and cybernetics are both common in modern times, and acceptable in most places, but strict followers often see them as ‘fake,’ and believe that the soul is partially destroyed in this way.
When a batarian dies, his soul leaves the body through the eyes. Treatment of the corpse is considered unimportant, unless the eyes have been removed by an enemy.
Batarians have a habit of looking at aliens with all four eyes simultaneously, making it difficult for a binocular species to know which pair to focus on during conversation. The inability to maintain eye contact is disconcerting for most other species, and the batarians always try to exploit this advantage in situations involving bargaining or negotiations. Focusing on someone with all four eyes is actually a part of the complex batarian body language and simply means that the person in question is very interested, which tends to go along with the secondary meaning, that they’re suspicious but confident. If a batarian is looking at you with his lower eyes but is flicking the top set all around the room, it means either you’re boring him or he’s uncomfortable. However, briefly glancing at other things with the higher pair while looking at you with the bottom pair isn’t necessarily rude. It might even mean that the batarian in question is trying to be polite, depending on the situation.
Batarians need certain symbiotic organisms to be in peak health. They can survive without them, but going for protracted periods of time without them results in a range of minor-to-moderate health disorders. As a result, much batarian food has 'parasites' in it - they're more like a health supplement.
Food and drink includes:
- B'garn (like Terran pasta)
- Ba'egek: A form of cheese, popular among the old Terminus Merchant Colonies, apparently goes well with fresh bread and a cup of jereta.
- Er’thak (which may be served minced)
- For'Sheh Tea
- Gora'va Sauce
- Goro Root
- K'nar Cream
- Keron Pie
- Kruottolk, an exotic dish resembling balut in nature, made from Qlygh eggs.
- Larmo fruit; like a large yellow grape, but less tart. It's a standard household favorite in certain regions of Khar'Shan, for members of every caste.
- Sharamik Eggs
- Thurai, a meat. Refers to a specific cut from a large, stupid aquatic animal commonly used as livestock.
- Tsyplionok (poultry)
- Va'shanosh dal (as a seasoning)
- Yora: A tiny blue fruit with a subtle sweetness; difficult to grow, and arguably more difficult to peel.
Batarians have sharp, obviously carnivorous teeth. Predatory, they're ominvores but eat a great deal of meat. There are theories among batarian scientists, made public since the fall of the Hegemony, that their evolutionary ancestors developed an instinctive urge to resort to inflicting pain to keep their prey under control while they killed it. Batarians didn’t hunt the human way - shooting animals with an arrow or spearing it with a sharp stick and then following it until it bled to death. It’s a generally-accepted theory that they ran their prey down, and overpowered it physically.
A discussion on batarian food, especially as compares to human food, is carried out across several pages starting here.
A batarian summarized the importance of body language to his species thusly:
With the possible exception of the yahg, I sincerely doubt many aliens claiming a familiarity with batarian tongues have anything of the sort. Our language is nuanced, and translators are notoriously bad at understanding body language, which forms a major part of our vocabulary. Everything from posture to our position relative to the door and any windows is indicative of a batarian's true meaning, and in extreme situations can be the difference between a hilarious jest and a murderous threat. The simple fact is that movement matters, and most of you simply don't have enough eyes to pick up on anything but the most obvious".
A batarian locking his two index fingers together is a sign of nerves, normally followed, if one can detect it, by a rapid movement of the tongue around the mouth. Anger is shown by rolling the lips back and showing the teeth. A sign that a batarian is interested by what you’re saying is a lean foreword, resting his head on his thumbs and extending his index fingers. Batarian affection is shown by lifting the crossed elbows up, accompanied by a smile. Batarians can control their body language as tightly as humans control their speech; very well in most cases but, sometimes, things are put across involuntarily. Among batarians, misusing body language is frowned upon.
Batarians are hierarchal; their strict caste system and legalisation of slavery by the late Hegemony reinforced this. Some speculate that this has its origins in an instinctual feeding order. Batarian society, culture and social structure are frequently said to hinge on trying to look like one is better off than they are. A person is literally defined by who's above them and who's below them in a real or perceived social, military and economic hierarchy. If you have nobody beneath you, you need to elevate yourself in the eyes of your peers. Naturally, people frequently resort to drastic measures to gain status.
Family is unsurprisingly important to batarians. In particular, the second son is favoured, and many families try for two boys; the second will frequently be given the name "Goronak", literally meaning "second son", in honour of the auspicious occurrence.
Agrada: A goddess.
Aptorian Guard: An elite ceremonial legion within a given nation.
Jupah the Blind Queen: A mythological figure.
Kalashak: A game.
Another popular pastime is Neeru racing.
Morok-Bal: A festival.
Another festival is Chaboron, celebrated primarily in the colonies. It's in celebration of Gae'tin Chaboron, a very beloved figure amongst colonial society. He was one of the architects of the old Hegemony and helped devise the framework that would preserve the bond between the states of Khar'Shan and the colonies. A celebration especially popular with the military is Ilrok-Maso, the Feast of Reflection, meant to allow one to reflect upon and thank oneself for their service and dedication to the batarian people.
Se'gash: A widespread cultural and mystical concept of an important thing (often, but not always a physical item) significant to its owner that becomes an integral part of their whole being, mind and soul included.
Tcheerok: A traditional gift-giving ritual with fairly strict rules tied to it.
Urakh: Part of the afterlife.
Another afterlife tradition involves Ta'ruan the Captor, a creature of folklore that punishes the souls of batarians who haven't fulfilled any meaningful purpose in their lives due to sloth, wastefulness, and wanton excess. Those who are captured by Ta'ruan are sent to Maenek, the Quarry of the Unworthy, where they must serve a sentence befitting their punishment, before they can be pardoned and allowed to pass on to the next world.
Another unpleasant afterlife is Hol'Marek.
Merequat: A traditional martial arts style, in wide practical use by the military.
Kohrhesit: Slaving gauntlet.
Anhur (shared with humans)
Aratoht (See: Bahak System)
An early attempt by batarians to colonise the stars was the Armada of Adek.
Not long after the batarians achieved spaceflight, they discovered concealed Prothean ruins on Bira, a moon of Verush, that allowed them to develop FTL travel. It's a batarian point of pride that since the ruins were damaged by earthquakes, they had less information to go on than other spacefaring races.
The Citadel Council granted the batarians an embassy on the Citadel sometime after the volus, approximately a century after the batarians and Council made first contact.
Despite being welcomed into the galactic community, batarian aggression provoked several crises in galactic relations over the years. Sometime around 1785 CE, a batarian fleet bombarded the salarian colony world of Mannovai; in 1913, the Batarian Hegemony annexed the independent asari colony of Esan; and in 2115, Citadel forces skirmished with batarian forces on the planet Enael.
In the early 2160s, humans began to colonize the Skyllian Verge, a region the batarians were already actively settling. The batarians asked the Council to intervene and declare the Verge an area of "batarian interest". When the Council refused, the batarians closed their Citadel embassy and severed diplomatic and economic relations, becoming an inward-looking rogue state.
Money and weapons funneled from the batarian government to criminal organizations led to many brutal raids on human colonies in the Verge.
Outrage erupted across batarian space as it became public knowledge that Bahak’s sudden disappearance was due to the destruction of the mass relay. Hegemony spokesmen were quick to address the crowds in a number of speeches, the highlight of which was a rare appearance by Councillor Mat’othon Grob, who offered the following:
“It is with the greatest sorrow that we must announce to the galaxy that Bahak and its people are no more. A proud colony has been reduced to nothing in a cowardly attack, but the Hegemony will not bow to terrorism, and asks all civilized people to join it in the hunt for the perpetrator: Alliance commander Shepard.”
Shepard was the first known human SPECTRE, and was a controversial figure well before the attack on Bahak. Long seen as something of a conspiracy theorist, Shepard was instrumental in defending the Citadel from the geth attack, and securing humanity a seat on the Citadel Council. Shepard was subsequently rumored dead, before re-emerging amidst rumors that SPECTRE status was being used to the advantage of shadowy forces within the Systems Alliance.
Abron Gral’thub, minister of the interior, described Shepard’s actions as “part of a secret agenda put into place by the Systems Alliance well before their agent was promoted to the height of authority in Council space” and “...merely a manifestation of longstanding Alliance policy - a policy dedicated to the eradication of the batarian people.”
High Archon Brazik Il-tara, recognized leader of the nearly-extinct shenzaw order of warrior-monks, was quick to denounce humanity as a scourge upon the galaxy, calling for a holy war to end the threat once and for all. In his sixteen-hour exhortation he railed against the failures of State apparatus to keep the batarian people safe from harm in the face of repeated human aggression, as well as the diminishing faith of the batarian people as a whole. Early reports indicated that membership in the shenzaw order had burgeoned in light of the speech, which the leaders of more widely-practiced faiths dismissed as the rantings of an obsolete madman.
Other official channels urged the public to wait and see, citing their demand for the extradition of Commander Shepard as an opportunity for the Alliance to come clean and “begin to mend the many wounds caused by their past actions”. Despite Shepard’s Alliance affiliations, SPECTRE status technically terminated service under exclusively human authority. The official government position remained that this was the act of an individual, albeit an individual with the tacit support of the newest Council race.
Across Khar’shan and other batarian worlds, entire cities darkened in mourning as hundreds of thousands of batarians gathered to hold memorials to the three hundred thousand dead.
Extranet attacks were also soon on the rise, as increasingly net-savvy batarian youths expressed their outrage from basements across the Hegemony. Numerous Alliance agencies suffered hacking attempts of varying success, most notably the Department of Agriculture, whose page temporarily offered “human pigdogs” as “triple-purpose servitors, fertilizers, and sexual partners”. Other popular sites were changed more subtly; it took some time for the Department of Health and Safety to determine that all the humans pictured on their site had had their eyes removed. The only affected site not linked to a human agency or business was Extrapedia, on which all instances of the word “human” were briefly replaced with “vrodal”, referencing the Khar’shanian ape-like herbivore best-known for re-ingesting its own faeces. As a result of the attacks, numerous extranet security agencies sprung up seemingly overnight.
The Reaper War
The Reaper invasion began in batarian space, and the Hegemony was swiftly overwhelmed, in part due to batarian officials indoctrinated years earlier by exposure to the Leviathan of Dis. Khar'shan fell quickly, and colonies began mass evacuations.
So many refugees poured into the human-controlled Exodus Cluster that the humans initially thought the batarians were invading.
Camala and Erszbat suffered very different fates than Khar’shan - centres of wealth and industry, both world governments were so thoroughly controlled by the Reapers that the populations marched willingly into the processing plants, at least at first. As the stench and gore became more prominent, more and more resistance sprung up, only to be crushed mercilessly by the government itself. The hopelessness of the cause became clear only when the resistance on Erzsbat was at its most successful, toppling provincial governments only to have their newly liberated city obliterated by overwhelming Reaper firepower. Though the two worlds were out of contact with one another, events took similar turns - those who wished to live fled into the countryside, while those who trusted in their government were guided by the hand to their deaths.
Worlds on the edge of batarian space suffered a multitude of fates - some, though left virtually alone by the Reapers, couldn’t survive without the oppressive might of the Hegemony to back them. Colonies suffered slave revolts, local governors who weathered these set themselves up as warlords or worse, and some fanatics even offered themselves to the Reapers willingly, if only to realize their mistake when the new gods didn’t look kindly upon them. Agricolonies suffered exposure as their sources of equipment and supply vanished overnight, while industrial worlds and their slave populations starved without access to imported foodstuffs. Military outposts destroyed themselves in orgies of violence, indoctrinated fighting those who resisted, or even simply two commanders trying to determine who would lead.
Eventually, months after the Reapers had vanished, rudimentary communications were re-established. Governments began to form, even if only gangs built around local strongmen. Travel resumed, surviving ships carrying basic supplies and trade goods between worlds, trying to avoid the ambitious marauders and military remnants turned to piracy. Survivors were rescued from devastated worlds, and those now in power began to consider the form their new society would take.
Khar’shan was now dominated by a religious fringe, and remained the recognized capital of batarian culture and civilization, despite the insignificance of its surviving economy. As the Reapers demolished the planet’s population and infrastructure systematically, one small nation-state was left mostly intact. This traditionally religious and technologically-backwards state was left alone only because every other area of the planet posed more of a threat - these farmers and monks using antiquated technology and hand-ploughs survived by chance. In the aftermath of the Reaper withdrawal, though, the green fields and intact homesteads looked like paradise, and the monks were quick to praise the divine for rescuing them from the apocalypse. A shattered and traumatized remnant of Khar’shan batarians saw the monks and their quietly confident ways as a path to salvation, and what was once an almost insignificant faith becamea dominant ideological force. Unfortunately, the perception that simple ways and the absence of technology promises salvation stifled all but the most necessary reconstruction efforts on Khar’shan.
Camala had always been one of the richest planets in the galaxy, due to its disproportionately large stockpiles of eezo. Only a few decades priorit was known as a multicultural centre of trade, hosting alien merchants and guests from all over the galaxy. Most of this changed when the batarians isolated themselves from the Council species, banishing all alien nationals without exception. Despite being under the Hegemony’s often corrupt and inefficient rule, Camala continued to flourish, and was one of the most heavily defended planets when the Reapers hit. The planet was struck very hard, it defenses destroyed, its government indoctrinated, and large percentages of its populace decimated in Reaper death camps.
When the Reapers withdrew from the formerly wealthy world, there was no civil war. The government, heavily indoctrinated over a number of years, ceased to function on its own initiative, and the Triad-like Grusto came to the fore. Quietly murdering the remaining elements of leadership, these organized criminals assumed the mantle of respectable rulers. In many ways the crimelords were in fact an improvement on the Hegemony government - centuries of working across class and ethnic boundaries in the interest of profit had left them capable of coordinating surviving slaves, nobles and casteless alike. Pragmatism kept the rank and file from following the commands of even indoctrinated Grusto commanders, and when the depleted populations of the surviving cities began to starve it was the Grusto who opened their granaries and food stores, gathering survivors into functional units with promises of food and warmth. The remaining populace rightly saw these former criminals as saviors, and while its government bore little resemblance to what had gone before, Camala was one of the quickest batarian worlds to begin functioning in a practical fashion. While the corruption and lack of regulation engendered by the Grusto might eventually pose a problem, they formed one of the strongest remaining governments in the Kite’s Nest.
As for Erszbat, government cooperation made the depopulation of the once-thriving world easy for the Reapers, and many of the cannibals deployed across the rest of the galaxy had their origins here. Focused as they were on population centers, the hinterlands and slave posts were left to rot. As the galaxy rallied and fought back against the alien menace, the Reaper harvesting programs intensified, leaving the cities of Erszbat nothing but empty shells. Even the complicit government officials were, in the end, harvested as reinforcements for the Reapers, and so as the menace passed it was the farmers and miners, almost all former slaves, who made their way into the empty cities and took for themselves what hadn’t been theirs before. These weren’t the educated, nor the wealthy, nor even the particularly informed, merely the oppressed citizens of a harsh regime that was nowhere to be found. Their early efforts at organization resembled work gangs more than any kind of government, and when these gangs did begin to unite it was almost always violent.
The indoctrinated government had long preached the existence of a rebel element, made up of both anti-Hegemony activists and StateSec agents that turned traitor soon before the Reapers’ arrival, using them as bogeymen to keep the populace watchful, fearful and obedient. Although none remained to know it, the government leaders had been absolutely correct. Such a group did exist, using the knowledge of StateSec secrets and the experience of those who opposed the Hegemony for years to remain hidden. They kept underground (often literally, in forgotten bunkers and bomb shelters), gathering their strength. Taking the name that the indoctrinated government gave them, the Cabal had taken over a number of abandoned manufacturing complexes and hidden military depots, clearing them of looters or remnants of Reaper forces. Although few in number (some say less than a thousand strong), the group counted amongst its members many experienced soldiers and guerilla fighters, veterans of many battles (often against each other), as well as many skilled workers covertly rescued from the harvesting process. The Cabal’s unrivaled access to high technology gave it an important position on the resurgent Erszbat, even if they chose to stay away from the squabbles and politics of gangs and city-states.
By the time Erszbat made contact with the survivors on other worlds in the Kite’s Nest, it had the beginnings of something resembling a democratic government. Negotiations were handled by a council of leaders representing cities and groups across the planet, though the Cabal’s existence long remained a public secret. The gangs had become political parties of a sort - parties which would never forget their origin in the mines and fields of the fallen Hegemony. Industry slowly ground back into motion, aided by the fact that the former government’s cooperation had led to most major facilities being spared destruction, unlike that visited on planets like Khar’shan. However, with the lack of skilled workers to run these facilities, and the Cabal’s small numbers and unwillingness to part with technology, the industrial recovery on Erszbat remained limited in scope. Even so, it was enough to ensure them a prominent place in the political dynamic of the Kite’s Nest. Even if the planet’s production wasn’t to the level it had been before the war, the mostly-intact infrastructure granted the remaining population significant advantages over most of their neighbours. The former slaves now in control of Erszbat were quick to leverage that potential into concessions from more conservative worlds, and while the caste system remained dominant on many former colonies, those wishing to trade with this relative powerhouse largely extended the traditional rights of the nobility to those of lower rank. Others, faced with the potential for uprisings and disaster, ceded such rights to their slaves well before making contact with Erszbat. On many planets, while symbolic devisions remained largely unchanged, the castes were now legally and politically equal, or near enough.
As contact slowly resumed between former Hegemony worlds, most discovered that the governments of their neighbours had followed similar paths. Only on a handful of worlds did the governors maintain power, whether by violence or by sheer luck.
The remaining slaves on Chresk revolted, leading to one of the most brutally quelled uprisings in former Hegemony space. The supporters of Governor Odar Gro’Habbon proved more than happy to commit atrocities against slaves, whether involved in the uprising or not, and the use of chemical weapons provided by the Crimson Chains was widespread. In the end, the Governor held onto power, although his grip was far less absolute than it was during the colony’s heyday - once the uprising was suppressed laws were passed restricting the number of slaves owned by anybody except mining concerns, who were required to maintain a very specific ratio of slaves to seurity personnel. In addition, the infamously cruel Chresk Games were put on hold until further notice.
What happened next was one of the most intriguing political developments in the post-Reaper galaxy: the founding of the Batarian Confederacy.
Batarian Body Language: The way of the batarian, explained.
The Long Way Back: A group of batarians spend the first year post-Reaper War trapped in Sol.