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T'au Empire

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T'au Empire
Capital: T'au
Official languages: Tau Lexicon
Head of state: Ethereal Supreme Aun'va
Governing body: Ethereal Council
State religious body: Greater Good
Major Species: Tau, Kroot, Vespid
Minor Species: Nicassar, Demiurg,
Human (Gue'vesa),
Galgs, Greet, Ranghon,
Tarellian, Ji'atrix, Hrenian,
Anthrazods, Brachyura,
Nagi, Formosians, Yabi-Yabi, Charpactin
Military forces

Fire Warriors (Fire caste)
Kor'vattra (Tau Navy, Air Caste)
Tau Merchant Fleet (Air Caste)
Tau Allies
(Kroot, Vespid, Gue'vesa, Galgs, Tarellian)

The T’au Empire (or Tau Empire)[1] is a rapidly expanding empire situated inside of the Ultima Segmentum, near the Eastern Fringe. Founded by the Ethereals, who lead the Tau empire in the name of the Greater Good. Several alien races (Kroot, Vespid, among others) have allied themselves with the Tau.[1]

The Tau empire borders the Imperium, and lies within the reach of the Astronomican. It has suffered many raids from the Orks, and also seems to lie in the path of several splinter fleets of Hive Fleet Kraken.[3]


Tau Planets.


The exact date of founding of the Tau empire is unclear, however the reasons behind its foundation are. In Tau prehistory, they lived in tribes on the desert plains, hunting and gathering their food. As their race aged, they expanded to all environments of T'au, adapting to each new environment. The Tau of the plains became strong and skilful hunters, larger and stronger than most other Tau. The Tau of the mountains developed the ability to soar high above the baking deserts on thermals. The Tau of the river valleys developed agriculture and metallurgy, forming the first true settlements. The development of settlements led to the need of trade, and wandering Tau began to negotiate and mediate between the disparate tribes. During the 35th Millennium, an Adeptus Mechanicus Explorator fleet Land's Vision, had discovered the Tau homeworld and determined that its population were a primitive people at the Stone Age level of development who had mastered the use of primitive weapons and fire. Before the planet could be cleansed and colonized by the Imperium, however, a violent Warp-storm erupted around the planet. This continued for 6,000 years, making the Tau's homeworld utterly inaccessible.[10a]

For some unknown reason Tau technological advancement preceded at unusually rapid rate then would be expected for a newly emergent race. The Tau of the river valleys developed the first fortresses and crude blackpowder weapons to ward off the aggressive Tau of the plains. During this time inter-tribal conflict escalated. These fledgeling skirmishes led to the darkest period in Tau history, the Mont'au during the end of the 37th Millennium. The numerous wars that broke out lasted for years. Each year thousands died, squalid conditions and lack of access to fresh food and water created a plague that killed more Tau than were dying in the wars. The Tau were on the verge of wiping themselves out. [10a]

During this time, the Tau legends tell of the first appearance of Ethereals at Fio'taun. The Tau builder fortress city of Fio'taun was under siege by an alliance of warriors from the plains and air Tau. Though negotiation had been attempted, the fierce plain warriors would settle for nothing less than the annihilation of Fio'taun. For five long years the inhabitants held off the savage assaults with their thick walls and plentiful cannon. However, disease and starvation began to take their toll. As the tide of the siege turned, two mysterious Tau appeared. One made his way into the camp of the plain Tau, exuding a quiet authority that no Tau was able to resist. Soon, the leader of the plain warriors was persuaded to parley with the Tau of Fio'taun. Similarly, the other mysterious Tau made his way deep into the fortress. Within a few short hours, the gates stood wide open, and the Tau stood ready to talk. [10a]

The Ethereals spoke of the importance of peace and understanding between all Tau. They described a Greater Good that each Tau must strive towards. The besiegers and the besieged quickly agreed with the Ethereals and a truce was reached. Across T'au, Ethereals emerged, each with the same quiet authority and message of harmony and cooperation. With the Tau united, the Tau empire was founded.[10a]

Expansion and conflict

Map of the current borders of the Tau Empire

Over the next thousand years the Tau empire experienced an unprecedented period of scientific discovery and philosophical advancement. The Tau empire continued to expand its border at a fast rate through a series of Expansion Phases. The Tau empire has gone through Spheres of Expansion These phases are a period of several Tau military campaigns during which nearby worlds are colonised, conquered, or sometimes peacefully persuaded to join the Greater Good. Therefore, apart from the star systems of the Tau, which are called Septs, the Tau Empire also incorporated worlds and star systems belonging to the Kroot, Vespid, and the Nicassar, who were the first race to join the empire and survive (as plague wiped out the Poctroon)[10f]. It is currently unknown if the Demiurg are full members, allies, or mere trading partners. The empire is composed by over twenty fully developed septs and around one hundred settled worlds, but the exact number and most of their names are unknown.[Needs Citation]

When the Tau encounter a new alien species, the Ethereals direct each of the Castes preforms a designated role to bring them into the Empire's fold. The world is first scanned by the Air Caste and those classified as desirable are investigated further, and if a sentient alien race is discovered the Water Caste sends ambassadors to make trade deals, defense pacts, and offer advanced technologies built for them by the Earth Caste. However should all these efforts fail to persuade the planet to join with them in the Greater Good, it will fall to the Fire Caste to forcibly absorb the world into the Tau Empire. Only the stubborn and warlike Orks have been denied the offer to join the Greater Good, for the Tau abandoned their futile attempts to absorb the Orks after many battles convinced the Ethereals that bargaining with them was impossible.[10a]

The Tau made first contact with the Humanity shortly after the Second Sphere of Expansion in the form of free captains, pirates, and lost colonies. They had regressed so far that they knew not of the outside galaxy. These planets were eventually peacefully assimilated or forcibly subdued, but it took the Water Caste time to realize that these worlds were just the outer fringes of an unimaginably vast inter-stellar empire, the Imperium of Man. However thanks to the wisdom of Aun'va, the Fire Caste calls for war with mankind were averted and the Tau embarked on a subtle campaign of trade and diplomacy with Planetary Governors to absorb further human worlds. The Imperium's response to these activities was slow, but when it did come, it was characteristically brutal and the first wars between the Imperium and Tau Empire began.[10b]

Damocles Crusade

Tau and Space Marine forces battle in the Damocles Crusade

The Damocles Crusade, was the first major military conflict fought between the Imperium of Man and the Tau Empire. Members of the Tau Water Caste had established trade agreements with Imperial worlds on the frontier of the Tau Empire, near the Damocles Gulf region of the Ultima Segmentum, and exchanges of goods and technology were common. Alarmed by the threat of alien contamination, the Administratum readied a suitable response and almost a century later, the Damocles Crusade invaded Tau space, destroying several outlying settlements and pushing deep into the Tau Empire. When the Imperial fleet reached the Tau Sept world of Dal'yth, however, the Crusade ground to a bloody stalemate as the formidable numbers and high technology of the Tau and their Kroot allies thwarted every attempt to capture the world or its star system. Many months of terrible fighting ensued with nothing gained on either side. By late 742.M41 the Crusade's commanders eventually agreed to requests from the Tau Water Caste for peace talks. The negotiations were successful and the Imperial fleet withdrew from Tau space unmolested, primarily due to the impending approach of the Tyranid Hive Fleet Behemoth. A known splinter faction are the Farsight Enclaves. Also, more recently some worlds and star systems of the Imperium have been conquered by the Tau forces, while a handful have seceded and pledged their allegiance to the Tau empire.[Needs Citation]

Farsight Expedition

The Farsight Expedition was launched shortly after the Damocles Crusade. Under the commander of Farsight, the Tau forces engaged Orks along an asteroid belt before Farsight mysteriously vanished with his Fire Warriors. After the campaign, Farsight eventually continued his advance despite orders, encountering an unknown enemy at Arthas Moloch and thereafter establishing the Farsight Enclaves.[10c]

Hive Fleet Gorgon

Hive Fleet Gorgon battles the Tau[11]

The Tau Empire was invaded by Hive Fleet Gorgon in 899.M41. Gorgon was exceptional for its ability to quickly adapt on a biological level to new circumstances of battle, such as evolving immunities to Tau weaponry. This rapid pace of adaptation may have been unique to Gorgon, or it may have been a response to conflict with the Tau, who are also highly adaptable but on a technological level. The combined forces of the Tau and the Imperial Guard destroyed Gorgon in 903.M41, albeit after losing several trading partners and colony worlds.[3]

Great War of Confederation

The Great War of Confederation began after the Farsight Expedition in 975.M41 and was a war of survival for the Tau. Faced with an enormous Ork invasion fleet, only the leadership of Aun'va and Commander Shadowsun led to Tau victory, paving way for the Third Sphere of Expansion.[10d]

Further Expansion

Beginning after the Empire had united against the Orks in the Great War of Confederation, in 997.M41 Aun'va declared a beginning to the Third Sphere of Expansion, which drove deep into Imperial territory and saw the Imperium crushed at the Battle of Mu'gulath Bay.[10e]

At some point, the Tau sent an expeditionary force to the planet Malbede where they came into conflict with the Ultramarines Chapter in 936.M41. However, the world proved to be cursed when their fighting awakened the sleeping Necrons from their tomb beneath the surface. In an effort to combat this threat, the Tau and the Ultramarines combined forces to defeat the Necrons. Once the conflict was over, the Tau were allowed to evacuate their forces by Marneus Calgar who proceeded to destroy Malbrede through an Exterminatus.[2]

In 666.M41, the Tau fought against the Adeptus Astartes of the Space Wolves Chapter during the War for Kvarium Alpha. On that water-clogged world, drop pods landed deep in the oceans where their occupants made a move to engage their enemy. On the surface, the battle was fought between the two sides with an equally deadly conflict erupting in the depths of the sea between the Space Wolves and Tau Battlesuits. Thunderhawk Gunships were used to great effect against Hammerhead tanks and Manta gunships with torpedoes, prop-bombs and missiles being used against the Tau. Ultimately, the Space Wolves proved to be the victor in the conflict where hundreds of Tau and Space Wolf corpses floated to the surface. With their mission complete, the Space Wolves made the long trek back to land across the sea bed.[1]

By late M41, the Third Sphere had ground to a halt due to Imperial counterattacks in the Damocles Gulf. Thus the Tau launched additional Expansion campaigns, including the ill-fated Fourth Sphere, which resulted in a wormhole known as the Startide Nexus. This unforeseen consequence has since allowed for the current Fifth Sphere.[13]


Structure of the Tau Empire

Each race within the Tau empire, has a unique and different society. However all races have one common belief in the Greater Good. The Greater Good, or Tau'va (Tau), is the founding principle of Tau society. The Tau'va system is based on Castes and is designed to allow for the advancement of the entire Tau society together towards a more successful, prosperous and easier existence in the future.[Needs Citation]


Tau society is centred around the concept of the Greater Good, where individual Tau sacrifice personal gain in favour of benefiting the Tau race as a whole. It is from this philosophy that the Tau's all-purpose motto, "For the Greater Good!", is derived. The castes, although different in role and organisation, work together for the benefit of all Tau: the Earth caste provide and produce, the Water caste communicate and distribute, the Air caste connect the worlds of the Tau Empire, and the Fire caste protect. The external image of the Tau is that they are altruistic and idealistic, believing in the unification of all "for the Greater Good".[Needs Citation]



Kroot society is divided into tribes, known as Kindreds. Each Kindred is an extended family group of Kroot and is led by a Shaper, one Kroot with an intuitive understanding of the DNA absorption process all Kroot possess, and responsible for guiding the evolution of their Kindred. The Shaper, upon identifying a beneficial genetic trait, will instruct his Kindred to hunt and consume that animal, and then control the breeding of the Kindred to ensure that the offspring are born with the selected trait. Often, Kindreds will band together, and the Shapers will form a Council, of which the most influential Kindred's Shaper will be made leader of the group. On rare occasions, a Chief will unite a large number of Kindreds underneath him.[Needs Citation]

Kroot dwell in warm, temperate conditions on the worlds they inhabit, and construct large tree houses from animal hides, bound together by regurgitated dead wood. Some Kindreds reside in the ruins of the hive cities. There has been no obvious industry on Pech since the coming of the Orks, but Tau Research Teams have detected strange energy emissions, emanating from a collection of hills near their base.[Needs Citation]

The consumption of flesh is one of the key tenets of Kroot spirituality, as it is believed that the consumption of prey imparts the 'spirit' of the prey to the Kroot, which is then passed on to the Kroot's children. This is the average Kroot's understanding of their rapid evolution, with 'spirit' as a substitute for 'genetic trait'. As a part of this, the Kroot believe that when a warrior dies, his spirit should be kept safe by the Kindred. They will consider it their responsibility to consume the bodies of their dead foes, along with their own fallen and elders.

Vespid (Mal'kor)

A Vespid warrior.

The Vespid warriors, called Stingwings, form tactical units referred to as Strains. Each Strain is lead by a Strain leader.[1] Because the Vespid language is so complex (presumably because of their complex mouths) and only the Strain Leaders are given the apparatus to translate their language to their Tau allies, Vespid Strains are very close knit and a lot of reliance on Strain Leaders come from both sides.[Needs Citation]

Stingwing Strains are highly sought after in Tau Fire Warrior Cadres because of their high level of maneuverability. They are often used by Tau commanders alongside Crisis Battlesuits or used in a scouting role, backing up Pathfinders. In the Tau language they are referred to as "Mal'kor," which comes from "Mal" meaning insect and "kor" meaning air.[Needs Citation]

Human (Gue'vesa)

Gue'vesa soldiers.

The Tau Empire claims to host a growing population of Humans or Gue'vesa (Tau) who were once a part of the Imperium of Man. Ranging from ideological defectors to captured guardsmen and their children, they have allegedly been incorporated into the empire - a notable example being the 19th Regiment of the Brimlock Dragoons.

It is claimed by the Empire that the Humans are content and treated well, even being allowed to worship the Emperor [15].

Other Races


The Tau Empire at war

Tau ground warfare is carried out almost exclusively by the Fire caste, with its Supreme Command being the Shas'ar'tol[10g]. The Air caste is responsible for aerial and space combat, and providing transport between systems. The basic Fire Caste military unit is known as a Cadre, or Kau'ui[12a], similar in size and role to an Imperial Guard Company, and is primarily made up of Tau from the same sept. Auxiliaries are drawn from the alien races within the Tau Empire, and can include Kroot warriors, Vespid Stingwings, and Gue'vesa, among other forces.[Needs Citation]

The most commonly-fielded Cadre is a combined-arms formation (made up of multiple Teams, or La'rua), though more specialised Cadres exist such as a Battlesuit Retaliation Cadre and a Pathfinder Infiltration Cadre. Three to six Cadres will often fight together as part of a Contingent, or Tio've similar to an Imperial Guard Regiment and commanded by the most senior Cadre commander. Three to six Contingents may be grouped together into a Battle (also known as a Commune or Kavaal), though this is only a temporary formation. All Fire Caste forces in a given location, whether a planet or star system, is grouped into a Command under the leadership of a High Commander, with the four Commands (or Uash'o) (Fire, Earth, Water and Air) grouped into a Coalition (or Shan'al) under the command of the local Ethereals.[12a]

The Tau prefer long-ranged combat over close-quarters fighting, and use the speed and agility of their anti-gravity vehicles to fight a war of maneuverability. Pinpoint destruction is favoured over massive barrages, hence the preponderance of laser-guided missiles as artillery. The destruction of the enemy's forces is considered more important than the capture of territory, and the Tau will willingly give ground in order to achieve a more advantageous position. Battle plans are complex affairs, with each Cadre given specific targets and launch times, and if the initiative is lost the Tau will fall back to plan a new strategy. The Tau military has neither the inclination nor the numbers to fight a war of attrition, and so must choose its battles carefully.[Needs Citation]

The idea of a static defence is foreign to the Tau's military philosophy. If forced to defend a location, the Tau will still use offensive manoeuvres in order to keep the enemy off-balanced while important assets are removed. Bunkers and other defensive emplacements can be constructed, primarily to defend against long-range bombardment, but as a rule Tau cities are rarely fortified, and will often be evacuated in the face of an enemy attack.[Needs Citation]

In cases where close combat is unavoidable, the Tau will send in its auxiliaries, the Kroot especially, to handle the situation.[Needs Citation]

See Also

The Tau empire, centred upon the world of T'au.



Tau Empire
Castes EtherealAirEarthFireWater
Allied Races KrootVespidNicassarDemiurgGue'vesaGalgTarellianGreet
ThraxianAnthrazodG’noshYabi-YabiOstense CouncilFormosianRanghon
Military Fire WarriorsKor'vattraMerchant FleetAuxiliaries
Culture SeptGreater GoodTau Lexicon
Notable Characters Aun'VaAun'shiO'ShaserraO'ShovahPuretideEl'MyamotoT'au Sha'ng