- Duncan Idaho: "Your strange words . . ."
- Leto II: "Are but words. I spoke them. They are gone. No one heard them, therefore they no longer exist. If they no longer exist, perhaps they can be made to exist again and then perhaps someone will hear them."
- Duncan Idaho: "Why do you poke fun at me, m'Lord?"
- Leto II: "I poke nothing at you except words. I do it without fear of offending because I have learned that you have no ears."
- Duncan Idaho: "I don’t understand you, m’Lord."
- Leto II: "That is the beginning of knowledge—the discovery of something we do not understand."
- — The God Emperor and Duncan[src]
Leto Atreides II (10210 AG - 13728 AG) was the third and last ruler of the Atreides Empire, before it began to break up into a loose federation ruled by various powerful groups. He was the second to hold the title of Padishah Emperor, and the first and only to hold the title of God Emperor.
Leto was born on Arrakis to then-Padishah Emperor Paul Atreides and his Fremen concubine Chani Kynes, the daughter of the great Liet Kynes, just after his twin sister Ghanima Atreides. He and his sister were preborn due to Chani's consumption of the spice melange in large amounts before her death. He was named after the Duke Leto Atreides I, his paternal grandfather, and Leto Atreides II the Elder, his older brother, who was murdered in infancy.
Seeing that their aunt, the Regent of the Atreides Empire, had been possessed by the ego-memory of her grandfather Baron Vladimir Harkonnen, Leto II and Ghanima planned to prevent her from destroying the Atreides and preventing the Golden Path, the salvation of humanity which Leto worked to bring about for most of his life. This period also saw them evade an assassination attempt by House Corrino which resulted in the banishment of Wensicia Corrino by her son Farad'n, who became Ghanima's lover. Following Alia's suicide as well as the murder of his father Paul, Leto took the title of God Emperor and ruled over humanity with an iron fist for 3,500 years, guiding it away from extinction.
Leto II and his twin sister Ghanima were born on planet Arrakis at the end of the reign of Emperor Paul Atreides. Their mother Chani died shortly after giving birth to the two children, mainly due to complications arising from large amounts of contraceptives that were surreptitiously given to her by Paul's legal wife Irulan Corrino. Paul had anticipated the birth of a daughter, Ghanima, due to his prescient visions. However, Leto's arrival came as a surprise to the Emperor. Both children were pre-born.
Following Chani's death, and the apparent death of their father in the desert of Arrakis, Leto and his sister became the legal responsibility of Paul's younger sister, the regent Alia. Though they were granted a fine upbringing, little attention was bestowed upon them by their aunt, who was possessed by Abomination and enthralled by her own power and the mysticism developed around the Atreides name by Paul.
Evolution on Arrakis
When they were nine years old, Leto and Ghanima gained the attention of their paternal grandmother, Lady Jessica, who returned to Arrakis from Caladan to inspect them as part of her obligations to the Bene Gesserit. While visiting, Jessica sensed the latent power present in the twins, and upon the realization that they could be a threat to the psychologically unstable Alia, pressed her Fremen allies to help protect them.
At this same time, Leto's prescient powers began to emerge. Through visions and intuition, he discovered the Golden Path that his father had earlier uncovered and begun to follow. However, unlike Paul, Leto developed a greater understanding of the Golden Path's implications. He sensed not only its dangers but also the painful steps that had to be taken to avoid it unraveling, which would be to the peril of humankind.
Leto and Ghanima escaped an assassination attempt by House Corrino. The two split up, with Ghanima conditioned to believe her brother was dead so that if she were to be interrogated on his whereabouts, she would not be able to tell the truth. Leto slipped into almost total anonymity, using the time and relative seclusion to build a foundation of power and knowledge through which the full impact of the Golden Path could be realized. To enact such steps required a strong (almost brutal) grip on power and longevity that would override the shortsightedness and impatience of Man.
Thus, after spending time amongst a variety of fringe Fremen elements, including The Preacher, Leto accepted sand trout upon his body and began the conversion into a human-sandworm hybrid. This transformation (which, in the beginning, was essentially a form of exoskeleton), boosted Leto's strength, reflexes, and speed immensely, and he was able to move across large distances on foot.
Ascendancy to Emperor
After his transformation had progressed to a sufficient stage, Leto emerged from the desert and returned to the city of Arrakeen to confront the possessed Alia and claim the throne of the empire. After Alia managed to briefly overcome her possession and take her own life, Leto claimed the title of Padishah "God" Emperor and promptly married his sister to consolidate his hegemony. The marriage was purely legal. Ghanima accepted Farad'n Corrino as her mate, but their descendants would be known as Atreides. The same year, Leto began writing his diaries, which would later be known as the Stolen Journals.
Early years as God Emperor (10219-12335)
Shortly after his ascendancy, Leto ordered a new ghola of Swordmaster Duncan Idaho from the Bene Tleilax to serve him as Commander of the Royal Guard, as the original Hayt ghola had been killed by the Fremen Naib Stilgar during the last days of Alia's regency. During the earliest years of his reign, Leto used the existing Fremen forces as well as Farad'n's Sardaukar troops, which he had given to him upon his ascension to the throne, to enforce his rule. His armies of Fremen and Sardaukar were commanded by a series of Idaho gholas, which would usually be replaced after they tried to kill him and he killed them in response, although very occasionally he allowed them to have natural deaths.
Over the centuries, Leto's empire, which he ruled as the God Emperor, became multigalactic through gradual growth. Very early on in this expansion, Leto suppressed the ancient Order of Mentats and banned the training of Mentats because they formed a nucleus of independent opposition.
Death of Ghanima
While Leto lived on for millenia, his sister and wife Ghanima, being but a mortal human woman, died after a relatively normal life in the first years of Leto's rule. After told of her death, Leto, heartbroken, wrote this in his journals:
- "The sand beach as grey as a dead cheek, a green tideflow reflects cloud ripples; I stand on the dark wet edge. Cold foam cleanses my toes. I smell driftwood smoke."
- ―Leto's journals[src]
He pressed a strand of Ghanima's hair, with a starflower blossom which she once brought to him, between these pages of the journals.
The Fish Speakers
While for centuries the Fremen and Sardaukar legions were enough for Leto, he ultimately decided that these forces were unsuitable to his needs. Leto believed that male dominated military forces were essentially predatory and would turn against the civilian population in the absence of an external enemy, whereas a female one would tame and calm. He also needed a reliable religious organization to enforce what was coming to be known as Leto's Peace to ensure the unfolding of the Golden Path. Because of this, he founded a new all-female army to serve him, commanded by the continuing series of Duncan Idahos.
Leto named the army the "Fish Speakers" because the first priestesses spoke to fish in their dreams. Although the Fish Speakers were all female, males were still employed as house guards, and their commander Idaho was male. With the exception of the nomadic Amazons who legend described as once ruling part of the Asian steppes of Old Earth, the Fish Speakers were just about the only effective all-female army known throughout the history of the universe. They were also, in terms of worlds ruled and historical longevity, the most effective military force ever known.
Burning of the Nine Historians
In his 2,116th year as the God Emperor, the famed Nine Historians came to Leto's attention. The historians angered Leto, for they had lied in their works, and he thought they deserved to be punished. On his orders, they were rendered unconscious, then burned on pyres of their own published works. Not one of them felt the flames, and they died peacefully. When Leto was petitioned by other historians seeking word of their fellows, he said:
- "They were destroyed because they lied pretentiously. Have no fear that my wrath will fall upon you because of your innocent mistakes. I am not overly fond of creating martyrs. Martyrs tend to set dramatic events adrift in human affairs. Drama is one of the targets of my predation. Tremble only if you build false accounts and stand pride-fully upon them. Go now and do not speak of this."
- ―Leto II to the historians[src]
Rumors of this spread across the Empire in the years that followed, through accounts which were later judged by the Bene Gesserit to have originated with Leto himself through his majordomo Ikonicre.
Last days (13650-13728)
Suppression of Wallach IX
In the 3,431st year of Leto's reign, he learned through prescience of the Mentat School the Bene Gesserit thought they had hidden on Wallach IX. He sent Duncan Idaho to extinguish the School in order to enforce his ban of the Order, but some of the Mentat-Sisters escaped, hiding their identities and continuing work for the Sisterhood.
Visit of Sisters Chenoeh and Tawsuoko
Bene Gesserit Sisters Quintinius Violet Chenoeh and Tawsuoko came to Arrakis in the 3,507th year of Leto's reign to confirm the long-suspected execution of the Nine Historians. Sister Chenoeh was invited to accompany the Fish Speakers in an entourage which accompanied one of Leto's infrequent peregrinations. At one point, she was invited to trot behind the Royal Cart and converse with the God Emperor himself. He told Chenoeh to tell the Sisterhood that he would "resore the outward view" and that the Bene Gesserit of all people should know the dangers of breeding for a particular characteristic, of seeking a defined genetic goal. Leto also told her things which she did not include in her report to the Sisterhood - thoughts on how he would be remembered, but also the statement that he would never see her again because she would not live to become a Reverend Mother. His predictions came true, as Chenoeh died in the Spice Agony due to melange incombatiblity.
Events leading up to the assassination
Final failed assassination attempt by Duncan Idaho
A year after Chenoeh's death, the latest Duncan Idaho ghola made the last unsuccessful attempt on Leto's life by a Duncan after fifty-eight years of service, in which he attempted to kill him with a lasgun. This failed when Leto attacked and killed him. After tracing the lasgun back to the Ixian Ambassador, Iyo Kobat, Leto ordered Kobat to leave Arrakis, deciding not to kill him because he was too unimportant. Instead, he told him to carry a message to Ix that the God Emperor knew about the agreement between Ix and the Spacing Guild. Leto also gave Kobat a private message for his masters that he wanted an extension for his cart, and that they were to send him a large supply of ridulian crystal paper.
Soon after, Leto sensed the need for the next step on the Golden Path and knew that his rule must end for further progress to occur. Thus Leto used Siona Atreides, a distant descendant of Ghanima and Farad'n, and yet another replacement Duncan Idaho ghola created by the scheming Tleilaxu after the failed assassination. With them, he sowed the seed of the Atreides genes for future generations.
Assassination attempt by the Bene Tleilax
During this period, the Bene Tleilax attempted to kill Leto during his progression in the Royal Cart across the Idaho River with his majordomo Moneo Atreides, the newest Duncan Idaho ghola and an entourage of Fish Speakers. Face Dancers approached the group disguised as Museum Fremen (the remnants of the old Fremen of the desert days) before all transforming into a copy of Duncan, each having also obtained uniforms identical to those worn by Idaho. Their hope was to confuse the Fish Speakers into not knowing which Duncan to obey and to kill the God Emperor in the confusion. This failed, however, when Duncan took off his uniform, and so the Fish Speakers knew to obey the commands of the naked Duncan as they fought the Face Dancers. After this incident, he had the Tleilaxu Ambassador publically flogged and expelled.
Assassination attempt by the Bene Gesserit
Also in the months leading up to the God Emperor's death, two Reverend Mothers and Truthsayers, Tertius Eileen Anteac (who was also one of the Mentats trained on Wallach IX) and Marcus Claire Luyseyal, came to Arrakis. They were warned about the upcoming assassination attempt by the Tleilaxu by Othwi Yake, the assistant to former Ixian ambassador Iyo Kobat, the man who had supplied the weapon Leto's most recent Duncan Idaho had used to try and kill the God Emperor, but their message to him arrived only after the assassination had already failed, because the captain of the Fish Speaker guard would not believe them. Anteac and Luyseyal were granted an audience with Leto, however, at the end of which he agreed to continue the spice allotment of the Sisterhood at its current level for the next decade despite a further attempt at assassination using spice essence by the Sisters.
Hwi Noree and death of Malky
Leto fell in love with the new Ixian Ambassador Hwi Noree. Hwi was a direct female clone of Leto's former friend and advisor Malky created by the Tleilaxu in an Ixian no-chamber. Since Hwi was conceived and raised outside of his prescient abilities, Leto was unaware of her until she was presented to him as an ambassador. Leto was instantly smitten with Noree, and within a few months proposed marriage to her, and set the date of betrothal. After the announcement that Leto and Hwi were to wed, Hwi's uncle Malky was recalled to Arrakis by Leto, and murdered by Moneo after a last personal discussion with his old friend.
A few weeks later, Leto, Hwi, and Moneo lost their lives when Siona ordered the bridge they were crossing to be cut by a lasgun by her assistant, Nayla. They all fell to their deaths into the Idaho River.
- "Do not fear the Ixians. They can make the machines, but they no longer can make arafel. I know. I was there."
- ―Leto's last words[src]
In dying, he released the dormant sandtrout from his body. These began to reverse the terraforming on Arrakis. The planet begin to revert into a desert world from the realized Fremen dream of a lush paradise.
- "I will die four deaths - the death of the flesh, the death of the soul, the death of the myth, and the death of reason. And all of these deaths contain the seeds of resurrection."
- ―Leto cryptically explains his death and legacy[src]
During and after his reign, Leto II was viewed as an extremely controversial figure. Following Leto's death, a chain of dramatic events took place over a span of 1,500 years. This included the Famine Times, the Scattering, and the recreation of the sandworms on Arrakis, which emerged from the sandtrout that escaped from Leto's body when he fell into the water. Many of the established power brokers who existed at the start of his rule were either destroyed or significantly weakened, due to his draconian tactics and a monopoly on the spice melange. To his admirers, Leto II was known as the God Emperor, but to his enemies (including the Bene Gesserit) he was labeled the Tyrant of the known universe. He was worshipped by the Bene Tleilax as the Prophet of God after his death.
The religion of the God Emperor also continued on Dune, which became known as Rakis. He was worshipped by the priests of the new Church of the Divided God, which became the dominant force on Rakis and had essential control of the planet, as the great Divided God and the third member of the Holy Triumvirate of Heaven, the other being his grandmother Jessica, and his father, Muad'Dib. It was also believed by the Priests of Rakis that he had carried within him the spirit of his brother, Leto II the Elder. This worship continued until the attack on the planet by the Honored Matres and also with those returned to the Old Empire from the Scattering, who called Leto II Dur or Guldur.
Living on in the sandworms
It was also said that within each sandworm that grew on Arrakis after his death, a pearl of his consciousness existed. This theory was supported when, 1,500 years after his death, an Arrakeen girl named Sheeana, who was a direct descendant of Siona and Duncan Idaho who later became the youngest ever Reverend Mother of the Bene Gesserit, displayed the power to control the worms.
Leto Atreides II was named after his paternal grandfather, Duke Leto Atreides, and his deceased brother Leto Atreides II the Elder. Due to his brother Stiros of the Church of the Divided God called him Leto III rather than Leto II, but was argued with by Hedley Tuek, who told him that the spirit of the older Leto had been reborn in the younger.
Those who worshipped him on Gammu called him the Great God Dur, meaning "Great God of Darkness", or Guldur, signifying black magic.
During his reign and later Leto was commonly known by his title of God Emperor, but after his death he was more commonly called the Tyrant, predominantely by the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, who also referred to him as the Worm, Worm God, or Old Worm. The Bene Tleilax, on the other hand, privately called him the Prophet or Prophet of God due to their belief that he was a prophet of their god.
- It is possible that the design of the God-Emperor of Mankind, a major character from the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game franchise, was influenced by Leto Atreides II. The two share strong psychic abilities, are practically immortal, bear the title of "God Emperor", rule over a political body known as "The Imperium", guide mankind towards survival, rule with an iron fist, and are the center of a vast imperial cult. In addition, large sections of the background material of Warhammer 40,000 in general are seemingly influenced by the Dune novels.
- In the books, Paul anticipated the birth of Ghanima, but not Leto's. In the 2003 Children of Dune miniseries, this was reversed; he saw visions of a teenaged Leto but not Ghanima.
- Dune Messiah
- Children of Dune
- God Emperor of Dune
- Heretics of Dune - Consciousness within the sandworms
- Chapterhouse: Dune - Consciousness within the sandworms
Alia Atreides (regent}
|Padishah Emperor of the Known Universe
10219 AG - 13728 AG
|God Emperor of the Atreides Empire
10219 AG - 13728 AG
- God Emperor of Dune, page 70