From my understanding of the Goa'uld the System Lords only are friendly with one another because they can't destroy each other and take their worlds.

However Ra is the Supreme System Lord shown by the Tok'ra in the episode Seth. To me, for a System Lord to be a Supreme System Lord, they would need some sort of advantage over all the others to the point that it's more or less futile to try and come up with a way of dethroning them.

So what did Ra have over the other System Lords to be held so high up?

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    The goa'uld fight so much, that if someone would ever attack another to conquer, then other goa'uld would undoubtable seize to opportunity to attack the aggressor behind his back while his forces are spent/occupied. This leads to formal and non-formal non-aggression packs. Ra being the supreme system lord, means he either has the backings of enough other goa'uld, or he himself has the resources to match multiple other goa'uld system lords, that its in most peoples best interests to just leave him in power.
    – Himarm
    Commented Nov 15, 2015 at 23:32
  • Ra controlling the Stargate to Earth? This gives him access to a wider variety of humans in far greater numbers than any other System Lord.
    – muru
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 2:45
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    My pet theory was that Abydos was it. He had a reliable naqadah mine that no one else seemed to be able to find or attack (which is the only way I can explain how little Abydos appeared on the show)
    – Radhil
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 13:30
  • @muru: What do you mean by "Stargate to Earth"? Any Stargate can connect to any other Stargate. Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 10:00
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    @O.R.Mapper "of", damn, I meant "of".
    – muru
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 11:32

1 Answer 1


Just as humans are different from one another, so are Goa'uld. They have different personalities and strengths. For instance, we see some Goa'uld like Niirti that are very skilled at scientific experimentation. Some are better at scheming and consolidating their power, such as Ba'al.

Ra, then, was better at being cunning, acquiring and expanding his power, and getting the others to see things his way. He played the game of politics with his fellow Goa'uld, and won.

Ra also helped overthrow Sokar during a temporary alliance, as we find out in S2:E18 "Serpent's Song":

Sokar is a Goa'uld of ancient times. He once was ruler of the system lords but was defeated by an alliance of Goa'uld many centuries ago. Apophis and Ra were among his conquerors.

His role here shows that he was already among the powerful, but not the most powerful. However, he may have found some way to acquire more of Sokar's resources, or otherwise position himself above the other Goa'uld. Apophis may have been a contender, but somehow fail short. After Ra fell, it's no surprise that Apophis was the first major Goa'uld the Tau'ri encountered.

Part of Ra's rise to power could be attributed to his discover of the Tau'ri. Before humans were used as hosts, Unas were used instead. But, from what we saw of the Unas, the species was not very advanced. They were physically superior to humans, but provided little other benefit: they're technology was was rudimentary even in modern times, and their dexterity seemed low.

Goa'uld sarcophagus could also heal the human hosts from virtually any injury, and even the effects of aging and death (as seen when Ba'al repeatedly killed and revived O'Neill). Unas may not have been able to be healed this way, because their physiology was far different than the Ancient physiology the hijacked technology was meant for. This would have made Tau'ri hosts even more valuable. However, this is never really tested and is speculation (there must have been a reason for abandoning the Unas, though).

Controlling the source of hosts for his species obviously put Ra at a continued advantage. As we saw throughout the series, almost none of the other planets with humans taken from Earth ever reached the population density of Earth itself, even 5,000 years after their discovery. So, even the low population of ancient Earth would have been a considerable advantage over his fellow System Lords.

Once the uprising tossed Ra from Earth, and it's location was lost, it's safe to assume Ra carried over some advantage from previously having a direct line of access between Earth and his other controlled planets.

There's some additional info from an RPG supplement for the official Stargate D20 RPG, called Living Gods: Stargate System Lords. While it wasn't written specifically by any Stargate SG-1/Atlantis writers that I can tell, it was developed in coordination with two MGM employees.

  1. 22, 000 B.C. Apep was an "alpha male" of the Goa'uld, and their original leader. He appointed Ra, among others, as his direct reports. During this time period, the Unas are nearly wiped out.

    Apep rules and Unas are almost wiped out

  2. 18,000 B.C. Thoth invents the sarcophagus, based on stolen Ancient technology. It extended the life of Unas for a few generations, but not indefinitely. Not, this parts clearly from television canon, because an episode in Season 7 established that Telchak created the first sarcophagus. The RPG was written current up to Season 5 only.

    Thoth invents the Sarcophagus

  3. 17,400 B.C. After the defeat of Anubis, Ra takes it upon himself to be the new alpha male. Again, this parts from TV canon which says that Ra was acknowledge by the other Goa'uld to be Supreme System Lord, rather than it being forcefully taken.

    Ra becomes leader

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    You had me in the first half of the answer, but lost me in the second. Ra hadn't had access to Earth for a long time, and neither did anyone else until Apophis dialed, largely by accident.
    – Radhil
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 13:33
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    @Radhil It was long enough to consolidate power. Once he had it, he kept it.
    – user31178
    Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 14:06
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    I don't see any of the 'disadvantages' to the Unas you name except for their dwindling numbers (if that is indeed true -- do you have a reference?). I believe the Unas could be healed. One Unas with a Go'auld symbiont survived a very long time trapped. And they are stronger. Perhaps an advantage of the humans was that they were easier to enslave and could accomplish more tasks independently because they were smarter. Commented Nov 16, 2015 at 23:56
  • @ThePopMachine Updated with the info, separating out source materials.
    – user31178
    Commented Nov 17, 2015 at 2:34
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    In addition to the above answer, very well put, is the knowledge that Ra is one of the "first powerful" Goa'uld. As well I do believe that Hathor mentioned in universe that she and Ra were some of the first parents, similar to how Egeria was the mother of all Tokra. Because Ra was "always there" he was well established in the galaxy and others would have to work to get to his level as he was already there and moving on to bigger and better things.
    – Odin1806
    Commented Apr 20, 2016 at 4:17

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