Leto Atreides seemed an open and honorable man. Yet the Padishah Emperor conspired with House Harkonnen to deliberately betray Leto, and destroy House Atreides.


  • I recall mention of existence of multiple BOXES worth of notes, either on SFF.SE or elsewhere. How much was actually used is of course a question. Apr 18, 2012 at 17:22
  • @DVK My assumption was that the vast majority of those notes related to the continuation of the series after Chapterhouse, with most of the information used for the prequels extended from background information. Of course, that's only speculation.
    – Beofett
    Apr 18, 2012 at 17:28
  • 1
    I listened to one of the prequels on audiobook... it wasn't terrible, it just wasn't as mature and epic writing as the father's works. Apr 18, 2012 at 17:35
  • @MarkRogers I agreed, until the duo started creating what seems to be their own mythology, and started scaling up the abilities of the characters well beyond what Frank's books entailed (such as the Sorceresses of Rossak).
    – Beofett
    Apr 18, 2012 at 17:47
  • 2
    My $0.02 on the prequels (having read the Legends of Dune books): If finding out "so that's how it happened!" is so vital to you, then you shouldn't be reading the Dune books in the first place. There is little merit to these books aside from boring origin myths.
    – flies
    Apr 18, 2012 at 19:17

3 Answers 3


The Emperor was very, very paranoid about the status of House Corrino. He was the emperor, yes, but Leto was his cousin, also of noble birth, and Leto was vastly more popular than anyone else at the time in the Landsraad. Leto was the unofficial spokesman of the Landsraad, in fact, their "highest position". That alone sent Shaddam into fits, someone who was able to claim the throne by virtue of noble blood was popular and well supported among most of the noble houses. However, Leto also had a huge private army, and, House Atreides developed training that made their soldiers superior to the Sardaukar.

"The Padishah Emperor turned against House Atreides because the Duke's Warmasters Gurney Halleck and Duncan Idaho had trained a fighting force -- a small fighting force -- to within a hair as good as the Sardaukar. Some of them were even better. And the Duke was in a position to enlarge his force, to make it every bit as strong as the Emperor's."

This is a quote from Thufir Hawat.

If the Atreides had managed to train their entire army in this manner, they would have had a force bigger than the army of House Corrino that was also better in combat than the Sardaukar. Shaddam IV knew all of that when he set in motion the plan to lure the Atreides to Dune and use their age old vendetta with the Harkonnens to destroy them.

  • 8
    Bene Gesserit were also manipulating the Emperor into merging House Atreides and House Harkonnen for their kwizatz haderach project. The Spacing Guild also had a hand in the whole conflict. They foresaw that House Atreides was a threat to the Spice trade and knew from experience that House Harkonnen didn't have a long-term, sustainable, Spice strategy. In retrospect, a whole bunch of social, economic, historical and personal reasons converged on Shadam IV
    – SteveED
    Apr 22, 2012 at 16:44

This information is in the prequels (Prelude to Dune).

Leto interfered in Emperor's plans to help Tleilaxu occupy by force the planet of Ix and use it to produce artificial spice with rather despicable methods.

In the year of Paul's birth, Leto's successful military overthrow of the joint Tleilaxu and Emperor's Sardaukar occupation forces on Ix, and his role in the subsequent political censure of Shaddam in the aftermath of Ix and the Emperor's other destructive actions across the Imperium, ensure Duke Leto a vengeful enemy in Emperor Shaddam. This culminates into the history-shaping events on Arrakis 15 years later. (Source: Leto Atreides I Wiki, which summarizes the Prelude to Dune books)

THAT conflict had even older roots:

Padishah Emperor Elrood Corrino IX holds a grudge against Earl Dominic Vernius [ of Ix ] for two reasons: Dominic had married Elrood's former concubine, Shando Balut, and Ix's new, larger heighliners negatively impact Imperial tax revenue on cargo

  • 3
    @DanielRoseman My apologies. I have removed the tag, as I consider DVK's answer to be excellent. Much as I hate the Brian Herbert "contributions", they are still suitably "canon" to form the basis of a good answer. Please consider removing your downvote, as the error was mine, and not DVK's.
    – Beofett
    Apr 18, 2012 at 16:41

I find it was little improbable that Shaddam IV would be paranoid about the status of House Corrino as in Nathan C. Tresch's answer.

The Battle of Corrin, which resulted in the foundation of the Imperium under the House Corrino, happened in 88 BG (Before Guild).

In my copy of Dune Appendix IV: the Almanak en-Ashraf (Selected Excerpts of the Noble Houses) says of Shaddam IV (who lived 10,134-1022) that:

The Padishah Emperor, 81st of his line (House Corrino) to occupy the Golden Lion Throne, reigned from 10,156 (date his father Elrood IX, succumbed to Chaumurky) until replaced by the 10,196 Regency set up in the name of his eldest daughter Irulan...

It specifically says that the House Corrino founded the Empire 10,244 years before Shaddam IV became Emperor. And the same house has ruled the Empire for all those 10,244 years. And that means that the throne has passed in the agnatic (male descent only) line for 10,244 years. So after 10,000 years it should be literally unthinkable to replace the House Corrino with another dynasty.

Duke Leto may be the Emperor's relative, but he is just a noble, not a member of royalty and not a member of the imperial dynasty. Leto might be descended from an imperial princess in a recent generation, but after 10,000 years of intermarriage, all the other members of noble Houses would also be descended from imperial princesses.

I read somewhere that the House Atreides traced it s ancestry to the House of Atreus in ancient Greek myths. And that statement doesn't mention anything about them being a junior branch of House Corrino that changed their dynastic name.

And after 10,244 years there were not doubt many different junior branches of the House Corrino. So maybe Shaddam IV was afraid that Duke Leto might depose him and put a more agreeable member of the House Corrino on the throne.

And I don't know why the Emperor would be afraid of any possible increase in military ability of Duke Leto's forces. He was the overlord of all the noble houses. Which meant that he had a share in all the power of each individual noble house.

Suppose that the Emperor got 1 percent of all the taxes collected by a noble house and there were 10,000 noble houses in the Empire. Then the Emperor would collect all the taxes from at least one planet, and 1 percent of the taxes from every one of 10,000 noble houses, an amount equal to 100 times the income of a single noble house.

So it would seem impossible for a noble like Leto to pay for an army as well trained as the sardaurkar and as numerous as the sardaurkar.

  • This appears to be an (extended) comment on the existing answer rather than an answer in its own right.
    – Valorum
    Jan 2 at 9:45
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    Also, clearly he was concerned about Leto because it says he was right in the text. At best you could argue that he had some sort of madness or paranoid death-wish.
    – Valorum
    Jan 2 at 9:47
  • Paranoia is the default of all such leaders, see Sword of Damocles
    – Separatrix
    Jan 2 at 10:03

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