- "On the blood of our fathers, on the blood of our sons... we swore to uphold the Covenant!"
- — Rtas 'Vadumee before the Battle of the Gas Mine.
- The Sangheili (more commonly known as Elites) are an extraterrestrial saurian species native to the planet Sanghelios.
The Sangheili are well-suited for combat, such is their ferocity, agility, strength, and natural martial prowess. Their skills in combat have earned them the nickname "Elites" among humans. The Sangheili also have an intense rivalry with another Covenant species, the Brutes. This rivalry ultimately festered into an open hatred when the Sangheili seceded from the Covenant in 2552 in response to the genocidal acts of the Brutes, declaring war against their former allies.
Sangheili are the generals of the Covenant military, the longtime guards of the Prophets, and the first race to join the Prophets in the Covenant. They stand between seven and eight feet tall, although they hunch over in combat which makes them appear closer to human size. They are naturally strong and intelligent, capable of coordinating their units with efficient battle tactics. They wear armor, with the color - and sometimes aesthetics - indicating rank, and use an energy shielding system which is similar of that of SPARTAN-II MJOLNIR armor. However, the MJOLNIR battle armor's shield are based upon the energy shields of the Covenant Jackals.
- 1 History
- 2 Description
- 3 Culture
- 4 Combat Harness
- 5 Known Sangheili ranks and positions
- 6 Gallery
Stance in Covenant Civil War
After the Uprising of 2552, the Sangheili formed an alliance with the UNSC with the intent to take out the Prophet of Truth and to end the Covenant all together after realizing 'The Great Journey' is a lie.
After the Great Schism, the Arbiter, Thel Vadam, formed the Swords of Sanghelios faction.
Sangheili can measure over seven feet and grow to a height of 8ft 6inches (aprox) and weigh over 300 pounds. Their four-fingered hands consist of two fingers and two thumbs, all of which are larger than those of a human's. Despite their reptilian appearance, Sangheili also have four separate mandibles which are insectoid in-appearance. Their natural strength and intelligence allow for Sangheili to be strong warriors, winning them the respect and fear of allies and enemies alike. To hone these natural traits, Sangheili don a Combat Harness integrated with Energy Shields, which also gives them an increase to their strength and reflexes. When wearing their combat armor, Sangheili bear a similarity to modern-day sharks as the sides of their helmets resemble fins of a shark.
Anatomy and Physiology
Sangheili are bipeds and bear a superficial resemblance to humans from a distance, an illusion shattered upon closer inspection. In addition to standing between 7'4 and 8'6 in a fully upright position, their head is more reptilian than humanoid with a quadruple-hinged mandibled mouth which opens at the bottom, hence the "split chin" and "squid face" nicknames given to them by humans. The central jaw contains around eight to ten teeth, although it has been noted that they can have more feral-like teeth fangs at the of each mandible. However, there is no visible tongue. The torso of Sangheili are similar to the those of a human, although the chest and abdomen are much wider, almost twice that of a well-muscled human. Sangheili also appear to have a double set of pectoral muscles and a more muscular back. Their shoulders are nearly identical in structure to human shoulders, only longer in length and thicker. Their hands have four digits, two fingers and two opposable thumbs, which allow them to use most equipment designed for humans. Conversely, this allows humans with the correct understanding to operate Covenant equipment. The feet of Sangheili are digitigrade, which allows them to jump greater distances and run much faster than the human norm. Their toe configuration resembles the cloven hooves of various terran mammals; although Sangheili wear a soled boot, the overall shape of the "hooves" are still visible. While it is a common misconception that the knees of the Sangheili, as well as the knees of other well known bipedal animals such as dinosaurs "bend backward" as opposed to forward, this is not an anatomically correct description. In fact, the configuration of the legs and feet of such creatures are essentially identical to that of humans, except that the toes play the role of the whole foot, and the so-called "backwards knee" actually corresponds to the heel and ankle joint in a human foot.
Sangheili have been noted to have two hearts, which help circulate indigo-colored blood through their veins. Sangheili have been noted to survive on Earth with no respiratory equipment, they apparently breathe oxygen. It is notable that whilst wearing the Combat Harness, Sangheili possess a physical strength on par with SPARTAN-II soldiers outfitted with MJOLNIR Mark V armor, indicating an equal capacity to lift upwards of a ton and possibly break concrete with a single blow. How much of this is due to their natural strength is unknown.
All of the Sangheili seen in the Halo series so far have had deep, masculine voices, although whether this is a product of their physiology or gender is undetermined. While Female Sangheili are trained from youth to fight alongside males, they remain on their home world to provide a home guard and for the sake of reproduction. As is perhaps expected from their reptilian physiology, Sangheili lay eggs.
Sangheili intelligence is dependent on different factors than that of humans, so a direct comparison is difficult. Due to their skilled utilization of technology, somewhat rational behavior, and ability to logically calculate situations in battle, their intelligence appears to be comparable to that of humans. They have decent strategic skill as well as good problem-solving and empathic ability. However it should be noted that the UNSC has managed to outsmart them on a number of occasions, such as Admiral Cole's multiple victories against them during his career, Paterson's victory at Onyx against a fleet larger than his own (and more advanced), and Keyes' victory at Sigma Octanus IV, despite the UNSC possessing significantly weaker technology. Just how much of the Sangheili's victories relied more on advanced technology given to them by the Prophets rather than better strategies and tactics is unknown. It was noted by Captain Keyes during the Battle of Reach that Covenant tactics were becoming unimaginative, typically involving distractions and diversion of forces. The default strategy employed tactics of attrition, normally involving the mass sacrifice of ships to break orbital defenses, or mass hordes of Unggoy to break enemy lines.
It is also notable that a Sangheilian puzzle called the Arum manages to evade being solved by most Sangheili more than once in their entire lives, with the fastest time being a few days. A human anthropologist, however, was able to solve one within a few hours of finding it. This perhaps may indicate that Humans have a somewhat greater degree of intelligence and ingenuity when it comes to creativity and problem solving than the Sangheili. However, the aforementioned anthropologist also stated that he was able to solve similar human puzzles (rubix cubes) just as easily, and when questioned by a Sangheili whether all humans had this ability, he replied no, indicating that he may simply have exceptional puzzle solving skills. Whatever the differences though, they are likely insignificant. The Sangheili still managed to attain a level of technology roughly comparable to the UNSC before coming into contact with the Prophets; before they began to reverse engineering Forerunner technology. There are also notable individuals, such as Rtas 'Vadum, who appear to posses a great degree of resourcefulness, tactical intelligence and creativity. 'Vadum was able to defeat a Brute fleet three times the size of his own above Installation 00.
Sangheili have a strong warrior culture, similar to that of ancient Japan or Sparta, and this same code of honor can also be seen within a noble Cybertronian Utahraptor; they fight for the glory of combat and to uphold the Covenant Oath. Sangheili names with the suffix "-ee" are used to denote warriorhood. Note that in-game, almost no Covenant characters are given actual names; all Covenant characters are referred to by their rank or position. However, several Covenant characters are given names in the Halo novels.
Sangheili are typically promoted on the number of enemies they have killed and casualties inflicted on the opposing force, meaning that a single gold Sangheili may have slaughtered thousands before attaining that rank. The energy sword, an ancestral weapon, continues to be a favorite weapon for high-ranking Sangheili warriors, and is limited only to their use. As shown in the Halo Graphic Novel, energy sword fighting styles and duels have been developed, including styles based around wielding two separate blades.
Respectful but authoritative commanders, Sangheili rarely fail to elicit a strong bond of loyalty with their troops: it was noted that two separate Arbiters suppressed the Grunt Rebellion and tamed the Hunters, and these two races remained faithful to the Sangheili when they were cast out from the Covenant. In the original Halo game, they speak in their own untranslated language, which sounds like deep, throaty warbling and is the result of playing digitally modified sound clips of Sergeant Johnson's speech backwards. In Halo 2, the Sangheili speech is translated into English due to improved UNSC translation software (despite the fact that their mandibles are physically unfit to produce such exact acoustic language). Humans have also developed derogatory nicknames for Sangheili, mainly "squid face" and "split-chin", while the Sangheili believe that only things of importance are named. However, they refer to the Master Chief as "the Demon" to denote his immense success against the Covenant in battle, as he has had hundreds of victories against the Covenant and escaped with tens of thousands of kills, as stated by Zuka Zamamee in Halo: The Flood, implying that the Master Chief is an evil and supernatural spirit.
Some Sangheili believe that the role and success of the SPARTANs is that of a Sangheili, as SPARTANs are "stronger, faster and more aggressive" fighters. They fight more like Sangheili, even serving the same purpose. Able to inspire discipline and tenacity through the ranks." (Conversations from the Universe booklet) Sangheili believe that SPARTANs are a fully different class of warrior, and in some ways this is true. Initially, Sangheili labelled all humans as inferior, but between (or near) the events of Halo 2 it was stated, "Even the smallest of them throw themselves at us in battle; if only the Unggoy were as dedicated." (Conversations from the Universe Booklet)
Covenant Sangheili wear an all-over battle suit, augmented with stronger armor which covers the torso, arms, thighs, shins and head. These parts of the armor come in a variety of colors depending on rank and position within their own society. The armor is fitted on top of an all-over gray-green, skin-tight body suit (presumably made of some leather-like, bulletproof material), although the head and mandibled mouth is partially exposed. Sangheili apparently value their armor as gifts from the Forerunners, much like the other pieces of Forerunner technology they utilize. High-ranking or specialized Sangheili will have Forerunner glyphs on the back of their torso armor as a symbol of status or devotion.
The suit itself creates a shielding system which can absorb the impact of projectiles and diffuse the intense heat of plasma impacts. A very similar system was reverse-engineered by human scientists using the Jackal's circular arm-shield to create the slightly more powerful shields installed in MJOLNIR battle armor Mark V and Mark VI. It also gives them an increase to their strength and reflexes in a similar fashion to the MJOLNIR armour systems, allowing them to compete with a Spartan-II in MJOLNIR armour in close quarters combat. Whilst their natural strength is still likely greater than a normal human due to their size and their homeworld's higher gravity, their performance against Spartans in close quarters is not indicative of their natural physical prowess.
As shown in Halo: Reach, the suit's HUD has the ability to offer an enhanced optical zoom inside of the helmet. The HUD also utilizes a small tracking circle on nearby targets when weapons such as the plasma pistol or needler are being used, almost identical to the Saber's tracking system from the same game.
Unlike the MJOLNIR armor, the Sangheili suits do not allow them to survive in the vacuum of space, although a mask can be fitted to the suit over the Sangheili's exposed mouth, providing a supply of oxygen, and seals can be fixed between the armor plates. Sangheili equipped in this way are seen throughout the game Halo 2.
Known Sangheili ranks and positions
Councilors are the political leaders of the Sangheili, and share power with the Prophets on the Covenant's High Council. Their ceremonial armor is quite distinct, a light silver color with a tall crested helmet. Like the Zealot and Honor Guard Elites, the Councilors are extremely skilled fighters who favor Energy Swords and Plasma Rifles. They also possess extra-strong energy shields and health, which are twice as strong as a Zealot's.
Honor Guard/Ultra Honor Guard/ Councilor Honor Guard
The personal bodyguards of the Prophet Hierarchs, the Honor Guards wear distinct, ceremonial red armor, with glowing orange edges which are similar in some ways to samurai armor. Ultra Honor Guards wear the same glowing armor but with white under-armor. An Ultra Honor Guard is seen in High Charity, with an honor guard helmet, white armor, and orange spikes. There are also two other variations which appear at the end of the level Gravemind. One seems to be a combination of an Honor Guard and an Ultra, the other is a combination of an Honor Guard and a Councilor, these are glitches in the coding thus causing the aforementioned abnormal combination of armour and helmets. They usually operate in teams of two, with one Honor Guard wielding an energy sword and another dual-wielding plasma rifles. However, in cinematics they are seen carrying double-pointed spears, reminiscent of the oldest known weapons of the Sangheili during the Prophet-Sangheili War before the Covenant was formed. Honor Guards are hand chosen and blessed by the Prophets after repeated merit in battle. Since Sangheili ranks are graded by merit of inflicted damage and casualties on enemy forces over the career of a given Sangheili, it is a safe assumption to make that Honor Guards may have been directly responsible of the slaughter of thousands of enemies. These are considered some of the greatest Sangheili within the entire Covenant, which is then possibly multiplied for those who have reached the Ultra Honor Guard status.
The Generals and Admirals of the Covenant military; commanders of armies and fleets. The Zealots are some of the toughest and most skilled Sangheili, provided with the best equipment possible and wear yellow/gold armour. In combat, they are constantly moving and seeking cover, making it difficult to maintain continuous fire on them. They also run faster than other Sangheili and the Master Chief, and fire in longer, more accurate bursts. Commanders are also equipped with overshields, allowing them to withstand considerable amount more damage than other Sangheili. Most Zealots fight with Energy Swords and other Close combat weapons. Unlike other Sangheili, Zealots do not seem to throw any grenades, nor will they ever board a friendly vehicle. The current Arbiter possibly once held this rank before his failure at Installation 04. It is unclear as to how a Sangheili warrior gains the rank of a Zealot. Only a select few are chosen to be blessed by the prophets for acts of outstanding bravery and heroism.
Ultra: Spec Ops Commander
Ultras command major operations within the Covenant. While Zealots handle large-scale operations such as the command of an army or fleets, Ultras command major commando operations or single vessels, such as the protection of a Scarab platoon. Like the Zealot, Ultras are extremely skilled warriors. They also possess extra-strong energy shields and health that can withstand three times as much damage as those possessed by Minor Sangheili, while their armour is white. They often fight with heavy or dual-wielded weapons. Many also carry Energy Swords as their secondary weapon, but don't initially brandish it; when enemies get too close, sustain a certain amount of damage, or when they are stuck by a Plasma Grenade, Ultras let out a war cry, drop their currently wielded weapon and pull the sword out for close combat. They are particularly effective in close quarters combat, where their stronger energy shields and Energy Sword allow them take down large numbers of enemies rapidly and easily survive. An important Ultra, identified as the "Spec Ops Commander" (and referred to by fans as "Half Jaw" for his missing mandibles), fights along the Arbiter's side against the Brute-led and Prophet-backed insurrection. According to the graphic novel, however, "half-Jaw's" name is Rtas 'Vadum.
Covenant Special Operation Troopers are extremely skilled fighters often with decades of combat experience, sent in by the Covenant to accomplish the most dangerous and secretive of missions. In Halo 2, Spec Ops Sangheili have a dark blue or black armor, showing subtly that they are no ordinary Sangheili without drawing lots of attention like a Zealot, Ultra, or Major Sangheili would from enemies in combat. Like Zealots and Ultras, Spec Ops Sangheili are constantly on the move and never stand still or expose themselves to enemy fire. They also have superior accuracy and fire in longer bursts. While Spec Ops Sangheili are identical to Majors in regard to their shields and health their superior skills set them apart by a considerable margin. They also do not "berserk" when seriously injured, unlike many other Sangheili. Most notably, Spec Ops Sangheili operate in squads and are extremely skilled and accurate grenade throwers. In Halo, they are the Covenant's elite shock troops, similar to the role played by the UNSC's Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, or Helljumpers. They were assigned to eliminate all Flood on a damaged Covenant cruiser "Truth and Reconciliation" and repair it for immediate departure. They were present when the Master Chief boarded that damaged cruiser to find what was left of Captain Jacob Keyes. They were also present on the Pillar of Autumn just before the first Halo was destroyed by its reactors going critical. In Halo 2, All Spec Ops Sangheili are equipped with Active Camouflage, and use it when needed.
Translated as "Eye of the Prophet," these Sangheili serve as scouts, observers, and infiltrators, and are equipped with active camouflage, making them nearly invisible to the naked eye. The camouflage fluctuates slightly when these Sangheili fire their weapons or are shot, but they will not become fully visible until they are killed. The drawback of the active camouflage is that it disables the Sangheili's energy shields, making Stealth Sangheili vulnerable to damage. In Halo 2, however, Stealth Sangheili are now equipped with energy shields (with the expense of some of their invisibility). They are possibly equal in rank to the Spec Ops Sangheili, and often brandish Energy Swords they activate after sneaking up on an enemy. The energy swords, however, cannot be camouflaged, and are easily seen. Several armor colors have been noted among Stealth Sangheili; in Halo they wore very light blue, while in Halo 2 they come in gray, bronze, and steel colors as well. Stealth Sangheili generally make better decisions in combat than that of regular Sangheili. In Halo: CE, they are the most common Sangheili seen dead, identified by their light bluish armor. The Sangheili that was seen fighting Sergeant Johnson after beating the game on Legendary was also of this rank.
Ranger (Volunteer Force)
These Sangheili are issued jetpacks and vacuum suits to protect them from the lack of air in space. They almost always dual-wield plasma rifles. Their helmets completely encase their heads. They are usually seen traveling in small groups of 2-3 as fast attack assault troops. Rangers also generally make better decisions in combat than regular Sangheili.
Major Sangheili are veterans, wear red armour and are better equipped than Minors. They are overall more agile, more accurate, and more aggressive than Minor Sangheili, and seldom make tactical errors in combat. A single Major Sangheili can hold his own against an entire squad of Marines. In Halo 2, they can often be seen dual-wielding or carrying heavy weapons or other close combat weapons.
The most common and least experienced Sangheili wear blue armour. Minors are still skilled warriors superior to any human marine, but they are somewhat weaker than Major Sangheili. They often make tactical errors such as standing in one place while firing, or rushing forward into enemy fire. They also fire in shorter bursts, and have somewhat less accuracy. Along with Major Sangheili, they often lead squads of Grunts into battle.
These Sangheili have rebelled against the Covenant and have chosen exile on the Forerunner Gas Mine suspended in Threshold's atmosphere. Their armor is different from the Covenant variety. The gold armor is adorned with ridges and some sort of gas storage. It follows a design similar to ancient Sangheili armor. They lack helmets altogether and instead choose to affix globes over their eyes for protection and place breathing apparatuses between their mandibles. Their shielding technology is slightly different as well as it glows purple whenever it deflects damage. They are comparable in strength and intelligence to the Sangheili Majors of the Covenant. The Heretic Leader's armor is red and has blend of Heretic armor and Ranger jetpacks.
The rank of Arbiter, introduced in Halo 2, is bestowed upon an Sangheili by the High Prophets during a time of crisis. The Arbiter acts as the Prophet's will, undertaking missions for the Prophets during incidents such as the Taming of the Hunters, the Grunt Rebellion, and most recently, during the threat of Heresy, which of course was a prelude to the Great Schism, he has emerged to lead the Covenant to victory. Many, especially Grunts, see the Arbiter as their Savior, and their peers consider him the "Will of the Prophets" or, in his military role, the "Blade of the Prophets". Every Arbiter was "created and consumed in times of extraordinary crisis", and has been martyred in the undertaking of his momentous tasks. The corpses (or perhaps only memorials of some sort) are housed in identical caskets stacked upon each other in the great Mausoleum of the Arbiter; it may be seen as a testament to the length of time the Covenant has been in place by the fact that the creation of an Arbiter seems to be a rather rare occasion, and yet there is 192 caskets in the Mausoleum. In the center of this room a silently levitating pod contains the sacred armor of the Arbiter, highly decorative and fully functional despite its apparent age.
The role of Arbiter can also be viewed as a punishment for Sangheili who have done terrible wrong in the eyes of the Prophets. They are usually sent on the missions that are the most dangerous and would bring certain death - the Arbiters tend to be skilled warriors, and would gladly go on these suicidal missions for redemption of honor in death. To become an Arbiter a Sanghelili must survive a great disaster or failure, be sentenced to death by a crime (other than heresy), and unquestionable faith. The last Arbiter, Thel 'Vadam, continued to hold his rank even after turning against the Covenant.