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The Zhodani and the Third Imperium, the two largest human societies in charted space, have been in conflict since first establishing contact in the year 500 (5018 on the Earth calendar). Each society's gradual expansion eventually led to an historic meeting in a backwater region of space known as the Spinward Marches.

Although their human physical appearances were exactly alike, several fundamental differences existed between the two great powers. The Zhodani's political structure was strictly authoritarian, whereas the Imperium was governed by the rule of the Emperor, a classic aristocracy. As the Zhodani race evolved, the human brain's potential was explored and mastered until the use of powerful psionics was a way of life. Mind-reading, telekinesis, extrasensory perception and clairvoyance became common among the Zhodani. The Imperium disdainfully outlawed the use of any form of psionics, believing these strange powers to be an invasion of mental privacy. Also, because the Zhodani utilized their superior mental ability in everyday life, many Imperial traders and merchants grew suspicious of their motives and avoided negotiations with the Zhodani.
The Imperial race, lacking psionics, saw its development grow along creative, artistic and emotional paths. And as with any creative society, wondrous achievement and joy was often coupled with imperfections and greed. The Zhodani - viewing the Imperial race as dishonest, morally corrupt, weak and insecure - lived highly structured and unemotional lifestyles. With two powerful societies so clearly opposed in political and social beliefs, confrontation was inevitable.

As the Zhodani continued to expand into the Spinward Marches, many worlds were peacefully integrated into the Zhodani Consulate. However, several independent worlds resisted the Zhodani, believing that they would lose their freedom and be forced to live under restrictive rule. The Spinward Marches became an intergalactic 'hot spot' and the aggressive advances of the Zhodani led to the first of several conflicts known as the Frontier Wars,the first of which began in 589 - 89 years after the two great powers first established contact.