- "“After all, it was Thirteen that started the rebellion that led to the Dark Days, and then abandoned the rest of the districts when the tide turned against it”"
- ― President Snow[src]
The First Rebellion was a major civil war that erupted in the nation of Panem more than seventy-five years prior to the events of The Hunger Games. The conflict was waged by the forces of the then thirteen districts of Panem, led by District 13, against the forces of the Capitol. The conflict was orchestrated and presumably instigated by District 13. While the causes of the First Rebellion are never fully explained, it is understood that it was the culmination of years of oppressive rule at the hands of the Capital, resulting in the districts rising up in revolt.
After an indeterminate length of time, the tide of the war turned in the Capitol's favor. Seeing that the rebellion was facing imminent defeat, District 13 abandoned the other districts in order to secure their own freedom. By seizing the Capitol's nuclear weapons and threatening their use against them, District 13 gained its independence in a separate peace with the Capitol. With the loss of support from 13, the remaining districts were quickly routed and pacified in the final phase of the conflict referred to commonly as the Dark Days. The conflict concluded with the final collapse of the rebellion and the signing of the Treaty of Treason and the resulting institution of the annual Hunger Games.
Some time after the collapse of modern civilization, the nation of Panem was established in North America. In the following years after its founding, Panem grew large enough that it was segmented into thirteen separate districts. The government of Panem was a totalitarian-authoritarian dictatorship, a police state in which each district was subservient to Panem's Capitol and responsible for producing goods of a particular industry to serve the growing needs of the nation. All of this was strictly controlled and operated by the oppressive government, sowing the seeds of dissent inadvertently amongst the districts.
Eventually, the outlying districts grew tired of the oppressive regime of the Capitol and rose up in revolution against it. While no particularly event is mentioned to have started the war, it can be assumed that since the rebel forces were led by District 13, the then center of the Capital's military-industrial complex, they were the ones likely responsible in instigating the start of the conflict.
Very little information exist regarding the details of the First Rebellion including the exact length and scope of the conflict. It can be assumed that it lasted for at least a few years and was waged across the entire country. It presumably led to mass loss of life on both sides as well as immense devastation to the infrastructure in many of the districts.
It is known that the Capitol liberally used horrifying organic weapons called muttations to harass rebel forces. Such muttations included jabberjays, genetically modified birds used to spy on insurrectionist meetings and tracker jackers, genetically modified wasp that were extremely aggressive and possess potentially lethal, hallucinogenic venom. The Capitol also put down rebelling districts by bombing them into submission with fleets of hovercraft. The rebels were known to use falsified information and with support from District 13 and their military arsenal, were presumably able to fight on par with the Capitol's military forces for some time.
It is mentioned that the rebels at some point during the war attempted a mass invasion of the Capitol itself by scaling the Rocky Mountains. Such an undertaking was a brutal job since the natural fortifications exposed them to attack. The invasion was ultimately a failure, as Capitol aircraft were able to easily find and destroy the rebel contingents trying to reach the other side. This loss presumably had a devastating impact on the rebel war effort and very likely was the catalyst for the war turning in favor for the Capitol.
The Dark Days
Towards the end of the conflict, the tide turned against the rebel forces. Realizing that freedom from the tyranny of the Capitol for all the districts was no longer possible, District 13 instead decided to launch a successful gambit in seizing the Capitol's nuclear arsenal. Using the threat of mutually assured destruction, District 13 forced a secret ceasefire deal for itself with the Capitol. In exchange for withdrawing support from the war and presenting the illusion that the Capitol destroyed the district, they would allow District 13 to quietly secede and be left alone as an independent state. Left with no other viable alternative, the Capitol reluctantly agreed to the terms of the ceasefire.
In accordance with the ceasefire, District 13 pulled back all of its forces to the district, where it presumably relocated the entirety of its military and populace to a series of bunkers underground. It then allowed the Capitol to cut off all access to district from the rest of Panem and demolish the infrastructure above through repeated bombing. The Capitol would use the decimated ruins of District 13 as propaganda to showcase the consequences for rebelling against the government. With the total loss of support from District 13, the remaining districts could not hope to further resist against the Capitol forces. In the final phase of the war, commonly referred to as the Dark Days, the Capitol quickly overran all rebel resistance across Panem as the rebellion collapsed in the face of superior numbers and weaponry. One by one, the remaining districts fell until at last Panem was reunited under the firm grip of the Capitol.
With the collapse of the rebellion, the Treaty of Treason was put into effect on the defeated districts. The Treaty founded the Hunger Games event, both as a cruel reminder of the rebellion and to ensure it never occurred again. It mandated that each district must select one male and female tribute between the ages of 12 and 18 via a lottery system each. The selected children would be taken to the Capitol where they were to be briefly trained before fighting to the death in an arena until only one remained, who was crowned Victor.
In addition to the Hunger Games, many other restrictions were placed on the districts to keep them pacified as well as prevent further insurrectionist activities.
The most prominent and lasting legacy of the First Rebellion was the Hunger Games, instituted for the exact purpose of reminding the Districts each year of the consequence of rebellion and that they should never attempt to again. In addition restrictions on communication and travel between the districts were effective at preventing rebel coordination across the districts.
- One of the most infamous was the jabberjay, birds that had been genetically modified by the Capitol to mimic human voices. They would fly to the districts during the rebellion and spy on insurrectionist meetings. They would then fly back to the Capitol and report back with direct information from the districts. Upon discovering this, the rebels fed the jabberjays false information. The Capitol then abandoned the jabberjays, releasing them into the wild and inadvertently creating mockingjays, which became the symbol of the Second Rebellion.
- Another was that the tracker jackers being easily sedated by smoke.