When the Celestials visited Earth five million years ago and performed genetic experiments on early proto-humanity, they created two divergent races: the long-lived Eternals, and the genetically unstable and monstrously grotesque Deviants. These experiments also led to the capacity for super-powered mutations in humans. They also performed this experiment on other planets (such as the Kree and Skrull homeworlds) with similar results.

Despite looking human, Eternals are much longer-lived (but were not originally fully immortal) and that kept them from having much contact with their human cousins. Eternals have a low birth rate; they can interbreed with humans but the result is always a normal human (although Joey Athena, son of Thena and a normal human seems to have become an Eternal with long lived properties and powers).[16] Despite this, the Eternals have in general protected the human race, especially from the Deviants, with whom they’ve always had an enmity. The Eternals also developed advanced technology.

Long ago, a civil war broke out amongst the Eternals over whether to conquer the other races, with one faction led by Kronos and the other by his warlike brother, Uranos. Kronos’s side prevailed, and Uranos and his defeated faction left Earth and journeyed to Uranus where they built a colony. Some of Uranos’s group soon tried to return to Earth to re-kindle the war, but they were attacked by a passing Kree ship and forced to land on Saturn’s moon Titan. There they built another colony. (Experiments performed by Kree scientists on a captured Eternal led them to go to Earth and perform their own genetic experiments on a group of humans, thus creating the Inhumans.)

One day, Kronos’s experiments in cosmic energy caused a catastrophic release of energy throughout the Eternals’ city, Titanos, destroying it, activating latent genes in the Eternals, and disintegrating the scientist’s body. The Eternals now found they could channel large quantities of cosmic energy themselves, granting them near-godlike power. The accident left Kronos in an immaterial state, so a new leader had to be chosen. For the first time, the Eternals merged into a single being, the Uni-Mind, to decide which of Kronos’s sons, Zurasor A’lars should be the new leader. Zuras was chosen, and A’lars chose to leave Earth to avoid causing another civil war, and journeyed to Titan.

There he found that a war (allegedly caused by the Dragon of the Moon) had erupted on Titan and wiped out all but one member, a woman named Sui-San. A’lars fell in love with her, and in time they repopulated Titan. Due to the mix of activated genes from A’lars and unactivated ones from Sui-San, these new Titanian Eternals are not as powerful or immortal as Terran Eternals, but are more powerful and longer-lived than the earlier pre-civil war Titanian Eternals.

While Zuras ruled, three new Eternal cities were built. The first was Olympia, located in the mountains of Greece, near the main portal between the Earth dimension and the Olympians’ home dimension, which lead many ancient Greeks to confuse some of the godlike Eternals with members of the Olympian pantheon. Eventually, an agreement was reached with the gods where some Eternals, such as Thena, would impersonate the Olympians before their worshipers. The other two Eternal cities were Polaria (located in Siberia) and Oceana (in the Pacific).

18,000 years ago, the Celestials returned to Earth. The Deviants attacked them, but the Celestials counterattacked, resulting in the sinking of Mu and Atlantis, and much worldwide havoc. The Eternals helped rescue many humans. An Eternal named Valkin was entrusted by the Celestials with an artifact of great power for safekeeping.

At some point during the early centuries, Ikaris and the Eternals came into conflict with the immortal mutant, Apocalypse. This conflict ended when Ikaris and the Eternals defeated him. Ikaris believed Apocalypse was dead.

1,000 years ago, the Asgardian god Thor encountered some Eternals, but the encounter was erased from his mind, to prevent him from learning about the Celestials, who were about to return to Earth. An Eternal named Ajak became the Celestials’ spokesperson, and put himself to sleep when the Celestials left, to wait for their return 1,000 years later to judge humanity.

During the early 20th century, a human scientist made contact with the Uranian Eternals and was taken to live with them along with his young son, who would later become Marvel Boy.[17] The Uranians were eventually killed by Deathurge.[18] After World War II, some Eternals allied with humans and Deviants to form the Damocles Foundation, which tried to create a new breed of superhuman to rule Earth.[19] Some Eternals, such as Makkari, were also active as superheroes, or living amongst humans, keeping their true nature hidden. The Eternals also helped to move the Inhumans’ city to the Himalayas to keep it hidden.

At some point, Thanos of the Eternals of Titan nearly destroyed their colony, but they rebuilt it, and would help Earth’s heroes to oppose him on several occasions.

Cover of New Eternals: Apocalypse Now 1 (Feb 2000) 
Art by Joe Bennett

When the Celestials returned to judge the worthiness of their creations a few years ago, the Eternals found themselves clashing with the Deviants again, and decided to publicly reveal their existence to humanity. Zuras feared what would happen if the Celestials judged unfavorably. They encountered Thor again, and were attacked by Thor’s father Odin and the Olympian gods, who tried to prevent their interfering with the gods’ plans to attack the Celestials. Eventually, the Eternals decided to help the gods and formed a Uni-Mind to assist the Destroyer’s assault on the Celestials.

They were forced to dissolve back into Eternals by the Celestials, and the shock of the attack killed Zuras. Before his spirit fully left the material plane, he instructed his daughter Thena to take his people to explore space. Most of the Eternals did so in the form of a Uni-Mind, but a handful – those most heavily involved in Earthly affairs – remained behind on Earth. Since then, the Eternals have helped Earth’s heroes, particularly the Avengers, against several menaces. They also discovered the existence of the Titanian Eternals.

wikipedia.org

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