The SOS response of bacteria is a global regulatory network targeted at addressing DNA damage. Governed by the products of the lexA and recA genes, it co-ordinates a comprehensive response against DNA lesions and its description in Escherichia coli has stood for years as a textbook paradigm of stress-response systems in bacteria. In this paper we review the current state of research on the SOS response outside E. coli. By retracing research on the identification of multiple diverging LexA-binding motifs across the Bacteria Domain, we show how this work has led to the description of a minimum regulon core, but also of a heterogeneous collection of SOS regulatory networks that challenges many tenets of the E. coli model. We also review recent attempts at reconstructing the evolutionary history of the SOS network that have cast new light on the SOS response. Exploiting the newly gained knowledge on LexA-binding motifs and the tight association of LexA with a recently described mutagenesis cassette, these works put forward likely evolutionary scenarios for the SOS response, and we discuss their relevance on the ultimate nature of this stress-response system and the evolutionary pressures driving its evolution.