Imperium of Man

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The Imperium of Man is an interstellar empire that features in Warhammer 40,000.




The Imperium of Man was a government that sought to reunite the fragmented colonies of mankind into a single empire under the vision of the Emperor of Mankind. It was founded in the year M30 after the turbulent period of the Age of Strife where warp storms across the galaxy separated the human homeworld of Terra from its colonies. This caused a period of regression among the colonies with much of the knowledge from the Dark Age of Technology being lost but it was the immortal Emperor who arose where he attempted to unify mankind. During the Unification Wars, he created supersoldiers that helped brought Terra under his control and he set about allying with the Mechanicum of Mars. With these resources under his control, the Emperor set about assembling his Great Crusade where a mighty military force was formed to unite the fractured colonies of humanity and eliminate threats to the growing Imperium of Man. During this time, the Emperor began the Primarch project in creating genetically engineered generals that would head his army of supersoldiers that were the Adeptus Astartes.

Around 27,000 years in the future, the Imperium rose from the ruins of a more prosperous, advanced, and enlightened human civilization. That civilization, shortly after being exhausted by a massive failed rebellion from man-made artificial intelligence, collapsed when warp storms cut off interstellar travel and left its worlds vulnerable to attacks by daemons and aliens during a millennia long era known as the Age of Strife. When the storms abate, the Emperor embarks on a "Great Crusade" to unite all human-settled worlds in the galaxy under his banner. Over the course of two centuries, his armies conquer more than a million worlds stretching across 50,000 light years from Earth, giving humanity a dominant position among the galaxy's species. According to Imperial propaganda, it is humanity's "Manifest Destiny" to rule the galaxy.

Early in the 31st millennium, the Great Crusade comes to a sudden halt when half of the Emperor's Space Marine Legions (along with a substantial fraction of the Imperium) convert to the worship of the four Chaos Gods. The resulting civil war became known as the Horus Heresy and nearly destroyed the Imperium. Though these rebels are ultimately defeated and driven out, the Emperor is critically wounded in the final battle and survives on life support in a persistent immobile and unresponsive state on the Golden Throne. In the absence of his guidance, the Imperium becomes a very brutal totalitarian regime.

The Imperium endures for 10,000 years. It still claims lone dominion over the Milky Way Galaxy and all humanity. It does not recognize other governments, whether human or alien, and maintains that all aliens must be exterminated and that all humans must be brought into the Imperium and made to worship the Emperor. It remains united chiefly through religious fanaticism and threats of brutal disciplinary force, while teetering on the verge of collapse due to a combination of perpetual war, technological stagnation, and bureaucratic inefficiency.

Horus Heresy

41st Millennium



The Emperor's seat, and the heart of Imperial Administration, is the Imperial Palace, a massive construct that covers most of what used to be the continent of Asia on Terra; the "Sanctum Imperialis", commonly referred to as the "Inner Palace", is built on top of, within, and under Mount Everest.

Though the Emperor is the nominal head of state, in practice the highest tier of government is the Council of the High Lords of Terra or the Senatorum Imperialis, which has ruled for over ten millennia in the Emperor's name. Under this top echelon is a multi-tiered hierarchy consisting of countless departments, agencies, and organisations, both military and civilian, charged with implementing the decisions of the High Lords and with the day-to-day administration of the Imperium as a whole. Recent events have had one of the Primarchs, Roboute Guilliman, return to Terra and proclaimed the Imperial Regent, the voice of the Emperor. In addition, he has reclaimed his seat as Lord Commander within the High Lords and has become their de facto head.

The various High Lords of Terra managed each of the different organisations that made up the Imperium which included:

  • Adeptus Administratum :
  • Inquisition :
  • Adeptus Ministorum :
  • Adeptus Arbites :
  • Navis Nobilite :
  • Adeptus Astronomica :
  • Adeptus Mechanicus :
  • Officio Assassinorum :
  • Adeptus Astra Telepathica :

The Imperium of Man divides the galaxy into five distinct sections called Segmentae (Segmentum in singular), assigned by their relative galactic position from Holy Terra (Earth) on a 2-dimensional plane. They are as follows: Segmentum Solar (the Solar System, Holy Terra), Segmentum Obscurus (galactic north), Segmentum Pacificus (galactic west), Segmentum Ultima (galactic east), and Segmentum Tempestus (galactic south). Each Segmentum stretches across vast regions of space, containing hundreds of thousands of inhabited planets.

Most worlds in the Imperium are ruled by a planetary governor. The cultures and governments of the Imperial worlds are very diverse. A few are even democratic and prosperous, though these are rare islands of happiness in a generally grim empire. Generally speaking, each governor is allowed to rule his world as he sees fit provided he keeps the faith and provides the requisite tithes of conscripts, exports, and captured psykers.

Outside and above the Imperial hierarchy was the Imperial Inquisition, the all-powerful and much feared secret police and main intelligence agency, which answers only to the God-Emperor of Mankind and has the power to investigate and persecute anyone it pleases.


Imperial citizens are almost exclusively human; a relatively small fraction of the population consists of members of stable mutant species of human descent, called abhuman in Imperial classification and are recognized as citizens (if second-class). Common citizens of the Imperium have very little say in how, and by whom, they are governed. They have no influence in the selection process of the High Lords or any other Imperial official, and are not allowed to question Imperial decisions or participate in Imperial decision-making processes. Even worlds with democratically elected Planetary Governors are under the absolute veto of Imperial Authority. Imperial society galaxy-wide is characterized by religious intolerance, superstition, xenophobia, militarism, and antiscience. Critical thinking is considered a waste of time, and may even be dangerous. Ignorance of anything beyond one's place in society is common and, for many, desirable. Some even know next to nothing about worlds or societies beyond their homeworld unless recruited by members of the Imperium's various military branches and bureaus. Though no discrimination on basis of color or gender exists in the Imperium, any divergence in political or religious beliefs, even slight, is often deemed nigh-heretical, and disagreement with such beliefs is a capital offense. Unquestioning obedience to authority is the greatest virtue.

There are at least five varieties of human worlds: Agri-worlds are highly rich in fertile land with farming and animal husbandry being the main ways of life. These worlds are usually pre-industrial in nature and are havens of idyllic lifestyles for retiring members of the military; they supply food and basic fabrics to whole sectors. Death worlds feature wild, often extremely hazardous, landscapes with numerous dangerous flora and fauna species. The few human inhabitants of these worlds are usually rugged survivalists with unflinching natures, ideal recruitment centers for the military. Shrine worlds are the final resting places of extensively decorated or martyred holy individuals, also serving as vast memorial sites and grand monuments for epic events in the imperial history. Though the local populations are minimal, millions of people engage in pilgrimages to shrine worlds from every corner of the Imperium each year. Hive worlds, also known as Imperial Worlds, are extensively developed planets with towering city structures that stretch for many hundreds of kilometers in every direction; tens of billions of citizens live in basic hab-blocks with often substandard living conditions while the local aristocracy and ranking officials wallow in extreme luxury and decadence. These worlds form the fortified capital planets of the Imperium where millions of citizens are recruited as hard laborers or soldiers in the Imperial Guard and other military organizations. Finally, Forge worlds are the exclusive planets of the Adeptus Mechanicus; highly industrialized worlds with colossal factory structures blanketing over most of their landmasses. Thick toxic smog and corrosive chemical fumes permeate the atmosphere where only cybernetically altered individuals can survive without protective clothing. These Mechanicus worlds supply the Imperium with vast building materials and of course its innumerable war machines and weapons.

A sixth type is unofficially classified as Feral worlds, for worlds that have not even reached Iron Age development. Whether by simple clerical negligence or by intentional imperial direction, the inhabitants of these planets are usually hunter-gatherer societies with primitive cultures and beliefs (though missionaries from the Imperial Church will often erect rudimentary places of worship to promote beliefs centered around the Emperor). In these cases, the planetary governor often only resides in orbit and only interacts with locals to obtain tithes in resources or manpower for the Imperium's armies. In many cases, these worlds are protected by a Space Marine chapter, for they are ideal places of recruitment. Their reasons behind this are that their ways of life produce hardy peoples with excellent physical prowess; whose bodies are more able to survive the unforgiving biological augmentations of a space marine and whose minds are more easily indoctrinated into a warrior-monk existence. Some Chapters even use these worlds, alongside Hive Worlds (some known for their violent, gang-infested undercities) and Death Worlds as recruitment worlds or even Chapter home worlds.

Virtually all types of human worlds are at or somehow participating in the Imperium's wars. Even those worlds that are not battle-zones feel the weight of war on them through heavy taxation and conscription. Mutants are humans that display physical deviations from the norm, the result of exposure to mutagenic chemicals, alien experimentation or Chaos corruption. In general, mutants are hated and feared by the common citizens, seen as a sign of mankind's slow degeneration away from the holy human form. On worlds where they are not summarily exterminated, they are used as slaves for dangerous and menial tasks or banished to fringes of society. Psykers, psychic mutants who draw their powers from the dimensional realm known as the Immaterium or the Warp, are too dangerous to remain at liberty on the Imperium's myriad worlds; their minds are susceptible to daemonic possession as their strong presences in the Warp can serve as gateways into the material universe for all kinds of Warp entities if they are weak or undisciplined with their powers. Uncontrolled, they can intentionally or unintentionally cause the destruction of entire worlds and have done so in the pre-Imperium past, such as during the terrible days of the Age of Strife. Humans found to be bearing the psychic mutation, if they are not simply killed, are sent to Terra aboard the infamous Black Ships which endlessly traverse the Imperium. There, they are usually sacrificed to sustain the Emperor's Golden Throne, but those who are strong enough and can control their powers are trained to aid various branches of the Imperium's military-albeit under constant guard.

The Imperium promotes the Imperial Cult, the worship of the Emperor as humankind's only true god and rightful master. He is the savior, the only one who can protect humanity from the dangers of the cosmos. The irony of this is that the Emperor had wanted to build an enlightened and secular society, but cults devoted to him started everywhere, and after he was incapacitated and interred in the Golden Throne this worship spread unimpeded until it became the state religion. Ironically, his promotion of a secular and logical Imperial Truth was superseded by the nascant Imperial Cult. In addition, it was his suppression of the cult with Lorgar Aurelion, one of the cult's foremost figures, humiliatingly rebuffed that led to his son turning to Chaos and planting seeds to bring the Horus Heresy into existence. Just as all human-inhabited worlds must be brought under the Imperium's control, all humans must be made to worship the Emperor and all other religions must be expunged. The state religion, which is the responsibility of the Ecclesiarchy (the State Church), preaches that unquestioning obedience and self-sacrifice are the best ways to honor the Emperor. It teaches that mutants (with few exceptions) are vile perversions of the "holy" human form, and thus they are subject to the worst oppression. Rogue psykers ("witches") are harbingers of doom. Heresy is the worst crime of all despite the deliberate vagueness of the official definition, and those judged as heretics are stripped of all rights and punished in the most horrific fashion. To be excommunicated by the church or the Inquisition is to be stripped of your very rights as a human being; you are no longer considered part of humanity.

Religion is a central theme in all Warhammer 40,000 fiction; predominantly a more violent parody of the medieval-era dogmas of Catholicism. Most human protagonists, from warrior-monk Imperial Space Marines to Witch Hunters of the Inquisition, are fanatical worshippers of the Emperor. A very common motif in Imperial iconography is a human skull, often surrounded by a halo. This is the face of the Emperor, whose broken, half-dead body resembles a corpse. While the ordinary citizen of the Imperium believes that the Emperor has always been venerated as the immortal and omnipotent God of humanity throughout the history of Mankind, Imperial historians and the Battle-Brothers of the Space Marine Chapters know that this was not always the case: At the beginning of the Emperor's Great Crusade in the 31st Millennium, there was no Ecclesiarchy and the veneration of the Emperor, in the form of the Imperial Cult's precursor, known as the Lectitio Divinitatus, was frowned upon and outright condemned by the Emperor himself. The Emperor secretly believed that religion was what fueled the Chaos Gods existence, and sought to starve them into oblivion. Ironically, it would be the Emperor's severe rebuff of the cult's founder, the Primarch Lorgar Aurelion, that would lead to the latter's secret defection to Chaos and sowing the seeds leading to the Horus Heresy. The official Imperial doctrine was that the Emperor was an extremely powerful being, the rightful ruler of all Mankind, and the perfect physical, mental and spiritual embodiment of humanity, but no matter how supreme, he was still only a human being. This changed after the Emperor ascended on his Golden Throne and was visible in the Warp for all Mankind. In the 41st millennium, the tenets of the Imperial Cult, known as the Imperial Creed, are actually highly flexible and are tailored by the Adeptus Ministorum's Missionaries to fit the native culture, existing religion, and cultural practices of whatever world it exists upon. Polytheism is even permitted, provided that the locals in question regard the Emperor as their supreme deity.

The Cult of the God-Emperor was the dominant faith, but the tech-priests of the Adeptus Mechanicus follow a parallel religion around their "Machine God", of whom they see the Emperor as an avatar, the "Omnissiah". While this does not fully please the Ecclesiarchy, this compromise is grudgingly accepted by both sides because the Adeptus Mechanicus has a monopoly on all technological expertise in the Imperium but must also rely on regular importation of resources to function.

The Imperium has three official languages, High Gothic, Low Gothic, and Lingua-Technis. High Gothic was the only official language of the Imperium in its early days, then known as Imperial Terran. The language is now considered sacred because it is the language the Emperor spoke during the Great Crusade and is now only a hieratic language spoken by members of the Imperial Inquisition, Priests of the Ecclesiarchy, and the Tech-Priests of Adeptus Mechanicus and even for them, its only a second language. Low Gothic is the common language of the Imperium and is spoken by every Imperial citizen, though there exists millions of dialects of it. High Gothic is represented as pseudo-Latinized English while Low Gothic is represented as 21st century English. Lingua-Technis is the official language of the Adeptus Mechanicus, characterized as binary code when written and possessing unique tones similar to digitally modified sounds when spoken.


The Imperium commands the largest military in the galaxy, honed in millennia of almost unending war at any time, there are numerous conflicts engaging the Imperium, across the Imperial space and beyond. Because of the scale of the distances involved, and the number and severity of threats, Imperial military commanders have great autonomy into how and when they prosecute campaigns within their areas of responsibility.

Individual worlds tended to have their Governors raise a Planetary Defence Force (PDFs) among the natives of the planet that were in charge of its defence.

The core of the Imperium's military was the Astra Militarum or the Imperial Guard which consisted of professional soldiers. These came from all walks of life including from trained volunteers to conscripts that were taken from a world's Planetary Defence Force. The most basic unit within the Guard was the Regiment that were a fighting unit that could range from a few thousand to tens of thousands of soldiers. Within the Imperium there were millions of Imperial Guard Regiments many of whom had distinct and diverse backgrounds along with specialisations and history. This allowed Imperial forces to tailor their forces for the different kinds of warfare expected across the galaxy.

A special subsection of the Imperial Guard are the elite storm troopers or Tempestus Scions. Though not as physically powerful as Space Marines, they are more extensively trained and better armed than their guardsmen counterparts. The Tempestus Scions function in much the same capacity as modern day special forces, deploying in smaller numbers and are invariably tasked to accomplish important strategic goals during a military campaign, conducting their operations with surgical precision often far from friendly lines. Due to their elite training and specialist skills, some regiments are permanently seconded by the Imperial Inquisition as Inquisitorial Storm Troopers.

In space, the Imperium maintained the elite Imperial Navy that operated its vast fleets of spacecraft.

Among the most elite fighting forces of the Imperium were the Adeptus Astartes Space Marines. Certain Chapters were made to be the Chamber Militant of certain Imperial organisations such as the Grey Knights attached to the Inquisition's Ordo Malleus or the Deathwatch that were attached to the Inquisition's Ordo Xenos.

In addition, military forces could be raised from other branches of the Imperium such as the Adepta Sororitas who were an Order Militant consisting of the Sisters of Battle.


Among the smallest of the warmachines of the Imperium were the Imperial Knights with the models including:

  • Armiger Helverins :
  • Armiger Warglaives :
  • Imperial Knight Paladin :
  • Imperial Knight Crusader :
  • Imperial Knight Gallant :
  • Imperial Knight Warden :
  • Imperial Knight Castellan :
  • Imperial Knight Valiant :

Above the Knights were the mighty warmachines of the Adeptus Titanicus that included:

  • Warhound Scout Titans :
  • Reaver Battle Titan :
  • Warlord Battle Titan :


  • Emperor of Man :
  • Malcador :
  • Roboute Guilliman :
  • Goge Vandire :
  • Sebastian Thor :
  • Drakan Vangorich :


  • The Imperium of Man was created by Games Workshop as part of the setting of the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop miniatures wargame.

In other media

Video games

  • In Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, the Imperium of Man featured in the setting of the video game. The Imperial Forge World of Graia came under attack from an Ork army thus leading to the deployment of the Ultramarines to help rescue the vital planet.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade, the Imperium of Man featured in the setting of the video game. Events took forth in the Kharon system located in the galactic northern marches of the Segmentum Obscuras where a former Imperial world named Arkhona resided at the edge of Imperium space.
  • In Eisenhorn: Xenos, the Imperium of Man featured as part of the setting within the video game adaptation of the novel series.
  • In Warhammer 40,000: Inquisitor – Martyr, the Imperium of Man featured in the setting of the video game. Events within the setting involved activities within the Caligari Sector that was an ancient, vast and forgotten region of space located on the fringes of the Segmentum Tempestus.


  • Warhammer 40,000: (1987)

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