Emperor of Mankind
|Ambiguous Term? This article is about the Imperial sovereign and deity. For other uses of Emperor, see Emperor (disambiguation).|
The Emperor of Mankind is the sovereign of the Imperium of Man, and Father, Guardian, and God of the human race. He has sat immobile within the Golden Throne of Terra for ten thousand years. Although once a living man, his shattered body can no longer support life, and remains intact only by a combination of ancient technology and the sheer force of his will, itself sustained by the soul-sacrifice of countless millions of psykers.
His will is omnipotent, extending across the million worlds that comprise his Imperium. For ten thousand years the Master of Mankind has served humanity, simultaneously carrying out a multitude of tasks vital to its survival. All at once He guides his race through the Emperor's Tarot, soul-binds psykers, holds audiences with his most important servants and directs the Astronomican beacon that guides space vessels through the Warp. His immense psychic powers constantly keep the Chaos Gods in the Warp at bay, preventing their intrusion into the material universe and protecting his people throughout the galaxy.
The Emperor's role as guardian of mankind seems to have been predestined for him. Without the Emperor there would be no Imperium, little space travel, and no protection from the multitude of threats facing mankind. The Emperor knows that to protect his race he must survive as long as necessary for the emerging race of psychic humans to evolve sufficiently.
In the millennia since his ascension to the Golden Throne, the Emperor has become a god to his people, the worship of Him uniting humanity throughout his Imperium, superstition and dogma replacing his doctrine of Imperial Truth.
Little is known about the majority of the Emperor's life; of who he was and what he did before he emerged as the great Emperor of Mankind, only the Emperor himself remembers. A few pieces of information have come to light, from various different sources, and present some small parts of a coherent whole; however, their reliability is often disputed, especially as the Emperor's tale changes somewhat with each retelling. There is a source from 1st Edition Rogue Trader which details the Emperor's backstory. It is said that the Emperor's birth while a natural process, was actually the result of a scheme created by the wisest and most powerful of living humans at that time; the conclave of Shamans. These men, termed 'shamans' by their society, were powerful psykers with great experience of the Warp. Finding their souls - and those of humanity - endangered by the growing perils of the Warp-gods, these psykers decided to pool their power into one human, a being they called 'the New Man'. Already having gained the power to reincarnate themselves (upon death, the shamans' souls would transfer to the Warp, accumulating power enough to reincarnate as human) the shamans entered a suicide-pact. Thousands of them poisoned themselves and sped their souls to the warp at the same time. Presumably pooling their soul-energy and using their reincarnation ability, they brought about the birth of their New Man - the Emperor - one year later.[3b]
This same source states that the Emperor was born to mortal parents on Terra in the 8th Millennium BC[3a] in a primitive proto-Hittite village along the banks of the Sakarya River, manifesting his powers as a youth. While a young adolescent, the Emperor's father was murdered by his uncle. While preparing his fathers body for a primitive funeral ritual, he received a vision of his murder. Later, the boy who would become the Emperor calmly approached his uncle and stopped his heart with his psychic abilities, displaying neither sorrow or malice. According to the Emperor himself, this was the moment he realized that humanity needed law, order, and the guidance of a ruler. Shortly after, he left his village for the first city of humanity (likely ancient Sumeria).[14c]
The immortal being who would become known as the Emperor proceeded to haunt the history of humanity as a ghost; watching, waiting and occasionally influencing.[3b] Living secretly amongst mankind, he developed his abilities until his psychic might allowed him to gain knowledge of not only his own world, but of the dangers beyond it. Aware then of the vast predations awaiting humanity, the being that would become known as the Emperor resolved to guide and protect humanity. Eventually, over ten thousand years before his current circumstances, he took his struggle out into the open, primarily because of the ever-increasing number of psykers, whose very existence endangered their species.
During the Dark Age of Technology Alivia Sureka traveled with the man who would become the Emperor to the planet Molech, where there was a gateway into the realm of Chaos. The Emperor entered the Gateway, and there made a bargain with the Dark Gods and emerged wielding a measure of their power, including the ability to create the Primarchs. However for some reason, the Emperor did not keep his end of the bargain to spread Chaos to humanity, and he became the anathema of Ruinous Powers. The Emperor was able to clone the energies he was imbued with, giving them to his Primarchs. At some point in Earth's history the Emperor discovered an ancient device beneath the ruins of Asia's deserts and became determined to completely cut off humanity from the malignant influence of the Warp. The first step of this grand project was to substitute warp travel with the Webway, and the final phase would see the Emperor shepherd humanity's evolution into a truly psychic race independent of the Chaos, ascending to a level not even the Eldar were able to. This grand ambition was to guide all of the Emperor's undertakings and would be the culmination of his planning.[14b]
Rise of the Emperor
The man who would later become known as the Emperor first appeared openly as one of the many warlords struggling for control of Terra during the latter part of the Age of Strife. He was at this point just another Terran warlord, but he met Malcador who convinced him to take the title of Emperor. The Emperor undertook a series of campaigns against all the other warlords on the planet that would later become termed as the Unification Wars. During these wars the Emperor employed several military formations - such as the Thunder Warriors and Geno Five-Two Chiliad — that consisted of genetically altered/engineered warriors, who played a significant role in his eventual victory. With this victory, the planet and population of Terra were at last unified under one rule; that of the Emperor. With this achievement behind him, the Emperor then set in motion his plans to take his purpose of uniting and guarding mankind out into the stars, to unify with the bastions of humanity scattered across the galaxy. This undertaking would become known as the Great Crusade.
The Emperor prepared extensively for the Great Crusade; he created the special astrotelepath corps to link his eventual dominion together, and caused the creation of the Astronomican, a supremely powerful signal device powered by the Emperor's own psychic might that would allow simplified and safer travel through the Warp. Chief amongst his designs, however, were the creation of superhuman warriors, the logical extension of the gene-troopers already under his command. He had first undertaken the Primarch Project, the creation of twenty infants from his own genetic code, designed to mature into powerful generals for his armies. However, this plan went awry with the intervention of the Chaos Powers. While accounts vary as to exactly what happened, the end of the tale is always the same; the Primarchs were cast into the Warp and thought lost.
In the aftermath of these events, the Emperor evolved a new plan. Using genetic material which had been derived from the Primarchs, he created a caste of warriors which would possess some of the qualities of the Primarchs. These successors to the genetically-altered warriors of the Unification Era were the Legiones Astartes, the Space Marines of the First Founding.[3b] After purging the Thunder Warriors and replacing them with these more efficient warriors, The Emperor led the Space Marines into the reconquest of the Sol System. He drove Xenos enslavers from the moons of Saturn and Jupiter and most importantly, achieved peace and eventual integration with the Mechanicum of Mars. This alliance provided the Emperor with much of the means and materiel to extend his crusade into the stars.[Needs Citation]
With the final abatement of the Warp storms began the Great Crusade. The Emperor's forces rediscovered human worlds, cast out alien oppressors, and claimed new territory aplenty. Perhaps most importantly, the Emperor, leading his crusade, rediscovered his lost sons, the Primarchs. Scattered throughout space, the infants were found one-by-one, over a period of many decades, and reunited with their father and their kin. All were placed in command of the Astartes Legions created from their respective gene-seed and played their part in forging their father's Imperium.[3b]
First amongst the Primarchs was Horus, first discovered and first honoured. The two fought together at the forefront of the early Great Crusade. The Emperor protected Horus during the Siege of Reillis while Horus repaid the favor during the Battle of Gorro. During the Battle of Gyros-Thravian, the Emperor slew the mighty Ork Warboss Gharkul Blackfang after it had held off three of his Primarchs.[Needs Citation]
Some 200 years into the Great Crusade, the Emperor decided to return to Terra and placed Horus in charge of the military advancement of his Imperium in his stead. Granting him the title of Warmaster after the Ullanor Crusade, the Emperor declared that the time had come for his sons to show him what great leaders they were. Turning his back on direct military interventions, the Emperor then created the Council of Terra, the Imperial Tithe and expanded the civil governing bodies of the Imperium, before retiring in seclusion beneath the Imperial Palace to begin work upon his greatest ambition, the Webway Project. At some point, the Emperor left the Palace to decree the Edict of Nikea, forbidding the use of Librarians within the Astartes Legions.
The Horus Heresy
This turn of events did not please all of the Emperor's subjects, several of his sons in particular. In the final stages of the Great Crusade, the Emperor's most trusted son Horus succumbed to Chaos temptation. Horus was told that the reason the Emperor had left the Great Crusade was so the he could attempt to reach godhood, abandon all his sons and betray one of the central tenants of the Great Crusade (to enlighten humanity and free it from the bonds of false gods). Horus saw it as his duty to save the Imperium and turned on his father. Having corrupted fully half of the Space Marine Legions, Horus led them against the Emperor and plunged the fledgling galactic empire into a colossal civil war. This became the most terrible conflict in human history, and billions perished as the Traitor Legions tore apart the empire they had helped to forge. The Emperor's son Magnus attempted to warn his father of the coming slaughter, but his telepathic message breached the Emperor's psychic wardings at the Imperial Palace can caused a grievous malfunction in the Golden Throne. Distraught, the Emperor ignored Magnus' warning and banished his son from his sight. The Emperor then dispatched the Space Wolves under Leman Russ to bring back Magnus before him in chains. However the now-corrupted Horus intercepted the Emperor's order and changed it, instead ordering the Thousand Sons destroyed.
For the rest of the Heresy, the Emperor was forced to deal with the Golden Throne's malfunction, which created a Warp Breach in the depths of the Imperial Palace. As Daemons flooded through the breach, the Custodian Guard and Sisters of Silence held them at bay while the Emperor punishingly exerted himself on the Golden Throne to prevent all of Terra itself from being swallowed. With his attentions turned to this crisis, the Emperor left management of Horus' rebellion to Malcador and Rogal Dorn. During this sad state of affairs, the Emperor engaged in telepathic communications with the lowly Astropath Kai Zulane, who had been given a vision of the Heresy's conclusion. During their psychic communiques, the Emperor revealed he not only already knew his ultimate fate, but had accepted it.
Later Corax, distraught over the disaster on Isstvan V, arrived at the Emperor's palace and demanded audience with the Emperor. Diverting some of his attention to the strenuous task of maintaining the Golden Throne, the Emperor psychically imbued part of the secrets of creating Astartes his sons mind. Thus, Corax was able to begin rebuilding the Raven Guard.
After five years of maintaining the stability of Magnus' webway breach on the Golden Throne, the Emperor began to exhibit physical fatigue. He finally began to show signs of exhaustion and his nose would bleed, even in the telepathic visions he sent to his Custodian Tribune Ra Endymion. After sensing the birth of the powerful Daemon Drach'nyen in the Warp the Emperor knew the war in the Webway was reaching its climax and the fate of mankind would soon be decided. He ordered the Sisters of Silence to gather a thousand psykers across the galaxy and sacrifice them to the Golden Throne. This allowed the Throne to be powered for a single day without the Emperor's presence, and he used that time to plunge into the Webway and rescue the retreating Imperial forces. After sweeping aside the Daemonic hordes he confronted Drach'nyen and sealed it into the body of Ra Endymion, telling him to run as far as he could into the depths of the Webway in order to keep humanity safe from its influence. Afterwards the Emperor was forced to seal the Webway portal on Terra by again becoming a prisoner to the Golden Throne. The Emepror lamented that his great work was ruined and maintained that now that the Webway Project had failed humanity was ultimately doomed. Horus would be defeated by his hands, but someone else would take his place. To the shock of his Custodian Diocletian, the Emperor declared the Imperium ultimately doomed be it in a year or ten thousand, and for the first time admitted he did not know what to do.[14a]
Shortly before the Siege of Terra, the Emperor appeared before the nine chosen champions of Malcador's Knights-Errant. The Master of Mankind stated that while his original Space Marines were built to wage war in the Material, these new chosen must build a new order to wage war against the immaterial. Their fight against Horus was over, but their mission to come would nonetheless be necessary for the survival of humanity. The Emperor revealed he was initially hesitant to fight against these forces directly, seeking instead to contain it. However Malcador was eventually able to convince him that direct action was needed. After telling them of their role, the Emperor bid them farewell as Malcador's confidant Ael Wyntor created a portal to Titan.
The last act of Horus' rebellion was played out above Terra, as the Emperor led a desperate assault against Horus's flagship after the treacherous Warmaster deliberately lowered his Void Shields as an invitation for a final duel. Though the Emperor was a being of unfathomable psychic and physical might, Horus had become mighty indeed, bloated with the powers of all four Chaos Gods and gaining the Emperor's own powers on Molech.The two battled with the Emperor taking many grievous injuries. Horus sliced open his chest armor,opened his jugular, and severed the tendons in his right wrist, disarming the Emperor. A punch from Horus breaks several of his ribs. Then a psychic blast melted the flesh off the Emperors face, destroying his left eye and setting his hair alight. lastly Horus tears off the Emperors right arm and breaks his back over his knee. At that moment a lone Adeptus Custodes warrior entered (or according to other sources, Ollanius Pius). Horus showed the warrior the Emperors broken body and laughed. The warrior stepped between Horus and the Emperors broken form to save his life. Horus flayed the warrior alive. The Emperor took advantage of this moment. At last after a tragic battle, and though heartbroken at the loss of his favoured son, the Emperor finally slew Horus, though the struggle left him close to death. In this state he was found by Rogal Dorn. The dying Emperor dictated plans for the arcane life-support machine that would sustain his remaining cells for over ten thousand years, and he was subsequently interred in this altered version of the Golden Throne.
Now, his will is interpreted and executed by the High Lords of Terra, his worship is regulated by the Ecclesiarchy, his law enforced by the Adeptus Arbites, his form guarded by the Adeptus Custodes, and his people protected from the horrors of the galaxy and from even themselves by the Inquisition. The Emperor is confined within the Golden Throne, vast biomechanical machinery forming the great Sanctum Imperialis, located deep within the continent-spanning complex on Terra known as the Imperial Palace. There the Emperor's physical form is sustained by carefully maintained machinery. Physically, the enthroned Emperor of Mankind is a ravaged corpse. The last surviving cells in his shattered body are sustained by the Golden Throne, providing an anchor for the Emperor's spirit, which extends across the entire Imperium. The Emperor and the Golden Throne continue to function through the daily sacrifice of thousands of Psykers. While his body is sustained, his will endures. His existence is said to be an unending torment, with his every thought enslaved to the task of ruling, guiding and protecting his race. Ultimately it is only his will to endure that allows him to survive, as he knows his death would lead to the destruction of the Imperium and leave mankind without the guidance it needs to survive.
Only through his power can the Astronomican beam its guiding light, allowing Imperial ships to navigate the Warp in relative safety. The Emperor is not just a beacon for space travel, however, but is said to continue to guide humanity through his Tarot, and through dreams and visions given to selected individuals. It is also popularly believed that he created the warp storm known as the Storm of the Emperor's Wrath during the Age of Apostasy, and that the Emperor's will holds Chaos at bay. Were it not for his unceasing struggle, the Chaos of the Warp would flood the material realm with madness and horror, causing untold destruction. In addition, the Emperor's presence on the Golden Throne keeps the ruptured Webway portal beneath the Imperial Palace in check. Should it again open, Terra would become flooded by Daemons. In addition to these already profound powers, the Emperor is capable of stopping time for undetermined lengths and guiding his servants through manipulation of his Tarot and sheer influence.
One of the few conversations between an Imperial subject and the immobilized Emperor occurred at the end of the 41st Millennium. Following the Terran Crusade, the reborn Roboute Guilliman stood before the Golden Throne and communed with the Emperor. The Primarch was disturbed by what had become of his father's mental state. He felt that the Emperor had lost all pretenses of humanity and gave off an overwhelming sense of coldness. The Emperor greeted Guilliman with interest, but as a creator would a long-lost tool, not as a father would with his son. Guilliman feared that the centuries of suffering had stripped away whatever warmth and humanity he once had.
Two theories have been put forward concerning the possible rebirth of the Emperor. Note that at worst these theories could be considered complete fabrication brought about by Tzeentchian Cultists and the lies of Chaos, as the Inquisition has decreed.
The Star Child
A controversial belief amongst Imperial scholars, the Star Child Theory has two aspects: the first is that the Emperor's soul is currently forming as a new entity (the Star Child) in the Warp and that he will be reborn - a theory not dissimilar to the belief surrounding the potential Eldar god Ynnead- and the second is that the Emperor had children.[3c]
After the defeat of Horus, most of the Emperor's soul is said to have dispersed from his body, merging into the warp in much the same way as that of the shamans, so many millennia before. It is believed that the Emperor - while apparently designed and empowered by the shamans to live forever - also possesses their ability to reincarnate, and that this would be his eventual goal. Avoiding discovery by the Chaos powers, it is believed that the Emperor was able to plant the seed of his reincarnation, a potential new soul awaiting birth: The Star Child. However, it is also believed that this new soul cannot be born while the Emperor is still tied to the Golden Throne, no matter how tenuously.[3c]
Along with this, the Emperor is said to have had children. Although a man of unparalleled, god-like powers, the Emperor was still a man, and throughout the many millennia of his life on Terra had fathered many children. A few of their descendants had inherited some of the Emperor's power, including agelessness, and survive into the Age of the Imperium. They are known as Sensei. Sensei have a unique nature and relationship with the Warp which makes them invisible to psychic senses - even to those of the Emperor. The ultimate goal of the Sensei is to attain Apotheosis with the Star Child.[3c]
There is a another possibility given for the Emperor's resurrection/rebirth. A hidden group that call themselves the Illuminati have learned from the Eldar's Black Library many truths of Chaos, as well as about the Sensei and the Fall of the Eldar. They realise the Emperor cannot survive in his current state forever, and eventually he will fail, and without the Emperor, Mankind will fall to Chaos like the Eldar. Such an event would create a fifth God of Chaos and create another Eye of Terror, one which would span the entire Imperium. They seek to prevent this by bringing about the rebirth of the Emperor.[3d]
This involves gathering together the Sensei, protecting them from the Inquisition, preparing them for what they claim is "the final war with Chaos." In truth they ultimately plan to sacrifice the Sensei to the Emperor, in the same way so many psykers have been consumed by the Emperor. The Emperor will be renewed, reborn as the Sensei-Emperor to again lead his race in person.[3d]
A cryptic account of the Emperor's origins was written by Cripias, the final "Keeper of the Library Sanctus of Terra". This account was later deemed "heretical" and kept from being published. The account was passed down to each Keeper, starting from the First Keeper, Solomon.
In the beginning, the "First Age of Man", the Emperor was hidden. It was the Golden Age and the Emperor prepares Earth for mankind. The people that existed with the Emperor before Mankind were called the "Golden Race". The second group were called the "Stone Race". The Stone Race then built ships that took both races across the galaxy. The Golden Age ends in the 21st Millennium.
Until the 26th Millennium, also called the Dark Age of Technology, the Stone Men were busy creating many things, such as the "Iron Men", or robots. Soon after, the Stone Men and Iron Men fight amongst themselves. The Stone Men eventually defeat all of the Iron Men.
After this "victory" against the Iron Men, the Age of Strife comes and the Stone Men fight amongst themselves. After fivelife thousand years of conflict, the Emperor finally emerges. He conquers and combines the race of men together, leading them. After creating the Space Marines, the Emperor crusades across the galaxy and reclaims Man's former glory. Soon after, the Horus Heresy occurs and the Emperor ascends.
Behind the scenes
The first mention of the Emperor is in Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1987), which was the very first WH40K book. In that book, he is described as the very first human psyker. His corpse-like condition and consequential confinement to life-support is described as the result of "the strain of his constant vigilance." Although physically paralyzed, the Emperor is still capable of communicating and issuing orders. The Master of the Inquistion reports directly to the Emperor and relays the Emperor's orders to the rest of the Inquisition.
The book Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned further develops the Emperor's character and also gives the first account of the Horus Heresy. The Emperor is no longer the first human psyker, but rather a fusion of the souls of Stone Age shamans. Rather than old age, the Emperor's condition is the result of injuries suffered in a duel with his fallen son, Horus, and after he was interred in the Golden Throne, he fell into eternal silence, neither moving nor communicating.
Rick Priestley cites the novel God-Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbert as a key influence when developing the Emperor of Mankind. In the novel, the human race is ruled by the God-Emperor Leto Atreides II, who is immortal and possesses unlimited precognitive powers. Leto foresaw that the human race would eventually go extinct if it remained confined to the stagnant and oppressive domain of the Imperium (of Dune), so he plotted a long-term plan to weaken the Imperium and provoke a mass-emigration beyond the confines of the known Universe. Humanity would then survive and thrive through expansion and diversification.
- 1: Warhammer 40,000 5th Edition Rulebook, [Needs Citation]
- 2: Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, pgs. 135–138
- 3: Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned, Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness
- 4: Legion (Novel) by Dan Abnett, [Needs Citation]
- 5: Horus Heresy (Artbook Series), [Needs Citation]
- 6: Warhammer 40,000 Compendium, [Needs Citation]
- 7: Warhammer 40,000 3rd Edition Rulebook, [Needs Citation]
- 8: The Inquisition War by Ian Watson, [Needs Citation], pgs. 224–228
- 9: The First Heretic (Novel), [Needs Citation], pg. 292
- 10: Thorian Faction Sourcebook (Saved archive page, dated July 2013, last accessed 9 September 2015), pg. 4
- 11: Vengeful Spirit (Novel) Chapter 16
- 12: Deliverance Lost (Novel), [Needs Citation]
- 13: The Outcast Dead (Novel), [Needs Citation]
- 14: Master of Mankind (Novel)
- 15: War Zone Fenris: Wrath of Magnus — Echoes in Time
- 16: Collected Visions pgs. 350–351
- 17: The Wolf of Ash and Fire (Short Story)
- 18: Dark Imperium (Novel) Chapter 22
- 19: Malcador: First Lord of the Imperium (Audio Drama)
- 20: The Buried Dagger (Novel) - Chapter 7