Space Marine Legion
The twenty Space Marine Legions, also known as the Legiones Astartes, were created by the Emperor to take part in the Great Crusade in what was later known as the First Founding. All the Space Marines of a Legion ("battle-brothers" amongst themselves) were modified with help of the DNA samples of a single Primarch. As a Primarch was found, he would receive the command of his respective Legion.
The Legio Astartes, being far larger then current Space Marine Chapters, were organized along drastically different lines. At the head of the Legion was its Primarch Commander who oversaw the Legion's headquarters. Below this were the Chapters of the Legion, each of which was commanded by a Chapter Commander. Each Chapter in turn was divided into a number of Battalions, each of which was further divided into Companies. The Company, itself divided into a number of Squads, was the basic military division of the Legio Astartes. Due to the varying sizes of each Legion, there was no fixed number of how many Chapters, Battalions, Companies, and Squads a Legion would contain.[7b]
Number of Legionaries
The Legions were massive armies, and the size of each could vary tremendously. A precise number was never truly achieved and maintained. Even during the Great Crusade, some Legions were very numerous, while others were not. The numbers would always vary with new recruits and inevitable battle-losses, and also important was the availability of potential recruits and the administrative skills of the Primarch and his officers.
The most numerous Legion of all was the Ultramarines. The Thousand Sons of Magnus were of a small number as many of them had developed mutations or uncontrollable levels of psychic powers. Fulgrim's samples had been largely lost, and this left the Legion of the Emperor's Children also with a very small number. Both of these Legions would increase their numbers to acceptable standards only after their Primarchs were found.
The approximate sizes of a few of the Legions at the start of the Heresy have been given in various sources:
- Ultramarines - 250,000
- Sons of Horus - Between 130,000 and 170,000[7c][Note 3]
- World Eaters - 150,000[7d]
- Word Bearers - 100,000 to 150,000
- Blood Angels - 120,000
- Night Lords - 90,000 to 120,000[15a]
- Iron Hands - 113,000[15b]
- Imperial Fists - 100,000[Note 1]
- Death Guard - 95,000[7e]
- Salamanders - 89,000[15c]
- Raven Guard - 80,000
- Emperor's Children - 50,000[7f] Although this number is clearly stated to be a result of the loss sustained during the Istvaan III war. During the later Great Crusade, the size of the legion was closer to 110,000[7f]
- Thousand Sons - 10,000[Note 2]
The Legion size issue is contentious, with several types of numbers mentioned in separate sources meant to reflect a general or nominally-sized legion. As well as numbers directly given in sources themselves, several authors have commented on the issue. Pressed with questions about pre-Heresy organisation - although declaring there is not any real information about it - Andy Chambers answered that "Space Marines started out in Legions of approximately 10,000 strong (or more, depending on the specific legion), which were broken down into Chapter-sized Great Companies rather like the Space Wolves (who are renowned for not adopting the Codex Astartes alterations made by Guilliman post-heresy and who thus follow pre-heresy organisation more closely".
- Note 1: In The Crimson Fist (Novella) it is mentioned that 20,000 Imperial Fists constituted one-fifth of the entire Legion, making 100,000 the likely number.
- Note 2: In A Thousand Sons (Novel), during the Battle of Prospero it is mentioned that Ahriman counts about 1,000 survivors from the legion and states that it is "tenth of the Legion" which makes the Thousand Sons about 10,000 men before the Space Wolves attack Prospero.
- Before the Word Bearers invasion to Boros Gate it is mentioned the Black Legion's strength is unparalleled and that their rank their ranks outnumbered the Word Bearers by almost ten to one. If at that point the Word Bearers kept the ranks at the size of 100,000 space marines it means the Black Legion have vastly increased their numbers to around 1,000,000 space marines.
- Note 3: Further down the page of the cited source, Betrayal states that this number is leading up to Istvaan III. After the conflict, some 60,000 Sons of Horus Astartes were lost, some of which are the Loyalists. After the betrayal at Istvaan III, the current numbers of the Sons of Horus are estimated to be 70,000-110,000.
Original names and appearances
Originally, each Legion was known simply by its number (i.e., the Dark Angels were originally known as Ist Legion) and had plain grey armour. However upon rediscovering their Primarch the Legion would take his homeworld as their own, gain a name instead of just being known by their number, and change their Power Armour from grey to one consisting of a combination of battle honours and their Primarch's own tastes.[7a]
The Emperor saw no problems with this development; the loyalty of the Primarchs to him was believed to be unshakeable. This reasoning would be proven to be sadly mistaken as half of the known Legions revolted during the Horus Heresy.
- The Mythos Angelica Mortis, which deals mainly with the Astartes Praeses, but also provides information about the Dark Angels and its Successor Chapters. It reports that these Chapters refer to themselves as the "Unforgiven".
- The Apocrypha of Skaros and the Apocrypha of Davio, the first one tells us that there were 23 Successor Chapters of the Ultramarines, but fails to name them, the second source is able to provide eight names of them.
- [A] De jure the homeworld of the Imperial Fists is Terra; but de facto it is Phalanx.
Two Unknown Legions
While the nine "Excommunicate Traitoris" Legions are known to the Imperium as the Traitor Legions, of the 2nd and 11th Legions no records remain, including of which side they took during the Horus Heresy. The history of the Dark Angels during the Heresy is similarly known only to themselves, and possibly the Emperor. Therefore, excluding the role of the Dark Angels, there were at least nine, and as many as eleven Legions who took the side of Horus.
Recent writings have shown that the two unknown legions were lost prior to the Heresy. They are referred to as the forgotten and purged. It is rumoured by some members of the Word Bearers Legion that the Astartes from one, if not both, of these unknown Legions were inducted into the Ultramarines after their Primarchs were 'forgotten'. An oath was sworn by the Primarchs to never speak the names of their two lost brothers. The loss of the 2nd and 11th sons grieved Lorgar deeply.
A single Chapter kept the name, traditions, rituals, homeworld, and original identity of the origin Legion, while the remaining Chapters received a part of their Legion's gene-seed, new homeworlds, new names, and over time eventually developed their own traditions and identities. These Chapters are known as "Successor Chapters", a title which is not granted to Chapters created during later Foundings.
The nine "original Chapters", to a certain extent, are more highly thought of. These Chapters are called "First Founding Chapters" or something similar.
In the current Age of The Imperium, nearly three-fifths of all Chapters are "descendants" of the Ultramarines, either directly or indirectly through one of the Ultramarines' Second Founding Chapters. Many records have been lost over time, consequently there are many Chapters which are unaware of which Legion they ultimately descend from.
The Grey Knights are an exception as this Chapter was created shortly before the Second Founding and its gene-seed is of secret origin.
Chaos Space Marine Legions
From a pure technical standpoint, the Chaos Space Marine Legions, also known as the "Traitor Legions", are the only Space Marine Legions still in existence. In reality however, all of them have been broken up to some degree and now exist largely as separated individual warbands following rival Chaos Champions. On occasion, a highly successful Chaos Champion, such as Abaddon the Despoiler, is able to reunite these Traitor Legions once more and unleash them upon the galaxy.
- 1: Codex: Black Templars (4th Edition), pg. 20
- 2: Soul Drinker (Novel) and The Bleeding Chalice (Novel) by Ben Counter, [Needs Citation]
- 3: Warriors of Ultramar (Novel) by Graham McNeill, [Needs Citation]
- 4: Codex: Ultramarines (2nd Edition) by Rick Priestley, pg. 7, "Of Legions numbered II and XI nothing is recorded, but it seems likely these also fought for Horus at least during the beginning of the Heresy."
- 5: White Dwarf 273, pg. 33 (GW Mailbox)
- 6: The First Heretic (Novel) by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, [Needs Citation], pgs. 9, 45, 60-66, 162-163, 167, 295-296
- 7: The Horus Heresy Book One - Betrayal
- 8: Interview with Dan Abnett (7m40s)
- 9: Deliverance Lost (Novel), Drop Site Massacre
- 10: Fear to Tread (Novel), by James Swallow, Melchior, pg. 42
- 11: The Crimson Fist (Novella) by John French - Shadows of Treachery, pgs. 28-29
- 12: A Thousand Sons (Novel) by Graham McNeill, Ch. 31
- 13: Dark Creed (Novel) by Anthony Reynolds, Ch. 4
- 14: Vulkan Lives by Nick Kyme, Ch. 19
- 15: The Horus Heresy Book Two - Massacre
- Codex: Space Marines (4th Edition)
- Codex: Dark Angels (4th Edition)
- Descent of Angels (Novel), [Needs Citation], pgs. 235, 303