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Adeptus Arbites

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Adeptus Arbites
Adeptus Arbites Symbol.jpg
Parent Agency Adeptus Terra
Headquarters Hall of Judgement, Terra
Leader Grand Provost Marshal
Military Forces Arbitrators
Established M30

The Adeptus Arbites are the police force of the Adeptus Terra, devoted to enforcing Imperial law throughout the entire Imperium. Utterly dedicated and without mercy, the Arbites are feared throughout the galaxy, for they are the agents of a harsh law, where failure and incompetence are crimes, and the only punishment is death. Arbites are empowered to act as judge, jury and executioner – citizens have no rights, and only members of the Priesthood of Terra or the Inquisition could claim anything so elaborate as a trial.[1]


The Adeptus Arbites date from at least the Great Crusade, when compliant worlds had Lord Marshal's Offices installed to deal with 'non-local' matters.[11] During the Horus Heresy, the Grand Provost Marshal of the Arbites was part of the War Council.[17]

During the War of the Beast, the significant Arbites garrison on Terra saw heavy action against the Ork Attack Moon over the Throneworld. The Arbites took catastrophic losses in the failed Proletarian Crusade, and its surviving Terran contingent struggled to maintain order on Terra as upheavals caused by the Greenskin presence broke out.[15]

During the Age of Apostasy, the Adeptus Arbites fell under the control of Goge Vandire.[16]

Following The Blackness, the Arbites struggled to contain the situation on Terra as Chaos Cults activated across the planet and billions more of starving and maddened citizens rioted. Ultimately, most of the Arbites stations were overrun as only the Imperial Palace complex remained secure. Order was eventually restored following the Battle of Lion's Gate and the arrival of Roboute Guilliman.[19] The Arbites later aided Guilliman in his purge of Imperial bureaucracy that became known as the Primarch's Scourge.[20]



The Adeptus Arbites enforce the Lex Imperialis, embodied within the great Book of Judgement. Their organisation represents the soldiers and police of the Adeptus Terra.[2] Each of the Imperium's worlds has its own government, laws, and its own local police forces to enforce those laws. The Arbites concern themselves only with the enforcement of the broader laws to which the entire Imperium is subject; the common duty of the Arbites is overseeing that the Governor of each world is regularly paying his planet's Tithe. In the event of a rogue Governor or a major revolt which threatens Imperial rule, the Arbites will brutally intervene to restore order,[14] though a planetary coup headed up by someone who will fulfill their duties to the Imperium will merely be observed, as a successful revolt by such a one just means that a weak ruler has been replaced.[25]

An Arbites battles a Defiler

As a result of their constant oversight, the presence of Arbites are often a source of discontent for Governors, but something they must nonetheless tolerate.[14] The Arbites do not trouble themselves with murder, theft, abuse, or slavery unless those things are majorly affecting production quotas, system or subsector economies, or involve non-violent interactions with xenos. Instead they monitor the number of people being sent to serve in the Astra Militarum; how efficiently unsanctioned psykers and mutants are being rounded up; whether those who foment rebellion are being shut down before they can spread their message; and if dangerous narcotics are taking hold of the population of a world. Void ships belonging to merchants, and even Rogue traders can be boarded by Arbites with no notice - sometimes, just to instill fear into their hearts, but most times to genuinely search for forbidden cargo.[25]


The overall leader of the Adeptus Arbites is the Grand Provost Marshal, who represents the organization on the Senatorum Imperialis and oversees the organization at the Hall of Judgement on Terra. Below him are the Marshals of the Court which oversee galaxy-spanning precincts.[2] Below the Marshals of the Court, the Arbites are internally divided into two subgroups; Judges, who deal with legal matters and the application of ten thousand years of case law and its precedents, and Arbitrators, the militant arm of the Arbites who perform the work necessary to apprehend and punish those who break the Emperor's laws. Senior Arbites fulfill both roles, with Judges getting their hands dirty, and Arbitrators learning to preside over lengthy court trials.[Needs Citation]
Adeptus Arbites by John Blanche

The Adeptus Arbites maintains a presence on almost every Imperial world, headquartered in fortified Precinct-Fortresses[14] also known as Courthouses. The courthouses are equipped to be self-sufficient and to support a complete Arbites army. They consist of armouries, dungeons, barracks, firing ranges, scriptories, archives, warehouses, kitchens, gymnasia and garages. Courthouses are sometimes a world's only connection with the rest of the Imperium.[2][3]


The women and men of the Adeptus Arbites are utterly devoted to their task and without mercy to those who break the Lex Imperialis. Arbites are usually recruited through the Schola Progenium, often those who have displayed great force of will and brute strength.[8]

A Typical Precinct-Fortress of the Adeptus Arbites


The Adeptus Arbites are equipped to fight a minor war, but their main role is maintaining order. A single precinct courthouse functions as a base for a complete and fully-equipped army, capable of fielding vehicles. In combat Arbitrators wear carapace armour. Heavy gloves and boots protect the hands and feet, while the head is encased within an all-enclosing helmet equipped with a rebreather.[Needs Citation]

Standard personal weaponry is the Arbites combat shotgun, boltgun, grenade launcher, suppression shield and the power maul. Several types of grenades are used, both lethal and incapacitating. Some Patrol groups and Enforcers may use Cyber-Mastiffs to hunt down and catch criminal fugitives who attempt to escape.[4][5]

The Arbites also make use of a wide range of vehicles, such as Rhinos[6a], Repressors[6b], Chimeras[6c], Leman Russ Battle Tanks[22], as well as aircraft like the Valkyrie and the Brawler T8. They also make use of Tarantula automated turrets for crowd control, riot suppression, and defending their precincts.[9]

The Arbites also maintain a small fleet of patrol craft and counter-insurgency vessels, most notably among these the Punisher Class Strike Cruiser. The Arbites fleet also operates logistical vessels, transports, and other support craft such as Prison Barges.[10]

Notable Arbites

A female arbitrator[12a]

Adeptus Arbites in Warhammer 40,000

The Adeptus Arbites are one of the original components of the Warhammer 40,000 universe (although undoubtedly inspired by Judge Dredd).


Related articles


Modern Imperial Organizations
Adeptus Terra Adeptus Administratum (Adeptus AstartesDepartmento MunitorumAstra MilitarumOrdo TempestusImperial FleetImperial NavyMerchant FleetPraeses MercaturaNavis NobiliteOfficio AssassinorumEstate ImperiumTemplars PsykologisOfficio SabatorumOfficio MedicaeOfficio AgricultaeOfficio LogisticarumDepartmento ExactaAstra CartographicaLogis StrategosDepartmento ColoniaDepartmento ProcessiumDepartmento of Final ConsiderationDepartmento ContagioDepartmento GradioQuestio LogisticusRogue TradersImperial Commanders) • Adeptus Astra Telepathica (Sisters of SilenceLeague of Black ShipsScholastica Psykana) • Adeptus AstronomicaAdeptus ArbitesAdeptus CustodesQuestor Imperialis (House Guard) • Adeptus FidiciusSynopticon
Adeptus Mechanicus Cult MechanicusCollegia TitanicaLegiones SkitariiQuestor Mechanicus (House Guard) • Centurio OrdinatusOrdo ReductorLegio CyberneticaAuxilia MyrmidonPrefecture MagisteriumBasilikon AstraDivisio LinguisticaExploratorSect Missionarius MechanicusCollegiate ExtremisAstynomia
Adeptus Ministorum Holy SynodAdepta Sororitas (Sisters of Battle) • Schola ProgeniumMissionarius GalaxiaCreed TemporalFrateris Militia
Inquisition Ordo MalleusOrdo HereticusOrdo XenosOrdo Minoris