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Targetdrone.gif This article is about the Human Empire; for the Magazine, see Warhammer 40,000: Imperium Magazine.
Imperium of Man
Imperial Eagle.jpg
Capital: Terra
Official languages: Low Gothic, High Gothic, Lingua-technis
Major Species: Human, Abhuman species
Type of Government Feudal Galactic Empire
Feudal Theocratic Autocracy
Head of State: Emperor of Mankind
Head of Government: Imperial Regent (currently Roboute Guilliman)
Governing body: Senatorum Imperialis
(High Lords of Terra)
State religion(s): Imperial Cult
Cult Mechanicus
Primary Military forces

Astra Militarum
Imperial Navy
Space Marines
Collegia Titanica
Sisters of Battle
Legiones Skitarii
Questor Imperialis
Planetary Defense Forces

Primary Internal Security forces

Adeptus Arbites
Adeptus Custodes
Sisters of Silence

The Imperium of Man, also occasionally called the Imperium of Mankind and simply the Imperium, is the galactic empire under which the majority of humanity is united. The founder and nominal ruler of the Imperium is the god-like Emperor of Mankind, the most powerful human psyker ever known.[Needs Citation]

The Imperium is the largest and most powerful political entity in the galaxy, consisting of at least a million worlds which are dispersed across most of the galaxy. An Imperial planet might be separated from its closest neighbour by hundreds or thousands of light years. As a stellar empire, the size of the Imperium cannot be measured in terms of contiguous territory, but only in the number of planetary systems in its control.[Needs Citation]

Several aliens and forces - Chaos, Tyranids, Eldar, Dark Eldar, Orks, Tau, Necrons - challenge the supremacy of the Imperium. From within, the Imperium is threatened more insidiously by rebellion, mutation, rogue psykers, and subversive cults. Without the protection of the Imperium, mankind would fall prey to the countless perils that threaten it.[Needs Citation]

History of the Imperium

Main article: Age of the Imperium

The Imperium was founded by the Emperor, also called The Immortal Emperor, God-Emperor, and the Master of Mankind, at the end of the Age of Strife — a very long period of anarchy, war, and destructive regression which brought humanity to the brink of destruction and reversed the technological progression made during the Dark Age of Technology. In the Unification Wars, the Emperor led his proto-Astartes known as Thunder Warriors to victory in unifying Terra for the first time in millennia.[Needs Citation]

As the Warp storms of the Age of Strife subsided, after having secured the scientific posts and spacedocks of Luna, along with the factories and scientists on Mars, the Emperor began to unite mankind under his rule. A vast navy was built, with which his armies undertook the Great Crusade, which lasted for about two centuries. During this two hundred year-long military campaign, the Emperor employed his most potent military units, the Space Marine Legions, led by their leaders, the Primarchs. These, combined with the might of the Imperial Army (which was later separated into the Imperial Guard and the Imperial Navy), Custodian Guard, Sisters of Silence, and Martian Mechanicum forces that included the Collegia Titanica and Legio Cybernetica saw thousands of human worlds brought together under the Imperium. The Great Crusade ended with the corruption and treachery of the Primarch Horus, the instigator of the Horus Heresy.[Needs Citation]

The rebellion was fought across the galaxy. Horus, seeking to achieve a swift and decisive victory, led most of the traitor forces in a direct strike at the capital of humanity, in the Battle of Terra. In the final decisive battle between the Emperor and the Arch-Traitor, Horus was slain, leading to the breakup of the rebellion and the exile of the traitors to the Eye of Terror. However the Master of Mankind was himself mortally wounded. According to his instructions he was placed on the life-preserving Golden Throne, where, for nearly ten thousand years, he has remained. Though physically a carcass incapable of movement or communication, his omnipotent will extends across the million worlds of the Imperium, beaming the psychic energy of the Astronomican, soul-binding psychic humans and struggling against the daemons of the Warp. He endures by his undying will, and by the sustenance that only the souls of sacrificial psykers can provide. By the numberless masses of humanity he is worshiped as a god.[Needs Citation]

The immediate period following the Heresy, The Scouring and Age of Rebirth, saw the Imperium slowly rebuild its might and control over the domain of man. It also saw the last of the Emperor's loyal Primarchs either fall in battle, become gravely wounded, or disappear altogether. Nonetheless in the subsequent age known as The Forging, the Imperium enjoyed a period of growth and expansion. The Imperium's period of relative peace ended abruptly in mid-M32 when an Ork Warboss known only as The Beast launched the greatest Waaagh! ever encountered. The Beast was only halted at great cost by the Adeptus Astartes.[3e]

The Imperium saw further periods of severe instability throughout M35 and M36, experiencing civil wars during the Nova Terra Interregnum and Age of Apostasy. This period saw the worst internal violence since the Heresy. Following the Age of Apostasy, the Imperium was again heavily reorganized and many heretics purged in the Age of Redemption. This new fervor culminated in a series of major Crusades and Wars of Faith most notably the Redemption Crusades and Macharian Crusade. However, while successful, this period exhausted the Imperium's military forces and in The Waning, many worlds were lost to xenos and Chaos attacks as well as internal rebellion.[3e]

The effects of The Waning ultimately culminated in late M41, known as the Time of Ending. Here the exhausted Imperium not only faced rejuvenated old threats, but also terrifying new enemies like the Tyranids and Necrons as well new smaller but dynamic alien empires such as the Tau, Noisome Reek, and Ulumeathic League. Beset on all sides by heresy and alien invasion, the future of the Imperium seems bleak.[3e] The Black Crusade saw both the destruction of Cadia and the formation of the Great Rift, which has effectively split the Imperium in two. However some hope has been renewed thanks to the rebirth of the Primarch Roboute Guilliman, who has launched the Indomitus Crusade to reclaim worlds lost within the Dark Imperium.[Needs Citation]


The Imperium is an entity beset by constant war. However a number of current engagements stand out as particularly fearsome. These include:[27a]

Political Structure

Main article: High Lords of Terra

The Imperium is still nominally ruled by the Emperor of Mankind. However, since his ascension to the Golden Throne, the duty of actually ruling the Imperium falls to the Senatorum Imperialis — the Imperial Senate, led by the twelve High Lords of Terra. The identities and responsibilities of these High Lords may vary, as individuals inevitably die and their influence grows and wanes, but its members are always the leaders and representatives of the most powerful Imperial organisations.[Needs Citation]

This system endured for ten thousand years until the end of the 41st Millennium, when the revived Primarch Roboute Guilliman became Lord Commander of the Imperium and ruled over even the High Lords.[12]

Imperial Organisations

Organisation of the Imperial government.[3e]

The Imperial government is divided into four main bodies: the Adeptus Terra (The Priesthood of Terra), the Adeptus Mechanicus (the Priesthood of Mars), the Adeptus Ministorum (State Church), and Inquisition (Secret Police). These in turn answer to the Senatorum Imperialis, who rule in the name of the Emperor. In practice, most of the organisations comprising the Imperium are divisions of the vast Adeptus Terra. There are countless divisions, and some are so secretive their existence is known only to a few. The most well-known of the "secret" organisations is the Officio Assassinorum. Other organisations are secret enough that nothing besides their mere existence is known, such as the Officio Sabatorum and the Templars Psykologis.[3e]

The most important and well-known Imperial organisations include:


As the largest single known polity in the Galaxy, the Imperium maintains a wide array of military forces. At any given times there are countless billions fighting for the Imperium of Man. Similar to its political organization each branch of the Imperium’s military is independent, with their own duties, rituals, chain of command, tactical acumen and gear of war. Though diverse, the forces of the Imperium often work in conjunction with each other, and the larger the battle, the more likely it will be to see multiple Imperial factions engaged in the same war. Massive conflagrations, such as the Chaos invasions known as the Black Crusades or a major war zone such as the one surrounding the planet Armageddon, will attract representatives from all of Mankind’s military institutions.[13]

The military forces of the Imperium consist of:

Former military forces of the Imperium include:

Current map of the Imperium[27]

Imperial Domain

Pre-Great Rift Map of the Imperium[4]
Segmentae of the Imperium

The disparate and widespread nature of Imperial territory means that a strongly centralised government would be unfeasible. The Imperium divides the galaxy into five administrative zones called Segmentae Majoris:

The Segmentae are the Imperium's primary administrative division. Each is divided into sectors, which are areas of space. The sectors in turn consist of subsectors, each containing a number of star systems which in turn are made up of individual worlds. These divisions and subdivisions are levels forming an administrative hierarchy. Each Segmentum Commander oversees his Sector Commanders, who in turn oversees Subsector Commanders, who oversee the individual Planetary Governors. The higher ranks in this system are usually combined with a basic planetary governorship as well as interplanetary duties. This system is the means by which the Imperium maintains control of the separate planets that comprise it.

The borders of the Imperium are marked by several uncharted regions of space which lay beyond the range of the Astronomican, areas which are frequently viewed with uncertainty and fear by Imperial citizens.[5] These include the Halo Zone on the Imperium's western-most border, the Halo Stars to its northwest, the Ghoul Stars to its northeast, the Veiled Region and Mandragoran Stars to its south, and the Eastern Fringes to its eastern-most border.

Following the Thirteenth Black Crusade and the resurrection of Roboute Guilliman, much of the Imperium's northwestern frontier became cut off from Terra. Becoming known as Imperium Nihilus, Guilliman has launched a new Crusade to reclaim these worlds.[11] The region south of the rift has become known as Imperium Sanctus.[27]

Planetary Classification

Due to its vast magnitude, the Imperium can afford for entire worlds to become specialised places where a majority, perhaps even the entirety, of the population is devoted to a single task. This could be heavy industry, military training, manufacturing, mining or agriculture. Planet-wide dedication serves to simplify logistics and increase outputs.[7] While not all Imperial worlds can be classified, the most commonly encountered types are:

Planetary Administration

Because of the distances involved and the unstable nature of Warp communication, Planetary Governors generally operate very autonomously. This allows quite a lot of variation in the regional governments. Most governorships are hereditary, but it is also possible for a planet to have an elected Planetary Governor, a tyrant Governor who rules by force of arms, or anything in between. So long as the Governor fulfills his duties to the Imperium, his rule will generally be accepted by the higher authorities. A rare few Planetary Governors preside over feral or medieval worlds where the Imperium has not, for whatever reason, seen fit to introduce modern technology. These Governors are often isolated from their subjects, sometimes even living on orbital installations, only interfering to control mutation and psykers, as well as to collect the modest tithes these planets pay.

The Imperial duties of a Planetary Governor include paying the planetary tithe to the Administratum, controlling psykers, mutation and heresy among the population, defending the planet and putting down rebellions against the local government (and thus against the Imperium). A serious responsibility is the maintenance of an adequate planetary defense force capable of defending the planet in the event of invasion. The Planetary Defence Forces (abbreviated to PDF) are expected to defeat attacks from minor foes, and in the case of major invasions to hold out until reinforcements arrive, which could take a period of months or even years.

A relatively small number of Imperial worlds are not ruled by a Governor, but are overseen by an alternate organisation such as the Adeptus Terra, Ecclesiarchy, Imperial Guard or Space Marines. These include the Forge Worlds of the Adeptus Mechanicus, whose inhabitants toil without pause to manufacture the weapons of the Emperor's armies (including Mars, Gryphonne IV and Fortis Binary), the Cardinal Worlds of the Ecclesiarchy, which are given entirely over to education and worship of the Emperor (Ignatius Cardinal, Ophelia VII), and the Space Marine Chapter planets (such as Fenris, Macragge, Baal, and Medusa).


The Imperial creed maintains that all of humanity must be brought into and kept within the Imperium. Several Imperial organisations are permanently occupied with suppressing any possibility of rebellion before they have a chance of developing. The common worship of the Emperor holds mankind together and instills loyalty towards the Imperium. Rebellions and uprisings on Imperial planets nonetheless remain constant. The nature and causes of a rebellion can fall into several categories: the government of an Imperial world may decide to secede from the Imperium, or may attempt to overthrow the local Imperial government. In the most insidious of cases the rebellion may be brought about by xenos or Chaos influence. In the more prosaic cases however, a government established through rebellion is not necessarily opposed by the Imperium, so long as it accedes fully to Imperial authority.[2]

Besides outright war, there are many ways a rebellious world may be brought back into the Imperium. With its more secretive organisations, the Imperium is fully capable of carrying out subvert methods of restoring Imperial rule, including assassination, popular agitation, economic sabotage and terrorism. Sometimes a rebellion can be subdued by the removal of a single individual. Pro-Imperial groups or other anti-government forces can be infiltrated or supported.[1]


While types of regimes and cultures differ greatly from world to world, there are commonly shared values and policies maintained by the Imperial central government. The worship of the Emperor as a god and the need for subject planets to pay the Imperial Tithe are rigidly enforced by agencies such as the Ecclesiarchy, Adeptus Arbites, and the feared Inquisition.[3a] In addition, the Imperium is militantly xenophobic and will annihilate entire non-human species. Besides aliens, Mutants and psykers also face ruthless persecution[3c], though certain types of Abhumans such as Ogryns and Ratlings are tolerated. The Imperium views their violently xenophobic, anti-mutant, and anti-psyker policies as necessary for the survival of the human race amid a galaxy of violent aliens and dark gods.[3b][3c]

In addition to aliens, mutants, and psykers, most forms of robotics and artificial intelligence are outlawed in the Imperium. This taboo was inherited from human civilizations of the Dark Age of Technology, who were nearly annihilated at the hands of the legendary Iron Men.[6] Thus while certain forms of robotics such as Servitors and Machine Spirits are sanctioned, any kind of true artificial sentience is declared to be a heretical Abominable Intelligence.

Everyday life differs greatly in the Imperium depending on which world one finds themselves on. However there is a common uniting factor: all activities are based around service to the Emperor and his regime. Life is often monotonous, with those on Hive Worlds spending their days as factory laborers before a short sleep cycle inside a cramped living quarters. Materialism outside of the nobility is virtually unknown. Whatever entertainment exists is heavily monitored by the Ecclesiarchy and is usually religious or political in nature. Most recreation is achieved through religious festivals, music, and drinking. Many, particularly those who can not find fulfillment outside of worship to the Emperor, resort to drug use to escape the reality of their lives. There are parks and shows for the nobility, but these are too expensive for a commoner to enjoy. On particular regressive worlds, gladiatorial combat may be used for entertainment. Against this backdrop most families will attempt to live a quiet humble life, hoping to never encounter the gaze of Imperial authorities or the horrors of the Galaxy.[24]

Making the sign of the Aquila is a common display of loyalty and respect within the Imperium. This is achieved through moving ones hands together into the shape of a double-headed eagle.[22]

Imperial Languages

Low Gothic is the common tongue of the Imperium, spoken on most Imperial planets as a first or second language. Imperial worlds have inevitably developed their own dialects of Low Gothic over time. High Gothic (represented as Latinised English) dates from an age before the Imperium, and is used solely as a hieratic tongue by the divisions of the Adeptus Terra, the Inquisition and the Ecclesiarchy. Another prominent language of the Imperium is the Lingua Technis, the tongue of the Adeptus Mechanicus.[25]


The Imperium's state religion, the Imperial Cult, is the one and only faith under Imperial law. While forms of worship may differ, they share a common belief that the Emperor is a God and the master of Mankind. This state religion is overseen by the Ecclesiarchy, the Imperial church and one of the most powerful and influential organizations among humanity. Any kind of deviation or apostasy against the Imperial Cult is classified as heresy and punishable by death.[3d] The exception falls to the Cult Mechanicus, the state religion of the Adeptus Mechanicus. Since the Treaty of Olympus millennia ago their faith has been granted tolerance. While the Cult Mechanicus differs greatly from the tenets of the Ecclesiarchy in its reverence of the machine, it nonetheless worships the Emperor as the divine avatar of the Machine God known as the Omnissiah.[25]

However other illegal faiths are practiced covertly by denizens of the Imperium, most notably among persecuted classes such as mutants. Unfortunately, it is common that often times this involves worship of the Dark Gods.[3c]


Wealth in the Imperium is distributed highly unequally, and those below are expected to serve those above. The Imperium primarily collects its wealth through its Tithes maintained on each world. Many types of currency exist in the Imperium, such as Credits[8], Crowns[9], Aquilas[22], and Thrones[10]. Often goods, resources, and manpower are substituted as currency on a planetary level.[3e]

Examples of standard income in the Imperium is as follows, with the Thrones currency used. This however applies only to Acolytes of each profession.[10]

Income and Social Class
Job Thrones per Month
Hive Scum 20
Common Laborers 30
Guardsmen 50
Arbites, Sanctioned Psykers 70
Adepts/Bureaucracy 100
Assassins/Mercenaries 130
Tech-Priests 130
Priests 200
Nobility 500


Interstellar Travel in the Imperium is a perilous affair. Most travel is conducted by the Imperial Fleet, specifically the Merchant Fleet which oversees 90% of interstellar traffic.[21] In order to travel at Faster-than-light and thus reach their destination within a reasonable amount of time, Imperial vessels must activate their vessels Warp Drive and enter the Immaterium. While inside the Warp, genetically modified Humans known as Navigators use the Terran-based Astronomican as a beacon to guide their vessel to its destination. Many threats exist during Warp Travel, from the terrifying prospect of Gellar Field failure to temporal inconsistencies to massive Warp Storms.[1a]


While short-range more conventional methods exist, within the Imperium the only reliable means of rapid interstellar communication is by utilizing a type of Psychic Human known as an Astropath. Astropaths send telepathic messages into the Warp which are then intercepted by other Astropaths and passed along until they reach their intended destination. Astropathic Communication is fraught with inconsistencies and are not always reliable, with messages becoming garbled or being delivered well after or even before the time in which they were originally sent.[1b]

Imperial Dating System

The Imperial dating system is based upon "Anno Domini", although expressed in rather different terms. A full dating code consists of a "check" number, "year fraction" number, "year" number, and the millennium. The millennium is a suffix, represented by an "M" and the millennium number. The three digits preceding the millennium is the year within the millennium, running from 001-000 (one thousand). For example 0150930/M32 is the year 930 of the thirty second millennium (31,930 A.D.).

Since the formation of the Great Rift, the Imperium has introduced a radical new dating system to compensate for the extreme inconsistencies of time that has taken place across the galaxy. This is based around the planet's time in relation to the formation of the Rift itself.[16]

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