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Codex Astartes

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Organization of a Codex-Compliant Space Marine Chapter since the introduction of Primaris Space Marines[18]

The Codex Astartes is the doctrine of the Space Marine Chapters, governing all aspects of Chapter organisation and battlefield tactics. For any given tactical situation, the Codex has hundreds of pages devoted to how it may be met and overcome. The wisdom of thousands of Imperial warriors has contributed to the Codex, and details on everything from unit markings to launching a full-scale planetary assault are contained within its pages.

The Codex was written and formalised after the Horus Heresy by the Primarch of the Ultramarines, Roboute Guilliman. Some Chapters, such as the Ultramarines and their successors, regard the Codex as a holy text, and follow it without question. Many other chapters also follow the Codex, though not always as strictly as the Ultramarines; these two types of chapters are collectively known as Codex Chapters. Among the Ultramarines, each battle brother must memorise whole sections of the codex, so that within a company there exists an entire record of the text.[1]


In the aftermath of the Horus Heresy, the Emperor had been incapacitated, and the Space Marines' numbers had been decimated by defections to Chaos and battle losses. With the Emperor confined to the Golden Throne the High Lords of Terra found themselves the new leaders of the Emperor's domain. Both the High Lords and surviving Primarchs became paranoid of the possibility of such events repeating themselves. The armies of the Emperor once again scoured the galaxy seeking out all forms of heresy and removing even the slightest chance of rebellion. The Ultramarines were left as the largest loyal legion, and Guilliman assumed the title of Lord Commander of the Imperium.[Needs Citation] Concerned that once again their could be a threat from such a terrible force each Legion was to be divided into smaller Chapters and a new set of regulations would be created to govern them.[9]

The Codex Astartes was a code developed by Guilliman. This tome would contain everything a member of the Astartes would need to know to function. From recruitment to organization to tactics and beyond the Codex Astartes became a sacred text to the majority of the Chapters.[10] One of the most significant changes under the new Codex was the newly founded Chapters. Where the Legions could number more than 10,000 strong the Chapters would be limited to about a thousand. Each original Legion would be divided as many times as needed into successor Chapters. This division would come to be called the Second Founding seven years after the Horus Heresy[11], in 021.M31. The remaining thousand bodies in the original Legion would also survive as a new Chapter of the same name. While these newly created Chapters claimed their founders origins, such as their Primarch, they would also come to develop their own culture and customs.[Needs Citation]Rogal Dorn initially rejected the Codex Astartes and enmity developed between him and Guilliman. Dorn called Guilliman a coward, citing his lack of participation in the defense of the Imperial Palace. Guilliman accused Dorn of being a traitor for refusing the Codex. This enmity quickly involved other Space Marine Legions and a rift developed, Leman Russ of the Space Wolves stood by the Imperial Fists, while Jaghatai Khan of the White Scars and Corax of the Raven Guard supported the Ultramarines. A second civil war appeared likely when the Imperial Fists strike cruiser Terrible Angel was fired upon by the Imperial Navy in connection with Codex crisis.[7]

However, Dorn ultimately relented after spending seven days meditating in the pain glove. There, he concluded that the Legion could no longer serve the Emperor who had been and must serve the Emperor who was, which involved accepting the new order of which the Codex was a part.[8]

Recent Reforms

After the resurrection of Guilliman in late M41, he began to see many of the flaws that came from overly-strict adherence to the Codex Astartes. As a result, he has reformed much of the Codex and eliminated much of its restrictions on Space Marines. New additions include the addition of Primaris Space Marine formations such as Intercessor, Aggressor, Inceptor, and Reiver Squads, as well as the inclusion of two Space Marine Lieutenants below the Company Captain, each commanding a demi-Company. Furthermore, Squads in the Codex Astartes are now defined as Battleline Squads (Tactical or Intercessor), Close Support (Assault, Reiver, and Inceptor), or Fire Support (Devastator, Aggressor, Eradicator[19], or Hellblaster). These formations exist alongside Veteran Squads, Scout Squads, and Vanguard Space Marine Squads.[15]

This means the number of squads in a perfectly compliant chapter are now 44 Battleline, 18 Close Support, and 18 Fire Support, in addition to 10 squads of veterans and 10 squads of scouts and Vanguard Space Marines, spread across the chapter's companies as detailed below.

Guilliman ultimately intends to replace the Codex Astartes with the Codex Imperialis.[14]


Secretly, however, Dorn formulated his own protocol to possibly circumvent the Codex Astartes known as the Last Wall, a code phrase that would require the Imperial Fists and the Successor Chapters to bind together under one supreme commander.[12]

Likewise, the Dark Angels and their successors, while dividing into chapters, have remained united in their single-minded pursuit of the Fallen.[Needs Citation]

The Space Wolves Legion, however, never fully accepted the new doctrine; rather they held sacred the teachings of their Primarch, Leman Russ. For that reason, the Wolves consist of twelve Great Companies, rather than the ten mandated by the Codex, and their system of organization and promotion bears little resemblance to that of hardline Codex chapters, such as the Ultramarines. Although the Space Wolves attempted to create Successor Chapters, the genetic instability of their gene-seed made a disaster of their first (and possibly last) attempt, the ill-fated Wolf Brothers.[9]

In the immediate aftermath of the Heresy, Nassir Amit, the founder and first chapter master of the Flesh Tearers, expressed little but scorn for the Codex, finding it amusing that Guilliman, who had been absent from the Battle of Terra, should think himself fit to impose restrictions on the other Legions.[13]

Organisational Doctrine

Pre-Primaris Space Marine Codex Astartes Space Marine Chapter organisational chart.

The Codex states that a Space Marine Chapter should be split into 10 companies of 100 Marines each, plus a Space Marine Captain, Apothecary, Company Standard and Chaplain for each one.[Needs Citation] In the reforms by Roboute Guilliman after his return to the Imperium at the end of M41, two Lieutenants serve directly below the Company Captain, commanding two demi-companies.[15]

Existing outside the Company level organisation, each chapter has an Armoury consisting of the chapter's Techmarines and tanks, a Librarium consisting of the Chapter's Librarians, a Chapter Space Marine Fleet, and the Chapter Master, plus various headquarters staff (including any Honour Guard and the Chapter Champion), and the Chapter's servitors and human serfs.[Needs Citation] This means that even the most Codex-compliant chapter can have as many Techmarines, Librarians, and vehicle staff (pilots, gunners, etc - this includes Dreadnoughts) as it can muster.

Veteran Company

The 1st Company is the most powerful company, consisting entirely of Veteran Space Marines. In addition to having access to the Chapter's rarest and most advanced technology, the 1st Company is the only one trained in and equipped with Terminator Armour. Transport for the 1st Company includes Land Raiders, Stormravens, and Rhinos. It may may also include Dreadnoughts, as these fallen heroes are encouraged to remain with their battle-brothers.[5] The 1st Company rarely fights as a single unit, but instead its members are attached on an as-needed basis to other companies, lending their superior experience, skill, and equipment on campaign.[Needs Citation]

Battle Companies

The 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 5th Companies are known as Battle Companies, as they generally form the main battle force deployed for engagements. All four Companies have the same organisation, split into 6 Battleline Squads which consist of Tactical and Intercessor formations, 2 Close Combat Squads which consist of Assault, Reiver, and Inceptor formations, and 2 Fire Support Squads which consist of Devastator, Hellblaster, or Aggressor formations. Each Battle Company also includes around two Dreadnoughts, and maintains their own motor pool of Rhino, Impulsors, and Razorback transports, Land Speeders, and Space Marine Bikes.[5]

Reserve Companies

The 6th, 7th, 8th and 9th Companies are the Reserve Companies, designed as training and reserve formations, used to bolster the Battle Companies in combat when needed.[6]

The 6th and 7th Companies are each comprised entirely of Battleline Squads, and in battle are used to bolster the main battle line, as well as carry out flanking or diversionary attacks.[5] Like Battle Companies, the 6th and 7th include Rhino and Razorback transports, as well as Dreadnoughts. The 6th Company, however, is trained with and equipped to deploy entirely as bike squadrons, while the 7th can do the same on Land Speeders. These forces are held in reserve to be deployed at the discretion of force commanders as tactical situations evolve, often to bolster weak points or aid in breaking through enemy lines at specific locations.[Needs Citation]

The 8th Company is comprised entirely of Close Support Squads. and is one of the most mobile forces, used in battle whenever close-quarters fighting is necessary.[5]

The 9th Company, meanwhile, is comprised entirely of Fire Support Squads and is used as a long-range fire support formation to anchor defensive points.[5] Both the 8th and 9th Companies include Dreadnoughts, Rhinos and Razorbacks, though only the 8th Company is equipped with bikes and Land Speeders.[5]

Scout Company

The 10th Company consists entirely of Scout Squads and has no formal size structure, as recruitment does not provide a steady flow of new recruits. As such the 10th Company is the most lightly armed and is most often used as a recon force. Scouts are sometimes mounted on Space Marine Bikes, but do not use Rhino or Razorback transports.[Needs Citation]

Since the return of Roboute Guilliman, the Primarch has made amendments to the Codex Astartes that allows for 100 Vanguard Space Marines to be attached to the 10th Scout Company.[16] These sometimes pilot Invictor Tactical Warsuits.[17]


Space Marine Heraldry as per the Codex Astartes

Each Chapter has its own unique colour scheme and Chapter Badge; however, Codex Chapters all follow a common heraldry system, though there are many slight variations from the system below.[Needs Citation]

Company Colours

Each Company has a unique colour that its members wear, commonly on the shoulder plate rims, but some chapters use chest eagles, bolter cases, knee pads, helmets, or other parts of a Space Marine's Power Armour[Needs Citation]:

  • 1st Company: White or Silver (members of the 1st Company should also paint their helmet the company colour).
  • 2nd Company: Yellow or Gold
  • 3rd Company: Red
  • 4th Company: Green
  • 5th Company: Black
  • 6th Company: Orange
  • 7th Company: Purple
  • 8th Company: Grey
  • 9th Company: Blue
  • 10th Company: Nominally white; however, the company colour is not displayed on their armour, because of their need to blend with their surroundings on reconnaissance missions.

Squad Markings

The left shoulder plate of a Space Marine in Power Armour always shows the Marine's Chapter Badge. The right pad shows the squad badge, this shows the type of squad the marine belongs to and the number of his squad. Veteran Squads use a stylised version of the Crux Terminatus similar to a Cross Pattée, Tactical Squads use an arrow, Assault Squads use four perpendicular arrows pointing outwards and Devastator Squads use an inverted V. Space Marines in Terminator Armour wear the Crux Terminatus on their left pad, and their Chapter Badge on their right pad.[Needs Citation]

Officers and Specialists

[Needs Citation]

  • Captains wear the heraldry of their company, sometimes embellished with their own personal heraldry
  • Librarians wear blue armour, irrespective of what chapter they belong to, and wear their Chapter Badge as normal. (This practice is now widely ignored, even among the more standard chapters.)
  • Chaplains wear black armour, irrespective of what chapter they belong to, and wear their Chapter Badge as normal.
  • Techmarines wear red armour, irrespective of what chapter they belong to, and wear their Chapter Badge as normal.
  • Apothecaries wear white armour, irrespective of what chapter they belong to, and wear their Chapter Badge as normal.
  • Sergeants wear the same heraldry as their squad, but carry the squad's banner, which displays the Chapter Badge and the squad's number, plus a red skull (the symbol of a sergeant). Sergeants often paint their helmets red, or in some cases wear a red skull on their helmet instead.
  • Veteran Sergeants wear the same heraldry as their squad, but carry the squad's banner, which displays the Chapter Badge and the squad's number, plus a red skull (the symbol of a sergeant). Veteran Sergeants often paint their helmets red and add an additional white stripe or laurel wreath.
  • Terminators: veteran battle-brothers who make use of the Tactical Dreadnought Armour.
  • Vanguard Space Marines: Reconnaissance, infiltration, and assassination specialists.[6]


Known passages of the Codex Astartes:

  • "For our enemies will bring us to battle on the caprice of chance. The alien and the renegade are the vagaries of the galaxy incarnate. What can we truly know or would want to of their ways or motivations? They are to us as the rabid wolf at the closed door that knows not even its own mind. Be that door. Be the simplicity of the steadfast and unchanging: the barrier between what is known and the unknowable. Let the Imperium of Man realise its manifold destiny within while without its mindless foes dash themselves against the constancy of our adamantium. In such uniformity of practice and purpose lies the perpetuity of mankind." - Codicil CC-LXXX-IV.ii: The Coda of Balthus Dardanus, 17th Lord of Macragge, entitled Staunch Supremacies [2]
  • "Gather your wits, as the traveller gauges the depth of the river crossing with the fallen branch, before wading into waters wary." - Codicil MX-VII-IX.i: The Wisdoms of Hera[2]
  • "If you know both yourself and your enemy, you can win a hundred battles without a single loss. The clever combatant imposes his will on the enemy, but does not allow the enemy's will to be imposed on him."[3]
  • "With combat knife, boltgun, and grenade, the Space Marine shall assail his foe. The chainsword is the will of the Space Marine made manifest. The Space Marine shall master all weapons, and all battlefields. When harried, the Space Marine shall drive his enemies back. The Space Marine will never know defeat." [4]
  • "The Tactical Squad shall draw the enemy's fire, thus allowing the Devastator Squad to attack from a position of strength." [4]

See also