• Robison Wells

Warhammer 40k - Where to Start: Primarchs


What Are The Warhammer 40k Primarchs?


The Primarchs are superhumans created by the Emperor of Man using his own DNA and other genetic code including, at least in some cases, non-human DNA. In addition to science, however, the Primarchs were created using some of his psychic powers driven by the Warp. The Emperor referred to the Primarchs as his sons, which can be interpreted both figuratively and literally (as they are from his genes).


The Primarchs were intended to be not only great warriors--they are far more strong and tough than humans--but they were also bred to be smarter and wiser: they were intended to be generals and statesmen who would lead mankind.


As children, the Chaos powers stole the Primarchs and scattered them throughout the galaxy, using a Warp rift underneath the Emperor's palace (in the Himalayan Mountains of Terra).


The Emperor used what remained of the genes of each Primarch and created the Space Marines, so each of the 20 original Space Marine Legions has some of the genetic material of the Primarchs (including, therefore, some of the Emperor's own DNA). The Space Marines were created for the purpose of retrieving the Primarchs in what is known as The Great Crusade.


Each of the Primarchs was eventually found, and each one had gained traits associated with the world where they had been lost. The Primarchs were superhuman, but they were still flawed, and some were more corrupted than others. (In one case, cybernetics were used to enhance a Primarch while he was lost.)


Who Are the 20 Warhammer 40k Primarchs?


I Lion El'Jonson, Primarch of the Dark Angels

Special Wargear: Leonine Panoply, Lion Helm, Lion Sword

Best Known For: Battling Luther for the souls of the Dark Angels

Current Status: In stasis aboard a Dark Angels ship.



Lion El'Jonson is best known for what happened in the aftermath of the Horus Heresy. Upon returning to his homeworld, Caliban, he found that part of the Dark Angels had turned traitor under the leadership of Luther. The Dark Angels under Lion El'Jonson's direction would battle with the traitors, known as the Fallen Angels or simply as The Fallen, and would ultimately destroy the entire planet of Caliban.


It is for this reason that the Dark Angels have a tendency to be thought of as partially disloyal. No one aside from the chapter knows the secret of what happened to Caliban.


Luther used a psychic attack to kill Lion El'Jonson, but immediately had an awakening and knew he had been wrong to do so. But he and The Fallen were sucked into the Warp. Luther still lives, having gone mad. Meanwhile, Lion El'Jonson is thought by nearly everyone to be dead but sleeps in stasis. It is thought that, of all the Primarchs, Lion El'Jonson would be the most likely to make a reappearance.


II Unknown


III Fulgrim, Emperor's Children

Special Weapons: Silver Blade of Laer, Fireblade

Best Known For: Being corrupted by the daemonblade of Laer and giving into Slaanesh

Current Status: Daemon prince of Slaanesh



Fulgrim was scattered to the poor world of Chemos, but quickly grew to be important and influential--by the age of 15 he was not merely a laborer in the endless factories, but an executive making technological improvements until Chemos became an incredibly efficient and productive world.


Upon being returned to Terra, Fulgrim became intensely close friends with his brother Ferrus Manus, and they were known as the Phoenician and the Gorgon. Together they forged weapons, Fulgrim made a warhammer called Forgebreaker, with an ebony shaft and a head that resembled an eagle and bestowed it on Ferrus Manus. Ferrus Manus made Fireblade, and bestowed it on Fulgrim.


But it would be another weapon which would be his undoing. In conquering a world during The Great Crusade, he claimed a silver sword that was, unbeknownst to him, a Daemonblade of Slaanesh. Once he began wielding it, it whispered to him and he began to turn to Chaos. Shortly thereafter, Fulgrim's arrogance and corruption got to him and he turned against Ferrus Manus. And ultimately he would side with Horus in the Horus Heresy. He beheaded Ferrus Manus himself.


In the 41st Millennium, Fulgrim is a four-armed, reptilian Daemon Prince of Slaanesh using the Blade of the Laer. The Emperor's Children, being disciples of Slaanesh, are always in the pursuit of pleasure and excess.


IV Perturabo, Primarch of the Iron Warriors

Special Wargear: Forgebreaker Thunder Hammer, The Logos power armor

Best Known For: Was efficient and brutal to the point of homicidal and genocidal

Current Status: Daemon Prince of Chaos Undivided



Perturabo was scattered to Olympia where he learned technology and engineering, he was called The Lord of Iron. And it wasn't just because of his knowledge of metalworking and mechanics, but also because of his iron will--he was cold and unrelenting, never a friend to anyone.


He went on The Great Crusade with this unrelenting and unfeeling resolve. He had no ideology other than simply following orders, so when he claimed worlds he didn't do it for the good of the Emperor--he did it in the way that was most effective--even if that was to beat the planets into submission. By the time that Horus sought out Perturabo's help, Perturabo and his Iron Warriors were already homicidal and genocidal world killers. And it began with the slaughter of his own homeworld, Olympia.


When the Emperor called on Perturabo to fight against Horus, Perturabo's Iron Warriors betrayed the Imperium at the Drop Site Massacre: three loyalist chapters (the Iron Hands, Salamanders, and Raven Guard) were seeking protection from Space Marines who they thought were their brothers (the Iron Warriors, Night Lords, Word Bearers, and Alpha Legion), the traitors turned on them and nearly wiped them out completelely.


In the 41st Millennium he dwels on the daemon world of Medrengard, a Fortress World. He carries Forgebreaker, the warhammer made by Fulgrim, which was bestowed to Perturabo after the Drop Site Massacre.


V Jaghatai Khan, Primarch of the White Scars

Special Wargear: White Tiger Dao, Wildfire Panoply

Best Known For: Tribal, "The Khan of Khans", faced Mortarion in single combat

Current Status: Pursued Drukhari into the Warp and has been missing for 9000 years.


Jaghatai Khan was scattered by the Warp to planet known to its inhabitants as Chogoris, a Imperium planet with a pike-and-shot level of technology. Jaghati became the greatest warrior in his tribe, and in twenty years of fighting and uniting tribes, he conquered the whole of Chogoris.


When reunited with the Emperor and becoming leader of the White Scars, the Legion was known for being tribalistic, taking after "the Khan of Khans", their leader. They attacked with speed, hitting hard and fast where the enemy was weak, and while they were often thought of as wild butchers, they were actually more honorable and strategic than that.


Of all the other Primarchs, Jaghatai Khan was closest to Horus Lupercal and Magnus the Red. He and Horus shared battlefield philosophy of rapid assault, and he and Magnus were close because they were both misunderstood outsiders. However, when the Horus Heresy came, there was never a shred out doubt in Jaghatai's mind that he would support the Emperor and fight against his traitor brethren. He was a man of strict honor and would not betray.


In the events of the Heresy, Jaghati Khan faced Mortarion one-on-one, Primarch to Primarch. After the most wearying fight that Khan had ever faced, and one blow away from finishing it, Mortarion was sucked away into the Warp. And as the Heresy came to a close the White Scars pursued the Traitor Legions into the Eye of Terror.


After the Heresy came to a close, Jaghatai's ire turned toward the Drukhari, who had raided his homeworled and seized slaves. Khan pursued the Drukhari to... no one knows where. It is believed that he is still alive somewhere in the Webway and will one day return.


VI Leman Russ, Primarch of the Space Wolves

Special Weapons: Mjalnar Forstblade also known as Sword of Balenight

Best Known For: Wild and unpredictable, attacked at least three Primarchs in one-on-one combat

Current Status: Missing. Entered the Eye of Terror to chase Magnus the Red



Scattered to the ice world of Fenris, Leman Russ was literally raised by wolves before being brought into the king's household and being trained as a warrior. It was said that in battle he could defeat entire armies and rip oak trees from the ground with his bare hands. When the king died, he named Leman Russ as his successor.


When found, the Emperor himself entered King Leman Russ's halls and proclaimed himself Emperor of Man, but Leman Russ wouldn't pay homage. Instead he challenged the Emperor to three tests: eating, drinking, and combat. Russ won the first two, but the Emperor defeated Russ in battle and Russ swore allegiance to him.


The Space Wolves became the Emperor's exterminators and even during The Great Crusade, before the Horus Heresy, Leman Russ engaged other Primarchs in one-on-one combat: first, Angron, and then later Magnus the Red. During the Horus Heresy, the Emperor again sent Russ after Magnus, and they fought until Russ nearly killed his enemy and Magnus disappeared using sorcery.


Later, Russ went directly after Horus and came face-to-face with him in battle. Leman Russ became wounded and was nearly killed when he was rescued by hundreds of swarming Space Marines. Russ was unconscious for a long time, until after the Heresy had ended.


Post-heresy, Russ was enraged to find the Emperor entombed on the Golden Throne. He was upset with Robute Guilliman, the new Lord Commander of the Imperium, and refused to followed the Codex Astartes. Ultimately, Russ went after Magnus into the Eye of Terror along with a small retinue. He was never heard from again, and the Space Wolves will occasionally go on The Great Hunt to search for him. There are rumors that Magnus knows the location of Leman Russ, but has never divulged it.


VII Rogal Dorn, Primarch of the Imperial Fists

Special Wargear: Storm's Teeth chainsword, Voice of Terra bolter

Best Known For: Defending the Sol System during the Horus Heresy

Current Status: Missing and presumed dead. Severed hand is preserved in stasis.



Scattered to the ice planet of Inwit, very little is known about Rogal Dorn's early life except that he was adopted into the House of Dorn where he was taught tactics and survival. Eventually he became leader of the entire planet before being found by the Emperor.


Rogal Dorn was intensely loyal to the Emperor, believed to be one of the most loyal Primarchs of all. With a mind for both siege warfare and defense, Rogal Dorn accompanied the Emperor to Terra when the Emperor set about creating the planet's fortresses, particularly the Imperial Palace.


Dorn clashed with Perturabo over the the two's accomplishments as masters of the seige. He also fought with Konrad Curze because Rogal Dorn became aware of Curze's vision of the Horus Heresy.


When the Emperor left the Great Crusade to return to Terra and work on his special project, the Webway, he ordered the Imperial Fists to join him and set up defense of the planet. But before Rogal Dorn could return, Horus's betrayal was realized. Initially, Rogal Dorn was named the Lord Commander of the Imperium before that title was transferred to Robute Guiiliman.


By the time that Horus reached the Sol System, Rogal Dorn was ready and waiting with a five-tiered defense. As each tier was slowly beaten down, Dorn retreated until he remained on Terra for the final battle. In one-on-one battle he defeated Kharn the Betrayer easily. He tried to goad Perturabo into combat, but the traitor Primarch would not engage.


Dorn joined Sanguinius and the Emperor in the final attack on Horus and the Vengeful Spirit. When Sanguinius was killed and the Emperor mortally wounded, Dorn brought their bodies back to Terra.


In the 41st Millennium, Rogal Dorn is missing and assumed to be dead after a battle against a Chaos fleet in which he was gravely outnumbered. His severed hand was recovered and is kept in stasis by the Imperial Fists.


8. Konrad Curze, Night lords

Special Wargear: Mercy and Forgiveness, Lightning Claws

Best Known For: Being "The Night Haunter," a ruthless vigilante

Current Status: Killed by a Callidus Assassin



Scattered to the hellish world of Nostramo, he was not taken in by anyone but raised himself from a child. With strong psychic visions, Konrad Curze was constantly bombarded with visions of death. He began killing as a vigilante, trying to right perceived wrongs, but eventually became a murderer who hunted down anyone he thought could be guilty and killed them, known to the people of Nostramo as The Night Haunter.


Eventually gaining favor of the nobles who he had not killed, he became the leader of the world, but even as ruler he maintained his murderous rampage as Night Haunter. When the Emperor arrived, along with Fulgrim, Ferrus Manus, Rogal Dorn, and Lorgar, he had a vision of all of their deaths, so horrifying he tried to claw his own eyes out. The Emperor commanded him to be at peace.


Konrad Curze learned about the Space Marines from Fulgrim, and confided in Fulgrim his visions of the Horus Heresy and Fulgrim's death. But Curze was eventually given command of the Night Lords. He encouraged his marines to decorate their armor with anything that would inspire fear--to mold them all into Night Haunters like himself. The Night Lords themselves were so corrupted that Konrad Curze hated his own legion.


Still, the Night Haunter and his Night Lords drew ever closer to the whisperings of Chaos, and when the Horus Heresy began Curze pledged loyalty to Horus. The Night Lords were there to betray at the Drop Site Massacre.


Later, Konrad Curze would confront Sanguinius and tell him of the visions of both their deaths. Sanguinius said that he would remain faithful. Curze offered Sanguinius a chance to kill him, but Sanguinius refused. However, during the siege of Terra, Sanguinius had Konrad Curze locked in stasis, and jettisoned him into the void of space.


Curze was eventually killed by a Callidus Assassin. Curze knew it would happen down to the exact time, and had a vision--after the Emperor was on the Golden Throne--in which he conversed with the Emperor who told him that life was not predestined but that Curze had chosen his path.


IX Sanguinius, Primarch of the Blood Angels

Special Wargear: Blade Encarmine, Spear of Telesto

Best Known For: Being charismatic and loved by all; being killed by Horus

Current Status: Dead.



Scattered to the world Baal, Sanguinius was a great warrior even before being found by a people known as the "People of the Pure Blood". Sanguinius had a pair of feathered wings on his back, like an angel, but it is unknown how he came by these wings--whether it was because of his homeworld or because of the genetic engineering of the Emperor.


One of the most beloved Primarchs, he was charismatic, amiable, and loyal. When the Emperor arrived, Sanguinius recognized him from a vision (much like Konrad Curze). Sanguinius immediately pledged allegiance to the Emperor, and was granted leadership of the ninth Space Marine Legion, which became known as the Blood Angels.


During the Great Crusade, Sanguinius and Horus became close friends, closer than any other Primarchs. It was Sanguinius who convinced Horus to change the name of his Legion from the Luna Wolves to the Sons of Horus. When Horus became Warmaster, Sanguinius acted as a counselor to him. And though Horus knew of the genetic flaw in the Blood Angels, he kept Sanguinius's secret from the Emperor.


At the start of the Horus Heresy, Horus plotted Sanguinius's death to be first, because he knew for certain that Sanguinius would never betray the Emperor and he had to be destroyed. So Horus sent him into an ambush. However, the Red Thirst overtook the Blood Angels and they went into a frenzy destroying the Chaos forces waiting for them. Sanguinius swore vengeance on Horus.


Sanguinius and the Blood Angels returned to Terra, though Sanguinius knew that he was giving into the Black Rage, and he had visions of his own death.


In the Battle of Terra, Sanguinius's presence and his reputation as both fiercely loyal and an almost-literal angel boosted the defenders' morale. He organized the final defense of the Imperial Palace and held the Eternity Gate alone fighting against a Greater Daemon.


When the Emperor transported to the Vengeful Spirit, he took Sanguinius with him, but they were separated. Sanguinius found Horus first and tried to convince him to repent. Horus struck down Sanguinius, killing him.


X Ferrus Manus, Iron Hands

Special Wargear: Forgebreaker warhammer, Medusan Carapace armor

Best Known For: Friends with Fulgrim, The Phoenician and The Gordon

Current Status: Beheaded by Fulgrim at the Drop Site Massacre



Scattered to the planet Medusa, as a youth--before meeting any other beings--he accidentally let loose a giant bio-mechanical worm creature, and he swore that he would track it down and destroy it. He spent his early years living alone and was known as a myth to the inhabitants of the planet as The Hunter. Though he eventually met with the humans on the planet, he never joined with them and remained a persevering hunter. The last of his conquests was the Great Silver Wyrm Asirnoth, which Ferrus Manus had to thrust into magma to destroy. The metal from the creature fused to his hands.


Upon rejoining with the Emperor, Ferrus Manus became fast friends with Fulgrim, and the two were known as the Phoenician (Fulgrim) and The Gorgon (Ferrus Manus). Ferrus Manus was one of the four Primarchs Guilliman referred to as "the Dauntless Few" (along with Rogal Dorn, Sanguinius, and Leman Russ).


At the Horus Heresy, Fulgrim tried to get Ferrus Manus to betray, and the two fought. Ferrus destroyed Fulgrim's blade, but Fulgrim escaped, leaving his own warhammer, Forgebreaker, behind.


However, at Isstvan V, the two fought again, the Iron Hands against the Emperor's Children, and Fulgrim killed Ferrus Manus, beheading him with the daemon weapon that had corrupted him. Fulgrim brought Ferrus's head to Horus.


XI Unknown


XII Angron, Primarch of the World Eaters

Special Wargear: Gorechild and Gorefather, twin chain axes

Best Known For: Being brutal, giving into Khorne

Current Status: Daemon prince of Khorne



Scattered to the brutal world of Nuceria, he fought as a gladiator and was surgically implanted with cybernetics known as Butcher's Nails. The Nails are embedded in the skull, with long cables trailing from them which amplify anger and rage. Angron grew more powerful and led a slave revolt against the more civilized parts of Nuceria, but just as he was about to attack the Emperor arrived.


Angron was the first and only Primarch who refused the Emperor when offered command of Space Marines and a place as Primarch. The Emperor teleported Angron against his will up to the Emperor's ship. Still resisting, the Emperor sent Angron to be with his Space Marine Legion, then known as the War Hounds. Only one Marine on board could speak to the Primarch, Captain Kharn (who would eventually become Kharn the Betrayer). Angron renamed the Legion to be the World Eaters.


Angron set tasks for the World Eaters: to conquer worlds in 31 hours--one Nucerian day--and when they repeatedly failed to do so he would literally decimate the Space Marines (kill every tenth man).


Just prior to the Horus Heresy, the Emperor sent Horus to restrain Angron, but it was too late because Horus was already turned toward Chaos. Initially he refused Horus's calls to join him and instead Angron and the World Eaters went on a killing spree across the galaxy, devoting himself to the Chaos God Khorne, but eventually returned to Terra where he was determined to kill the Emperor himself and was enraged when Horus gave that order to the Death Guard instead.


Through a series of events Angron was launched from a ship above Terra, falling like a meteor toward the planet. When he landed he killed friend and foe alike. But despite the many things he destroyed and the thousands he killed, he couldn't penetrate the Emperor's Palace. When Horus was killed and the traitor legions fled, Angron retreated to the Eye of Terror, servant of Khorne.


XIII Robute Guilliman, Primarch of the Ultramarines

Special Wargear: Hand of Dominion power gauntlet, Gladius Incandor sword

Best Known For: Becoming Lord Commander of the Imperium

Current Status: Lord Commander of the Imperium, reborn after 10,000 years in stasis



Scattered to the world Macragge, Guilliman was found by noblemen. Immediately upon finding him, miracles began to occur, including visions, strange signs, and one of the leaders of Macragge dreamed of the Emperor. They gave Guilliman the name Robute, which means "Great One".


Robute learned, led armies, and eventually came to rule and civilize Macragge. Rather than taking Guilliman from Macragge, the Emperor was so impressed with Guilliman's leadership of the world that he transplanted the Ultramarines to Macragge as their new homeworld and forward base.


Next to Horus and the Luna Wolves, Guilliman was second-most successful in The Great Crusade. When Horus was named Warmaster, Guilliman supported him and became a trusted advisor.


At the beginning of the Horus Heresy, Horus tricked Guilliman by sending him to a far off sector of space while executing his plan. Guilliman was attacked by Lorgar and the Word Bearers, bringing a daemon in to split Guilliman's ship and make him fight in the vacuum of space without a helmet. But he succeeded, and was able to regroup with the Blood Angels and Sanguinius.


However, because they were cut off from the Imperium by a Ruinstorm created by the Word Bearers, Guilliman wrongly believed that the Emperor had been defeated and that the Imperium had fallen. He started a second empire, the Imperium Secundus, but he refused to declare himself Emperor. Ultimately, however, they were able to breach the Ruinstorm and head to Terra.


Arriving at the final moments of the Siege of Terra, Guilliman and the Ultramarines' presence forced Horus's hand, and he allowed the Emperor to face him one-on-one, thus ending Horus's life as well as the war. With the Ultramarines left as the largest legion remaining, Guilliman was named Lord Commander of the Imperium.


As Lord Commander of the Imperium, Guilliman gave two orders to the Tech-priest Belisarius Cawl: to resurrect him if he should fall, and to create the next generation of Space Marines.


Guilliman did fall. He was wounded fighting the Emperor's Children. Fulgrim, now a huge multi-limbed daemon, stabbed Guilliman in the neck. Guilliman was placed in stasis and remained there for 10,000 years.


However, Belisarius Cawl remained true to his word and in the 41st Millennium Guilliman was roused from stasis, more powerful than ever. Guilliman returned to Terra and stood before the Golden Throne and had an unclear vision in which he possibly conversed with the Emperor, who told Guilliman that he was the last hope for mankind.


XIV Mortarion, Primarch of the Death Guard

Special Wargear: Manreaper Silvence, a battle scythe

Best Known For: Succumbed to Nurgle's plague; first legion to land in Siege of Terra

Current Status: Daemon prince of Nurgle



Scattered to Barbarus, Mortarion landed in the center of a dead battlefield, surrounded by bodies and the air choked with poisonous gas. He was taken in by the greatest warloard and learned the art of war, but escaped to the lowest of people and became their leader, and then sought to destroy the great warlord. But, as he got there he doscovered that the Emperor had just done the job for him.


Once in charge of the Death Guard, Mortarion became very close to both Horus and Konrad Curze, to the point where Guilliman began to suspect that his loyalty didn't lay with the Emperor. At the same time, Mortarion was critical of the Emperor's decision to make Horus the Warmaster and return to Terra, leaving the Great Crusade.


Mortarion always hated the Warp and magic, including a dislike of Magnus's sorcery, and this dislike is the tool used by Horus to gain Mortarion's allegiance in the Horus Heresy. When he learned of the Emperor's use of the Warp to create the Primarchs, Mortarion began to distrust him.


In the Heresy, Mortarion and the Death Guard betrayed the loyalists in the Drop Site Massacre. Mortarion also, to his own disgust, learned of his own latent psychic abilities, and began to master them. In battle he fought one-on-one against Jaghatai Khan, but it was a stalemate and Mortarion left the White Scars to purge the systems around Prospero.


As the Death Guard fleet headed to Terra, Typhon (now Typhus) led to their contact with the Destroyer Plague, a disease created by Nurgle that takes the form of flies that lay their eggs in every orifice of the body, which gestate in a person until they burst open and infect someone else. The Death Guard succumbed and then, too, did Mortarion. Mortarion attempted to kill Typhus twice for his betrayal, but the captain came back to life both times, and soon Mortarion reveled in his knowledge that he was stronger and tougher than ever. He pledged loyalty to Nurgle.


Mortarion led the Death Guard as the first-landed Legion in the Seige of Terra, but they never breached the Imperial Palace. When Horus was killed, Mortarion retreated to the Eye of Terror and became a Daemon Prince of Nurgle.


XV Magnus the Red, Primarch of the Thousand Sons

Special Wargear: Blade of Ahn-Nunurta, Psyfire Serpenta

Best Known For: The Emperor showed him a vision during the Siege of Terra; Sorcery

Current Status: Daemon prince of Tzeentch



Scattered to Prospero, Magnus was different from the other Primarchs in that he knew who and what he was, and he communicated psychically with the Emperor. Prospero was a planet of psykers, and he learned more about this power as he grew. But he went against the ways he was taught and instead of channeling the Warp energy into the Materium universe, he looked directly into the Warp and became a master of it. Because of this mastery, he became the hero and leader of Prospero.


After being united with the Thousand Sons, who, having his genes, also had psychic traits, Magnus trained his Space Marines to use this magic. But eventually the Emperor ruled that psychic powers should only be used by navigators and astropaths, which drove a rift between thw two. Still, Magnus saw in vision the Heresy and didn't approve. He tried to talk Horus out of it and failed, then tried to warn the Emperor via the Warp, but couldn't breach the Emperor's defenses. A force in the Warp offered Magnus more power and he accepted, tearing a hole open in the Imperial Palace and send in all manner of daemons. It became known as Magnus' Folly.


The Emperor sent the Space Wolves and Leman Russ, who acted as the Emperor's executioners, to retrieve the Thousand Sons on Prospero. In what became known as The Burning of Prospero, Leman Russ burned the great libraries and archives to the ground. Magnus fought Russ one-on-one, but before Russ could win, Magnus escaped into the Warp. Magnus' physical body had been destroyed and he was made up entirely as part of the Warp.


In the Siege on Terra, Magnus penetrated the Imperial Dungeon and saw a vision of what would have happened if the Heresy never took place, and in this future it was Magnus sitting on the Golden Throne controlling the webway. However, the Emperor had cursed the Thousand Sons, something that Magnus could not forgive, and he turned away. He fought Vulkan, but gave himself fully to the Warp and escaped.