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Let the Galaxy burn!
~ Horus Lupercal
Death to the false Emperor!
~ Codex - Chaos Space Marines Page 3.

Chaos Space Marines (also called Traitor Marines, Chaos MarinesTraitor Legionnaires and Heretic Astartes) is the term used to describe the many heretical Space Marines that betrayed the Emperor of Mankind and became servants of the Chaos Gods. They are part of what might be considered the more villainous race in the Warhammer 40k universe, alongside the Dark Eldar, Orks, Necrons and Tyranids, and part of the Forces of Chaos, which also include demons and lesser humans. Chaos Space Marines come in many forms and tend to have cults of both human and xenos followers. Depending on the philosophy of the legion, they are deeply devoted to certain chaos deities, either one or all of them, but on rare occasions none of them.

Unlike many other factions within Warhammer 40,000, rather than being united under the umbrella of a higher figure or as loosely affiliated groups, they are fractious, fickle, refractory and prone to infighting amongst themselves. They are only truly unified in their will to survive, hatred of the Emperor Of Man and their desire to help Chaos become the ruling power of creation via acts of unspeakable evil. Only when the Warmaster of Chaos (The current being Abaddon) launches a new temporary Black Crusade will the vast majority of chaos warbands unify, for the sole purpose of wreaking as much havoc and destruction upon the galaxy as possible, the Imperium in particular. 

They are a playable army choice in Warhammer 40,000 and also serve in a highly antagonistic role in the related media. Chaos Space Marines are the rough equivalent of Warhammer Fantasy's Hordes of Chaos.


Chaos Space Marines draw their origins back to the 31st millennium. Back then, eighteen legions of genetically modified super-soldiers, the Space Marines, fought to unite the galaxy under the banner of the Imperium of Man, in a campaign that history later called the Great Crusade. The Emperor of Man Kind claimed that the intention of this campaign was to unite humanity under one banner, wipe out any xenos that threatened their dominion or survival and establish humanity as the ruling force in the galaxy. In truth, however, the Emperor knew about the existence of the Chaos Gods and the dangers they posed. His secret agenda was to their install the principal of the Imperial Truth - an atheistic doctrine, which would turn humanity away from the elements that served as the Chaos Gods power source thus eradicating them once and for all.

Perhaps fearing the eventual result, Khorne, Nurgle, Slaneesh and Tzeentch, as well as the lesser gods of chaos stopped their own conflicts to interfere with the works of the Emperor of Man. The first step was to scatter his genetically modified children, the Primarchs across the galaxy thus ensuring that the Emperor could not raise or teach them under his own philosophy from an early age. As such each of the Primarchs would face his own trial and tribulations before the Emperor rediscovered them, which in some cases sowed the first seeds of resentment against their father.  

Only once the Great Crusade was already underway, would the Chaos Gods seize their chance. Starting with the Emperor's disenfranchised son, the pious Lorgar Aurellian, who became disillusioned with his father following an incident in which the Emperor publicly humiliated both him and his legion, the Chaos Gods seduced Lorgar into Chaos-worship. When the Primarch undertook a pilgrimage, they showed him horrifying visions of the future under the Emperor and convinced him that without the aid of Chaos humanity would share the fate of the Eldar. Having won over a powerful leader and orator into their cause, the Chaos Gods' campaign to subvert the Emperor's faithful soldiers had begun.

After purging his Legion of all elements with any loyalties left to the Emperor, Lorgar sent his First Captain Erebus as an ambassador. Erebus, keeping his Legion's new faith a close secret, began organizing the Warrior Lodges, secretive fraternal orders within the Space Marine Legions that existed outside of the Legion's regimented and ordered structures. Though these were under the guise of providing brotherhood without rank, they were instrumental in fomenting sympathies and paving the way for the coming betrayal.

Erebus proved instrumental for setting the stage to the Horus Heresy after seeding the Warrior Lodges into a full half of the Legions and successfully engineering the fall of Horus into Chaos by stealing a powerful weapon known as the Anathame and giving it to a rebellious planetary governor who injured Horus with it. Desperate to save their leader Horus' troops were tricked into bringing him to the serpent's lodge, a group of supposed mystical healers who unknown to them were secretly chaos worshippers. Using this opportunity the Chaos Gods managed to convince the injured Horus to turn against the Imperium in exchange for healing him and he quickly rose to power as the leader of the Chaos forces.

The resulting conflict stretched across the known galaxy all the way to the throne world of Holy Terra consuming billions upon billions of lives, devastating countless worlds and ultimately leading to the Emperor's permanent interment upon the life support system known as the Golden Throne. In the end though Horus' rebellion cost him his life and his fellow traitor troops were forced to retreat into the realm of the Warp through the dimensional rift known as the Eye of Terror in order to avoid the wrath of the vengeful Imperial forces. Never the less a new deadly enemy had been created, from amongst humanities own ranks.

After the Horus Heresy

For the next 10,000 years, the fractured chaos legions would periodically emerge from the warp to wage war against the Imperium. Their lives unnaturally prolonged and their bodies and minds twisted thanks to otherworldly energies of the Warp and the daemons that live there. In their most recent endeavor, the 13th black Crusade, the new Warmaster of Chaos Abbadon the Despoiler managed to destroy the Imperial Fortress world of Cadia, an event which allowed the energies of the warp to spill into the material world and quite literally split the Imperium and the galaxy at large in half. Imperial forces have since retaliated by launching a counter-crusade to push back the onrushing forces and seize the two remaining space paths to the other side of the galaxy, all while the chaos forces use the opportunity to harass and harry them as well as devastate any worlds in their path.

Known Chaos Legions


In the ten millennia that followed the Horus Heresy, hundreds of Space Marine Chapters have forsaken their oaths of loyalty to the Emperor, their Primarch and the Imperium. These new generations of Chaos Space Marines will often corrupt others, in exchange for the power and glory, promised by their new masters. However, thanks to the Codex Astartes, none of these chapters possess the military might of Horus' legions.

Generally however, the term is used to reference the nine First-Founding Legions and their Primarchs who first turned against the Emperor, thus dividing humanity for all of eternity. In the aftermath of the heresy, the majority of these legions were driven from real space into the Eye of Terror. There, the former allies fought endlessly with each other. Such was the devastating impact of this war, that many of these once might legions divided into roaming warbands. Like their loyalist kinsman, who broke into newly formed chapters, some of these traitor warbands adopted new names and philosophies to differentiate from their parent legion.

The following list comprises the known Chaos legions from the first founding: - 

The Black Legion

Legion number: XVI (16)

Primarch: Horus - Warmaster of the Imperium, and later the First Warmaster of Chaos. The arch-traitor.

Primarch Status: Deceased - Horus was mortally wounded by the Emperor towards the climax of the Siege of Terra. Coming to his senses the Primarch begged for death, which was granted. The Emperor used his psychic powers to obliterate his son's soul, thus ensuring that Horus could never be resurrected.

After the Heresy, rogue chaos scientist Fabius Bile attempted to clone Horus, but none of his experiments ever matched the grandeur or ferocity of the original. Abaddon the Despoiler personally killed the last clone of his gene-father. As part of the Sons of Horus' metamorphosis into the Black Legion, Abaddon ordered Horus' original body to be destroyed alongside all of the clones. This means that Horus is truly dead and can never be reborn in any shape or form.

Current leader: Abaddon the Despoiler - Horus' successor, the Second Warmaster of Chaos.

Religion: The Black Legion are very open when it comes to their religion. Officially most of them follow Chaos Undivided, meaning that they polytheistic, worshipping all of the Chaos Gods. Noted to strike various pacts with demons and their patrons, astrates of the XVIth legion will give particular devotion to a single entity when the situation calls for it. That said, some of the legionnaires hailed from monothesitic legions and continue to revere just one God.

Abaddon, is noted to be deistic. Although he does acknowledge the existence of the Chaos Gods and will barter with these foul creatures, he does not truly worship any of them.

Specialty: Conducting and planning Black Crusades, decapitation strikes.

Battle Cry: "We are returned! Death to the False Emperor!".

Additional notes: -

  • These are the most infamous and powerful of the Chaos Space Marine Legions. Just as the Ultramarines are the face of the loyalist chapters, the Black Legion is the face of the Chaos Space Marines.
  • The Black Legion were originally called The Luna Wolves, but Horus (at his fathers suggestion) changed their name to The Sons of Horus shortly before the start of the Heresy. When Abaddon later reformed the legion, he once again changed the XVIth's name to their current one.
  • During the Dropsite Massacre at Istaavan III, nearly a third of the XVIth legion was labelled for extermination, as they were deemed to be more loyal to the Emperor than their Primarch.
    • Once Horus and their brothers betrayal became apparent, the surviving loyalists of the XVIth rallied under the leadership of Gavriel Loken, Captain of the 10th Company. To signify their splitting from their parent legion Loken and his brothers cast of the iconography of Horus. Then, in order to reaffirm their loyalty to the Emperor, they readopted the title of Luna Wolves.
    • Loken was the only Luna Wolf to survive to the events of Istavaan III. Together with fellow survivor Nathaniel Garro of the Death Guard, he went on to become one of the nine founders of the Grey Knights.
  • The Luna Wolves power armor was originally white, but when they became the Sons of Horus, the astrates of XVIth legion repainted their armor dark green. This color scheme was altered again, at the behest of Abaddon the Despoiler, who told his followers to paint their armor black with gold trimming. This was done to mask the shame of Horus' failure and signify the legions rebirth.

The Word Bearers

Legion Number: XVII (17)

Primarch: Lorgar Aurelian - First of the traitor Primarchs.

Primarch status: Alive - Believed to be meditating deep within the depths of the Word Bearers new home world. Unconfirmed reports indicate possible sightings upon the ruined world of Cadia.

Current Leader(s): The Dark Council - A collection of Dark Apostles and Chaos Champions.

Religion: An eternally pious legion, the Word Bearers are staunch pagans of Chaos Undivided. They worship all of the Chaos Gods equally and will never show favor to a particular deity.

Specialty: Daemonancy (summoning demons), Dark Apostles.

Battle cry: An appropriate passage from their sacred texts and dolorous roars.

Additional notes: -

  • Chronologically, Erebus, the Dark Apostle and Kor Phaeron, Lorgar's adoptive father, were the first Chaos Space Marines.
  • The legion was originally known as the Imperial Heralds, but changed its name when Lorgar took control.
  • Tragically, the XVIIth were once the Emperors most devoted followers, but ultimately became the first legion to turn against the Imperium. They did this, following what they considered to be an unjustified humiliation and reprimand at the hands of the Emperor himself for their perceived failure during the Great Crusade. When the existence of the Chaos Gods became known to them, many astrates willingly accepted embraced these new patrons, since the Chaos Gods welcomed their devotion, where the Emperor had spurned it.
    • Records suggest that the Emperor even threatened to purge Lorgar and the XVIIth unless they changed their ways. There is no indication that this encouraged their eventual turn to Chaos, which was motivated by their faith more than anything else.
  • Before his fall, Lorgar penned the Lectitio Divinitatus, a book of reverence to the Emperor, which went against the Imperial Truth and argued about the Emperor's divinity. Ironically, this book later gave rise to the Imperium's ecclesiarchy and the modern-day Imperial Cult.
  • A single known loyalist Word Bearer, the Anchorite Dreadnought, survived both the Great Crusade and the Heresy. Although initially a traitor, he repented and allowed himself to be taken prisoner during the campaigns against Ultramar, where he was personally spared by Robute Guilliman. In time the Anchorite helped to shape the modern day Imperial Cult and its ecclesiarchy.

The World Eaters

Legion number: XII (12)

Primarch: Angron - the Red Angel.

Primarch Status: Alive - Was last seen during the First War of Armageddon, where he was defeated but not destroyed. Unconfirmed reports indicate possible sights on Cadia.

Current leader(s): N/A, the XIIth legion has broken into various warbands, led by numerous champions.

Religion: The World Eaters exclusively worship Khorne, the God of Blood and War. They do not build churches or perform religious ceremony however. The battlefield is their altar, with their victims serving as their offerings.

Specialty: Close Combat, Berzerkers.

Battle cry: "Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!".

Additional notes: -

  • Were originally called the War Hounds, before the Emperor rediscovered Angron. The Primarch immediately renamed his new legion after his fallen comrades from the gladiatorial arenas on his homeworld.
  • They are some of the most formidable hand to hand warriors in the 40k universe, willing to fight anyone and everyone, including each other.
  • Their devotion to Khorne and their battlefield ferocity has earnt them the nickname, Khorne Berzerkers.

The Death Guard

Legion number: XIV (14)

Primarch: Mortarion.

Primarchs Status: Alive - Mortarion returned to real space to initiate the Plague Wars. He dueled his former brother Roboute Guilliman at the climax of the conflict to a stalemate.

Current leader: N/A, the legion has fragmented and divided into warbands.

Religion: The Death Guard are the most adherents of Nurgle. Blessed by their deity to house plagues and diseases, they have mutated into what Imperial records now refer to as the Plague Marines.

Specialty: Plague Marines, Endurance, Chemical & Biological Warfare.

Battle cry: None.

Additional notes: -

  • Before Mortarion was found, the Emperor referred to the legion as the Dusk Raiders. Mortarion renamed them after his forces on his homeworld of Barabus.
  • Due to the mutations they have suffered as a result of Nurgle's blessing, the Death Guard and Imperium forces alike, refer to them as Plague Marines.

The Emperors Children

Legion number: III (3)

Primarch: Fulgrim - The Phoenician.

Primarch Status: Alive - Confirmed sighting of Fulgrim on the planet of Istvaan III, where the loyalist elements of his legion perished. There the Daemon Primach fought and killed the Venerable Dreadnaught Rylanor, a loyalist survivor of his own legion. Left for areas unknown. Unconfirmed reports suggest possible sighting on Cadia.

Current leader: N/A, the Emperors Children legion has broken into warbands.

Religion: Slaanesh, the Dark Prince of Excess corrupted Fulgrim, and after that his legion. Where once they sought perfection in all things, the Emperors Children now seek carnal pleasure in all things.

Specialty: Sonic Weaponry, Demoralization.

Battle cry: "Children of the Emperor! Death to his foes!".

Additional notes: -

  • This legions name was granted to them by the Emperor himself. When Fulgrim first reunited with the decimated remnants of the IIIrd legion, he gave a passionate speech that moved everybody who heard it to tears. Amongst them was the Emperor himself, who was so impressed with his sons devotion, that he gave the legion its title on the spot.
    • As a further reward for Fulgrim's loyalty, the Master of Mankind also declared that the Emperors Children had earnt the sole right to carry his personal symbol: the twin headed aquilla. Whilst later Space Marine chapters would universally incorporate this symbol into their armor, at the time of the Great Crusade, this was an honor reserved solely for the astrates of the IIIrd legion.
  • The profaned and amoral scientist Fabius Bile originally served in The Emperors Children as its chief apothecary. Indeed, some of Biles earliest experiments were carried out on his own legion. Bile eventually left the legion however, to continue his sadistic experiments without restraint.
  • Due to their extensive use of sonic weaponry, Emperors Children astrates are often referred to as Noise Marines.
  • Fulgrim holds the unique honor of being the only surviving Primarch to have killed a fellow Primarch. During the battle/betrayal at Istavaan V, Fulgrim dueled and personally killed his brother, Ferrus Manus, Primarch of the Iron Hands. Shortly after the heresy, he also managed to "slay" Robute Guilliman. Although officially pronounced dead and locked in stasis, Guilliman was ultimately resurrected towards the end of the 41st Millenium.
  • Unbeknownst to most, Fabius Bile managed to create a perfect clone of the pre-heresy Fulgrim. Despite Bile's best efforts, his experiment, later dubbed the Phoenician Clone, was noted to display loyalist affiliations. Left with no other choice, Fabius eventually betrayed his creation. Currently, The Phoenician Clone is imprisoned within the Necron Lord Trazyn the Infinite's extensive collection. In exchange for his new prize, the collector gave the scientist thousands of Emperors Children gene-seed. 

The Thousand Sons

Legion number: XV (15)

Primarch: Magnus the Red.

Primarch Staus: Alive - Fought Guilliman on Luna, now heading an invasion force in the Stygius Sector.

Current leader: Various, several known bands exist.

Religion: As prominent magic users, it did not take long for the Thousand Sons to find favor with Tzeentch, the Changer of Ways.

Specialty: Psychic Warfare, Sorcerers.

Battle cry: "All is dust!".

Additional notes:-

  • The fall of the Thousand Sons is generally considered fans to be a very tragic one. They were already treading on thin ice due to their obsessions with magic and knowledge, but when Magnus broke a sacred taboo to warn the Emperor about his brother Horus' betrayal, the legions days were numbered. The Emperor sent the Space Wolves to originally bring Magnus in for questioning, but Horus tricked Lemun Russ (who like the rest of the Imperium was unaware of the Warmasters treachery) into thinking that the Emperor wanted the Thousand Sons exterminated. Left with no choice, Magnus reluctantly pledged his and his warriors souls to Tzeentch in exchange for their survival. Although initially hesitant about their turn of fortunes, with the passage of time, both the Primarch and his sons, began to embrace their new found freedom.
  • Following the Rubric of Ahriman, most of the legion has been transformed into bodiless automatons, whose souls are now eternally bound to their power armor. These undead warriors are now referred to as Rubric Marines. 

The Iron Warriors

Legion number: IV (4)

Primarch: Perturabo.

Primarch status: Alive - current location unknown.

Current leader: N/A, a civil war divided the legion creating various warbands.

Religion: Imperial records classify the Iron Warriors as being pagans of Chaos Undivided, who worship all of the gods to varying degrees. In reality however, the Iron Warriors are materialists, who despise magic in any shape or form whilst favoring the gifts of science and technology. To them, Chaos is nothing more than tool to be exploited. Whilst the Iron Warriors do acknowledge the existence of the Chaos Gods, they do not actively worship them. This is because, like their Primarch, astartes of the IVth legion hold little attachment to anything, including faith. For this reason they are better described as being agnostic or deistic.

Specialty: Siege Warfare.

Battle cry: "Iron Within, Iron Without!".

Additional notes:-

  • Although they seek conquest in all its glory and show no mercy to their enemies, the Iron Warriors have been known on very rare occasions to aid the forces of the loyalists against overwhelming odds.
  • In accordance with their materialistic philosophy, the Iron Warriors are noted to rarely work alongside demons or other entities of the warp. Daemon Princes are likewise quite rare within this legion.
  • Such is the Iron Warriors hatred of chaos, that if an astrate shows any signs of physical mutation he will be assessed. If the corruption is deemed too great and irreversible, the soldier will be terminated. If on the other hand, the legionary is deemed salvageable, the affected tissue/limb will be amputated and the warrior will then receive a cybernetic augmentation.

The Night Lords

Legion number: VIII (8)

Primarch: Konrad Curze - The Night Haunter, the most feared and mentally unstable of any of the Primarchs.

Primarch status: Deceased - Curze allowed himself to be killed by an Imperial Assassin, shortly after the Heresy. Throughout his life, Curze had received frequent visions of his eventual demise. He believed that by not countering it, he proved that everything he had done was predestined.

Current leader: N/A. the legion broke apart in the aftermath of Curze's death and has since divided into several warbands.

Religion: Similar to the Iron Warriors, the Night Lords are classified as being pagans of Chaos Undivided, but in reality, they represent a thus far unique case, which makes them an oddity, even amongst the Chaos Space Marines. Unlike the rest of their traitor brethren, the astartes of the VIIIth legion do not worship Khorne, Nurgle, Slaanesh, Tzeentch or any of the other lesser chaos entities at all. The Night Lords openly mock the other legions for their beliefs and are themselves dedicated to Curze's principals of fear and terror above all other things. With their actions aiding the cause of Chaos as a side-effect, the Night Lords, despite evidence to the contrary existing all around them, appear, for the most part, to be staunch atheists.

Specialty: Infiltration, Psychological Warfare, Raptor jump troops.

Battle cry: "We have come for you!" or "Ave Dominus Nox!".

Additional notes:-

  • The Night Lords are regarded as one of, if not the darkest Space Marine legion that was ever created. Even before the discovery of their Primarch, the VIIIth legion possessed a fearsome reputation for brutality and savagery. Many of the worlds they encountered surrendered to them freely in the Great Crusade and afterwards rather than face their wrath, only to be exterminated anyway.
    • Historical records even indicate that the Night Lords were used on at least one occasion to keep Terra unified following the end of the Unification Wars. When the inhabitants of Vhnori rebelled against the Master of Mankind, the Emperor reportedly said "Send the Eighth". During the course of one night, the Night Lords massacred the inhabitants of Vhnori, killing innocent and guilty alike, whilst putting down the rebellion decisively. The citizens of Terra never rebelled against the Emperor afterwards.
  • Autopsies carried out on post-heresy Night Lords have shown that their gene-seed has changed little (if at all), when compared to their pre-heresy kin.
  • As a result of their lack of devotion to Chaos, Daemon Princes and demonic summoning are the exception, rather than the rule within the Night Lord legion.
  • The Nights Lords where the first legion to officially leave the Emperor's service and turn renegade. This happened prior to the Horus Heresy, though, when the conflict began, they did pretend to return to the Emperors service only to switch sides and join with Horus.

The Alpha Legion

Legion number: XX (20)

Primarch: Alpharius Omegon - In a unique case, the Alpha legion had two Primarchs, the twin brothers Alpharius and Omegon. The two brothers considered themselves to be two bodies with one soul.

Primarch status: Unknown. Rogal Dorn, Primarch of the Imperial Fists, dueled and killed one of the brothers above Pluto, reportedly Alpharius. The surviving brother then took up the name Alpharius Omegon. Roboute Guilliman is believed to have killed the second brother after the Heresy, but the validity of this claim remains uncertain.

Current leader: Unknown. Various warbands exist, but given their secretive nature it also possible that the entire legion secretly answers to a hidden overlord.

Religion: Famed for their use of cultists, the Alpha Legion are followers of Chaos Undivided.

Specialty: Infiltration & Covert Operations, Cultists.

Battle cry: "Hydra Dominatus".

Additional notes: -

  • Nobody knows the name or location of the Alpha Legion's original home world.
  • The Alpha legion are one of the few chaos legions that did not move towards the Eye of Terror following Horus' defeat. Even today, they maintain an ongoing presence in real-space.
  • The twin Primarchs, Alpharius and Omegon, were both noted to be very small compared to the rest of their brothers, being around the same height as a Space Marine Terminator. This is one reason that nobody can say for certain whether or not the leaders of the XXth legion have truly been vanquished.
  • There is some dispute as to which of the brothers perished above Pluto. Originally, it was believed that Alpharius was the one who perished and that Omegon, upon sensing the death of his twin, took up the title Alpharius Omegon, to sow confusion amongst his enemies.
    • However, recent publications have suggested that this not the case. It is said that before "Alpharius" was discovered by Horus, the two twins (having grown up separately) met shortly before the fateful encounter with the soon to be Warmaster. Following a lengthy conversation, the pair exchanged identities, with Omegon taking up the name of "Alpharius" and becoming the face of the legion. Meanwhile, the real Alpharius became "Omegon" and continued, as he had always done, to work in the shadows. This would make Omegon the Primarch that was slain above Pluto, with the real Alpharius subsequently taking full control of his legion.
  • Despite being part of the Forces of Chaos, their is evidence to suggest that the Alpha Legion (or elements within it) may in fact be covert operatives. Prior to his "fall" Alpharius received a vision in which he saw the twin fates of the galaxy. In one version, the Emperor won the Heresy but Chaos ultimately won the war, taking advantage to gain power as a result of the subsequent turmoil. In the other vision, Horus defeated the Emperor, but then drove humanity to the point of extinction, resulting in the death of the Chaos Gods. After receiving his visions, Alpharius reportedly said "Whatever I do now, I do for the Emperor!"