I'm fairly sure in "Virtues of the Sons" it makes reference to Sanguinius having two hearts. I know that the Adeptus Astartes (Space Marines) have been augmented and have two hearts. I know that the Primarchs were genetically engineered from the Emperor's gene seed as opposed to the regular Space Marines who were augmented post-birth. I'm also fairly certain that aside from his unparalleled psychic strength, the Emperor is just a man, can anyone confirm this?

So what makes someone an Astartes and based on that criteria, are the Primarchs, and the Emperor, Astartes?

3 Answers 3


Emperor - He is not Astartes, Astartes is less than The Emperor as they are made by the Emperor twice removed.

Primarchs are much more than the Astartes too. Astartes are made in the image of the Primarchs.

Its like comparing a copy of a copy of Mona Lisa picture with the original painted by a 10 year old.

In some of the Horus Heresy books it is mentioned that the Primarchs have some other organs not in the "normal" Astartes.

Astartes means Stars, Adeptus means the ones that get hold of something. So the Adeptus Astartes means literally those who conquer the stars aka Space Marines.

By my very literal translation anybody could be an Adeptus Astartes but nobody does it as good or as fast as the Emperors Space Marines.

But in the W40k it means that ordinary humans that survive decades of grueling mental and psycic testing and organ implants get to call themselves Adeptus Astartes.

So if you are unlucky to get selected by a Chapter for induction you have to be mentally and physicaly tough. You have to maintain your levels of excellence and on top of all of that you have to posses some luck as the implanting process doesn't take every time. A lot of recruits actually die in this last stage of becoming an Astartes.

  • 2
    Adeptus in latin means someone who has been introduced into arcane knowledge. Of course, if W40k's titles are based on latin. If yes, then Adeptus Astartes means "one introduced to the secrets of the Astarte", where Astarte is borrowed from Greek, by way of Phoenicians, Caananites using this name for Mesopotamian goddess Istar.
    – AcePL
    Nov 26, 2021 at 11:58
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    @AcePL no it doesn't. It means "overtaken, obtained". Literally "having reached for something".
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 3, 2022 at 10:20
  • @OrangeDog - this is Latin, which means there are multiple forms used, depending on context it can mean a lot of different things. My point is: you saying it means "having reached for something" is an opinion because you interpreted it. Same as I in my comment. Yours may be more literal, mine may be more free, both in the end mean something quite similar. Details, details...
    – AcePL
    Nov 3, 2022 at 15:51
  • @AcePL no, that's not opinion, it's literally what it means. Can you cite any Latin texts or dictionaries where adeptus means someone who has been introduced into arcane knowledge? As it's not a noun that would be quite the feat.
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 3, 2022 at 16:57
  • @OrangeDog Dude, have you ever heard of gerund? This is Latin we're talking, not English. It may seem similar to you, but rest assured, it is not. So much so, that - if you can imagine - in some places translations of the word adeptus ARE nouns. And in case it's not enough, it is also perfect participle adjective. So yes, you are technically correct, but in a narrow sense. Go wider, man.
    – AcePL
    Nov 4, 2022 at 7:59

Emphatically No

Both the Emperor and the Primarchs are wholly different from the Adeptus Astartes. As a baseline difference, Big E and the Primarchs were "Born that way". Astartes start as as normal human beings and are changed into astartes via chemical alteration, surgery, and psyhco-conditioning. The breakdown is futher described below.

The Emperor is "just" a man (if you can count perpetuals as "men"). In Master of Mankind it is heavily implied that the Emperor was born in Mesopotamia sometime around 3,000BC. I would say confirmed, but the Emperor is famously a liar so even though he shows this "memory" to another we can't be sure. Oooold fluff states that the Emperor was born at that time as a result of all the shamans in the world killing themselves at once to reincarnate in a single person. There is other fluff that hints the Emperor may in fact be a weapon of Old Night that thinks itself a Real Person. But at the end of the day, Big E is 100% NOT an astartes. He built the astartes and that project didn't even kick off until sometime late M29.

The Primarchs are also not Astartes. They are Primarchs, their own separate things. Several primarchs, including Russ in A Thousand Sons and Angron (in I believe Legacies of Betrayal but it might be another anthology) are described as having anatomy and organs wholly unlike astartes. The Primarch project itself was the design of the Emperor and was a major undertaking to create 20(ish) superhuman warlords. Each one was designed from the DNA up as a unique(minus two I guess) being. Astartes were build based on the Primarch Project, but also a development from the Thunder Warriors. The whole goal of their creation (led by Dr. Astartes herself along with Big E and others) was to create mass-producable (compared to thunder warriors) gene-crafted line infantry. While they required their primarch's genetic material to stabilize a lot of the gene-lines, Astartes are wholly different organisms compared to Primarchs. The fact that they share some superficiality in the form of an extra lung and heart and space marines sometimes look like their primarch "fathers" does not make them the same thing. A primarch is wildly smarter/stronger/faster/toughter than an astartes.

  • For that matter, the Primarchs also seem to be bigger than the Astartes. It's called out (at least, this is what I saw in a wiki) that Alpharius Omegon, the spymaster primarch (or primarchs...), is unusual in being roughly the same size as his troops, so he could be incognito - the others couldn't pull that off, they're giants.
    – A. B.
    Nov 19, 2022 at 9:09

What makes someone an Astartes is being inducted into the Astartes organisation (currently any official successor chapter of the original legions), and surviving the augmentation process. This process involves various surgical procedures involving artificial organs grown from cells (gene-seed) originating from the Primarchs.

The twenty(-one) Primarchs themselves were genetically engineered from conception by the Emperor by other, unknown methods. What makes them Primarchs is having been created and used by the Emperor in this way.

The Custodes are humans augmented using the Emperor's own gene-seed by some different mysterious process, making him effectively their Primarch. But they are not Astartes, they are a separate organisation.

The giant body sitting on the Golden Throne is clearly not that of a normal man. Whether that's a psychic projection, or whether the Emperor physically altered himself (consciously or unconsciously) with some power or technique in the millennia since his apparently natural birth, is unknown.

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