I've recently read Wolfsbane and it's mentioned (and not for the first time) that Leeman Russ and the Vlka Fenryka were designed with the sole purpose of being the emperor's loyal and unflinching executioners.

There have been multiple hints across other books that each of the Primarchs were built for a specific role (Magnus for his psychic powers, Horus for his leadership, and Roboute for his statesmanship).

Has it ever been laid out quite so specifically for the other Primarchs and/or legions what their assigned tasks were?

  • 1
    There is not a list in its entirely to my knowledge... If no one else does I will start an answer with the roles I know (and hopefully others can add to it if they know additional information), but it is similar to much of the other aspects in 40k; left unanswered for the sake of both GW official lore and player fan fluff.
    – Odin1806
    Commented Jun 12, 2018 at 18:46
  • 2
    Rather than having specific roles, I often read each Primarch as embodying one aspect of the Emperor.
    – Brian
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 0:55
  • some guesses can probably be made based off of the legions orignial names. the imperial heralds (now word bearers) likely served either as an advance force or (more likely) as a supplement to the iterators speaking of the wonders of the imperium with meta-human physiology to back up their words. the "dragon warriors" (now salamanders) where probably supposed to embody some aspect of the dragon (perhaps the dragons eastern traditions as protectors of the people, given the salamanders current behaviour) and are thus supposed to work more closely with the imperiums civilians?
    – Ummdustry
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 12:24

6 Answers 6


Note: I am not sure that each Primarch has a defined role after the Great Crusade and the complete unification of the Galaxy as the Imperium of Mankind. Besides being a charismatic leader and a deputy for the Emperor (He cannot be everywhere!) of course.

Some had a definite purpose, but it is hard to tell if it was planned by the Emperor from the start, an inevitable consequence of their creation that each of them would be heavily specialized, a consequence of their dispersion by the forces of Chaos and/or their upbringing on various worlds. Fittingly, the powerful psyker Magnus grew up on Prospero, a world far from Terra where psykers could hide and create a society emphasizing knowledge, while Gulliman was educated on a planet where the elite were keen on discussing politics and law.

More than having a specific purpose designed by the Emperor, each Primarchs represents an aspect of the perfect soldier and ruler the Emperor is. We should remember that 40k is before anything a game and, from a gameplay point of view, the philosophy of Games Workshop is to create a generic, vanilla version of each race and army, and give players enough flexibility to play with their own style. This is embodied later in the fluff. The Eldars Craftworlds, the Orks clans, the Imperial Army regiments are examples of this philosophy. The purpose of the historical articles J-files by Jervis Johnson was to encourage players to free their creativity and create the fluff for their own army.

That said, we can try to detail what aspects/purpose each Primarch embodies.

Note 2: that would be a lot to link to references for anything in that answer. The general references are Lexicanum and Warhammer Wikia. I would also have difficulties to quote the books, as I read them in French.

  1. Horus: obviously, military leadership and charisma. There were tensions between some Primarchs from the early days of the Great Crusade, but all of them liked Horus and were close to him to some extent.
  2. Magnus: the most powerful pskyer after the Emperor. Magnus was destined to seat on the Golden Throne and control a portal to the Eldar Webway, freeing mankind from having to use the Warp to travel through the Galaxy. He is also a personification of erudition and knowledge.
  3. Fulgrim: perfectionism and quest for perfection. Fulgrim and his Emperor's Children, especially Lucius, were constantly trying to improve their abilities as soldiers.
  4. Perturabo is the master of siege. Also, it is explained in Perturabo (in the Primarchs series) that one of the reasons that the Iron Warriors campaigns and sustain more losses than the other Legions is that the Emperor choose them for the most difficult missions. Perturabo then embodies tenacity.
  5. On the contrary, Rogal Dorn is the master of fortifications and defense. This includes planning before a battle. In addition, Rogal is known to be stern and to embody rigor.
  6. Roboute Gulliman also embodies planning and organization, but more as a leader and a ruler. It is said (I think in The First Heretic) that no world conquered by the Ultramarines during the Great Crusade ever revolted against the Imperium.
  7. The First Heretic explains that Lorgar is the Primarch that physically resemble the most to the Emperor. Lorgar represents faith and devotion to a cause (at first to the Emperor, later to the Gods of Chaos).
  8. As said in the OP, Leman Russ is the Emperor's executioner. In addition of being tasked of punishing the Thousand Sons, it is (not that) subtly hinted that the Space Wolves were tasked to eliminate the Second and Eleventh Legions. As a warrior, Leman Russ represents the rage of the warrior.
  9. Angron: difficult to tell as Betrayer explains that Angron was broken by his upbringing as a gladiator and the Butcher's Nails that constantly excite his nerves. A scene that I found great in Galaxy in Flames is when Lunar Wolves and World Eaters meet and Garviel Loken (I think) realize how much willpower is necessary for the World Eater to control their inner rage. To me, Angron initially represented willpower and control of emotions (in this scene, this aspect is directly put in opposition with Space Wolves' hot temper).
  10. Konrad Curze is another unknown. Not clear if he had the power of precognition from his creation, or if he was tainted by the forces of Chaos when the Primarchs were dispersed across the galaxy. In the first case, we may hope that being raised by the Emperor would have prevented Curze from being insane and the power of precognition would have proved handy.
  11. Vulkan was the master of forges. He represents the knowledge of weapons. Also, Vulkan Lives explains that, among all Primarchs, Vulkan is the one that has the truest and deepest love for his children and mankind in general. Vulkan is the symbol of love and devotion.
  12. [Edited] Ferrus Manus has a lot in common with Vulkan, in the sense that he is an expert in technology. But contrary to Vulkan, he abhors weakness. After Istvaan disaster, this leads his Iron Hands to understand the Legion's motto "The flesh is weak" too literally and use bionics more than any other Legion, while Ferrus Manus implied a search for improvement by understand human nature and body (thanks to TommyB for the link). Ferrus Manus represents also perfectionism. The fact that he waited to address the bionic problems with his Legion seems to imply a distance and difficulty to relate to inferior people, similar to the Emperor (how come the Emperor never told his master plan to anyone before everything was spoiled!)
  13. Not much is said so far about the stern Mortarion in the Horus Heresy series. He represents resilience and endurance.
  14. Corax is the master of stealth and blitzkrieg.
  15. Alpharius/Omegon represent sabotage and intelligence.
  16. More than any other Primarch, Sanguinius represents perfection and charisma. He encouraged Blood Angels to study arts and, as the Emperor, is an idealization of mankind.
  17. Lion El'Jonson: hard to tell. Lion El'Jonson has a lot in common with Horus, the main difference being that because of his cryptic behavior of the Lion (see Fallen Angels) and his arrogance, the Lion is seen as distant and didn't gain as much trust as Horus.
  18. To me, Jaghatai Khan and Leman Russ have very similar personalities. The main difference is that Leman Russ had no problem with being the Emperor's executioner while I think the Khan would have reluctantly accepted such a task. Also, as Claws explains, Jaghatai Khan values freedom and independence more than anything, which lead him to have difficulties to connect to other Primarchs and difficulties to choose a side at the beginning of Horus Heresy.
  19. All information about the Primarchs of the Second and Eleventh Legions have been expurged from archives, and thus nothing is known about them.

Finally, it is difficult to assign a specific role for each Primarch, as the authors tend to oppose two Primarchs, one loyalist and one traitor, by giving them either opposite traits, or similar traits. For example, Blood Angels and World Eaters are both specialists of direct assaults.

  • 3
    I'd say that Curze represents the sense of justice - before Emperor found him, he was a vigilante brutally killing criminals on his home world, to the point where crime level fell down almost to nothing. The fact, that his legion was made mostly from criminals broke his already fragile mind.
    – Yasskier
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 22:38
  • It's actually mentioned in one of the books that the 'flesh is weak' saying from Ferrus was shortened and that's not actually what his meaning was. I think he planned to address his legions fascination with replacing their flesh, but unfortunately the heresy got in the way before he could
    – TommyBs
    Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 10:38
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    You can see Ferrus's musings on it here warhammer40k.wikia.com/wiki/Iron_Hands#Ferrus_Manus I can't remember the exact book at the moment but I think it's Vulkan or another Salamander correcting an Iron Hand on the saying as they heard it first hand from Ferrus himself
    – TommyBs
    Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 10:50
  • @TommyBs: I knew only about post-Istvaan Iron Hands lore. Thank you.
    – Taladris
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 13:10
  • 1
    @Taladris no worries, I found it really interesting. Apparently the quote from above is from a more recent Iron Hands codex which a lot of people didn't like as a bit of a change in their lore. But as I say the full 'saying' is in a heresy book somewhere, I just can't remember which one as there's loads!
    – TommyBs
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 13:11

This is briefly mentioned in Prospero Burns, during a conversation between Heoroth Longfang and a rememberer.

"When the Allfather sired His pups," said the priest, "He gave each one of them a different wyrd. Each one has a different life to make. One to be heir to his throne. One to fortify the defenses of the Imperium. One to guard the hearth. One to watch the distant perimeter. One to command the armies. One to control intelligences. You see, skjald? You see how simple it is?"

"So what is the Wolf King's wyrd, Heoroth Longfang?" Hawser asked. "What life did the Allfather choose for him?"

"Executioner" replied the old Wolf.

Assuming Heoroth is correct, we can guess to which Primarchs he was referring. Other than that, we don't really have a concrete list of what the Emperor planned for the Primarchs after the Great Crusade finished or what their roles were supposed to be. At least not that I am aware of.

(Ignoring the Lost Primarchs)

Lion El'Jonson



One to fortify the defenses of the Imperium. Prospero Burns

Jaghatai Khan

Leman Russ

Executioner. Prospero Burns

Rogal Dorn

One to guard the hearth. Prospero Burns

Konrad Curze


One to be heir to his throne. Prospero Burns

Ferrus Manus


Roboute Guilliman

One to watch the distant perimeter. Prospero Burns



The Emperor informed Malcador that the Sigillite had to take His place upon the Golden Throne while he moved to confront Horus. The Emperor's original choice for His replacement on the artefact had been the Primarch Magnus the Red, but since Magnus and his Thousand Sons Legion had sided with Horus and the Chaos God Tzeentch, Malcador was now His chosen successor and the only remaining human psyker with enough strength to carry out the duty of protecting the Throneworld from the daemonic horde that lay beyond the portal into the Imperial Webway. Golden Throne


One to command the armies. Prospero Burns



Corvus Corax

Alpharius Omegon

One to control intelligences. Prospero Burns

If anyone has anything to add, please go ahead.

  • 1
    I'd have trouble pointing you at a quote, but I think Mangus' purpose was to guard humanity in the warp. To be the navigation lighthouse the Emperor/Throne becomes after the Heresy.
    – Jontia
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 12:18
  • 1
    That was the quote I was thinking of!
    – Liath
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 13:12
  • @Jontia: there is probably a quote in Thousand Sons explaining that the Emperor's intention for Magnus is to have him seating on the Golden Throne.
    – Taladris
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 13:13
  • That's hard to guess what was the Emperor's initial goal for Angron. In Betrayer, the Earth-born World Eaters are quite ashamed of what Angron became because of the Butcher's Nails. We can guess that his time as a gladiator diverted him from his initial destiny.
    – Taladris
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 13:22
  • Curze: to bring fear of justice. Lorgar - to enlighten. Vulkan - to connect with common people. Fulgrim - to strive for physical perfection
    – Yasskier
    Commented Jun 13, 2018 at 22:44

I think Jaghatai Khan would have been the one to guard the distant perimeter as he seems to deliberately not want to be at the centre of things. Whereas Guilliman is more a master of logistics and statesman ship like running an empire.

  • Welcome to SFF! Could you edit in some evidence for why you believe this is the case?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jun 26, 2018 at 13:32
  • Corax: for spec-ops where stealth is needed

  • Alpharius: a master spy

  • Vulkan: creator of special weapons

  • Khan: guard of the imperial perimeter

  • Sanguinius: successor to the throne

  • Horus: leader of the armies

  • Angron: shock and awe troops when needed

  • Russ: watcher of the other legions (executioner)

  • Magnus: to sit on the golden throne

  • Ferrus manus: supplier of tech marines and liaison to Mars

  • Kurze: lawmaker for the Imperium and enforcer for those laws

  • Dorn: protector of Earth

  • Perturabo: fortifier of the empire

  • Guilliman: master statesman and logician for the empire

The last 4 I don't know enough about. The ones I've listed comes mainly from what I've read in the books and can determine from their personalities.

  • Could you edit in some books quotes to back this up with evidence that this is what each does? You say it’s based on what you’ve read so should be easy enough!
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Jul 20, 2019 at 6:34

All primarchs have some unique traits / skills. Guessing from them (Speaking as Ministers / Head Of), my guesses:

  • Guilliman: Head Of Administratum

In "The unremembered Empire", he wants to administer the Imperium Secundus but not be Emperor.

'Euten, I cannot. I cannot command and rule. I cannot administer this empire and be its figurehead.' ... 'That is my point,' he replied. 'I trust no one else to oversee those mechanics. I have done it for so long. I... trust no one else... Not even you, dear lady.'

I.e., he prefers to administer Imperium Secundus than be the Emperor Secundus.

  • Khan: Roaming the perimeter

From Scars:

They were the elusive ones, the Legion who roamed too far, the ones who had almost broken away entirely, rampaging outwards from the thrust of the Crusade and angling off into the deep void.

  • Sanguinius: Heir to the throne

In The unremembered Empire, he becomes Emperor Secundus, IMHO a hint that he would've been the dedicated heir to the throne. Plus, quote from aforementioned book:

'He is the most suitable,' Euten said. ... 'He is more like his father in that respect. Some of the primarch lords are very much of the flesh. Horus is one, and your lord Guilliman another. They have physicality. But the Emperor... To the Emperor... To be in his presence is to be in the presence of that which is spiritual, and has no constant form. It is said the Emperror appears to each man in the image that man wishes to see. I think Lord Sanguinius has inherited much of that trait.' ... 'He would be perfect,' she said.

I.e., Sanguinius is considered the perfect choice for Emperor Secundus, which suggests he'd be the perfect heir to the throne.

  • Magnus: Golden Throne, Chief Librarian, Astronomican

See Dafts Entry.

  • Curze: Attorney General
  • Lorgar: Herald for the imperial truth. IMHO, he'd be the one that protects the heart of the empire
  • Horus: Head of Primarchs, Primus inter Paris
  • Perturabo: Head of Science, Planning
  • Alpharius: Head of Intelligence
  • Ferrus Manus: Head Of / Link to Mechanicus
  • Dorn: Minister of Defense
  • Russ: Executioner, i.e. Head of Arbites and such

For the sake of all, but this is really guesswork:

  • Fulgrim: Responsible for culture, art
  • Corvus: Black Ops, Surveillance
  • Lion: Protector of the people (he is a knight, what he did on Caliban)
  • Vulkan: Responsible for building and tech

  • Angron: wage war (his legion were the "War Hounds" but he was inable due to the butchers nails)

  • Mortarion: Protector against the warp

I'll add more when I come accross. Maybe, there is something in _B


Only go by what is in the book as what they very cleverly refer to are the surviving loyal Primarchs.

Here's what each Primarch's wyrd was:

  • One to be the heir to the Emperor's Throne: Guilliman
  • One to fortify the defences of the Imperium: Dorn
  • One to guard the hearth: Vulkan
  • One to watch the distant perimeter: The Khan
  • One to command the the armies: The Lion
  • One to control intelligences: Corax
  • One to be executioner: Russ
  • Hi, welcome to SF&F! This would be a better answer if you could provide a specific reference to where these are given in the books.
    – DavidW
    Commented Jun 6, 2022 at 15:44

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