The Baron Harkonnen mounted a huge, planet-wide invasion to take down the Atreides. Based on accounts of different characters, there had been more than 2000 ships and tens of battalions of Sardaukar involved. He later admits that it'll take at least 60 years of full-capacity spice production to offset the costs. However, it's never explicitly mentioned how many men the Duke Atreides had in the first place. Based on various scattered references in the preceding chapters, I guess this number has to lie somewhere between two and five thousand which seems too small to control a planet and certainly way too small compared to House Harkonnen.

  • Ten legions of Sardaukar appears to be approximately 300,000 troops. Assuming they killed the Atreides troops at a ratio of 1:1 (hah!), we can assume that the Duke brought 300,000 troops of his own
    – Valorum
    Sep 20, 2018 at 19:43
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    I'm pretty sure the Atreides were being allocated Arrakis instead of Caladan, not in addition to it, although I can't remember where that's stated. Sep 20, 2018 at 20:05
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    @DanielRoseman funny - I never read it that Atreides were giving up Caladan. They moved the household, but I figured that's probably because Arrakis was more prestigious than Caladan. But now I've just loads of discussions about them giving up Caladan
    – HorusKol
    Sep 20, 2018 at 23:00
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    'That made me angry and I said my father rules an entire planet. And she said, "He's losing it."' (Paul, speaking to Hawat) from which I conclude that they were indeed giving up Caladan. Sep 21, 2018 at 1:15
  • @HarryJohnston Mohiam could have been talking figuratively (or even slightly prescientally), but I'll concede it may also be read literally.
    – HorusKol
    Sep 21, 2018 at 6:49

3 Answers 3


In brief, we don't know. It seems like Frank Herbert never bothered much with that clarification as there's no mention of Atreides troop numbers in his novels.

Some estimation has been done elsewhere, based on Hawat's assumptions about the likely number of troops that could be used against them

The best hint is this:

"We don't have much time, as you well know. They'll be here with Sardaukar disguised as Harkonnens at the first opportunity. How many do you think they'll ship in, Thufir?"

"Four or five battalions all told, Sire. No more. Guild troop-transport costs being what they are."

"Then five battalions of Fremen plus our own forces ought to do it. Let us have a few captive Sardaukar to parade in front of the Landsraad Council and matters will be much different—profits or no profits."

And Thufir's later reflection:

For a full attack they'd expected no more than ten brigades.

We're told that an Imperial brigade is about 3,000 men. The strength of a battalion is never given, but in our world it apparently ranges between 300–1,000 men. So Hawat's first estimate is somewhere in the 1,200–5,000 range, while his second is 30,000. Presumably his first "all told" number must only be counting the Sardaukar, while the second is the full Harkonnen force he expected. (Or it's an inconsistency.)

Given that the Atreides troops are supposed to be within a hair as good as the Sardaukar, that a Sardaukar is supposed to be a match for 10 regular conscripts, that they know the Fremen are formidable fighters (although they may not realize they're already almost a match for the Sardaukar), and that the Atreides apparently felt relatively confident of winning such a confrontation—but only with Fremen help—I would conclude that the Atreides troop strength on Arrakis matched:

The expected Sardaukar force (4–5 battalions) = 1,200–5,000

Plus one tenth of the expected Harkonnen force of 30,000 men = 3,000

Plus a bit, but not very much, more, say = 1,000–2,000

(To be reinforced by 4–5 Fremen battalions)

So probably somewhere in the range of 5,000 to 10,000 Atreides fighting men. That should be enough to give them a clear advantage in the attack they expected, while not enough that it wouldn't pose a genuine threat.

As you can see, this calculation depends heavily on an assumption that the Atreides troops are very superior to Harkonnen troops one-to-one. If this assumption does not hold, we might be talking 30,000 Atreides troops or more.

  • @Valorum yes, because it looks like there are no references to the exact numbers. What do we have to do else? Nov 21, 2021 at 9:18
  • @Valorum makes sense Nov 21, 2021 at 10:04
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    I've taken the liberty of tidying up the quote and language a little.
    – Valorum
    Nov 21, 2021 at 10:17
  • @Valorum thanks) Nov 21, 2021 at 10:22

When I read the first book, I always thought there were no more than a thousand men. I guess I just couldn't comprehend the hugeness of this world and the Atreides per se.

As I carried on, though, I felt like the Atreides was so much bigger. I did some research--the encyclopedia, the books themselves, the wiki page, etc.

I've come to the conclusion that there were 100,000 men at most prior to the Sardaukar assault. They were incredibly outnumbered. And as we know it, there were around 300,000 Sardaukar troops on Arrakis.

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    Is this all speculation, or do you have any evidence for the figures? You can edit your references into the answer. Please take our tour and refer to the help center for guidance, welcome to Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Nov 21, 2021 at 5:40

More specific to your initial question on the troop numbers there are no definite tables but 300,000 seems reasonable for a planet of no more than a few million.

There is a large expense to sending men across space and battles often devolve to hand to hand combat, this is also in the future where most individual powers have parity as far as technology. Meaning everyone can be pretty confident in the performance of their forces and troop numbers.

An army of 300,000 men dug in would probably be more than enough troops for any opponent. With the exception of an opponent + imperial sardaukar.

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    Is this entirely speculation or do you have any evidence you can edit in?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Oct 3, 2018 at 17:07
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    Nowhere in the books are any numbers mentioned for Atreides troop strength. I've myself always assumed the Atreides were seriously outnumbered, holding on only in isolated fortified strongholds that could be held against vastly superior numbers, with the occasional raiding party going out.
    – jwenting
    Jan 2, 2019 at 5:07

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