Horus’ Declaration of Independence

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The Horus Heresy has thrown the galaxy into turmoil for millennia, but was it justified?

Let’s take a look at the state of affairs in the galaxy leading up to Horus’ rebellion. After all, he was joined by many legions who felt that his cause was just–and these weren’t all just slavering chaos cultists eager to throw their lot in with the random mutation tables in the hopes that they’d get lucky enough to get one of the cool mutations–even risking the hilarious ‘tiny head’ result on the chart for their trouble.

Pictured: 9/10ths of the forces of Chaos under their helmets.

No, it all begins back during the Great Crusade, when the Emperor decides that his Primarchs have got this whole “reconquering the galaxy” thing down, and that now he can get down to business.

via Lex

Though the Heresy was ignited by the product of a conspiracy by the forces of Chaos, there were precipitating factors that helped push many of the Legio Astartes towards rebellion. The first was the Emperor’s return to and seclusion on Terra, working on a secret project that he refused to share with any of his Primarchs, including his most favored son Horus, whom he had named Warmaster. This apparent abandonment of the Great Crusade, for something he would not even share with his sons bred mistrust, resentment, and disappointment towards the Emperor amongst many of the Primarchs.

This is where a lot of the mistrust and resentment that would come to characterize the Heresy was bred. Right here. Maybe if the Emperor had been more open, or, had he dismissed outright the adoration of his “sons.” Remember the Emperor only allowed the Primarchs to think of him as their “father” because it was convenient, he never really felt any kind of paternal instincts towards most of them.

That is not a glove you wear if you want to play catch with your sweet boys.

Which meant that what favor he did show went a long way. Horus made waves, especially when he was declared Warmaster and this started seeding cracks in the loyalty of his fellows. But even then, things might have been different if not for the fact that there was the massive bureaucracy that was restricting them, imposing a kind of byzantine order of rules on the Imperium that they’d just been fighting to carve out of the cold dead hands of Xenos and rebels.

Another contributing factor was the formation of an administrative body known as the Council of Terra. Many of the Primarchs viewed these human bureaucrats as usurping their rightful place as rulers of the Imperium they had fought so hard to create. Worse still, the Primarchs were denied a place on the Council and the notion of an Imperium dominated by human bureaucrats, not the sons of the Emperor and their Astartes Legions, became a cause of concern for many of the Primarchs.

Essentially, the whole Heresy might never have happened if someone had just dug up a copy of Cats in the Cradle and played it. Like at any point during this sequence of events. And then of course there was Chaos itself. When the Emperor saw what Lorgar was getting up to, he made a big show of humiliating him and his legion in front of everyone:

But…all I want to do is fall to Chaos and have magic powers, what’s so wrong with that?

Lastly, the Emperor’s disciplining of Lorgar and the Word Bearers was a contributing factor to the Heresy and the event which set it directly into motion. After Lorgar and the entire Legion were publicly humiliated, scolded, and forced to kneel in front of the Emperor for spreading their belief that the ruler of mankind was a divine being, the pious Word Bearers felt betrayed and desperately sought any power in the universe to worship. This eventually led Lorgar and his Legionaries to the Eye of Terror, where they pledged themselves to the forces of Chaos and began to conspire against the Emperor. Thus the Word Bearers had secretly become the first Chaos Space Marines. Secretly planning to make war on the Emperor, the Word Bearers quietly established Warrior Lodges with their Chaplains throughout the rest of the Astartes Legions. Though harmless at first glance, many of these lodges would become hotbeds of support for Horus’ rebellion in the war to come.

So later on, when Horus gets wounded during the last few battles of the Great Crusade, Lorgar’s dudes heal him up in one of their secret lodges and basically invade his mind and plant visions that confirm Horus’ worst suspicions. That the Emperor is just using them until he goes on to get more power and once he no longer has a need for them he’ll cast them aside.

The best part here is that this probably isn’t all that far off the mark. It might even be entirely true. As soon as the Emperor had no need for the Thunder Warriors, he purged them from the ranks. And now the Space Marines were causing all kinds of problems, even as they were carving out the Imperium. Who knows when or where the Emperor would feel he’d finally gotten it right. For Horus this was partially just a drive to secure what he felt was his rightful place.

So with all that in mind, what do you think? Was the Heresy justified? Did they really have a chance to make things right?

Nope. Totally uncalled for and it made everything objectively worse in the Imperium.

  • Tretze

    Horus did nothing wrong

    • Sebastian Marrero

      I’m going to be wearing a shirt that says that at a 40k tournament

      • luke-vdv

        You know they check for heresy at the front doors?

        • Sebastian Marrero

          That’s why it’s written on the back!

  • James Toney

    If Horus hadnt had turned i believe that night lords, world eaters and word bearers would have still gone against the emperor.

  • SilentPony

    Yeah but the entirety of the Heresy was just Lorgar throwing a little fit over not being daddy’s favorite. All of it.

  • Lorgar – just because a man is immature, it doesn’t give him the right to start a war.

    • Gabriel De-Vere

      Says a historian of every American Invasion…

      • Foxdonut

        Normandy was a mistake!

      • Drpx

        “Americans start wars for stupid petty reasons”

        Please ignore the history of Europe folks 😛

    • Angus MacKenzie

      Little known fact: Lorgar is actually a gold-plated Bruce Willis.

    • NNextremNN

      Go tell that the emperor 😉

      I think there is nothing that gives anyone a “right” to start a war. But this rarely keeps people from doing so.

  • James Regan

    without the horus heresy, fulgrim would still have fallen, got trapped in a painting, then come back out, then turned into a giant flying sex snake. Which would have been a much weirder character trajectory if everyone else was being boringly loyal.
    *fulgrim slithers into the strategy meeting*
    “Sound the alarm we’re under attack from xenos beast- wait, no, don’t panic, it’s just fulgrim. again.”

    • KreskinsESP

      Awww….that’s our Fulgrim! He just loves beauty is all.

    • usGrant7977

      Roboute looks cautiously at Fulgrim, “So…was it something that you ate?”

    • Shawn

      Okay, I knew about the trapped in the painting bit, but not the rest. Where did you read that?

  • Jonathon Runge

    I want Logar to switch sides. Figure out how the Eldar made their new one and try to remake the Emperor the same way into what Logar thinks he should be.

  • benn grimm

    It was all the Emprahs fault. He built Horus to be a traitorous jerk, just like he built Lorgar to be a whiny bible basher, Curze to be a bat-man, Magnus to be a mutant book worm, Perturabo a jealous, paranoid genius, Sanguinius to be naive, Gulliman pompous, the Khan a lazy racial stereotype, Mortarion stinky, etc etc, this isn’t Christianity, there’s no free will, only the laughter of the thirsting head of I.P at gw…

    • NNextremNN

      I think the primarchs were influence a lot by their adoptive parents and the societies they grew up in. But the emperor never cared about that and ignored those things. He never tried to fix or explain them their faults and why and how he knew those things were wrong.

      • benn grimm

        Nature or nurture eh? I mean they had pre programmed DNA, true they often ended up in pretty horrible places, but this is true of the loyalists as well; Fenris, Baal and Caliban are hardly nice places to grow up. But yeah, as you say, he never tried hard to ‘fix’ the ‘broken’ primarchs, further suggesting he kinda planned the whole thing, or at least is squarely to blame for how it all turned out.

        • NNextremNN

          Let me quote Paarthurnax from skyrim “What is better ? to be born good or to overcome your evil nature through great effort ?”

          Even if you are preprogrammed you can overcome this. I think that some turned traitor is already prove for that.

          You can teach people all you want. But given the free choice they will either accept or reject your teaching. You can’t control all environmental influences you can only trust them to do the right things with all knowledge you can give them.

          The problem I see in the emperor is that he never tried to teach but only preached. The emperor personally knew Chaos gods probably even by name but never mentioned them to his sons. He should have knew that Magnus was talking / bartering with them but he never gave him the don’t talk to strangers in the warp because they are sick twisted people who will lie to you like they did to me. And lillte Magnus would have been a) okey daddy or b) fk you you don’t know me or my friends. But he never had that chance. He was doomed from the beginning.

          • benn grimm

            You make a very convincing argument 🙂

          • NNextremNN

            Thx 🙂

        • Locke

          The latest Horus Heresy book gives some insight on the Primarch project and the decision making process of the Emperor with regards to them.

        • Shawn

          You forgot Medusa! 😉

    • Ironheaded Painting

      Y’all sound like you’ve never attended your own family reunions.

      • benn grimm


  • Horus Lupercal

    “Nothing is a greater stranger to my breast, or a sin that my soul more abhors, than that black and detestable one, ingratitude.” George Washington, Terra 2nd millenium

    • usGrant7977

      Ingratitude? That dude owned slaves. I wonder how many brothers hand’s he shook coming outta the cotton field.

      • 3AcresAndATau

        Slaves whom he freed at the end of his life. The man clearly wanted to end slavery, but slaves were something of a hard issue to broach and a white elephant at the time. Washington even said there was no man (not including slaves of course) who wished to see slavery ended more than he. The man helped to carve out the best county ever to exist, and interviews with Indian chiefs at the battle of Monongahela paired with the account in his journal, the fact he was the only officer not wounded in that battle along with the fact he was never wounded in battle suggest he had Divine Protection. What the hell have you done lately?

        • Alistair Collins

          “best country to ever exist”
          Huh. I was kinda with you until that subjective point was made.
          The Egyptian Dynasties, Roman and Persian Empires, Greek Hegemony and British Empire are waving, saying something about hubris, folly, learning from the past and ignorance.

          • UnpluggedBeta

            Greek here: you forgot the Byzantine Empire which we’re generally far more proud of.

        • usGrant7977

          I believe George Washington was a great president, 1 of the best. But Epic Rap Battles of History said it best when talking about fellow founding father Thomas Jefferson, he gets to the Hall of Presidential Fame with an asterisk next to his name.

          As to divine intervention and George Washington , well, the less theology in American history the better i believe.

  • Jooster

    “Remember the Emperor only allowed the Primarchs to think of him as their “father” because it was convenient, he never really felt any kind of paternal instincts towards most of them.”

    You sure about that? I remember multiple passages about the Emperor engaging in deep conversations and bonding with the Primarchs. Magnus before the Emperor arrived, Corax upon meeting him or Horus himself. He definitely felt emotionally attached, as much as an immortal avatar of humanity can be, towards some of his sons.

    He mishandled Angron, Perturabo and Lorgar, but beyond that he gave them a reasonable amount of attention.

    • __

      If by mishandled you mean psychically force you and your entire legion to kneel before him and your most hated brother after you have destroyed your proudest achievement, then yes I guess you could say he mishandled at least a few of them.

    • Foxdonut

      In 8th edition books the emperor actually tells Guilliman that the primarchs are not his children but weapons to serve his great plans. So yeah maybe he is a regular dad afterall.

    • Tshiva keln

      In Master of mankind he’s rather cold when talking to his custodians about them. He doesn’t see them as his sons and keeps refering to them by their numbers rather than names.

    • NNextremNN

      He lived so long among humans but never understood emotions and what they do to humans. That was his biggest and greatest flaw.

  • Drpx

    It wasn’t a separatist movement, it was a coup attempt.

  • LordKrungharr

    Horus was weak!

    • Ironheaded Painting

      Lorgar was weaker

  • memitchell

    At some point, rather than the cause, you have to look at the effects. If you turn into a craven heroin addict who conks little old ladies on the head and steals their Social Security checks to pay for your next fix, is it really your Daddy’s fault you turned out this way? Really?

    • kobalt60

      If your dad handmade you, crafting your genetic code and including a propensity for addiction, just for the lulz, then yes, it kinda is

    • NNextremNN

      If your daddy knew this and still gave you an army to help you stealing money and gave you factory planets to produce your heroin yes it would be his fault!

  • Danny Carr

    “Remember the Emperor only allowed the Primarchs to think of him as their “father” because it was convenient”

    I really, really, really HATE the Emperor didn’t care and feels nothing thing they’re doing with the heresy.

    It means that rather than ignoring clearly dangerous flaws in generals that controlled legions that contained tens of thousands of super soldiers, fleets that could scorch a planet and billions of soldiers out of a fathers love he ignored it…..just because. Who in their right mind would ever give Angron or Curze an army, never mind keep them in charge when their flaws became apparent unless they were blinded by nepotism. Same with Lorgar if Lorgar was just a tool why would the emps expect that tool to obey after he tore down it’s entire perception of how things work.

    It makes what’s supposedly one of the 5 most powerful beings in the setting an absolute idiot. It also take any impact out of Guilliman finding a cold and distant monster on the golden throne because it means rather than been twisted, emps hasn’t changed much in 10,000 years.

    • Tshiva keln

      I’ve always thought he knew some of them would rebel and that would be his way of killing off a load of marines he no longer needed after the galaxy was largely claimed. A way of purging like he did with the thunder warriors but less obviously planned and evil and he still gets to keep a few survivor legions until the proper humans are in a position to take over. I think it went wrong as the loyalty of legions like the Thousand Sons and Alpha Legion strangely ended up putting them on Horus’ side and tipping the balance too far.

      • NNextremNN

        The Space Wolves were the emperors executioner and were used at least once (otherwise they wouldn’t have had that reputation already) before the burning of Prospero as those.

    • carlisimo

      It’s disputable. Aaron Demski-Bowden pointed out that the scenes in The Master of Mankind in which the Emperor says he doesn’t care for the primarchs all involve him communicating psychically with people who either don’t like the primarchs or, in Land’s case, would think of caring as a character flaw. He’s telling them what they want to hear (or, since it’s psychic, they’re interpreting his thoughts that way).

      And the one time the Emperor actually speaks is at the beginning, when he says, “Magnus.”

    • Sonic tooth

      The hh books are ruining the emps character. Just ruining it… Adb did a bad thing with the “uncaring father thing but the other authors are running with it. Where is the awesome emperor from bill kings duel with Horus?

      • NNextremNN

        An intelligent caring emperor makes no sense because such a character would have never lead to the grimdark of 40K

    • Malevengion

      If you get a chance, read The Outcast Dead. Near the end the main character psychically converses with a being that turns out to be the Emperor and sheds some light on the whole Horus Heresy and what the Emperor knew.

  • usGrant7977

    The emperor was fighting a war against 4 gods. He was constantly under the gun and a step behind the demon gods of the warp. The only way to win was the golden thrown. THEE ONLY WAY. Cutting off the warp and using the webway to travel the galaxy. Thats why the Eldar were desperate to stop him. The whole of thier technology depends upon psychic powers and thier survival upon sole control of the webway

  • piglette

    Curze LITERALLY did nothing wrong.

    • luke-vdv

      But he went on to do A LOT wrong.

    • Foxdonut

      Except murder people.

  • The Heresy was foreseen, accepted and planned by the Emperor as a way to gain near-godhood.
    /my oppinion

  • NNextremNN

    The emperor is a murderous dictator that forced almost any human into slavery. He is like the ultimate super villain that succeeded in his plans and was not stopped by any super hero. So yes in general Horus was right but he was manipulated by forces even worse then the emperor which would have made his success in actions into a failure in his motives.

  • carlisimo

    Don’t forget the hypothesis that the Emperor meant for the Heresy to occur as a great marine cull. They were too strong for the Custodes to handle the way they did the Thunder Warriors, so they had to do it to themselves. I’d assume that the goal wasn’t their total elimination, at least for all of the legions.

  • Stormwolf

    Horus opinion on his brother-followers:
    “Why is Roboute?, Roboute with his scratching
    quills, and his plans, and his hope, too understanding, too strong, too
    damn perfect?

    I wish he was with us…

    You would say that I listen too much to Alpharius and Lorgar. That a war
    fought with deceit is doomed to fail. Perhaps you would be right. The
    Hydra does not see all. And now his blindness places a knife at his own
    back… Corax wound not have made such an error.

    Strange is it not, that so many I wish beside me, stand against me.
    While at my back are only the flawed and damaged. I am a master of
    broken monsters.”

    (WARMASTER, John French, Black Library 2012)

  • jmaximum

    one thing I never figured out: if the Thunder Warriors were the epitome of the Big E’s forces at the time, who did he use to wipe them out?

    • Morgrim

      The Custodes. He rigged things so that most of the Thunder Warriors were already dying, most of the ones that weren’t died in their final triumphant battle, then sent his shiny new Custodes to mop up the survivors.