Unknown; in the hundreds of billions
- "Beautiful on the surface, but rotten underneath. Don't ever, even for a second, doubt that this is the most dangerous world in the galaxy.... Danger does not always come in the shape of Orks with bolters, Ragnar. This world is where the elite of the Imperium have gathered. We are talking now of the most ruthless, ambitious, unscrupulous collection of rogues ever culled from a million planets. This is the place they have come to realise their ambitions, and on Terra they can, and will not let anything stand in their way. Not me, not you, not their own kin if need be."
Terra, also called "Holy Terra" or, in the most ancient records, "Earth," is the throne world of the Imperium of Man and the original homeworld of Mankind and of the God-Emperor. It is the most sacred and revered place in all the million worlds that comprise the Imperium. Billions of human pilgrims from across the galaxy flock to Terra -- even the barren and contaminated soil that these pious folk tread upon when they reach humanity's homeworld is considered sacred by the faithful of the Imperial Creed. Terra is effectively a globe-straddling temple dedicated to the worship of the Emperor of Mankind. The planet is home to the primary headquarters of many important Adepta of the Imperium since it serves as the capital world of the Emperor's realm. There is a great fear of Space Marines amongst the people who dwell there, due to events dating back to the Horus Heresy, when much of the planet was levelled and terrorised by the actions of the Traitor Legions. Before the Great Crusade, Terra was plagued by a long age of civil war and anarchy known as the Age of Strife, which only came to an end when the Emperor personally waged the Unification Wars to reunite all the Terran factions under his own enlightened leadership. Terra is perhaps the most massive Hive World within the Imperium, with an uncounted population that numbers several hundred billion human beings. The bulk of Terra's massive population is divided between the upper class that includes the Imperial nobility and Adepts of the Administratum and the lower classes who serve as basic labourers. The upper class is comprised of the official servants of the Emperor and his Imperium, including Imperial officials, Ecclesiarchy clergy, the aristocratic families of the Navis Nobilite, military officers, scribes, and bureaucrats. The teeming masses who comprise the Terran lower classes are far less-privileged, and many of them are nothing more than serfs or thralls who toil in the world's countless manufactorums, providing the infrastructure that keeps the heart of the Imperium's byzantine bureaucracy functioning. Terra has one moon, Luna, which is an inhabited and highly populous Civilised World of the Imperium in its own right.
The Age of Terra, also called the Age of Progress, is the name given by Imperial scholars to the time from the dawn of Mankind's civilisation before the Imperial Calendar was instituted in the 1st Millennium AD to the founding of the first truly united interstellar human civilisation at some point in the 15th Millennium. Cities such as Atlantys and Nova Yourk are cited as being the most legendary and ancient cities of Old Earth in this time. Nations now known in the oldest and most incomplete fragments of Imperial records only as Jermani, Merica, Britania, and Bania are said to have prospered, competed and wilted during this legendary time when humanity was slowly taking its first steps out towards the stars.
For the next 10,000 standard years, during the era called the Dark Age of Technology in Imperial chronologies, Terra served as the capital of Mankind's first galactic civilisation. This period was a Golden Age of scientific advancement when many technological wonders such as the Standard Template Construct (STC) databases and the artificially intelligent Men of Iron were brought into being. Humanity developed the Warp-Drive and spread at an explosive pace across the galaxy, settling thousands of new colony worlds and making first contact with the other intelligent races of the galaxy, including the Eldar and the Orks. This period ended in violence and horror as the Men of Iron revolted against their human masters and the first widespread appearance of human psykers caused the deaths of hundreds of millions of people when these men and women, unprepared to wield their new powers, unleashed the horrors of the Warp upon their unsuspecting fellow citizens. The final nail in the coffin for the advanced human civilisation of this period came when the gestation of the Chaos God Slaanesh in the Immaterium led to the onset of giant Warp Storms across the galaxy, completely disrupting interstellar travel and communications. Many human worlds, now isolated from one another, regressed to a pre-industrial state, the glories of their past lost to myth, legend and small stockpiles of archeotech. Terra itself was consumed by terrible civil wars between nations of techno-barbarians that began in the 27th Millennium and resulted in the use of biological, chemical and thermonuclear weapons of mass destruction that killed billions and forever scarred the sacred landscape of Mankind's homeworld.
Only with the end of the Age of Strife in the 30th Millennium following the birth of Slaanesh and the Fall of the Eldar was sanity restored to the people of Terra when the Emperor of Mankind first rose from deliberate obscurity to launch the Unification Wars that would unite all the nations of Terra beneath his rule and formally establish the Imperium of Man. After forging an alliance with the Cult Mechanicus of Mars to allow the Tech-priests to maintain their autonomy and religious freedom in return for providing the newborn Imperium with the starships, materiel and war machines it would need to reunite humanity under the Emperor's rule, the Master of Mankind unleashed the Great Crusade upon the galaxy. As the Imperial Expeditionary Fleets loaded with Space Marines, Imperial Army troops and Mechanicus Titans once more brought Mankind under a single rule defined by the secular Imperial Truth in the early 31st Millennium, the current Age of the Imperium finally dawned.
The Emperor's dream of a new Golden Age of reason and progress for Mankind collapsed in the wake of the galaxy-wide Imperial civil war known as the Horus Heresy. The Warmaster Horus, Primarch of the Sons of Horus Legion and leader of the Great Crusade after the Emperor retired to Terra, was corrupted by the Ruinous Powers of Chaos and rebelled against his father. Fully half of the Space Marine Legions, the Imperial Army and the Adeptus Mechanicus threw in their lot with Horus and the other Traitors and for seven standard years they waged a brutal and total war upon the galaxy, leaving countless worlds blazing in thermonuclear fire as they closed in on Terra.
During the Battle of Terra the Traitor Legions laid siege to the Imperial Palace itself and billions of Terrans died in loyal defence of their Emperor. Hundreds of millions of Terran civilians who became trapped behind the lines of the Forces of Chaos after their landings suffered horribly at the hands of the servants of the Dark Gods. So great was their suffering that a morbid fear of Space Marines became a permanent fixture of Terran culture ever afterwards. But the Emperor and his Loyalist servants ultimately prevailed, and slew Horus at the height of his power on the bridge of his own flagship, the terrible Battle Barge Vengeful Spirit in high Terran orbit. But the price was high, for the Emperor was mortally wounded and only survived by having his ravaged body interred within the cybernetic life support mechanisms of the arcane device known as the Golden Throne. Though the Emperor's mind remained fully empowered and active within the Immaterium, he could no longer directly communicate his wishes to those who remained behind to govern his Imperium.
And so for the last 10,000 Terran years stagnation, technologically, culturally and even morally has come to define the Imperium of Man. The Imperial Truth's official atheism has wilted in the face of the terrible dangers that confront Mankind in the Milky Way Galaxy, replaced by the comfort of a religion that holds that the Emperor of Mankind is the God Incarnate of humanity. Terra has become the heart of an interstellar Imperium stretching across tens of thousands of light years and encompassing more than 1 million inhabited worlds, though it does so through the administration of a galactic government that is at best an uncaring, faceless bureaucracy and at worst a brutal, xenophobic and narrow-minded tyranny. Hundreds of billions of people now call the sacred soil of Terra home, but they are packed into the human warrens known as hive cities, which are islands of tortured civilisation in a vast, toxic urban landscape that stretches across the entire world. The lucky are able to find work within the bureaucracy of the Administratum, while the majority are condemned to the poverty and heartbreak of lives as common manufactorum labourers or serfs. In the late 41st Millennium, there is no doubt that Terra will become the scene of Mankind's ultimate salvation at the hands of the Emperor's loyal servants...or the last outpost of humanity to fall before a tide of heretical rebellion, xenos genocide and Chaotic damnation.
Terra in the 41st Millennium is an Imperial Hive World, the largest in the galaxy. The Earth was stripped of all forms of natural resources many millennia ago; its soil is utterly barren and its atmosphere is now a fog of industrial pollution. Massive, labyrinthine edifices of state sprawl across the vast majority of the surface. What remained of Terra's oceans after the thermonuclear wars that scarred the planet during the Age of Strife long ago boiled away due to the immense heat produced by the billions of people who have been compressed into the world's limited living space. All liquid water to meet the Terran population's needs is now delivered from orbit by freighters who take large ice-bearing comets from the outer Solar System and bring them into Terran orbit to be melted down and dispersed to the population. Many mountain ranges have been leveled - perhaps all but the Himalayas, which remain untouched due to the genetic engineering laboratories said to lie beneath them where the Emperor created the Primarchs and the first Space Marines after the Unification Wars more than ten millennia ago. The chambers of the Astronomican also course throughout the whole mountain range. Despite being devastated during the Horus Heresy and by the terrible wars fought across the surface of the world by the nations of techno-barbarians during the long Age of Strife, Terra is still the most vastly-populated and built-up hive world in the Imperium. Beneath countless layers and millennia of urban accretion, catacombs hold older cultures radically different from the surface ones. Much of the population of Terra exists in the most terrible squalor, their greatest hope that one of their offspring might be accepted into the Adeptus Terra, the Priesthood of Earth and bureaucracy of the Imperium, as a Menial, an Adept of the lowliest sort. A square meter of land on Terra costs more than a palace on any other hive world; only the most wealthy citizens can afford to own a small section of land. Terra's entire surface, with the exception of the Antarctic region, is covered in labyrinthine edifices of state, including the Imperial Palace, the Ecclesiarchal Palace of the Adeptus Ministorum and the many departmental headquarters of the Adeptus Terra, the Imperial government. The headquarters of the Imperial Inquisition on Terra lies beneath the ice caps of the southern polar region of Antarctica and is one of the most secure installations in the entire Imperium.
Oceans of Terra
By the time of the Unification Wars there was only one remaining ocean on Terra -- the so-called Great Ocean -- which was the ancient Pacific Ocean. The size of the Pacific was vastly smaller than it once was, due to the vaporisation of a massive stretch of the ocean during the nuclear wars that had consumed much of Old Earth in the lost years of the Age of Strife. This missing portion of the Pacific stretched from the Marianas Trench down past Australia and all the way to the frozen continent of Antarctica. The Atlantic Ocean had also been largely vaporised as the great body of water that had once been near Europe was now mostly gone, particularly to the south of what had been the Iberian Peninsula. Other, smaller, bodies of water may still have remained during this time, as a great body of water is recorded to have been present in the region of Eurasia where the Caspian Sea had lain in ages past. These bodies of water still existed at the start of the Horus Heresy in the early 31st Millennium, but by the time of the 41st Millennium, Terra had no free-standing bodies of water, having become a true ecumenopolis, a world completely covered by the dense urban areas of massive hive cities. Within these human hives toiled the tens of billions of Adeptus Terra bureaucrats and serfs required to keep the decaying heart of the Imperium of Man pumping.
Terra is the heart and throne world of the Imperium of Man, and serves as the headquarters for many of its most important Adepta and other organisations. Most importantly, it is the homeworld and resting place of the Emperor of Mankind. The most important places on Terra and the headquarters of the vital Imperial organisations based on Terra include:
- Imperial Palace - One of the largest structures on Terra, the Imperial Palace is more like a sprawling hive city than a single edifice. It covers the better part of the Northern Hemisphere, and is guarded by the Adeptus Custodes, the superhuman praetorians of the Emperor who rarely leave the confines of the Palace. It is the heart of the Administratum as well as the home of the Sanctum Imperialis, the great throne room of the Emperor and the location of the Golden Throne. The Palace is divided between the Inner and Outer Palace. It is described as "an endless, black hive of forbidden technology and subterranean passages delving deep within the bowels of the planet."
- Eternity Gate - The largest entryway into the Inner Imperial Palace's Sanctum Imperialis. A mile-long passage leads to the Eternity Gate, lined with the banners of thousands of the greatest and long-dead Imperial heroes, including Lord Commander Solar Macharius. It constitutes the end of the galactic pilgrimage trail, and is itself the most important pilgrimage site in the entire Imperium, for almost no one is ever allowed entrance through the Eternity Gate into the Sanctum Imperialis.
- Sanctum Imperialis - The throne room and heart of the Imperial Palace. It is the massive chamber housing the Golden Throne and the Emperor's body. It is guarded by a select group of three hundred Adeptus Custodes, the elite among the elite.
- Adeptus Terra - The Adeptus Terra, known commonly as the Priesthood of Earth, is the actual government of the Imperium of Man, consisting of countless different organizations and the departments within them. Besides the vast, destitute population of non-adepts that makes up the majority of the planet's populace, much of the rest of Terra's population are members of the Adeptus Terra and of these the largest percentage are adepts of the Administratum.
- Administratum - The Administratum is the administrative and bureaucratic division of the Adeptus Terra, consisting of untold billions of clerks, scribes, bureaucrats and administrative staff constantly working to manage the Imperium at every level, from assembling war fleets to levying taxes and tithes. It is the largest of the departments comprising the Adeptus Terra, and ten billion Administratum adepts work in the Imperial Palace alone.
- The Forbidden Fortress - Built throughout the mountain range of the Himalayas. A single peak is carved to form the Chamber of the Astronomican, where ten thousand psykers continuously power the Astronomican beacon with their own life energies. The "psychic light" of the beacon reaches thousands of light years across the Warp. The Astronomican is utilized by the mutant psykers known as Navigators to guide interstellar ships through the otherwise trackless chaos of the Warp. Without it, long-distance Warp travel would be impossible and the Imperium of Man would disintegrate.
- Office of the Inquisition - The Inquisition's headquarters on Terra is a sprawling and highly secure complex built beneath the south polar ice cap of Antarctica.
- Navigator's Quarter - The headquarters of the families of the Navis Nobilite (the Navigators). It is said to be on a massive island.
- Hall of Judgment - The headquarters of the Adeptus Arbites, the chief law enforcement organization of the Imperium.
- Officio Assassinorum - Although its agents operate throughout the Imperium, this dark organization is based on Terra. Its School of Assassins and most of the temples that comprise the Officio are said to be located on Terra, although their actual locations are closely guarded secrets.
- Adeptus Astra Telepathica - The Adeptus Astra Telepathica is the organization responsible for recruiting and training officially-sanctioned psykers for service to the Imperium. The infamous Black Ships of the Adeptus Astra Telepathica travel throughout the Imperium, gathering their tithe of psykers and returning with them to Terra. The psykers are analysed and sorted according to their psychic power and strength of mind in resisting the temptations of Chaos. The novitiates are trained at the Scholastia Psykana for five years before being sent for further training elsewhere. Some of these sanctioned psykers become Astropaths, specialist psykers who are trained to telepathically send and receive messages over interstellar distances (no other form of instantaneous interstellar communication exists). Others are requisitioned by the Adeptus Astronomica for service in the Astronomican's choir. The most powerful, those who demonstrate a strong enough mental character to resist daemonic possession on their own, often enter the Inquisition for training as Acolytes, with some eventually becoming Inquisitors themselves. Those psykers deemed too weak or dangerous to live become sacrifices to the Emperor; their souls are "fed" into the arcane technology of the Golden Throne so that the Emperor may continue to live and guide the Astronomicon that allows the Imperium to function as an interstellar civilization. Only psykers that have been trained at the Scholastia Psykana are legally sanctioned by the Imperium; all others are considered illegal, often branded as "witches," and are at risk of being summarily executed as heretics by the Inquisition's Ordo Hereticus and other organs of official Imperial power.
- The Ecclesiarchal Palace - The headquarters of the Ecclesiarchy (Adeptus Ministorum), the Ecclesiarchal Palace sprawls over almost the entirety of Terra's southern continent of Australia. It is also home to one of the two major convent-fortresses (the Convent Prioris) of the Adepta Sororitas (the Sisters of Battle) on the Imperium's throneworld.
- The Senatorum Imperialis of the High Lords of Terra - This immense building within the Imperial Palace complex houses the council of the twelve highest-ranking political officials in the Imperium, the High Lords of Terra, who rule in the Emperor's name as He no longer can, though His mind is believed to remain active in the Warp, guiding and protecting humanity.
Terra is the resting place of the immortal Emperor of Mankind, where he has sat on the life-preserving cybernetic Golden Throne, neither alive nor truly dead, for ten thousand years. He and the Imperial Palace are guarded by the elite Adeptus Custodes. Among them is a select inner corps of three hundred who never leave his side, known as the Companions.
The Astronomican is a psychic navigational beacon located on Terra, and is a vital navigation aide to the mutant Navigators of the Navis Nobilite who pilot the Imperium's commerical and military starships through the chaotic eddies of the Warp. Without its telepathic guidance, faster-than-light travel through the Warp at distances of more than a few light years at a time would be next to impossible and the Imperium of Man would collapse economically, militarily and politically.
Luna (the Moon) has also been colonized and is home to immense planetary defense lasers charged with protecting Terra from invasion. These defenses inflicted savage losses on the invading Traitor Legion fleets of the Warmaster Horus, during the latter stages of the Horus Heresy. Luna served as the greatest shipyard and naval base in the Imperium of Man at the time of the Great Crusade and the Horus Heresy. Luna also gives its name to a common class of Imperial Navy cruiser, the Luna-class.
Billions of Imperial Cult pilgrims flock to the planet every day, eager for a glimpse of the Imperial Palace or one of the untold number of gargantuan Imperial cathedrals of the Ecclesiarchy. In spite of the fact that millions of pilgrims are accepted daily, many more are kept waiting. Such is the scale of the Imperium of Man in the 41st Millennium that many of these pilgrims' journeys were started by their ancestors and only centuries later will a member of the family actually complete the pilgrimage to Terra. Many will set out hopeful and never come close to their goal. Those who make it are said to never return, crushed to death by their fellow pilgrims, executed by the Adeptus Arbites for straying into restricted areas, or perhaps killed by the crazed and destitute hive city citizens, violent gangers, etc.
- Codex Imperialis (1st Edition)
- Horus Heresy: Collected Visions (Background Book) by Alan Merett, pp. 352-370
- Imperial Armour - The Horus Heresy: Betrayal, Book One
- Index Astartes I, "Children of the Emperor - The Emperor's Children Space Marine Legion", "Bitter and Twisted - The Iron Warriors Space Marine Legion", "Lightning Attack - The White Scars Space Marine Chapter"
- Index Astartes II, "Emperor's Fist - The Imperial Fists Space Marine Chapter", "Bringers of Darkness - The Night Lords Space Marine Legion", "Angels of Death - The Blood Angels Space Marine Chapter"
- Index Astartes III, "Chosen of Khorne - The World Eaters Space Marine Legion", "The Lost and the Damned - The Death Guard Space Marine Legion", "Masters of Forbidden Knowledge - The Thousand Sons Space Marine Legion"
- Index Astartes IV, "Sons of Horus - The Black Legion Space Marine Legion", "Dark Apostles - The Word Bearers Space Marine Legion"
- Realm of Chaos: Slaves to Darkness (2nd Edition) by Rick Priestley, Bryan Ansell, Mike Brunton and Simon Forrest
- Realm of Chaos: The Lost & The Damned (2nd Edition) by Rick Priestley, Bryan Ansell, Mike Brunton and Simon Forrest
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (6th Edition), pp. 134, 136-138, 146, 148, 152-153, 160, 162, 166-169, 177, 187, 197, 225, 234,
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (5th Edition), pp. 101, 116
- Warhammer 40,000 Rulebook (3rd Edition)
- Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader (1st Edition), pg. 133
- White Dwarf 268 (US), "Assault on Holy Terra" by William King
- Horus Heresy Series
- Inquisition War (Omnibus) by Ian Watson
- Draco (Novel) by Ian Watson
- Deliverance Lost (Novel) by Gav Thorpe
- Vengeful Spirit (Novel) by Graham McNeill
- Harlequin (Novel) by Ian Watson
- Wolfblade by William King