|Location||South of the White Mountains, West of Mordor|
Like Arnor to the north, Gondor is a human kingdom founded by Isildur and Anárion, the sons of Elendil, after the Downfall of Númenor. It was located to the south of Rohan and to the west of Mordor, on the Bay of Belfalas. Its name means "Land of Stone", from Sindarin gond (stone) + (n)dor (land), most likely given to it because of the Ered Nimrais and other mountain chains in the land (hypothetical Quenya name Ondonórë).
Before the Downfall of Númenor, Gondor was home to many Númenórean colonists, who either mixed blood with the indigenous Middle Men if they were friendly, or dispersed them into Ras Morthil, Dunland, and Drúadan Forest. Gondor, at a latitude comparable to Venice, was a more fertile region than Arnor to the north, and therefore it already had a larger population before the ships of Elendil's sons arrived, including a well-established city, Pelargir.The Elendili from Númenor proper were given a warm reception upon their arrival by those that had already colonized Middle-earth, including a colonial branch of Númenórean royalty at Dor-en-Ernil. The colonists north of Anduin accepted Elendil's claim to kingship over them. South of the Great River, however, the newly exiled Númenóreans did not recognize Elendil's claim.
Gondor was being founded after Númenor's population had already split between the Elendili and King's Men, and all of the more southern colonies (such as the Haven of Umbar) remained enemies of the Elendili.
After the war Gondor's power and wealth grew steadily (only interrupted by an Easterling invasion in 492 Third Age). Its power would continue to grow into the 9th century of the Third Age. While the power of Gondor's sister kingdom Arnor peaked during the 9th century, when it broke into various successor states, Gondor's greatest glory was yet to come.
Gondor's Golden Age
Gondor's power reached its Golden Age under the four "Ship-kings":
Tarannon Falastur r. 840–913. First of the Ship-Kings, died childless Eärnil I r. 913–936. Nephew of Tarannon Ciryandil r. 936–1015 Hyarmendacil I (Ciryaher) r. 1015–1149. Last of the Ship-Kings. In the reign of the powerful king Hyarmendacil I (c. 12th century T.A.) Gondor reached the height of its power. During Hyarmendacil's reign Gondor's borders reached their furthest extent. The Kingdom extended east to the Sea of Rhûn, south to the nearest lands of the Haradrim, as far north as Mirkwood and west towards the borders of Arnor.
Such was Gondor's wealth during the period that men from other lands would say in envy: "In Gondor precious stones are but pebbles for the children to play with." Gondor would also enjoy several centuries of peace due to its military might.
The Decline of Gondor
But after his reign decadence spread under the kings of Gondor and a long period of decline began (although Gondor experienced several revivals). Three great calamities struck Gondor during the second millennium of the Third Age, which are held to be the chief reasons for its decline: the Kin-strife, the Great Plague, and the invasion of the Wainriders (a tribe of Easterlings).
In the 15th century a great civil war named the Kin-strife tore the nation apart. The current King Eldacar was of mixed blood: his mother was of the Northmen. Popular displeasure at this led to the overthrow of King Eldacar by Castamir, the admiral of all of Gondor's naval forces who possessed some royal blood. Eldacar's son was slain, and he fled north. Castamir was afterwards known as Castamir the Usurper. During his ten year rule he proved to be very cruel, and because of his love of his old fleet, he lavished attention on the coastal regions while the interior provinces were ignored and left to rot. Eldacar then returned with an army of his Northman kinsmen, and they were joined by armies of Gondorians from interior provinces such as Anórien. Osgiliath was devastated during this conflict, its great bridge destroyed and its palantír lost. Eldacar slew Castamir and reclaimed his throne, but Castamir's sons and their forces were besieged in Pelargir, the great port of Gondor. They eventually retreated to Umbar, where they joined with the Corsairs, and troubled Gondor for many years, until their descendants died out.
The Great Plague
Later, the Great Plague struck and the White Tree died. This Plague was no localized event: the Plague swept through all of Middle-earth, reaching the successor states of Arnor and the Hobbits of the Shire in the North. King Tarondor found a sapling of the White Tree, and moved the capital from Osgiliath to Minas Anor, the City of Anárion. During this time, Gondor was so depopulated that the fortifications guarding against the re-entry of evil into Mordor were abandoned. It is believed that had the Haradrim or Easterlings been capable of attacking Gondor at this time, it would have fallen. However, the Plague left Gondor's enemies in no better condition than Gondor itself, and neither side was capable of mounting new offensives.
The Invasion of the Wainriders
Following the sapping of Gondor's strength by the plague, the Wainrider invasions devastated Gondor, and the conflict lasted for well over a century. The Wainriders destroyed the Northern Army of Gondor, but survivors linked up with the victorious Southern Army of Gondor, led by a general named Eärnil, and they destroyed the Wainriders as they celebrated their victory during the Battle of the Camp.
The Line of the Kings Fails
In 1944, Gondor faced a constitutional crisis when King Ondoher was slain in battle with both his sons. Arvedui, Prince of Arthedain, Ondoher's son-in-law, and the victorious general Eärnil, who was a distant blood-relative of Ondoher, claimed the throne. Arvedui's claim lay mainly in the reintroduction of the old Nùmenorean law of accession, which stated the eldest (remaining) child should succeed the king. If the law was reintroduced, then Arvedui's wife Fíriel, Ondoher's daughter and last remaining child would become Ruling Queen, making their descendants Kings of both Arnor and Gondor. Arvedui also tried to put weight behind his claim as he was Isildur's heir. The council of Gondor recognised that the name of Isildur was held in honour in Gondor, but they dictated that the South-Kingdom must be ruled by an Heir of Anarion. Due to his ancestry from Fíriel and Arvedui, more than a millennium later, Aragorn Elessar put forward his claim as the heir of both Isildur and Anarion.
Eärnil lay his claim as being a direct descendant of King Telumehtar Umbardacil. His claim was also greatly bolstered by the popularity he had gained as the victorious general who saved Gondor from the Wainriders after winning the southern theatre of the war. Steward Pelendur who was temporarily ruling Gondor as serving as arbiter of succession, intervened in favour of Gondor's victorious general who would rule as Eärnil II.
The Last Heir of Anárion
During the Battle of Fornost, Eärnil II's heir Eärnur led Gondor's forces to victory over the Witch-king of Angmar, who was actually the Lord of the Nazgûl. Although Eärnur wished to fight him, Eärnur's horse was terrified and fled the battle against his wishes. By the time he mastered his horse and return, the Witch-king had fled. Glorfindel the Elf then prophesied to him that it was better that he not fight the Lord of the Nazgûl because "never by the hand of man shall he fall".
Eärnur later ascended to the throne, ruling from Minas Anor (Tower of the Sun). During this time, the Ringwraiths captured Minas Anor's sister city, Minas Ithil (Tower of the Moon), renaming it Minas Morgul (Tower of Sorcery) and taking it as their lair. Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith (Tower of Guard) as a result. The Lord of the Nazgûl repeatedly sent messengers to Minas Tirith challenging Eärnur to single combat, taunting him that he had fled out of cowardice from facing him during the Battle of Fornost. Eventually, King Eärnur was overcome by wrath and rode with a small company of knights to Minas Morgul, to accept the challenge. They were never heard from again. So ended the Line of Anárion.
The Stewards of Gondor
The Ruling Stewards
The realm was governed by a long line of hereditary Stewards after the disappearance of Eärnur, son of Eärnil, since there was no proof that the last king was dead, and no claimant had enough support to be accepted as his successor. The line of Anárion was held to have failed, and Gondor was not willing to risk to another Kin-strife, which would surely have destroyed it. Whenever there was a new Steward, he would swear an oath to yield rule of Gondor back to the King, in essence only an heir of Isildur, if he should ever return. In Gondor there was no one who could claim descent from Isildur in direct line, and the northern line of Arnor had effectively disappeared, so this oath was not considered seriously. The line of Stewards ruled as Kings, without having the title. During the War of the Ring, the Ruling Steward of Gondor was Denethor II, and his two sons were Boromir and younger Faramir.
Cirion and Eorl
In 2510, when Steward Cirion ruled over Gondor, the nation faced one of its greatest perils: an Easterling tribe named the Balchoth invaded Gondor with mass force. Gondor's army marched to fight the Balchoth but were cut off from Minas Tirith and pushed back in the direction of the Limlight.
Messengers were sent to get help from the Éothéod, a tribe which lived in the northern vales of the Anduin, but nobody expected the messengers to reach their destination. When certain peril came upon Gondor, however, the Éothéod turned the tide of the Battle of the Field of Celebrant. After the victory the Éothéod were awarded the fields of Calenardhon north of the Ered Nimrais from the Gap of Rohan at the southern end of the Hithaeglir, Fangorn Forest, rivers Limlight to river Anduin, western Emyn Muil and the Mering Stream, where they established the kingdom of Rohan with Eorl the Young as their first king. A permanent alliance between Gondor and Rohan was established by the oath Eorl swore to Cirion.
War of the Ring
In 3019, during the War of the Ring Gondor faced an all out attack on its capital Minas Tirith in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. Although nearly defeated, the Rohirrim once again turned the tide of battle, and helped win the war.
After the second and final defeat of Sauron the Kingship was restored with The Return of the King and Aragorn II became king of the Reunited Kingdom of Gondor and Arnor. (See Reunited Kingdom for further history of the lands of old Gondor).
Faramir, last heir of the Ruling Stewards, was to retain the office of steward (though not ruling), and was made Prince of Ithilien, which had been reconquered from the forces of Mordor.
Gondor as it appeared during the events of the War of the Ring (circa Third Age 3019) has been compared to the Byzantine Empire, for numerous reasons. Both the Byzantine Empire and Gondor were echoes of the old greatness of the earlier Roman Empire and the united kingdom of King Elendil, respectively. However, they were still strong in their own right. Also, during a period of relative barbarity surrounding them, both Byzantium and Gondor were a bastion of civilisation against the inrushing tide of darkness.
Regions of Gondor
Gondor was divided between several nearly autonomous regions. These were the following:
- Ithilien across the Anduin,
- Anórien under Minas Tirith,
- Lebennin of the Five Streams,
- Belfalas and
- Dor-en-Ernil, ruled by the Prince of Dol Amroth,
- Lamedon north of the Ringló, and
- Anfalas or Langstrand in the south-west.
The long cape of Andrast was not populated.
Additionally, Gondor held or had held the following regions at certain points in its history:
- Harondor or South Gondor, which was contested between Gondor and Harad,
- Calenardhon which was given to the Éothéod and became Rohan,
- Enedwaith, never really populated by Gondor and soon abandoned,
- Rhovanion, which was never fully under the control of Gondor but under Gondorian control at certain times during the Third Age.
Cities and fortresses of Gondor
Cities in Gondor included:
- Dol Amroth, city on Belfalas
- Erech, fortress of Gondor, abandoned by the end of the Third Age
- Minas Tirith (originally Minas Anor), City of the Kings
- Osgiliath, city and former capital of Gondor on the river Anduin, largely destroyed and abandoned by the end of the Third Age, but King Elessar possibly rebuilt the city
- Pelargir, the great southern harbour, under the reign of Corsairs during the War of the Ring
Additionally, Gondor had held the following locations at certain points in its history:
- The outposts of Amon Hen and Amon Lhaw on Emyn Muil probably had small garrisons
- Angrenost, the fortress of Isengard, later granted to Saruman, destroyed by the Ents during the War of the Ring
- Aglarond, the Gondorian fortress, later known as Rohan's Helm's Deep
- The Gondorian fortress guarding the pass of Cirith Ungol
- Durthang, the largest fortress in Mordor, built to guard the Ephel Dúath
- Minas Ithil, conquered by Mordor and renamed Minas Morgul
- Tharbad to the north, held by both Gondor and Arnor but abandoned as Gondor retreated through Enedwaith and later ruined
- The Haven of Umbar, the far southern harbour which was lost and reclaimed several times