Tolkien Gateway

Gondor

Revision as of 22:44, 13 July 2008 by Theoden1 (Talk | contribs)
400px
Gondor
General information
LocationSouth of the White Mountains, west of Mordor
CapitalOsgiliath/Minas Tirith
People
LanguageWestron
CurrencyThe castar

Gondor was a kingdom founded on the southern coastal area of Middle-earth in the year 3320 of the Second Age by the Dúnedain, a race of Men. It was established by Isildur and his brother Anárion after they fled from the island of Númenor. Their father Elendil, who lived in Gondor's sister realm of Arnor, held the overlordship of the realm, however. Though it waned in power over time and the line of its Kings failed, Gondor survived to the end of the Third Age, and had an instrumental role in the War of the Ring. After the defeat of Sauron, Gondor was ruled by Aragorn Elessar, descendant of the Kings of Arnor and the Heir of Isildur. Gondor was the seat of the Dominion of Men in the beginning of the Fourth Age, and many of the tales and legends of the earlier Ages of Middle-earth come from the lore and history it preserved.

Gondor was located to the south of the plain of Calenardhon (which later became the realm of Rohan) and to the west of Mordor. Its southern border was the Bay of Belfalas. Gondor's close proximity to Sauron's land was the catalyst of many battles and skirmishes, but its location also gave the Gondorians more ability to protect the other regions of Middle-earth from the Dark Lord and his servants.

Contents

History

Gondor had a long and illustrious history; it participated in many battles against Sauron and his servants during the Second and Third Ages. In addition, Gondor had great wealth and influence during the early part of the Third Age, so that it became famous among other realms in Middle-earth.

Early History

Before the Downfall of Númenor, the region that would become Gondor was home to many Númenórean colonists, who either mingled with the indigenous Middle Men if they were friendly, or dispersed them into Ras Morthil, Dunland, and Drúadan Forest. The land on which Gondor was founded was more fertile than the more northerly areas of Middle-earth, and therefore it already had a fairly large population before the ships of Elendil's sons arrived, including a well-established haven, Pelargir. Pelargir was founded by the Faithful Númenóreans in the year 2350 of the Second Age.

The refugees from Númenor led by Isildur and Anárion were given a warm reception upon their arrival by those that had already colonized this area of Middle-earth. The colonists north of the river Anduin accepted Elendil's claim to kingship over them. South of the Great River, however, the also-newly-exiled Black Númenóreans did not recognize Elendil's claim. Since the Black Númenóreans were the descendants of the King's Men of Númenor, who were opposed to the Faithful, they did not unite with Elendil and his sons, who represented the Faithful in Middle-earth. Much of Gondor's early history was marked by conflict with the Black Númenóreans.

The White Tree by Ted Nasmith
After their arrival and acceptance by the people, Isildur and Anárion put themselves to the task of ordering their realm. Isildur built the tower of Minas Ithil near Mordor as a threat to the Black Land, and within its walls he planted a seedling of the White Tree of Númenor that he had taken before its destruction. Anárion raised the tower of Minas Anor on the other side of Anduin's floodplain as a bulwark against the Wild Men. In between their cities, the brothers founded Osgiliath, their capital. From this city Isildur and Anárion ruled side-by-side, and used the palantíri, the Seeing Stones that the Faithful had taken with them from Númenor, to maintain contact with Elendil and the other areas under their control.

First Conflict with Sauron

The Dúnedain were at first unaware that Sauron, who had been taken as a prisoner to Númenor before its destruction, had survived the disastrous Downfall. However, not long after the kingdom's cities were built, the awakening of the fires of Orodruin signaled his return. At that time, the Men of Gondor first called the mountain Amon Amarth, or Mount Doom. Soon after, Sauron launched an attack on Minas Ithil, which forced Isildur into a retreat. Sauron took the fortress and burned the White Tree that had grown there, but Isildur saved one of its seedlings and took it and his family on a ship down the Anduin. He sailed to the north to confer with Elendil about these events. Anárion remained in Gondor and continued to hold Osgiliath. He also managed to push back Sauron's forces to the mountain range of Ephel Dúath, but Sauron began to gather reinforcements, among whom were a large number of Black Númenóreans, and the Men of Gondor knew that their realm was in great danger of being destroyed unless aid came.

The War of the Last Alliance

Elendil reacted to the threat of Sauron by combining forces with Gil-galad the Elven-king to make the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Their armies marched southeast from Arnor and Gil-galad's realm of Lindon. Supported by the forces of Gondor, the Alliance fought a great battle on the plain of Dagorlad north of Mordor. The armies of Elendil and Gil-galad were victorious, and entered Mordor itself, where they laid a siege on Sauron's Tower of Barad-dûr for seven years. During this time, Anárion was killed by a rock thrown from the Tower that broke his helm. The siege ended when Sauron himself emerged from Barad-dûr to fight the Alliance. Gil-galad and Elendil attacked and destroyed Sauron, though they themselves were slain the process.

Gondor in the Beginning of the Third Age

After the battle, during which the long Second Age came to an end, Isildur built a secret tomb for Elendil on the mountain that was afterwards called the Halifirien by the Rohirrim. He also aided Anárion's son Meneldil, who was now King, in reorganizing Gondor. Isildur planted the seedling of the White Tree that he had saved in Minas Anor, and it endured for several centuries. After these acts, Isildur left Gondor in the third year of the Third Age with the intent of ruling his father's kingdom of Arnor.

Gondor Prospers

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).

The Kin-strife

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 Northmen 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, in Third Age 1944.

The Line of the Kings Fails

Reunification Rejected

In 1944, Gondor also faced a constitutional crisis when King Ondoher was slain in a previous 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

The Oathtaking of Cirion and Eorl by Ted Nasmith
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 was the strongest of the free nations that opposed Sauron, and thus, its defeat was his primary strategic goal in the war. 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.

Regions of Gondor

Gondor was divided between several nearly autonomous regions. These were the following:

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 influence at certain times during the Third Age

Cities and fortresses of Gondor

Cities in Gondor included:

  • Calembel
  • Dol Amroth, a city on the coast of Belfalas
  • Erech, fortress of Gondor, abandoned by the end of the Third Age
  • Linhir
  • Minas Tirith (originally named 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
  • Pelargir, the great southern harbour, under the reign of Corsairs during the War of the Ring
  • Tarnost

Additionally, Gondor used the following locations as military strongholds at certain points in its history, many of which Mordor later took:

Etymology

Gondor means "Land of Stone", from the Sindarin words gond, "stone", and (n)dor, "land". The (generally not used) Quenya form of the name was Ondonórë. Gondor most likely received this title because its Kings often built great stone cities, statues, and monuments, such as Minas Tirith and the Argonath.