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|Description||White city of seven levels|
|Other names||Minas Anor|
|Etymology||S. minas "tower" + tirith "guard"|
|Events||Siege of Minas Tirith|
Minas Tirith ("Tower of the Guard") is the capital city of Gondor.
The city of Minas Tirith was originally a fortress, Minas Anor (S. 'Tower of the Sun'), built by Anárion,[note 1] son of Elendil, in S.A. 3320. It was the western counterpart to Minas Ithil (S. 'Tower of the Moon'); the two towers flanked the city of Osgiliath, from which Anárion and his brother Isildur jointly ruled the newly-founded South-kingdom. When the seven palantíri rescued from Númenor were divided amongst the Realms in Exile, one was placed in Minas Anor.
Sauron attacked Gondor in S.A. 3429, taking Minas Ithil and forcing Isildur to flee north to his father in Arnor. Anárion meanwhile was besieged in Osgiliath and Minas Anor for five years, until he was relieved by the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. In T.A. 2 Isildur planted the second White Tree of Gondor in Minas Anor in memory of his brother, who had perished during the Siege of Barad-dûr.
In T.A. 420 Minas Anor was rebuilt by Ostoher, the seventh King of Gondor, and his from his reign onwards the Kings removed there from Osgiliath in the summer. It remained the second city of Gondor for the next thousand years as the Kingdom reached the height of its power under the Ship-kings, and then fell into its long decline. Osgiliath was burned and its palantír lost during the Kin-strife, and from this point Minas Anor gradually grew more prominent. In T.A. 1636 the old capital was devastated by the Great Plague, leaving it depopulated and falling into ruin. Soon after Tarondor permanently moved the King's House to Minas Anor.
For a short time under Tarandor and his heirs the decline of Gondor was slowed, although constant wars with various groups of Easterlings took their toll. In T.A. 1900 Calimehtar built the first White Tower in the Citadel of Minas Anor to house the city's palantír. Just over a century later, however, the kingdom was dealt a harsh blow. In T.A. 2002 Minas Ithil, where the guard on Mordor had long since slackened, was captured by the Nazgûl. It became known as Minas Morgul, and in turn Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith, 'Tower of the Guard' or the 'Guarded City'. Soon after Eärnil II, the last King of Gondor, was killed in the Morgul Vale, and the lordship of the South-kingdom passed to the Stewards.
Following a breath respite in the Watchful Peace, Gondor under the Stewards became increasingly beset by enemies: control of Ithilien and the ruined bridges of Osgiliath passed back and forth between Minas Tirith and Minas Morgul,the coastlands were raided by the Corsairs of Umbar, and Easterlings assailed them from the north. The Citadel was improved under Ecthelion I (T.A. 2685–2698), who rebuilt the White Tower which afterwards bore his name. But equally the White Tree died at the same time as the twenty-first Steward, Belecthor II, and this time a new seedling could not be found to replace it.
In the reign of Ecthelion II (T.A. 2953–2984) Minas Tirith was strengthened against Mordor, where Sauron had now declared himself openly. It was at this time that Aragorn the future King first came to the city under the name Thorongil, and did great deeds.
War of the Ring
- Main article: Battle of the Pelennor Fields
During the War of the Ring, the brunt of Mordor's assault on the Free Peoples was directed at Gondor and Minas Tirith. Cair Andros fell on 10 March 3019 and on 12 March a company led by Faramir was forced to retreat from its defence of Osgiliath. An effort was made to repair the Rammas Echor, but this came too late. With the crossings of Anduin taken the Pelennor was overrun, and Minas Tirith was besieged by a great army of Morgul orcs and Easterlings led by the Witch-king. The city was under-manned, and its defenders had little hope; on 15 March the Great Gate was breached and the last Steward, Denethor II, burned himself in despair. But Gandalf was also present, and rescuing Faramir from his father he took charge of the defence of Minas Tirith. The Rohirrim under Théoden also came unlooked for to the city's aid, and Aragorn led a force up the river from Pelargir. Seeing this Imrahil, Prince of Dol Amroth, led a sally from the city, and the three armies were able to break the siege in the decisive Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
On May 1, 3019, King Aragorn II's coronation took place on the plain outside Minas Tirith, he then entered the city as King.
Minas Tirith is known to stand firm well into the Fourth Age.
Minas Tirith was situated on the Hill of Guard – the "out-thrust knee" of Mount Mindolluin, connected to the main mass of the mountain by a narrow 'shoulder'. It was surrounded by the Pelennor Fields, fertile townlands stretching from the walls of the city proper to the Rammas Echor.
The city was built on seven levels cut into the hill. Each level had a wall and a gate, placed such that the path up through the levels wound to and fro rather than following a straight line. A outcropping of rock as high as the seventh level bisected all the lower levels except the lowest on the line of the Great Gate. The winding path through the city therefore passed through tunnels in this 'keel' five times. The uppermost tunnel emerged into the Citadel. The Citadel was the city's strongest point, rising seven hundred feet above the Great Gate and surrounded by high walls and battlements on the 'keel'. It housed the Court of the Fountain and the Tower of Ecthelion, which brought the total height of the city to one thousand feet.[note 2] The 'shoulder' of rock that joined the Hill of Guard to the main mass of Mount Mindolluin rose to the level of the fifth wall and was fortified with large ramparts. On it was Rath Dínen and the Hallows, where the tombs of the Kings and Stewards of the city were built.
Portrayal in adaptations
In Peter Jackson's The Return of the King, the walls of the city are defended by a battery of 100 trebuchets. These played a significant role in the siege in the movie, as they were responsible for destroying many orcs, siege towers and catapults. Sadly, a number of them were smashed to bits by fell beasts, but all were repaired in the end.
Tolkien's description of the physical layout of Minas Tirith is followed scrupulously in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King film, although there is no reason to suppose that the top of the rock is flattened and paved, and in the book it is not the location for the coronation of Aragorn which occurs on the Pelennor Field outside Minas Tirith, he then enters the city as King. In the film version it is within clear sight of the mountains surrounding Mordor and the fires of Mount Doom, so much that in at least one night scene the light of it shines on the faces of viewers from the city walls. However, in the books the mountains were far enough away that from the city they looked like a low dark shadow over the land far away. As well, in the book the populace was almost entirely evacuated before the battle. In the movie, the women and children remained, and many were slaughtered in the lower levels.
- ↑ "In Minas Ithil was the house of Isildur, and in Minas Anor the house of Anárion, but they shared the realm between them and their thrones were set side by side in the Great Hall of Osgiliath." – J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age".
- ↑ On the basis of this figure and unpublished sketches by Tolkien Karen Wynn Fonstad estimated the breadth of the city at 3100 feet in her Atlas.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A.
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Palantír".
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "The Heirs of Elendil"
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Minas Tirith".
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Pyre of Denethor"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields"
- ↑ J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Ring, "Part Three: Minas Tirith", "Minas Tirith".