War of the Last Alliance
|Previous war: War of the Elves and Sauron|
|Next war: War of the Ring|
|War of the Last Alliance|
|Beginning: S.A. 3429||End: S.A. 3441|
|Place: Mordor and lower Anduin region|
|Outcome: Victory for the Last Alliance, fall of Sauron, loss of the One Ring|
|Major battles: Battle of Dagorlad, Siege of Barad-dûr|
The War of the Last Alliance was the war late in the Second Age in which the Last Alliance of Elves and Men marched against the fortress of Sauron, Barad-dûr in Mordor. Against all hope, they were victorious, but when the One Ring was not destroyed, Sauron rose again during the long years of the Third Age.
Sauron, hoping to attack the newly founded Númenórean exile states before they were solidly established, sent an expeditionary force under the Nazgûl to attack the city of Minas Ithil, seat of Isildur, conjoint ruler of the southern kingdom of Gondor. This attack, which occurred in S.A. 3429, surprised the southern Dúnedain, burned the White Tree and forced them out of the city. Isildur escaped the city's fall, and journeyed to Arnor to seek Elendil's assistance. His brother, Anárion, managed to hold a defensive line at Osgiliath and check Sauron's advance.
Isildur sailed to his father's capital of Annúminas in Arnor, and described the military situation to him in detail. After communicating with his ally Gil-galad, High King of the Noldor, the two High Kings decided to form a mighty combined force, known forever afterwards as the Last Alliance of Elves and Men. Gil-galad marched eastward, leading a host of Elves along with Círdan, Lord of the Falas.1Amon Sûl was built and manned. In 3431, this combined host rested at the Elven outpost of Rivendell, where they took counsel with Lord Elrond, who was Gil-galad's herald, and acted as his second-in-command in the coming campaign. After crossing the Misty Mountains, they were joined by Dwarves from Khazad-dûm, Elves from Greenwood the Great led by Oropher and his son Thranduil, and Lothlórien Elves under Amdír. As this host proceeded down the Anduin, they marched through desolate areas that had once been the Entwives' gardens. They, and probably the Entwives themselves, had been destroyed by Sauron to deprive Last Alliance forces of supplies.2
On the great plain near the Black Gate, the forces of the Last Alliance at last confronted the black legions of Mordor. Some border units from Gondor joined the army as it gathered on the battlefield, but one group of Men proved faithless. These were the Men of White Mountains, who dishonored their oath to Isildur to battle Sauron at his side. In response, Isildur cursed them to wander the Paths of the Dead until their oath was fulfilled-- which it was only 3,000 years later under King Elessar of Reunited Kingdom.
During preliminary skirmishing, Oropher and his Elves charged forward into the numerous Orc forces and suffered heavy casualties, including Oropher himself. Amdír and his forces also were forced away from the main battle into the marshes just to the south, where he also fell along with half of his troops. This area became known afterwards as the Dead Marshes, because of the thousands of bodies buried there. Sauron had many Men fighting for him, including legions of Haradrim led by Herumor and Fuinur, Black Númenóreans who worshiped Sauron before the Downfall of Númenor.2
The great battle proceeded like this:
- The Elven host and Númenóreans led by Gil-galad and Elendil meet up with Anárion's Dúnedain of Gondor on the Dagorlad Plain.
- They advance across the Plain toward the Black Gate.
- A vast horde of Orcs, hundreds of thousands strong, emerges from the Gate and seethes toward the combined host of the Last Alliance. Battle commences.
- After many weeks of hard fighting, the superior might and discipline of the Alliance drive the Orcs through the gate.
- Many more of the retreating Orcs are slain, and they are driven up against Mount Doom itself.
- Continuous volleys of arrows from the protected rear ranks of the Alliance take their toll upon the Orcs. Victory is at hand.3
This battle raged for days and nights continuously. But the Númenóreans were tall and strong, and the High Elves still a mighty people. Slowly they whittled down the vast numbers of Orcs and pushed them back towards the Black Gate.
The forces of the Last Alliance had forced their way through the Black Gate into Mordor itself. Victory seemed close, but no power short of the Valar could breach the Dark Tower by force. The siege went on year after year, from S.A 3434 to S.A. 3441. Isildur's sons, Aratan and Ciryon, were detached and sent to Cirith Ungol to guard against a breakout to the southwest, but his oldest son, Elendur served by his side till the end. Over these years there many skirmishes between Sauron and the besieging forces. Anárion was killed in S.A. 3440 by a projectile thrown from the tower.
Now the final stage of the struggle began, as the Dark Lord came out onto the field. Sauron emerged from his tower and took the offensive. He advanced to the core of the Alliance to do battle with the Last Alliance commanders, on the plain of Gorgoroth. This was one of the great showdowns of all Middle Earth history-- Sauron with his mighty mace versus Elendil with his great sword Narsil and Gil-galad wielding the legendary spear Aeglos. Swinging his mace, he cut through the kings' bodyguard. Gil-galad and Elendil then attacked the Dark Lord, but in the fight all three were struck down and Elendil and Gil-galad were slain. Elendil's heir Isildur rushed to his side to take up the royal sword, but as Elendil fell down on it, he shattered the great blade into three pieces. As Sauron reached to seize Isildur as well, the heir swung the sword hilt-shard and cut the One Ring from Sauron's hand. Without his connection to the Ring, Sauron's spirit fled and vanished. The armies of Mordor were left dispirited and leaderless, and were soon routed and destroyed by the Alliance forces.4
The Aftermath of the War
The Alliance pursued the Orcs, who were then in disarray, and killed them all. The Barad-dûr was leveled but its foundations remained behind. The thousands of dead Men and Elves were taken out of Mordor and buried in the Dagorlad Plain.
While he had captured the One Ring, Isildur refused Elrond and Círdan's entreaties that he destroy it by casting it into the Crack of Doom. The result of this was that while Sauron was defeated and cast down, his spirit was not destroyed. He hid himself in the dark lands east of Mordor, and slowly rebuilt his power. The Nine (Nazgûl) also bided their time for the day when he would rise again. The survivors of the Men who served him returned home and continued to trouble Gondor for much of the Third Age. These Men eventually grew to become such invaders as the Balchoth and the Wainriders.
While the Orc armies of Sauron had been well nigh destroyed in the War, scattered groups of them survived. In the Last Alliance, the casualties had been heavy. Elendil and Anárion were gone, and Gil-galad, last High King of the Noldor, was no more. Arnor took grievous losses, and suffered from a decline in population. It never really recovered as a major power, and broke into three pieces some centuries later. Gondor suffered less heavily, but also experienced civil strife in the Third Age. Isildur, the new High King of Arnor, perished only two years later in the Disaster of the Gladden Fields, along with his three older sons. They were ambushed by an Orc task force operating near the River Anduin. Much was lost, but Sauron was suppressed-- for a while.
- Last Alliance of Elves and Men (political information)