Gondorian Military Forces
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Within a century of Gondor's founding, it was put to a severe test during the War of the Last Alliance. In an alliance with Arnor and Elven forces from Lindon and Rhovanion, Gondor fought a series of battles against the forces of Sauron.
During the Third Age, Gondor's military prowess eventually declined. The major difference was the Gondorian soldiers themselves: although the soldiers would have proudly fought to the last man, they were never as strong as the warriors of the past especially by the second half of the Third Age. After the Great Plague and the Kin-strife, which left Gondor very weakened, many Númenóreans of pure blood had perished during those troublesome times. The Gondorian military wore chain-mail armour with helmets graven with a small silver star.
Traditionally, Gondor had a small cavalry force. In the last quarter of the Third Age, its close ally Rohan often supplied the bulk of its cavalry forces. This was true during the Wainrider/Balchoth War as well as during the War of the Ring. Before the Battle of Pelennor Fields, a mixed force of infantry and cavalry retreated from the Causeway Forts and Osgiliath to the citadel of Minas Tirith. Pursued by Orcs on the ground and Nazgûl from the sky, these forces were in great peril. Lord Denethor, Steward of Gondor, finally released a mounted counter-attack against them, which drove them back. Leading this attack was the Prince Imrahil of Dol Amroth and his mounted swan-knights. These men represented the elite cavalry force of Gondor.
The King's Ships constituted the sea-going defense forces of the Southern kingdom of Gondor. They were often in action against the forces of Umbar, as reavers would attack the coast of the South Kingdom.
Before the Downfall of Númenor, it had been known as a mighty sea power, the greatest that ever existed in Middle-earth. Previously they had sent great fleets, under Minastir, to the aid of Gil-galad against Sauron in the middle of the Second Age. Elendil and his sons, who founded Arnor and Gondor, were all great mariners; therefore, there was a long distinguished tradition of shipbuilding, sea exploration, and sea-power projection. By T.A. 830, the Captain of the Hosts Tarannon was engaged in heavy fleet building, and became know as the first of the Ship-kings of Gondor. These fleets were usually based at Pelargir, and sometimes Umbar.
During the Kin-strife, the Captain of Ships was Castamir who used his position to find supporters against the King. After the Kin-strife, the defeated rebels took refuge in Umbar, where they long troubled Gondor. Late in the Third Age, Thorongil (Aragorn II) led a Gondorian naval task force in a raid known as the Surprise Attack on Umbar. This was a successful raid that neutralized the Corsairs' naval power for decades, and reduced the southern pressure on Gondor at a time when its power was waning.
Soldiers fully trained and experienced had the title of ohtar 'warrior, soldier'. Some were admitted to the rank of roquen, "knight".
Several groups were armed men operating often behind enemy lines. Late in the Third Age, and the power of Mordor grew, Gondor withdrew most of its conventional forces from east of the Anduin, including North and South Ithilien. They did not abandon the area completely, however, and maintained a guerilla presence there, the Rangers of Ithilien. During the War of the Ring, this force was commanded by Faramir, son of Denethor II. They acted as a reconnaissance force, and often harassed Sauron's forces.
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "XVI. The New Shadow", p. 416, note 14
- J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion"
- J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, "The Disaster of the Gladden Fields", note 17.