Minas Tirith

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The name Minas Tirith refers to more than one character, item or concept. For a list of other meanings, see Minas Tirith (disambiguation).
Minas Tirith
City
"The White City" by Ralph Damiani
General Information
Other namesMinas Anor
Mundburg
the Tower of Guard
the Guarded City
Tower of Anor
LocationEasternmost point of the White Mountains, close to Anduin
TypeCity
DescriptionWhite city of seven levels
People and History
InhabitantsGondorians
CreatedS.A. 3320[1]
EventsSiege of Minas Tirith
GalleryImages of Minas Tirith

But Minas Anor endured, and it was named anew Minas Tirith, the Tower of Guard; for there the kings caused to be built in the citadel a white tower, very tall and fair, and its eye was upon many lands. Proud still and strong was that city, and in it the White Tree still flowered for a while before the house of the Kings.

Minas Tirith (S. 'Tower of the Guard') was a city of Gondor, originally called Minas Anor. From T.A. 1640[2] onwards it was the capital of the South-kingdom and the seat of its Kings and ruling Stewards.

History

Minas Anor

The city of Minas Tirith was originally a fortress, Minas Anor (S. 'Tower of the Sun'), which was probably built after the founding of the realm of Gondor in S.A. 3320 before S.A. 3429.[1] It was the western counterpart to Minas Ithil (S. 'Tower of the Moon'): though was originally of less importance, and was built as a small fort on the summit of Amon Anor mostly to guard Rath Dínen, the Tombs of the Kings[3]. From Osgiliath the sons of Elendil jointly ruled the newly-founded South-kingdom, but Minas Anor was home to Anárion's House and Minas Ithil to Isildur's.[4] Therefore when the seven palantíri were divided amongst the Realms in Exile one was placed in Minas Anor.[5][6]

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,[1] 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. From this point the Kingship of Gondor belonged solely to the heirs of Anárion, who continued to rule from Osgiliath.[2][7]

In T.A. 420[2] Minas Anor was rebuilt by Ostoher, the seventh King of Gondor, and from his reign onwards the Kings removed there from Osgiliath in the summer.[5] 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, but the army of Castamir did not breach the walls of Minas Anor by force[note 1]. Its people resented Castamir's rule and were angered by his cruel treatment of Osgiliath, and it is likely that they sided with the forces of Eldacar when he returned from the north in T.A. 1447[8]. After the defeat of Castamir, Minas Anor gradually grew more prominent.

In T.A. 1636 Gondor was devastated by the Great Plague, leaving Osgiliath depopulated and falling into ruin. Telemnar was killed along with his children and many others of the Dúnedain, and the second White Tree died. Soon afterwards, his nephew Tarondor permanently moved the King's House to Minas Anor and planted the third White Tree (T.A. 1640).[5][2]

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.[2] 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'.[9] Soon after Eärnur, the last King of Gondor, was killed in the Morgul Vale, and the lordship of the South-kingdom passed to the Stewards.[5]

Minas Tirith

"Minas Tirith" by John Howe

Following a brief 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.[5] The Citadel was improved under Ecthelion I (T.A. 26852698),[5] who rebuilt the White Tower which afterwards bore his name.[2] However, the third 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. The dead tree was left standing in the Citadel.[5]

In the reign of Ecthelion II (T.A. 2953T.A. 2984)[5] 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.[5]

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 T.A. 3019 and on 12 March a company led by Faramir was forced to retreat from its defence of Osgiliath.[2] An effort was made to repair the Rammas Echor, but this came too late.[9] 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 ruling Steward, Denethor II, burned himself in despair.[10][11] 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.[12]

On 1 May T.A. 3019, returning with the victorious from the Battle of the Morannon, Aragorn was crowned on the plain outside Minas Tirith, and he entered the city as King Elessar. On 25 June he discovered a sapling of the line of Nimloth in a hidden hallow of Mount Mindolluin. This was planted in the Court of the Fountain – the fourth White Tree of Gondor.[13][2]

Fourth Age

Under King Elessar, Minas Tirith was restored and made more beautiful than ever before: the Great Gate was reforged of mithril and steel by the Dwarves of the Glittering Caves,[14] led by Gimli, the streets were paved with white marble and the city was filled with trees and fountains. Dwarves came to work in the city and Elves enjoyed coming to it.[15]

Geography

"Minas Tirith" (unfinished drawing) by J.R.R. Tolkien

At some point in the past, the city was considered to be part of the region of Anórien but was considered separate by the time of the War of the Ring.[16]

The city 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'.[9][17] It faced eastward towards Osgiliath, over the Pelennor Fields surrounding the city, fertile townlands stretching from the walls of the city proper to the Rammas Echor.[9]

The city was built on the hill with seven concentric tiers cut on the hill culminating in the Citadel at the summit, 700 feet above the plain below. The outer wall was called the City Wall and was black, of the same material used in Orthanc. The City Wall was vulnerable only to earthquakes capable of rending the ground where it stood.[9]

Each level was walled and held a gate with each gate faced a different direction: only the great gate and that of the seventh level faced east; the gate to the second level faced southeast, and that to the third faced northeast; so altering between the two such that the path up through the levels wound to and fro rather than following a straight line. An 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 First Level included the Rath Celerdain, a white paved street with an inn, the Old Guesthouse.

The Sixth Level contained stables for riders, and the Houses of Healing. There was also Fen Hollen, a door which was almost always closed, leading to Rath Dínen[9], the 'shoulder' of rock that joined the Hill to the main mass of Mount Mindolluin rose to the level of the fifth wall and was fortified with large ramparts, where the tombs of the Kings of Gondor and their Stewards lay. The uppermost tunnel was delved into the spur of rock that jutted out of the eastern face of the Hill; The keystone of its archway was carved with the head of a crowned King. Guards of the Citadel manned the Seventh Gate which faced eastward in line with the Great Gate 700 feet below and emerged into the Citadel, the city's strongest point, surrounded by high walls and battlements on the 'keel'.

The Citadel housed the Court of the Fountain and the Tower of Ecthelion, which brought the total height of the city to 1000 feet.[note 2] Before the Tower grew the White Tree in a court. There were also the King's House, lodgings for the Steward, Merethrond, barracks for the Guard of the Citadel, and other buildings for guests and other workers.

Etymology

Minas Tirith is a Sindarin name,[18] which means "Tower of Guard"[19] or "Tower of Watch"[18]. Paul Strack suggests that the name is a combination of minas ("tower", "fort", "city") and tirith ("watch", "ward", "guard").[20]

Other names

Minas Anor is a Sindarin name,[21] which means "Tower of the Sun"[22][23][24][25] or "Tower of the Setting Sun"[26][27]. Paul Strack suggests that the name is a combination of minas ("tower", "fort", "city") and anor ("sun").[21]

Mundburg is a Rohanese name, which means "Guardian-fortress".[28] It probably contains the Old English element mund, which means "protection".[29]

Minas Tirith was also referred to as the Tower of Guard[19][30][31][32][33][34], the Guarded City[35], and the Tower of Anor[36],

The names Stone-city and Stone-houses were used by the Drúedain.[37][38]

Inspiration

Minas Tirith's most obvious historical parallel is the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. Founded by the Roman emperor Constantine, Constantinople would eventually be one of the largest cities of its day and be a fortress under constant attack by its enemies. Similarly, Minas Tirith would become the chief fortification of Gondor in the latter days of its decline.

Like Minas Tirith, the Byzantine capital Constantinople sat near a strategic waterway (the Anduin to the Bay of Tolfalas in the case of Minas Tirith, the Bosporus Strait which divides the Mediterranean and Black Seas in the case of Constantinople) and was protected by massive walls that were virtually impregnable until the rise of effective gunpowder weapons in the real-world 15th century.[39]

J.R.R. Tolkien described Minas Tirith in a long letter to Milton Waldman, that was probably written in late 1951, as the "half-ruinous Byzantine City of Minas Tirith"[40] and that of Gondor in its history "fades slowly to decayed Middle-Age, a kind of proud, venerable, but increasingly impotent Byzantium".[41]

Portrayal in adaptations

Minas Tirith in adaptations
Minas Tirith in J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth
Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings Online
Minas Tirith in The Lord of the Rings Online  

1988: J.R.R. Tolkien's War in Middle Earth:

Minas Tirith is one of the many battlefields in this game. The city is brown, unlike the books in which it is white.

2001: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring:

The city appears briefly when Gandalf goes there to discern the identity of Bilbo's One Ring.

2002: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers:

Minas Tirith can be seen in the distance for a few seconds when Faramir takes Frodo, Sam and Gollum to Osgiliath.

2003: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King:

Tolkien's description of the physical layout of Minas Tirith is mostly adhered to in the film, although certain artistic liberties are taken, such as the Tower of Ecthelion being separate from the building which contains the throne room. Despite the description of Minas Tirith's Othram as a black, indestructible wall, Jackson depicted all of the walls as white, which crumble quickly under attack from Mordor's catapults. The city is also closer to the mountain than in Tolkien's description and sketches. In the film, the city is within clear sight of the mountains surrounding Mordor and the fires of Mount Doom - so much so, that in at least one night scene the light of Minas Morgul 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.
According to the "Making Of" featurettes on the Extended Edition DVDs, the appearance and structure of the city was based upon Mont Saint-Michel, France.
Portions of Minas Tirith were constructed as full-scale sets (built on the foundations of the disassembled Helm's Deep set), and the whole city as a highly detailed "bigature" by Weta Workshop combined with a detailed three-dimensional digital model, along with the whole of its surrounding environment.

2015: The Lord of the Rings Online:

Several different versions of the city exist in-game, separated chronologically: under the Dawnless Day, during the Siege of Gondor, after the Battle of the Pelennor Fields and during the Great Wedding of Aragorn and Arwen at Mid-year's Day. Each version is explorable and has a different set of quests. The Seven Tiers of the city have been given names: Worker's Tier, Soldier's Tier, Craftsmen's Tier, Player's Tier, Sages' Tier, Master's Tier and the Citadel. Large statues of every past King and Ruling Steward are placed across the city.

Notes

  1. When the Witch-king entered Minas Tirith, he rode "under the archway that no enemy ever yet had passed", meaning that Castamir's army could not have breached the gate. However, given that Castamir reigned for ten years, it is likely that they ceded to him in some other way.
  2. 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.

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Second Age"
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix B, "The Third Age"
  3. J.R.R. Tolkien, Carl F. Hostetter (ed.), The Nature of Middle-earth, "Part Three. The World, its Lands, and its Inhabitants: XVII. Silvan Elves and Silvan Elvish", Text 2, p. 365
  4. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 5.5 5.6 5.7 5.8 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A: Annals of the Kings and Rulers
  6. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Palantír".
  7. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Peoples of Middle-earth, "VII. The Heirs of Elendil"
  8. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "The Númenorean Kings", "Gondor and the Heirs of Anárion"
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 9.5 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Minas Tirith".
  10. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor"
  11. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Pyre of Denethor"
  12. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields"
  13. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King".
  14. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, Appendix A, "Durin's Folk", p. 1080
  15. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King", p. 968
  16. J.R.R. Tolkien, "Nomenclature of The Lord of the Rings" in Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, entry Sunlending, p. 776
  17. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The War of the Ring, "Part Three: Minas Tirith", "III. Minas Tirith".
  18. 18.0 18.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, "Words, Phrases and Passages in Various Tongues in The Lord of the Rings", in Parma Eldalamberon XVII (edited by Christopher Gilson), entry S Minas Tirith, p. 31
  19. 19.0 19.1 J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 245
  20. Paul Strack, "S. Minas Tirith loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 27 April 2023)
  21. 21.0 21.1 Paul Strack, "S. Minas Anor loc.", Eldamo - An Elvish Lexicon (accessed 27 April 2023)
  22. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Black Gate Opens", p. 884
  23. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King", p. 964
  24. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Index of Names", entry Minas Anor
  25. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), Unfinished Tales, Index, entry Minas Anor
  26. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Fellowship of the Ring, "The Council of Elrond", p. 244
  27. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Silmarillion, "Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age"
  28. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 400 citing from the entry Mundburg in the 1966 Index
  29. J.R.R. Tolkien, Christopher Tolkien (ed.), The Treason of Isengard, "XXVI. The King of the Golden Hall", note 7, p. 449
  30. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The Departure of Boromir", p. 414 and p. 418
  31. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Two Towers, "The King of the Golden Hall", pp. 516-7
  32. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor", p. 808
  33. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Black Gate Opens", p. 891
  34. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King", p. 963
  35. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "Minas Tirith", p. 751
  36. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Steward and the King", p. 963
  37. J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings, The Return of the King, "The Ride of the Rohirrim"
  38. Robert Foster, The Complete Guide to Middle-earth, p. 366
  39. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 570
  40. Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull (eds), The Lord of the Rings: A Reader's Companion, p. 746
  41. J.R.R. Tolkien; Humphrey Carpenter, Christopher Tolkien (eds.), The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, Letter 131, (undated, written late 1951)
Route of the Fellowship of the Ring
Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas
Rivendell · Eregion · Caradhras · Moria · Lothlórien · Caras Galadhon · Anduin · Parth Galen · Amon Hen · Eastemnet · Fangorn Forest · Rohan · Edoras · Hornburg · Isengard · Dunharrow · Paths of the Dead · Gondor · Hill of Erech · Lamedon · Linhir · Lebennin · Pelargir · Minas Tirith · Osgiliath · Cross-roads · Ithilien · Dagorlad · Black Gate · Field of Cormallen · Cair Andros · Gondor · Minas Tirith · Anórien · Rohan · Edoras · Isengard
Boromir
Rivendell · Eregion · Caradhras · Moria · Lothlórien · Caras Galadhon · Anduin · Parth Galen · Amon Hen
Frodo and Sam
Rivendell · Eregion · Caradhras · Moria · Lothlórien · Caras Galadhon · Anduin · Parth Galen · Amon Hen · Emyn Muil · Dead Marshes · Black Gate · Ithilien · Henneth Annûn · Cross-roads · Morgul Vale · Stairs of Cirith Ungol · Cirith Ungol · Shelob's Lair · Tower of Cirith Ungol · Mordor · Morgai · Plateau of Gorgoroth · Mount Doom · Field of Cormallen · Cair Andros · Gondor · Minas Tirith · Anórien · Rohan · Edoras · Isengard
Gandalf
Rivendell · Eregion · Caradhras · Moria · Celebdil† · Lothlórien · Fangorn Forest · Edoras · Hornburg · Isengard · Rohan · Anórien · Gondor · Minas Tirith · Osgiliath · Cross-roads · Ithilien · Dagorlad · Black Gate · Field of Cormallen · Cair Andros · Gondor · Minas Tirith · Anórien · Rohan · Edoras · Isengard
Merry
Rivendell · Eregion · Caradhras · Moria · Lothlórien · Caras Galadhon · Anduin · Parth Galen · Amon Hen · Emyn Muil · Eastemnet · Fangorn Forest · Wellinghall · Derndingle · Isengard · Hornburg · Dunharrow · Drúadan Forest · Gondor · Minas Tirith · Anórien · Rohan · Edoras · Isengard
Pippin
Rivendell · Eregion · Caradhras · Moria · Lothlórien · Caras Galadhon · Anduin · Amon Hen · Parth Galen · Emyn Muil · Eastemnet · Fangorn Forest · Wellinghall · Derndingle · Isengard · Rohan · Anórien · Gondor · Minas Tirith · Osgiliath · Cross-roads · Ithilien · Dagorlad · Black Gate · Field of Cormallen · Gondor · Cair Andros · Minas Tirith · Anórien · Rohan · Edoras · Isengard