Gondor is the largest kingdom of men in the west of Middle-earth in Tolkien’s epic Lord of the Rings series, and the center of the military strength that will fight Sauron at the end of the Third Age.
Though it was front and center during the last book and movie, the kingdom of Gondor is much larger than what was shown in either, and has a diverse population and history that many fans don't know about. Minas Tirith, the splendid white city and capital, gets most of the attention but the lands are vast and its borders have been fought over for thousands of years.
The lands that would become known as Gondor were first settled sometime in the middle of the Second Age, and have long history of fighting from border skirmishes to full scale wars.
Because it has dealt with more war than most areas of Middle-earth, there is a strong sense of pride in the culture, as embodied by characters like Boromir and his father, Denethor.
However, this isn't the only thing that defines the kingdom. In fact, the "Land of Stone" is one of the most interesting places in all of Middle-earth.
From its humble beginnings to its quest to become the shield that guards the free people from evil, here are the 15 Things You Didn't Know About Lord Of The Rings' Gondor.
Gondor’s borders have expanded and contracted many times throughout its history, but it might surprise some to learn that one of Mordor’s major fortresses was once a part of Gondor.
When the brothers Isildur and Anarion founded Gondor, they established Minas Anor, later known as Minas Tirith, and Minas Ithil, which were sister cities that were designed to protect the realm from enemies.
After Sauron returned from the destruction of Numenor, he took the city by force and held it until the last alliance of elves and men defeated him and restored it to some semblance of what it was.
However, this was not to last, and in T.A 2002, the Nazgul staged a major offensive and retook the fortress for Sauron. Unable to take it back, Gondor was forced to watch it fall to shadow, and the Witch King of Angmar claimed it and renamed it Minas Morgul.
One of the main questions that surrounds the Lord of the Rings movies is why Gondor refused to help Rohan during the siege of Helm’s Deep. While the films were unable to show most of the recent fighting that Gondor had endured, many fans of the books knew that it was impossible for Gondor to aid them.
The the forces of Sauron and his allies were massive, and Gondor, already severely weakened, was already fighting on all fronts, including at the former capital of Osgiliath. The armies of Gondor were spread thin and thus it could not provide any extra forces to help Rohan.
Large forces were not possible to gather for their own defense, so there was no way for them to send a significant number to aid Rohan. Added to this was the insane and obstructive Denethor, who was ruling the lan at the time.
Even assuming that there was a competent leader as High Steward, Gondor’s back was against the wall and it couldn’t help if it wanted to.
Being the High Steward of Gondor is a great honor but also carries with it a burden-- the ruling Steward is not allowed to leave the realm or even take up arms in war. As a matter of practicality, this is wise because if the Stewards are in place to prevent internal power struggles, they must stay close to the kingdom.
At the same time, Gondor is a prideful nation and the idea of not being allowed to fight can feel unnecessary. The values of Gondor and the struggles of a Steward are best embodied by Denethor and Boromir.
Denethor knows that he’ll never be able to fight. Even before he was corrupted, he took his post with rueful acceptance. In contrast, Boromir, Gondor’s greatest warrior, wants Stewarts to be able to be Kings. He also wishes to use The Ring to Gondor’s advantage and believes that the army must take the fight to Mordor.
Boromir would have not made a good High Steward, and it stands to reason that many other Gondorians share his values. Indeed, the office of High Steward can come at a steep personal price.
The Return of the King ends with Aragorn taking the throne of Gondor. However, Tolkien had more history to write after the story finished as Gondor went into the Fourth Age, which started with Aragorn’s kingship.
The ancient enemies of Harad were finally brought to peace after Aragorn defeated them in battle, Umbar was annexed because their entire fleet was destroyed during the battle at Minas Tirith, and the Easterlings suffered heavy loses when their Orc allies fled in terror after Sauron’s death.
The southern lands of Gondor, which were formerly taken over during the great invasion of the Easterlings, were restored to the kingdom along with the wealth and power that went with them.
Mordor was utterly devastated, and it was unlikely that the region would ever recover. The period was not entirely without conflict, but no major threat remained and it was overall an era of peace.
In the early years before Gondor was formed, the inhabitants are thought to have been Druedain, a race of men. Short, disproportioned, and "ugly" by normal human standards, the Druedain were often persecuted by others and were believed to have been the first to cross the Anduin river and settle the lands of the White Mountains.
They were hunted almost constantly by the Easterlings and struggled to establish strongholds. They thus fled further west. There were a number of Druedain in Numenor who left the island before it was destroyed, returning to the lands of Middle-earth.
They were mostly contained to the Druadan Forest from the Second Age on, and provided aid to Rohan and fought off Orc armies in the Third Age. After Aragorn took the throne of Gondor, he officially granted the Druedain ownership of the forest, declaring that no one may enter with their expressed permission.
They chose to stay secluded-- they were never seen again, content to live apart from the rest of humanity.
Probably the most notable trait of Gondor, at least before the end of the series, is that it has no King. When a King dies, it naturally can take some time before a new one is chosen but in the case of Gondor it has been very long-- 25 generations to be exact.
Gondor is ruled by a line of Stewards in place of a King until he returns, whenever that may be. When the last King, Eanur, disappeared and was presumed dead, he had no children and the rule was passed to the Stewards temporarily, in case a legitimate claim was made by someone with enough support to disrupt the line.
In many other places, this would be a constant struggle, but Gondor culture and pride made it relatively safe from internal threats. When asked by Boromir how long it would be before a Steward can be King, Denethor replied “In Gondor, ten thousand years will not suffice.”
This was not the answer that the ambitious Boromir wanted to hear, but this truth was key to keeping Gondor united until the great war with Sauron.
Middle-earth doesn’t follow real world rules exactly, but Gondor does mirror a feudalistic societies that existed within medieval Europe. Although the capital of Minas Tirith is the focus in the last parts of the series, the lands of Gondor are vast.
Gondor totals over 700k square miles, which is comparable to the size of Mexico or Indonesia. As such, it is far too large to be ruled directly by the King or High Steward, so there are other high lords throughout the kingdom who have rule in their own territory, but still pay homage to the High Steward.
There are many major cities and fortress, including Calembel, Dol Amroth, and former capital Osgiliath. The borders have been contested countless times over the ages, so there are other regions and fortresses that fell or were reclaimed.
Just like real life fiefdom, the regions that are ruled by high lords are nearly autonomous, as is required to keep such a large nation from fracturing. After the fall of Sauron, Faramir was granted to new title Prince of Ithilien, which made him essentially a high lord of eastern Gondor.
The White Tree of Gondor may be a sad, withered thing during the Lord of the Rings series, but this tree has an incredibly history. The first tree was stolen by the legendary Isildur from the White Tree of Numenor, an act that nearly got him killed.
It was taken to Middle-earth and planted in Minas Ithil. After that, Sauron attacked and destroyed the city, but not before Isildur once again managed to escape the destruction with a sapling of the tree, this time plating it in Minas Anor (the original name of Minas Tirith).
This tree lived until the great plague hot Gondor. A third sapling was then planted after the death of Steward Belecthor II. This was the tree that is seen in the series at the end of the Third Age.
Its decline and state of decay is symbolic of the leadership of Gondor during this time, but after the War of The Ring, Aragorn found another sapling in the mountains above the city, restoring it to its former glory.
The fortress of Isengard, which movie fans may recognize as Saruman's stronghold, was once under the control of Gondor. The exact year of its construction is unknown, but most estimate that it was between S.A 3320 - 3430.
It is within the region of Calenardhon, which is rather remote and, after the Great Plague, became less and less important to Gondor. Unwisely, the kingdom more or less forgot about the sparsely populated area, and stopped sending emissaries.
Weakened and ripe for the taking, it was eventually overrun by Dunlendings and became openly hostile to nearby Rohan. As a strong fortress, it remained a threat to Rohan until Saruman volunteered to take it back and be the defender of the west, which was welcomed by the kings of both Rohan and Gondor.
Unbeknownst to them, this was a ploy by the White Wizard to increase his strength and establish a major military bastion for the upcoming War of The Ring.
Gondor as it is known today was founded by the members of the house of Elendil, elves who escaped the destruction of Numenor. The lands were already heavily populated due to the fertile climate and favorable geography, but the Elendil and Numenor refugees were greated as heroes when they arrived.
Among those who had already settled were a branch of Numenorean royalty who had accepted Elendil kingship. However, the lands south of the Anduin were inhabited by King’s men, known as "Black Numenoreans," who did not accept the rule outright, and thus the early years were mired in conflict.
The brothers Isildur and Anarion wasted no time in establishing unity, and they split off to contain the rebellion. Each of them took key regions of the land, raising the fortresses of Minas ithil and Minas Anor, respectively, which served to contain the internal strife and provide protection from Mordor and wild men.
Between the two cities, the brothers founded the first capital, Osgiliath, which they ruled together. These three cities also held the magical Palantir-- the seeing stones that allowed them to maintain contact with the other areas of the realm.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget just how much time passes in an age. These ages are extremely long, spanning over thousands of years, with empires rising and falling before they end.
Naturally, no land can go without conflict over this much time, and Gondor is no different. The age that is called the Golden Years was ruled over by four kings from the years T.A. 830-1149.
This happened during the first millennium of the Third Age, after Isildur cut The One Ring. This age saw Gondor greatly expand, especially along its southern and eastern borders.
In 933, Umbar, a stronghold of the rival Black Numenoreans, was taken by King Earnil. The stronghold was put under siege not long after by the Haradrim, but King Hyarmendacil I defeated them and the Kings of Harad submitted in one of Gondor’s greatest victories.
There were other victories during this time, but by the end of this age, Gondor had reached its peak in wealth and power, which would never be matched again.
The Golden Age of the four Ship Kings had been ushered in amid great conflict, but victory lead to centuries of peace because of Gondor’s military might. However, in the second millennium of the Third Age, three great calamities befell the kingdom-- The Kin Strife, The Great Plague, and the Invasion of the Wainriders.
The Kin Strife was a civil war that nearly tore Gondor apart permanently. Old royal blood was the catalyst, as the King of the time, who had mixed blood, was usurped by a military commander who ruled for ten years.
The Plague swept across Middle-earth and caused a large number of deaths. During this, the White Tree died, and the population declined so much that Gondor was left vulnerable to opposing forces.
The Wainriders (Easterlings) then staged a great invasion that resulted in the annihilation of the entire northern Gondor army. Gondor managed to recover, though, and eventually won the war, but the price was steep. The kingdom recovered but suffered residual effects from the Great Calamities, and as we see it in the end of the Third Age, it becomes a shadow of its former self.
Just like with any other major power, the reason why Gondor was able to exist across three ages was its military might. Going back to its formation, the heirs of Elendil were true masters of war, and were the remnants of great nations forged in conflict that was closely allied with elves.
As the years went on, Gondor developed a large, versatile army that was able to match and defeat almost any threat. The soldiers themselves, especially before the Great Plague, were large, strong, and well-trained.
They were always on the forefront of new war technology as well, able to stage and defend sieges by both land and sea. Their cavalry, while not as large as Rohan’s, was still mighty and served as their vanguard.
They even developed a unit of special forces called the Rangers, who used stealth and guerilla tactics to gather intel and defy any threats where the conventional army didn’t have a strong presence. Gondor was never fully conquered, which is quite an amazing feat since it was the primary target for Harad, Easterlings, and Mordor.
Brothers Isildur and Anarion founded Gondor but they did not make Minas Tirith its capital. Instead, the capital was Osgiliath, which fans of the movies may know as the desolate ruin that was overrun by Sauron.
Minas Ithil and Minas Anor were splendid and designed to be bulwarks against threats in their regions, but Osgiliath was the true guardian city of the realm. It’s name means “fence around a star," which is fitting because it was of great strategic importance to everyone-- not just Gondor.
It sat at the major crossing point of the Anduin river, and no force hoping to conquer Gondor could hope to do so without taking Osgiliath first. It was the main defense against the forces of Mordor.
However, it was eventually overtaken-- the Kin Strife saw the city sacked and burned by the usurper. The Great Plague further ravaged the population and infrastructure, and the city began its true decline when it started to fall to ruin. The capital was then moved to the much more secure Minas Tirith.
Tolkien was clearly a writer who put great detail into his creations. He also drew inspiration from real world history to shape some of his stories. Gondor mirrors the Byzantine Empire in many ways.
For starters, Gondor was founded from the remnants of a former empire, just as Byzantium was of Rome. The geography also bears a resemblance, sitting around the Bay of Belfalas, which can be seen as a Middle-earth version of the Mediterranean.
Like Constantinople, Gondor faced threats from the east and south, and in time successfully assimilated several of the peoples around them, much like the Byzantines did with ethnic groups like the Slavs and Wends.
The empire that it came from, Arnor, fell to ruin just as Rome did, and Tolkien himself called Minas Tirith a “Byzantine city." Some other similarities include the beacon system to call for aid, as well as the legend of Emperor Constantine, who was believed to one day "return" and restore the empire to its full glory.
One of the only major differences was that Byzantium eventually fell to conquerors, whereas Gondor prospered after the great war.
Can you think of any other interesting facts about the Lord of the Rings' Gondor? Let us know in the comments!