Skip to content

How Powerful Was Gondor At Its Height


Imrahil’s Statement

In Return of the King, Prince Imrahil notes that the 7 000 strong force would have been a “vanguard” of Gondor’s army in time of its greatest strength. This, in context, refers to field army only. To determine total manpower of Gondor’s armies at the time, some comparisons will need to be made; specifically with Byzantium as it serves the model for military organization of Gondor.

Byzantine armies were usually divided into five self-sufficient divisions: vanguard, right and left flank, main body and rear guard. These divisions were usually similar in strength and composition: each was meant to be self-sufficient. If 7 000 men were the vanguard of Gondor’s field army, then the whole field army must have numbered 35 000.

Further, military organization of Gondor is similar to that of Byzantine Empire during Middle Byzantine period, at least during early Fourth Millenium. If that was the case during its height, then estimate for a total manpower of Gondor can be made through comparison.

During tenth century, when theme system – which Gondor seems to be organized on – was still used, Byzantine Empire had a total of 250 000 men on the rolls. This enabled the Empire to put two armies in the field, each around 40 000 strong, with about a third of the troops being cavalry. This means that field armies (80 000) were 32% of total ground forces available.

Going from this, Gondor at its height had a single field army of 35 000 (or two of 17 500 each etc.), and combined ground forces numbered a total of 110 000 men. Further, Byzantine navy might have had 42 000 men and 300 warships, which would imply that Gondor had 18 500 men and 132 warships in the navy, for a total military establishment of 128 500. Of the ground forces of 110 000 men, maybe 33 000 will have been cavalry and the rest infantry.

Field army would imply a population of 5 280 000 at least, possibly up to 6 500 000, if military was based on thematic model. If, as is more likely, army was fully professional – similar in nature to army of Justinian (300 000 – 350 000 troops at 26 000 000 populace) – then population would have been between 8 200 000 and 9 500 000 people.

Conclusion: population between 8,2 and 9,5 million people, ground forces 110 000 (80 000 infantry, 30 000 cavalry), navy 132 ships

Territorial estimate

By population

Territory-wise, Gondor at its height included territory of Gondor during War of the Ring, and added to it Harondor, Umbar, Enedwaith, Calenadhorn, Gorgoroth, Dagorlad, and Wilderland. Minhiriath, Anduin Vale, Rhovanion, Nurn and near Harad were tributaries of Gondor.

Notes on population:

  • Minas Tirith by the time of War of the Ring had been seriously reduced in terms of population
  • while many areas of Gondor have professional armies (similar to Byzantine tagmata or themata), other have only militia (akin to Anglo-Saxon fyrd), indicating significant reduction in population. Thus population estimates would be as follows (2% of population in themes, 10% where peasants are used):
  • Minas Tirith – 2 500 city garrison; population 125 000
  • Lossarnach – 2 000 infantry with axes; population 100 000
  • Lebennin – 2 000 infantry; population 100 000
  • Ethir – 1 000 – 2 000 fishermen; population 20 000
  • Belfalas – 10 000 (3 000 knights, 7 000 men-at-arms); population 500 000
  • Anfalas – 3 000 civilian militia; population 30 000
  • Pinnath Gelin – 1 500 – 2 100 (presumed soldiers); population 100 000
  • Morthond – 2 500 bowmen; population 125 000
  • Lamedon – 500 hillmen; population 5 000
  • Ringlo – 1 500 infantry; population 75 000
  • Beacon Towers – 500 infantry; population 25 000

Population total is 1 205 000 people at the time of War of the Ring. At Gondor’s height, however, Minas Tirith may have had population of twice the one noted here, and Osgilliath would have had up to 500 000 inhabitants. Other regions would also have been much more populous. Potential guesses go:

  • Osgilliath – 500 000
    • used to be capital of Gondor, while Minas Tirith is its fortress
    • roughly similar to Constantinople at the height of its power in terms of role and geography
  • Minas Anor – 100 000
  • Minas Ithil – 100 000
  • Ithillien – 2 187 000
    • countryside of Minas Ithil and Osgilliath
    • assumption: 16% urbanization rate (akin to Byzantine Empire)
  • Anorien – 1 093 750
    • countryside of Minas Anor and Osgilliath
  • Lossarnach – 1 093 750
    • countryside of Minas Anor and Osgilliath
  • Lebennin – 1 000 000
    • contains Pelargir: a major port
  • Ethir – 100 000
  • Belfalas – 2 000 000
    • contains Dol Amroth and Edhellond
  • Anfalas – 2 000 000
    • always less densely populated than areas closer to Anduin
  • Pinnath Gelin – 500 000
  • Morthond – 100 000
  • Lamedon – 100 000
  • Ringlo – 100 000
  • Enedwaith – 100 000
    • VERY sparsely populated
  • Calenadhorn – 2 000 000
    • sparsely populated
  • Rhovanion – 2 000 000
    • sparsely populated

Population total is thus 15 075 000 people. As noted, army of Justinian had 300 000 – 350 000 troops at 26 000 000 populace. This population would thus imply army of 175 000 – 200 000 men.

Conclusion: population 15 million, ground forces 175 000, navy 210 ships

By army

This is essentially the previous, but it cuts out attempting to estimate population of each area. Therefore I will ignore irregular militia deployed by some armies. Relevant forces are thus:

  • Minas Tirith – 2 500 city garrison
  • Lossarnach – 2 000 infantry with axes
  • Lebennin – 2 000 infantry
  • Belfalas – 10 000 (3 000 knights, 7 000 men-at-arms)
  • Pinnath Gelin – 1 500 – 2 100 (presumed soldiers) – use 2 000
  • Morthond – 2 500 bowmen
  • Ringlo – 1 500 infantry
  • Beacon Towers – 500 infantry

Total is thus 23 000 soldiers.

Now, as noted before, these forces are significantly reduced from what Gondor could deploy at height. As such, forces will be increased:

  • Minas Tirith – 5 000 city garrison
  • Lossarnach – 4 000 infantry
  • Lebennin – 4 000 infantry
  • Belfalas – 10 000 (3 000 knights, 7 000 men-at-arms)
    • noted as being most populous region and may not have suffered significant population losses
  • Pinnath Gelin – 3 000
  • Morthond – 4 000
  • Ringlo – 3 000

Some areas may have deployed professional forces before, but I will assume that they were still lightly populated as they could not afford professional soldiers by the time of War of the Ring:

  • Anfalas – 2 000
  • Lamedon – 1 000

Now to areas that were completely abandoned by the time of War of the Ring:

  • Ithillien – 10 000
    • very large area and pleasant to live in, but close to Mordor
  • Anorien – 4 000
    • basically countryside of Minas Tirith, so likely less populated
  • Calenadhorn – 12 000
    • some six times as large as Anorien, but always very sparsely populated. Rohirrim could deploy up to 24 000 soldiers from it, but only 12 000 – 18 000 were professionals, and this is from population likely larger than Gondor’s population of Calenadhorn
  • Enedwaith – 10 000
    • likely very sparsely populated, even more so than Calenadhorn; yet had two important trading ports
  • Harondor – 10 000
    • open to attacks until Umbar and Harad were conquered, so likely lightly populated
  • Umbar – 24 000
    • important port commanding very large area, likely larger and more densely populated than Calenadhorn; very loyal until Kin-Strife
  • Dagorland and South Rhovanion – 6 000
    • likely very sparsely populated

Armed forces total is 112 000 regular soldiers, implying population of 8 320 000 – 9 700 000.

Tributaries are even more questionable. Those of Harad were, together with Umbar, able to challenge Gondor; Haradrim principalities have 2 – 4 times the territory of Umbar. Northern ones however were much weaker, yet could house an army.

  • Harad – 50 000 – 100 000
  • Valley of Anduin and Rhovanion – 30 000

As such, Gondor and its tributaries may have been able to field a total of 192 000 – 242 000 troops.

Conclusion: population 8,32 – 9,7 million people, ground forces 112 000, 134 ships; allies 80 000 – 130 000 troops

Conclusions

Gondor at its peak had population of 8 to 10 million people, army of around 110 000 – 115 000 and navy of some 130 – 140 ships. Allies may have provided additional 80 000 – 130 000 troops.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: