The One Ring

Gondor and Arnor= Rome???
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Author:  Spike117 [ Fri Oct 13, 2017 2:07 am ]
Post subject:  Gondor and Arnor= Rome???

I know the above is quite a stretch, but I think I can actually pull a lot of evidence that points to this. This uses both Tolkien's work and the film's portrayal, so it isn't foolproof, but I myself was surprised to see some striking similarities.

The first and biggest point of mine pertains to the split of Rome into the West and East. As you may know, Rome eventually decided to split in half while keeping ties with one another to better deal with the condition of the empire. And, Gondor and Arnor both were founded by the same people and maintained close ties.

Unfortunately for Rome, the Eastern Byzantines survived while Rome itself fell. Arnor, being actually the greater of the two just as West Rome was once all the empire was, eventually fell. What did West Rome fall to? Barbarians. What did Arnor fall to? Well Orcs and Wraiths... and the Men of Carn Dum who are potrayed as Barbarians. And just as on occasion the East attempted to support the West (such as under Justinian I), Gondor attempted to help Arnor (Earnur fighting in the Battle of Fornost).

Although the Byzantines enjoyed some prosperity, they too began to decline just as Gondor slowly lost its power; Byzantium was almost reduced to just Constantinople while Gondor was primarily just Minas Tirith along with a few fiefdoms. But like the Theodosian walls of Constantinople, Minas Tirith's first level had never been captured.

Who did Byzantium fight? The Persians, Turks, Mongols, Huns- all 'Eastern' cultures. Who did Gondor fight (other than Mordor)? Haradrim, Easterlings, Khand, Mahud- all at least loosely based off of Eastern cultures. The Haradrim and Easterlings especially are similar to the Ottomans and Sassanids the Byzantines fought so bitterly.

The similarities don't stop there. Although we know far less about Arnor's military, we can gather it was similar to Gondor's. Gondor's military is actually very similar to Byzantium/Rome. They both had very strong and famed navies, at least for awhile, and relied on border forces and bastions. Gondor's heavy infantry wear thick armor, carry large shields, and fight in formation- very Roman-esque. Although the Byzantines had less heavy infantry than their ancestors, they still made use of it as a core element and Gondor's is more medieval style, almost like a mix of Roman Legionnaire and Knight (Byzantium could be stylized as a medieval Rome). Gondor's heavy cavalry, despite their name of Knight, are very similar to Byzantine Kataphractori (Cataphracts). Byzantium and Rome relied on client states and mercenaries to bolster their forces, and Gondor relied on her fiefdoms for support. The Avenger Bolt Thrower (albeit a GW addition) clearly takes inspiration from the Roman Scorpion which the early Byzantines used as well.

As a nail in the coffin, Peter Jackson's architectural and cultural representation of Gondor appears to fall in line with Byzantium. Dome-shaped buildings, columns, and other elements are reminiscent of Constantinople. Their culture as traders, merchants, and soldiers fit in with the Byzantines, and their dynastic troubles (Kin-strife, Stewardship) can be somewhat mirrored by the Byzantines, who had plenty of civil trouble of their own.

Back to Arnor, their final split into 3 kingdoms reminds me somewhat of the divisions of the Italian peninsula towards the end of the Romans; also, the geographies of each kingdom I think fit their historical counterparts (maybe Arnor less so but still overall). And the wiki states that Gondor was at a latitude 'comparable to Venice' another point for the Roman theory.

What do you guys think? Did Tolkien and Jackson take inspiration from Rome for Gondor and Arnor? Or is it just coincidence?

Author:  jdizzy001 [ Fri Oct 13, 2017 5:13 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Gondor and Arnor= Rome???

Very clever. I've heard once that if you overlay a map of Europe over middle earth the location of some prominent cities line up.

Author:  polywags [ Mon Oct 23, 2017 10:14 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Gondor and Arnor= Rome???

Makes a lot of sense! What do you think about the north men and places like Laketown/Dale?

Author:  LordElrond [ Wed Oct 25, 2017 7:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Gondor and Arnor= Rome???

Very interesting and I think probably correct. Tolkien did indeed get lots of inspiration from history. :-)

Author:  werennor [ Thu Oct 26, 2017 7:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Gondor and Arnor= Rome???

o.k., there are similarities, but there at least two differences: the fiefdom system together with the ideal of knighthood in Gondor is different from Rome, and the important role of the church in the late Roman empire has no equivalent in Gondor.

I'm sure Rome has inspired the role of Gondor as a formerly great but now descending empire.

The Byzanthian cataphracts wore an overall armour , but no shield. Their weapons were spear and sword but also a bow. The knights of Gondor are more like mediaval knights, but I#m not so sure, if their look is from Tolkien or from the movies.

Author:  GreatKhanArtist [ Tue Nov 21, 2017 3:13 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Gondor and Arnor= Rome???

Actually, Lake Town was based on a civilization believed to have lived in cities on stilts in a lake in Switzerland. This has now been disproven--there never was such a civilization. Nevertheless, there are communities in S.E. Asia that do live this way.

Author:  LordElrond [ Mon Dec 18, 2017 1:23 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Gondor and Arnor= Rome???

Just for me to add: there’s nothing to say that Tolkien based each thing he wrote about on one source alone. Most and if not all are a combination of a mixture of historical and I biblical/mythical (are they the same thing?) sources and his own imagination.

Author:  Karak Norn Clansman [ Mon Apr 09, 2018 5:51 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Gondor and Arnor= Rome???

Yes, Gondor is Byzantium, namely the Roman empire surviving far into the middle ages. The parallels to history in Middle Earth are manifold, striking, and intentional. You will likewise see an ever-churning westward movement of migrating tribes such as Wainsriders, just as these kind of movements characterized Central Asia ever since the Huns and the first rise of the Turkic tribes up to the rise of Muscovy, with easterly tribes displacing Indo-European peoples as they went (Tajiks are Iranian Central Asians, and were always viewed as softer, richer city dwellers, too sophisticated for their own good by the warlike Turkic nomads).

Furthermore, the battle of Minas Tirith is based both upon the second siege of Vienna (with Rohirrim riders for Polish hussars) and upon the fall of Constantinople, with the hopelessly outnumbered Gondorians being the last depopulated remnants of a once vast and sprawling empire. Since the Lotr trilogy isn't grimdark Silmarillion, good wins the day when the cavalry arrive. In Silmarillion, things go to hell in a handbasket at the critical moment.

Likewise, Gondor was critically crippled by a plague, just as the Roman empire was twice: First the Antonine plague that severely weakened the classical Roman civilization, and later on the Justinian plague that kicked the legs out from under the blossoming Eastern Roman world.


Also, Mordor is modelled on the only country on Earth that is surrounded by mountains: Iran. With Gondor-Arnor versus Mordor standing in for the extremely long-running conflict between Persia and Rome.

It should be noted that the historical parallells don't stretch all the way. In Lotr there are no obvious equivalent to the Slavic ravages and settling of Pannonia, Thrace and Illyria, which saw northern tribes descend upon the Latin-speaking provincial population and virtually wipe it out, bar a few pockets remaining particularly in fortified coastal cities that maintained lines of communication to Constantinople (see Vlachs). In reality, the precarious situation of the Eastern Roman Empire was even more pressed from all quarters than you get the impression of Gondor being. If Tolkien had followed history closer, the Rohirrim and Dunlendings would have swept and ravaged what is now Rohan, and peopled it in fierce competition to Minas Tirith with all her holdings. There would have been wars upon wars between Rohan and Gondor, but this northern and western front is quiet in Middle Earth, unlike the real world where no quarter whatsoever was safe for the Byzantine realm.

If you find fantasy worlds vicious, then check out reality.


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