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Military organization of Gondor

Aldarion

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This time, it is my own work:
https://militaryfantasy.home.blog/2019/08/06/military-organization-of-gondor/

I focused on Third Age Gondor, as that is the era which we know most about, and also because Gondor is based on Byzantine Empire - so once I established that, I could utilize my knowledge of Byzantine military organization to help understand and uncover that of Gondor. Aside from military organization, I also tried estimating numerical strength of Gondor's military.
 

Merroe

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May I congratulate you for your interesting reflections, Aldarion; I think that the subject is both interesting and significant to understand the key battle in LotR.

Allow me to say that to my feeling your main conclusion ("Total number of forces available to Gondor thus comes to 37000") is on the high side. I must admit that I did not investigate this in detail though, like you did, but there are others who made such estimates too.

I do not know if you have access to Karen Wynn Fonstad's book "The Atlas of Middle-Earth"? If you do, may I draw your attention to page 151 where she devotes almost an entire page doing the numerics on the battle of the Pelennor fields. Her conclusion is that Gondor's forces numbered in total some 11250 whereas Mordor had fielded minimum 45000, all confused. Clearly, her estimate and yours do not correspond but since KWF is no more, we won't know what she would have had to say about this.

There is also this old thread. It places the army of Gondor at around 20000-21000 although the analysis work seems a little more shallow when compared to yours and KWF's.

All said, I doubt if JRRT really had detailed military numbers in mind, except that the forces of Mordor vastly outnumbered Gondor's at the opening of the battle. That was also necessary since they had to assault an immensely fortified stronghold.
 

Aldarion

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May I congratulate you for your interesting reflections, Aldarion; I think that the subject is both interesting and significant to understand the key battle in LotR.

Allow me to say that to my feeling your main conclusion ("Total number of forces available to Gondor thus comes to 37000") is on the high side. I must admit that I did not investigate this in detail though, like you did, but there are others who made such estimates too.

I do not know if you have access to Karen Wynn Fonstad's book "The Atlas of Middle-Earth"? If you do, may I draw your attention to page 151 where she devotes almost an entire page doing the numerics on the battle of the Pelennor fields. Her conclusion is that Gondor's forces numbered in total some 11250 whereas Mordor had fielded minimum 45000, all confused. Clearly, her estimate and yours do not correspond but since KWF is no more, we won't know what she would have had to say about this.

There is also this old thread. It places the army of Gondor at around 20000-21000 although the analysis work seems a little more shallow when compared to yours and KWF's.

All said, I doubt if JRRT really had detailed military numbers in mind, except that the forces of Mordor vastly outnumbered Gondor's at the opening of the battle. That was also necessary since they had to assault an immensely fortified stronghold.
Karen's and my conclusions are actually not that contradictory. Her estimates are for the Battle of Pelennor fields only, whereas my estimate is for the total military force theoretically available to Gondor. It is clearly pointed in the text that entirety of Gondor's power could not have been mobilized for the battle - in fact, new reinforcements were coming in even as Aragorn was leaving with army towards the Black Gate. If you take another look at my article, my total estimate for Battle of Pelennor comes in at 14 000 (3 000 Minas Tirith original garrison, 3 000 initial reinforcements, 6 000 Rohirrim, >2 000 Aragorn's reinforcements). Karen's numbers are somewhat lower, at 11 250 (2 000 Minas Tirith original garrison, 2 800 initial reinforcements, 6 000 Rohirrim, 1 000 Aragorn's reinforcements). That is <25% difference, much less than differences in estimates for some historical battles. Assuming similar proportion of reinforcements, Gondor's total forces by using her numbers would come out as 20 000, compared to my estimate of 37 000. Personally, seeing how Rohan had at least 12 000 riders (likely more) before war with Saruman, and almost certainly significant infantry as well, I do not really see Gondor's military as being only 20 000 strong considering it is seen as much more dangerous power than Rohan by, well, everyone. Now, that again depends on size of the almost completely unknown infantry component of Rohirrim military, but fact is that Rohirrim - despite being "horse lords" - are almost certainly not nomadic society, and thus likely have significant number of foot soldiers. This OTOH is countered by the fact that Theoden stated how he "would not leave his forts completely undefended", which may point to conclusion that military of Rohan is indeed nearly wholly cavalry. EDIT: On the third hand (I've become a mutant), it is mentioned that Rohan had 12 000 riders some centuries before War of the Ring. Unfinished Tales, I think.

Regarding that thread, it bases estimate on Gondorian military strength on the fact that vanguard of medieval armies was generally 1/3 of total strength of the army. That may well be true for Gondor as well - when marching against vainriders, there is left wing, center and right wing. Yet the Center is implied to hold much more troops than either Left or Right wing, indicating perhaps that actual proportion is closer to that utilized by Byzantines of Komnenoi period. At Myriokephalon, Roman army was divided into vanguard, main division, right wing, left wing and the rear guard (plus siege and baggage trains). That is five divisions, which means that "7 000 scarcely more than vanguard" could indicate an army as large as 35 000.

I do not think Tolkien had detailed military numbers in mind either, but that is, in part, what makes it fun.
 

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