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Old 09-02-2022, 09:39 AM   #1
Mithadan
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The Last Alliance and its Army

Considering that we will likely be seeing a portrayal of the army of the Last Alliance on Amazon at some point in the future, I began to ponder the (realistic) makeup of this army.

The Last Alliance of Elves and Men, which resulted in the overthrow of Sauron at the end of the Second Age, is treated summarily in LoTR, its appendices and the Tale of Years. The Alliance gathered together the peoples of the West, Elves, Men and Dwarves and others and sundry (The Last Alliance of Elves and Men is a bit of a misnomer) of all descriptions to assault Sauron's domain and lay siege to Barad-Dur.

Numenor's armaments were clearly extensive. Sauron's armies fled before Ar-Pharazon's armada in SA 3261. Having had tens of centuries to assemble his forces we can only guess at the size of Sauron's armies. AND he had the Ring. Numenor's armada and army must have been truly impressive.

But the Mannish forces available to fight as part of the Alliance were not Numenor's armada. Ar-Pharazon's fleet and forces, likely much expanded beyond even their size in SA 3261, were destroyed in the assault upon Valinor. Yes, Tolkien wrote that Numenor established outposts and ports in Middle Earth. Some were likely populated by the Faithful, who began fleeing into the East to escape Pharazon. Others were populated by Black Numenoreans and were likely under the sway of Sauron. And yes, the Numenoreans likely allied with local Men (but it seems that western Middle Earth was relatively sparsely populated by Men).

Elendil, Anarion and Isildur arrived in Middle-Earth in SA 3319. The Last Alliance was formed a mere eleven years later, in 3430. Certainly insufficient time to "breed" an army. Elendil had nine ships. The largest ships of the line during the Age of Sail, had crews of less than 1000 (the HMS Victory, concededly not the largest of that time, but large) crewed 600 to 850 men. Let's assume Numenorean ships were REALLY huge, having crews of up to 1500. What about women and children. Let's further assume that the 9 ships were stuffed with people, say 2000 per with 1/2 being women and children. That leaves 9000 men (not just warriors but men) to join up with such militias that the Numenorean outposts and their allies may have raised. So a Mannish army, gathered quickly, might number 30-40,000 at the end of the Second Age. But wait, some must stay behind to guard the towns and raise food (not only towns need to eat, but also armies). So let's say 25,000 Men march off. Candidly, I think this number is high. Moreover, only a fraction would be true military and bear arms and some semblance of gear (I will not reawaken the mail versus plate debate). Most will be non-military, hastily and perhaps poorly armed at best.

Dwarvish populations expand slowly. No doubt there were plenty of Dwarves in Khazad-Dum and the Blue Mountains (and likely elsewhere). Elves congregated in Lindon, Greenwood (later Mirkwood), and likely in Lothlorien (together with groups and companies wandering on their own). But Eregion had been destroyed. Nonetheless, the Elvish and Dwarvish populations of Middle-Earth had some 3000 years to grow from the end of the First Age.

Two observations. First, and this probably cannot be seriously debated, what we saw in the beginning of Jackson's LoTR and what we will likely see on Amazon, ranks upon ranks of tens of thousands of well (and identically) armed and armored soldiery is seriously inaccurate. Ignoring the numbers depicted, the gear is simply wrong. For every fully armed and armored Man, there would likely be four or five farmers, blacksmiths, coopers, lumberjacks, you name it. Perhaps the Elves and Dwarves might be better armed.

Second, it seems to me that Men might be the smallest component of the army of the Last Alliance, likely outnumbered by Elves and probably by Dwarves (and yes I recall that some Dwarves may have fought on the side of Sauron).

Your thoughts?
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Old 09-03-2022, 05:43 AM   #2
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A couple quick things, and perhaps it will jog some memories of where these references are...

I can't seem to recall where I read the quote, but it was said of The Last Alliance, that all races, creatures, and beasts enslaved fought in that war. So as you says Last Alliance of "Elves and Men" is a misnomer.

Also, because of the Peter Jackson movies, I think there is an impression that this was one massive battle fought and that was the end. The Last Alliance was formed in SA 3430. The Battle of Dagorlad is fought in 3434. Sauron's forces are defeated and Barad-dur is sieged for a further 7 years before Sauron comes out and defeats Elendil and Gil-galad, but perishes in the contest himself.

It is at the Battle of Dagorlad there is a mention of Oropher hastily leading his ill-equipped elves into a charge and the Greenwood elves taking the greatest losses. Oropher is slain and Thranduil leads the survivors back to the Greenwood.
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Old 09-03-2022, 08:51 AM   #3
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I was able to find the reference to all peoples and beasts during the Last Alliance:

Quote:
From Imladris they crossed the Misty Mountains by many passes and marched down the River Anduin, and so came at last upon the host of Sauron on Dagorlad, the Battle Plain, which lies before the gate of the Black Land. All living things were divided in that day, and some of every kind, even of beasts and birds, were found in either host, save the Elves only. They alone were undivided and followed Gil-galad. Of the Dwarves few fought upon either side; but the kindred of Durin of Moria fought against Sauron.~Of the Rings of Power and the Third Age
It could be Tolkien writing poetically when saying "All living things were divided in that day," but I think it's fair to say that yes the "Last Alliance of Elves and Men" is a misnomer, and only the Elves were undivided.

Editting because I don't want to triple post, but a few more quick things came to mind from finding the reference in Of The Rings of Power:

-The Elves were undivided, so they must have been the largest force at the Battle of Dagorlad. We know that Cirdan was present, Elrond was Gil-galad's 2nd in command, Amdir and Oropher had armies. Oropher unwilling to completely submit to Gil-galad's command hastily led an attack and the Silvan elves he led took the heaviest casualties.

-I would say Men likely made up more than dwarves, since Of the Rings of Power says "few dwarves fought upon either side." I'm not sure if it's known what other commanders of Men would be present, besides Elendil, Isildur, and Anarion. I would guess Isildur and Anarion led different forces from Elendil's. Isildur was the one who cursed the Men of Dunharrow when he summoned them to their oath, but they reneged.
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Old 09-03-2022, 01:46 PM   #4
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Gondor was already populous when the Exiles arrived; both Numenorean colonists in Belfalas and at Pelargir, and a substantial native folk, of whom the men of the Dwimorberg were only a portion; the Frodo-era men of Lebennin, Lossarnach etc etc etc were descended from Men who long predated the Numenoreans, and then there were the ancestors of the Dunlendings in Calenardhon. These, I am sure, made up a large part of the brothers' forces, perhaps even a majority (there couldn't have been all that many Faithful aboard their ships!)
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Old 09-08-2022, 07:07 PM   #5
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...or put on your armor.

Given the age of this forum, I'm a bit surprised that there hasn't been an in-depth treatment of this topic before.

This topic is complicated by our (relative...especially in terms of Western Europe) lack of primary world sources documenting the size of medieval armies.

I will also state at the top that one of my criticisms of Tolkien's writing is how underpopulated Middle earth is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mithadan View Post
Second, it seems to me that Men might be the smallest component of the army of the Last Alliance, likely outnumbered by Elves and probably by Dwarves (and yes I recall that some Dwarves may have fought on the side of Sauron).
-and-

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Gondor was already populous when the Exiles arrived; both Numenorean colonists in Belfalas and at Pelargir, and a substantial native folk, of whom the men of the Dwimorberg were only a portion; the Frodo-era men of Lebennin, Lossarnach etc etc etc were descended from Men who long predated the Numenoreans, and then there were the ancestors of the Dunlendings in Calenardhon. These, I am sure, made up a large part of the brothers' forces, perhaps even a majority (there couldn't have been all that many Faithful aboard their ships!)
Those who were Númenóreans du sang had to have been one of the smallest groups in the war. My thought is that the human forces, either Númenórean subordinates or allies, were probably either the largest or second largest total contingent. It is entirely plausible that the elves may have been the largest group, so we will say that they were for this post.

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Originally Posted by Boromir88 View Post
-I would say Men likely made up more than dwarves
I definitely agree with this.

Moving to concrete numbers, let us look at the few times in LotR where Tolkien gives us concrete(ish) numbers.

The first one is the number of Saruman's forces at the Battle of the Hornburg, which was approximately 10,000. They were faced initially by 2,000 Rohirrim defenders, with a reinforcement of 1,000 later on.

The next is the Rohirrim that set off with Théoden for the campaign, which was 6,000.

The southern fiefs stated presence at Minas Tirith was 2,000, although Tolkien states in the text that this was not the sum total provided.

Lastly, 7,000 left Minas Tirith with Aragorn. 1,000 of those were left to re-take Cair Andros. 6,000 Gondorians and Rohirrim faced at least 60,000 assorted Sauronic troops.

These numbers are probably significantly larger than most armies in Western Europe, and specifically in the British Isles, in the Early Middle Ages, very much the background of Middle earth. For example, the Great Heathen Army that conquered half of modern England and parts of modern Scotland in just a few years was probably in the low thousands at most. This begs an interesting question of setting, in a way. This is only about a tenth of the size of armies that were deployed by the Eastern Romans, Franks, Lombards, and Goths in Southern Europe at this time. It was also only about a tenth or less of the size of armies that the Eastern Romans, Sassanids, and various Muslim armies (Umayyads, Abbasids, Fatimids, etc.) deployed on their larger campaigns.

Given the slightly larger numbers stated in The Return of the King I think we can be comfortable doing this little numerical exploration without confining ourselves to a strict comparison to Early Middle Ages Western Europe.

However, something that I think we need to utilize to constrain our is the question of logistics.

Armies, even comparatively small ones, require large amounts of food and supplies to keep them running. This is accentuated by armies with a cavalry corps…which I’m not sure that we technically know that cavalry were present, but I think it is a safe assumption. This greatly limits the number of troops that can be congregated into an army at a single location for a long period of time and the number of troops that can be employed in a siege.

Given this, and the likely inability of the Last Alliance to live off the land (especially not for seven years), requiring a long supply line and the necessity of detachments to guard those lines probably reduces the number of potential combatants…or perhaps it increases it because of the need to expand the numbers to guard those supply lines? Also, unlike the Siege of Troy, the supplies had to be brought completely overland. (Probably just best to admit at this point that this whole episode is not one of the more plausible pieces of Tolkien’s writing…)

Of course, the other question is how did Sauron manage to feed his forces for seven years during the siege? Perhaps, due to lack of numbers, the Dark Tower was not completely cut off and provisions were able to still get in to some extent. The way it is described it implies that lack of supplies was what finally forced Sauron out to fight in the field again so a blockade of some sort of must have been effective in the end. Given the fact that the majority of the besieged Sauronic forces were orcs, cannibalism was probably employed, as it has been in sieges throughout history in the real world, although perhaps the orcs did it on a more systemic basis. However, at a certain point that does become self-defeating…and maybe that was the moment Sauron emerged.

Another question that must be considered is exactly how “splendid” armies in the First and Second Ages were compared to the stated numbers we have for the Third.

The War of Wrath is probably not a good reference point (did the Valar even need to feed their troops..? How were Morgoth’s armies fed..?)

The Second Age itself is probably best used as the point of comparison. Given the logistical challenges present I have a hard time believing that the raw numbers involved could have been much different between the Second and Third Ages. My supposition is that Sauron’s forces deserted him when faced with full Númenórean might not so much because of the numbers involved (because Sauron’s were probably more numerous) but because of the evident technological and tactical superiority of the Númenórean army.

So, what do I think the numbers looked like in the Battle of Dagorlad?

I’m going to start with the Sauronic forces because those are, in a way, easier.

Total: 100,000

Why 100,000 you ask? Well, it is a nice, round, large number. It also is a good bit larger than his inferred forces of 60,000+ at the Black Gates at the end of the Third Age. Also, at the Black Gates, Sauron did not have his full forces there. There were forces besieging Erebor, and attacking the Woodland Realm and Lorien. My belief is that Dagorlad was as complete a concentration of his combat power as was possible for him to achieve.

Orcs: 55,000
Evil Men: 40,000
Dwarves: 5,000 – this feels too large, but we will go with it.

I’m not going to count Wargs as a separate category as I’m going to infer that Wargs were the steed of the orcish cavalry and thus are counted under the orc total.

Last Alliance Total: 80,000

Elves: 40,000
Men: 30,000 – of these Men probably no more than 3-5,000 were proper Númenóreans and even that number feels a little high.
Dwarves: 10,000 – this number feels a little high to me too, but 5,000 feels too small. This was taking place not far from the Longbeard’s homeland and they were probably much more committed to this than the representatives of the distant eastern houses who were probably only there as the result of exorbitant bribery.

Siege of Barad-dûr

Sauron Total: 30,000

Seems plausible that Sauron would have lost half to two-thirds of his forces. The losses would have to be substantial and crippling to enable the Last Alliance to pursue into inhospitable country to set up a siege.

Last Alliance Total: 60,000

This is still pretty heavy losses for the victorious side, but the number may still be too high. I believe the Last Alliance had to outnumber the Sauronic forces by this point to at least some degree to be able to maintain anything approaching an effective siege.

Battle of Mount Doom

Sauron Total: 10,000
Last Alliance Total: 40,000

I think at this point the assumption should be that the Last Alliance substantially outnumbered the Sauronic forces due to canni...I mean attrition.
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Old 09-09-2022, 12:54 AM   #6
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Elendil, Anarion and Isildur arrived in Middle-Earth in SA 3319. The Last Alliance was formed a mere eleven years later, in 3430.
You've got your timespan wrong, it's one hundred and eleven years, not eleven. Still short by the standards of some parts of the chronologies, but ample to establish kingdoms and raise armies among a mixture of locals, settlers and exiles.
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Old 09-09-2022, 07:00 AM   #7
Mithadan
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Mhagain, you are correct about my "math," however, 111 years is not long for a Numenorean, perhaps one generation. And much of this time would have been consumed by establishing settlements, growing food and beginning the construction or Arnor and Gondor. Moreover, Sauron did not attack Gondor until 3429. While the Exiles would certainly have reason to establish a defensive militia, until Sauron acted, they would not have needed an army with offensive capabilities.

As Kuruharan discusses persuasively, an army requires logistics and support. More so here because, unlike Sauron's army that is sitting in or near Mordor, the Last Alliance must travel across Eriador and to the south. With Arnor and Gondor in their infancy, even assuming alliances with existing settlements, many Men would need to stay home to feed and support the army.
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