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Old 04-15-2009, 04:25 PM   #1
The Mouth of Sauron
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Garrison for the Rammas Echor

By my reckoning the Rammas Echor outer wall protecting the Pelennor must have been at least 30 miles long.

Did Gondor have any hope, at the time of the War of the Ring, of providing a garrison to cover the entire length of this fortification ?
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Old 04-15-2009, 06:15 PM   #2
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The answer partially depends on whether the garrison in question would be expected to totally stop invaders for an extended period of time, or simply slow them down while taking toll of them. If the former, I doubt Gondor alone could have managed it without leaving the City defenseless.

Quote:
Yet (Minas Tirith) was in truth falling year by year into decay; and already it lacked half the men that could have dwelt at ease there.
ROTK Minas Tirith

So it appears Minas Tirith did not have the manpower on its own.

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And that was all, less than three thousands full told. No more would come.
ROTK Minas Tirith

The outlying fiefs could initially only supply that small number. Once the southern areas were freed from the threat of the Corsairs, that enabled them to come to the defense and fully man the City, but I don't think they could have done that and guarded a thirty mile long wall at the same time.

With the additional forces of the Rohirrim the Rammas could probably have been garrisoned completely, but in the end I don't see them holding the line indefinitely against Sauron.
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Old 04-15-2009, 10:02 PM   #3
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Even with the addition of the Rohirrim I don't think 30 miles of walls could have been fully garrisoned.

That wall wasn't a good idea to my mind...not that in the event it mattered as Gondor lost it so quickly.
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Old 04-16-2009, 12:22 AM   #4
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Rammas was not a good idea, I think so too.

Gondor's natural defence line against Mordor was the Anduin. It would have been simpler and much more efficient to guard the bridges and crossings better - to build a new fortress in the ruins of Osgiliath by the Bridge, maybe a strong fortification on the East bank as well.

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Old 04-16-2009, 03:15 AM   #5
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I think that the Rammas was partly symbolic, but also it would have been considered necessary to guard the farmlands and settlements outside of Minas Tirith itself. Had the Rammas not existed then small parties of orcs could have been constantly raiding the farms, burning crops and playing havoc with the city's food supply (as well as lowering morale) for years before the War of the Ring.

Of course there wouldn't have enough men to man all 30 miles of it - but then enemy forces couldn't have attacked the entire length of the wall all at once. You would just apply defenders to where they were needed.

I think Tolkien may also have been inspired by real life fortifications - the Great Wall of China (which is thousands of miles long), Hadrian's Wall - and in the twentieth century The Maginot Line which was supposed to protect France from invasion by Germany.
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Old 04-16-2009, 07:48 AM   #6
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I think that the Rammas was partly symbolic
I agree with you there.

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Had the Rammas not existed then small parties of orcs could have been constantly raiding the farms, burning crops and playing havoc with the city's food supply (as well as lowering morale) for years before the War of the Ring.
This is also true, but I don't think the wall was the correct tactical or strategic answer to these problems. I think Gordis is more on the money.

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I think Tolkien may also have been inspired by real life fortifications - the Great Wall of China (which is thousands of miles long), Hadrian's Wall - and in the twentieth century The Maginot Line which was supposed to protect France from invasion by Germany.
Possibly...although its almost inevitable that somebody point out that none of those worked out very well.
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Old 04-16-2009, 10:29 AM   #7
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Walls were indeed efficient against raiders - but not against a huge advancing army. I understand why the Rammas had been built initially, but repairing and strengthening the wall in 3018-3019 was nothing but a waste of time and effort.

Also consider that if the Enemy hadn't destroyed the north-western part of Rammas Echor, but fortified and manned (orc-ed) it instead, the advance of the Rohirrim cavalry would have been stopped.

It looks like Rammas had been built after 2901
Quote:
Gandalf passed now into the wide land beyond the Rammas Echor. So the men of Gondor called the out wall that they had built with great labour, after Ithilien fell under the shadow of their Enemy.LOTR, Minas Tirith
Quote:
2901. Most of the remaining inhabitants of Ithilien desert it owing to the attacks of Uruks of Mordor. The secret refuge of Henneth Annűn is built- TY
Likely when Rammas had been completed, the Gondorians deemed it safe to rebuild the Bridge of Osgiliath (in ruins since 2475):
Quote:
Yet we won [Osgiliath] back in the days of the youth of Denethor: not to dwell in, but to hold as an outpost, and to rebuild the bridge for the passage of our arms.- LOTR, Minas Tirith
Denethor was born in 2930. The bridge was likely built before 2951, the year when Sauron declared himself openly in Mordor, after that it would have been utter foolishness.

As it was, they now got the Bridge leading into the abandoned Ithilien (built a bridge for Sauron, so to say) and the Rammas that couldn't really guard Minas Tirith. Not too smart, precious...
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Old 04-16-2009, 12:52 PM   #8
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Hi all,

nice topic, agree with P-of-the-H points regarding protecting the farmland from small raiding parties etc but not useful versus a serious army.

Nobody has mentioned the Causeway Forts, admittedly we don't see much of them but they appear to be at the point the causeway from Osgiliath enters the Rammas, which is sensible. That's the outwork that Faramir nearly died defending. Of course they weren't much use against the whole army of Morgul but would presumably have been useful in keeping out medium-sized attacks from Osgiliath.

Maybe the Rammas was not only symbolic of defiance but also symbolised safety to the husbandmen of Gondor, in that they could safely farm within the circuit (no matter how illusory this safety turned out to be!).
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Old 04-16-2009, 03:30 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Rumil View Post

Maybe the Rammas was not only symbolic of defiance but also symbolised safety to the husbandmen of Gondor, in that they could safely farm within the circuit (no matter how illusory this safety turned out to be!).
Yes I agree Rumil. I think that's a major reason as to why it was built - to keep the husbandmen happy. I imagine that no one wanted to think that the attack would be on the scale it turned out to be!
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Old 04-16-2009, 06:55 PM   #10
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There are other reasons to build a wall, right? Wolves, theives, skirmishes, raiding parties. People build walls, or fences, around simple gardens just to keep out the deer (ahem-- eight feet high, precious.)

As the darkness outside slowly thickened, building a wall probably seemed more reasonable than not having one. If you have a wall, then people know where to gather. If a raiding party of orcs lumbers over the horizon, the watchman blows a horn and we swap the pitchforks for the bows kept at the wall. Archers on the wall should do more damage and take less casualties, than a raggletag bunch of farmers with pitchforks, or shepherds with crooks.

I imagine the walls served their purpose more than once, before the War of the Ring erupted. Pelennor would not have been so green, I think, without the wall.
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Old 04-16-2009, 07:38 PM   #11
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As it was, they now got the Bridge leading into the abandoned Ithilien (built a bridge for Sauron, so to say) and the Rammas that couldn't really guard Minas Tirith. Not too smart, precious...
-Gordis
I think that's a slight misrepresentation of Gondor's strategy. In June 3018, Sauron drove Gondor out of Ithilien and they held Osgiliath as long as possible:
Quote:
...But this very year, in the days of June, sudden war came upon us out of Mordor, and we were swept away.
...
Some said that it could be seen, like a great black horseman, a dark shadow under the moon. Wherever he came madness filled our foes, but fear bell on our boldest, so that horse and man gave way and fled. Only a remnant of our eastern force came back, destroying the last bridge that still stood amid the ruins of Osgiliath.
-The Council of Elrond
It's not like they just rebuilt a bridge so Sauron could have a free pass until he runs into a wall - a wall that was "useless." There were several levels of defense.

They held Osgiliath as long as possible, and wisely destroyed all the bridges. When Sauron decides he can and will cross, the Rammas Echor is just another significant obstacle for Sauron to get through. If anything Gandalf criticized Denethor for not finishing the wall soon enough and not calling in the armies sooner:
Quote:
'Because I come seldom but when my help is needed,' answered Gandalf. 'And as for counsel, to you I would say that you are over-late in repairing the wall of the Pelennor. Courage will now be your best defence against the storm that is at hand - that and such hope as I bring. For not all the tidings that I bring are evil. But leave your trowels and sharpen your swords!'
-Minas Tirith
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Old 04-16-2009, 07:39 PM   #12
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While I agree with the symbolic significance of the wall...and its usefulness against raiders and such like...but I have to ask if it was all that useful why was the wall described as "partly ruinous" mere days before Sauron's onslaught?

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Old 04-16-2009, 11:55 PM   #13
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I think that's a slight misrepresentation of Gondor's strategy. In June 3018, Sauron drove Gondor out of Ithilien and they held Osgiliath as long as possible:
No, Kent, I believe you have misunderstood me. I was speaking not of 3018, but of the time when the Bridge had been rebuilt.

Let me explain again. The exact quotes are in my previous post.

We know that the Rammas was built after Gondor had lost Ithilien (my first quote). It couldn't have happened in 3018, as you say - by this time Ithilien was already long lost (except for the secret Henneth Annun) and the Rammas was already old and ruined and needed repairs.
According to the Tale of Years "Most of the remaining inhabitants of Ithilien desert it " in 2901. I think the Rammas was built then.

The bridge over the Anduin had been destroyed in 2475 (TY) and rebuilt "in the days of the youth of Denethor"(LOTR text). That would be 2930-2950. I think if the Rammas had been started in 2901, it would be completed around 2030-2040 - at the same time when the Bridge was rebuilt.
I think these events were linked: the Gondorians thought it safe to rebuild the Bridge because they now had the Rammas.
I may be wrong, but the dates seem to fit and there is some logic here.

Note that all these building projects happened BEFORE Sauron returned and declared himself officially in Mordor (2951). Before that, when only the Nazgul in Minas Morgul opposed Gondor, the war was slowly smoldering, but never any large-scale assault on Minas Tirith from Minas Morgul had been attempted.

Quote:
It's not like they just rebuilt a bridge so Sauron could have a free pass until he runs into a wall - a wall that was "useless." There were several levels of defense.
It was not their intention, certainly - but when Sauron returned shortly after the bridge had been completed they must have realised their mistake. Yet they left the Bridge standing.

Quote:
They held Osgiliath as long as possible, and wisely destroyed all the bridges. When Sauron decides he can and will cross, the Rammas Echor is just another significant obstacle for Sauron to get through.
Now what happened in June 3018? Sauron sent the Witch-King to attack the bridge of Osgiliath - and the bridge was obviously taken and held for some time (that enabled the Nazgul to cross the river.) Later, when the nazgul were gone and Mordor's objective accomplished, Gondor was able to rally and destroy the Bridge.

It was very fortunate for Gondor that this time Sauron employed only a fraction of his force without intention to attack Minas Tirith straight away with all his might. If he made his major stroke in June 3018, the Gondorians wouldn't have been able to destroy the bridge and Mordor's army would have been at the Gates of Minas Tirith very fast. The city would have likely been taken before the aid from Rohan could arrive.

Quote:
If anything Gandalf criticized Denethor for not finishing the wall soon enough and not calling in the armies sooner:
I think Gandalf meant that now Denethor was only wasting time and effort on the Rammas. Rammas wouldn't help him now.
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Old 04-17-2009, 02:08 AM   #14
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Is it not always the case, that a outerdefense is supposed to be attackable to a greater degree then the main defense?

The Pelenor was not supposed to fend of a fullscale attack for ever. For that task Minas Tirith had a Wall. It was supposed to hold an enmy from some time and let the attacker pay for the crossing in greater numbers then the defenders to hold it that time. And in addition it was usefull in any smaller attacks.

When we consider how time critical the defense of Minas Tirith became in the end, I can only say that the hours that Faramir gained, saved the city.

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Old 04-18-2009, 07:28 AM   #15
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With respect to he Rammas, the use of walls as a means of defense was a traditional tactic throughout history. The distance between the Rammas and the city is very unusual, but the sheer size of the Rammas is in keeping with the monolithic construction typical to Gondorians. I agree with Mark that the primary purpose was not (or should not have been) defense against invasion, but rather more generalized protection. I also agree that to attempt to hold the Rammas against Sauron's army was folly. It is not defensible in that sense.

The timing of the rebuilding of the bridge and its correspondence with the construction of the Rammas was likely coincidence. If the Rammas was intended as defense against invasion, which it probably wasn't, the reason was the fact that Gondor's population had fallen to the point where it needed something other than manpower to help. Becuase I believe that the people of Gondor did not have any confidence in the Rammas as a true mechanism of defense, I similarly do not believe that the rebuilding of the bridge was the product of such confidence. The bridge of Osgiliath was not directly defense-related. Rather it served the need to provide necessary and easy access to the east bank of Anduin for the citizens and military of Gondor.

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Old 04-18-2009, 09:26 AM   #16
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This might be a question worthy of its own thread...

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Gondor's population had fallen to the point where it needed something other than manpower to help
Was the population of Gondor as a whole reduced to such levels or was it mainly in the regions around Minas Tirith that suffered the most depopulation?

I was always sort of under the impression that the population of Gondor was more concentrated in the hinterlands and the Numenorian lineages (which would naturally have been concentrated around the centers of power) were the ones that were dying out.
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Old 04-18-2009, 09:40 AM   #17
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Originally Posted by Kuruharan View Post
This might be a question worthy of its own thread...

Was the population of Gondor as a whole reduced to such levels or was it mainly in the regions around Minas Tirith that suffered the most depopulation?

I was always sort of under the impression that the population of Gondor was more concentrated in the hinterlands and the Numenorian lineages (which would naturally have been concentrated around the centers of power) were the ones that were dying out.
I think Gondor as a whole had not suffered a decrease in population: it were mainly the lands bordering on Mordor: Ithilien (first and foremost), Anorien and Minas Tirith.
It seems people who had means to do so progressively abandoned Minas Tirith to settle on the other side of the mountains, in south-western Gondor. It was far more pleasant (ah, roses of Imloth Melui!) and peaceful land.
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Old 04-18-2009, 04:46 PM   #18
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Was the population of Gondor as a whole reduced to such levels or was it mainly in the regions around Minas Tirith that suffered the most depopulation?
Fine question Kuruharan and well met Gordis!

I will assume the construction of the Rammas to be after 2901 per your post, Gordis. The War of the Ring was 3019. By 3019, Minas Tirith was perhaps at 1/2 occupancy based upon the descriptions in LoTR. What about the rest of Gondor?

Let's see... (gotta love them appendices). During the reign of Telemnar (1636) we have the Great Plague then the Wainriders invade in 1851 (during which time Gondor loses its eastern territories. Minas Ithil is beseiged in 2000. In 2475 the attacks of Mordor upon Gondor are renewed and Osgiliath is ruined. In 2758 the Corsairs again attack Gondor. In 2901 most remaining inhabitants of Ithilien abandon that land under heavier attacks from Mordor. In preparation for the siege of Minas Tirith, troops from the outlying lands of Gondor are summoned and march into the City under Pippin's watchful eye, "but always too few, always less than hope looked for or need asked."

Yes, the outlying lands had to prepare for attack as well, but Gondor clearly had undergone a great reduction in population over the centuries. Clearly the Numenoreans themselves were affected the most, but I doubt it could be said that the fading of Gondor was limited to Minas Tirith. And most of the diminution in population seems to result from events at or prior to 2901 when Gordis believes the Rammas was begun.
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Old 07-19-2014, 02:53 PM   #19
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The Rammas Echor was built with "great labour" after "Ithilien fell under the shadow" of the Enemy. BTW: "Shadow" doesnt necessarily have to mean "Loss of Ithilien" or even "Attack", it could also mean that Ithilian was (or felt) threatened (Ithilien was under threat during the Wainrider-Wars!).
Because of the massive scope of the wall and the fact that it was crumbling in some parts before the war of the Ring i think that it was built rather earlier than later in the history of Gondor, when that country was still somewhat strong and in a position to plan and build architectural structures of near numenorean proportions. The earliest date would be III 2002 after the fall of Minas Ithil, the King probably thought it would be good for morale. However i think the likeliest date would be sometime after 2475 when the black uruks first appeared and swiftly conquered Ithilien and (East)Osgiliath. This sudden crushing defeat after over four-hundred years of peace must have come as quite a shock: a massive victorious army was at the doorsteps of the capital and a wall around the surroundings and farmlands of Minas Tirith might have been necessary to stop Raiding Bands and Scouts and to at least delay a potential invading army. Gondor also didnt win back Ithilien overnight but fought a long war to reconquer the country, and even after the final victory ithilien was certainly far from completely safe. Maybe the now deserted Osgiliath provided the building material for the wall (that would explain how an already decaying Gondor could build such a massive structure)?
Gondor was modeled after the Byzantine Empire and we have a Real-World version of the Rammas in the Anastasian Wall ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anastasian_Wall ), a large wall several kilometers west of Constantinopel built in the 6th. century by an Empire in Crisis for pretty much the same reasons as the Rammas: to deter the barbarians, to deflect small incursions and to at least delay large armies with siege equipment till the defense of the capital was ready.

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Old 09-03-2014, 05:08 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by denethorthefirst View Post
The Rammas Echor was built with "great labour" after "Ithilien fell under the shadow" of the Enemy. BTW: "Shadow" doesnt necessarily have to mean "Loss of Ithilien" or even "Attack", it could also mean that Ithilian was (or felt) threatened (Ithilien was under threat during the Wainrider-Wars!).
Because of the massive scope of the wall and the fact that it was crumbling in some parts before the war of the Ring i think that it was built rather earlier than later in the history of Gondor, when that country was still somewhat strong and in a position to plan and build architectural structures of near numenorean proportions. The earliest date would be III 2002 after the fall of Minas Ithil, the King probably thought it would be good for morale. However i think the likeliest date would be sometime after 2475 when the black uruks first appeared and swiftly conquered Ithilien and (East)Osgiliath. This sudden crushing defeat after over four-hundred years of peace must have come as quite a shock: a massive victorious army was at the doorsteps of the capital and a wall around the surroundings and farmlands of Minas Tirith might have been necessary to stop Raiding Bands and Scouts and to at least delay a potential invading army. Gondor also didnt win back Ithilien overnight but fought a long war to reconquer the country, and even after the final victory ithilien was certainly far from completely safe. Maybe the now deserted Osgiliath provided the building material for the wall (that would explain how an already decaying Gondor could build such a massive structure)?
Gondor was modeled after the Byzantine Empire and we have a Real-World version of the Rammas in the Anastasian Wall ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anastasian_Wall ), a large wall several kilometers west of Constantinopel built in the 6th. century by an Empire in Crisis for pretty much the same reasons as the Rammas: to deter the barbarians, to deflect small incursions and to at least delay large armies with siege equipment till the defense of the capital was ready.

Interesting thoughts, denethorthefirst. There certainly seems to be a wide range of opinion as to when the Rammas was built. The earliest date, as you point out, would have been after the fall of Minas Ithil (2002). A popular date on this thread is 2901, but I have seen other sources suggesting as late as 2954. I have also read at the Encylopedia of Arda that Tolkien in his unused detailed index for LOTR said that it was built during Denethor's reign ... which would mean after 2984! Unless Tolkien meant Denethor I ... who was reigning in 2475 when Osgiliath fell. Actually, when you think about it, that makes a lot of sense.

The difficulty with the later dates (as you imply) is that parts of the wall were already falling into ruin by 3018. Another thing in favour of an earlier date is the amount of manpower required to build a 30 mile long wall (let alone man it). By 3018 we see that there is probably insufficient manpower to even attend to many of the ruined sections ... so would there really have been enough manpower to build the Rammas one hundred years earlier?

It does seem odd to think of the wall being partially ruined so soon after it was built, whether in 2901, 2954 or after 2984. On the other hand, if the wall was built shortly after 2475, then a partly ruined wall some 500 or so years later seems much more likely.

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Old 12-27-2014, 03:34 PM   #21
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The Great War of China, like Rammas Echor probs, had a certain symbolic value more than a physically defensive one. It said 'oh ye Wild Men, why bother trying to fight us when we are capable of building so amazing a structure'. Definitely a bit of power projection going on in such constructions.
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Old 12-30-2014, 02:06 PM   #22
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I had always assumed the reference was to the fall of Ithilien and East Osgiliath in Denethor I's time (although the EoA refernce to the Index I suspect has been garbled with DII's attempt belatedly to restore them).* Clearly the Rammas are some centuries old.

However, it's possible that they were even older, associated with the building of the beacon on Amon Din** and the fortification of Cair Andros, all the way back in the last days of the Kings, in which case the reference to Ithilien being under "shadow" would apply to the fall of Minas Ithil in 2000, or even the Wainrider/Harad alliance which nearly wrecked the kingdom in 1944.

Still, I think it is more likely that it was indeed the disaster of 2475 and the presence of the enemy in force just over the River, separated only by a bridge from MT's own townlands, which was the impetus for their fortification. It certainly can't be coincidence that the heaviest fortifications were devoted to the gate and causeway leading to Osgiliath- there was hardly a need so long as Osgiliath remained a fortress of Gondor.

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* For centuries it was thought that the wall built across northern Britain under Hadrian was the work of Septimus- since his inscriptions are all over it from the time he reconstructed it in stone ca. 200. Gildas was actually correct about the two walls and the identity of the Emperor who built the second, stone one- once you realize he wasn't talking about the Antonine wall at all, which he probably never heard of. The original construction under Hadrian was largely an earthwork (a fact not known until modern archaeology).

**Din was much older than the rest of the beacon-chain, which of course arose after the cession of Calenardhon to the Rohirrim. Din was built originally to relay communications between the City and Cair Andros.
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Last edited by William Cloud Hicklin; 12-30-2014 at 02:17 PM.
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