Rhún and Harad, the East and South of Middle-earth, not only geographically stayed outside of the West's sight. These regions had never been of concern to the Elves whose histories chiefly dealt with themselves, nor to the Númenóreans who did not advance far into the interior of the continent. No written records - if the art of writing was ever developed there - came to the knowledge of the Western peoples while those few venturers who travelled there rarely came for exploration. A few Dark-Elves there were, and Dwarves. Matter of fact, among the places at which the Seven Houses of the Dwarves originated, two "were eastward, at distances as great or greater than that between the Blue Mountains and Gundabad." (DM)
Politically as well, Rhún and Harad remained white spots on the map, because throughout most of the Ages, they were secretly under Sauron's dominion - this seems to have included even the Dwarves (DM) - and therefore generally lumped together under the epithet "enemy territory". Their human inhabitants were collectively called Men of Darkness or Men of the Shadow, "applied to all those who were hostile to the Kingdoms, and who were (or appeared in Gondor to be) moved by something more than human greed for conquest and plunder, a fanatical hatred of the High Men [i.e. the Númenóreans] and their allies as enemies of their gods. The term took no account of differences of race or culture or language." (DM) Indeed, their common dislike for the North-west of Middle-earth, perpetuated for millenia, never allowed much for cultural exchange with that region. What we know of their histories can thus only be glimpsed from the scarce interactions they ever had with the West.
Yet it should be observed that contrary to popular (Dúnedainic) belief as expressed p.e. in the "Annals of the Kings and Rulers" the nations of Rhún and Harad cannot collectively be considered 'Sauronian' and prone to evil. Other sources give us the more differentiated few of oppositional forces among the peoples of Harad - and, it has to be assumed, even among some of their kings - who refused the overlordship of Sauron's minions, looking for sovereignty, peace, and sometimes even loyalty to the Southern Kingdom: "the southern regions in touch with Gondor ... were probably both more convertible to the 'Resistance', and also places where Sauron was most busy in the Third Age, since it was a source to him of man-power most readily used against Gondor." (TI) Likewise, in Rhún a "few tribes of Men ... had rebelled from Melkor-worship", so that some of the Istari were sent there "to stir up rebellion ... and to cause [?dissension and disarray] among the dark East." (LW)
Rhún and Harad are not in fact proper geographical names. Rather vaguely, they indicate directions of the compass rose, similar to the usage of "Near East" and "Far East" in the medieval world. Rhún was East and Harad, or Haradwaith, was South, the latter sometimes distinguished by Near (North) and Far (South) Harad. "Harad 'South' is thus a vague term." (TI)
The high tide of cartography was the Second Age when Númenórean mariners sailed across the world; but unfortunately, their precious sea maps were lost when Númenór was drowned. We only know from reports that they explored the "inner seas", (AK) and later, "the King's Men sailed far away to the south; and the lordships and strongholds that they made have left many rumours in the legends of Men." (AK) As well, another continent had been found beyond the eastern shores of Middle-earth: the so-called Empty Lands, inhabited only by birds and beasts so that even Morgoth never had taken interest in it. But when Númenór was drowned they were "cast back" by Iluvatar, (AK) and thus probably removed or destroyed.
During the Fading Years, the decaying Third Age, global mapping assumed a stance of Ptolemaeic cartography, centred on the "civilised" lands of the North-west. "The bounds of this region were naturally vague; its eastern frontier was roughly the River Carnen to its junction with Celduin (the River Running), and so to Nurnen, and thence south to the ancient confines of South Gondor. (It did not originally exclude Mordor, which was occupied by Sauron, although outside his original realms 'in the East', as a deliberate threat to the West and the Númenóreans.) 'The North' thus includes all this great area: roughly West to East from the Gulf of Lune to Nurnen, and North and South from Carn Dum to the southern bounds of ancient Gondor between it and Near Harad." (TI)
Towards the edges of the map, the available data rapidly petered out, until they ceased entirely, and only vaguely applied names of almost mystical quality remained. In Harad, south of Ithilien, "there are more lands, they say, but the Yellow Face [the sun] is very hot there, and there are seldom any clouds, and the men are fierce and have dark faces." (Gollum, TT) Most remarkable, aside of the native skin colour, seemed to be the presence of múmakil, giant ancestors of the modern elephant who even in Arnor were rumoured as "oliphaunts".
Likewise, Rhún seemed to consist entirely of "wide uncharted lands, nameless plains, and forests unexplored." (FR) So unexplored that mythmakers found huge space to fill: "The wild white kine that were still to be found near the Sea of Rhún were said in legend to be descended from the Kine of Araw, the huntsman of the Valar, who alone of the Valar came often to Middle-earth in the Elder Days. Orome is the High-elven form of his name." (KR) Especially Steward Vorondil the hunter (2029-2080 TA), had gained a lasting reputation from pursuing said "wild kine of Araw in the far fields of Rhún." (RK)
It is deductible that the mapped regions comprise only the smaller part of Middle-earth. In the first millenium of the Third Age, the Men of the West were "greatly outnumbered by those of the East and South." (TI) Harad "where the stars are strange" (FR, TI) evidently extended into the Southern hemisphere. Considering that "Hobbiton and Rivendell are taken ... to be at about the latitude of Oxford", (L294) an easy calculation allows to locate the port of Umbar, southernmost extension of the mapped lands, at 35°30' N, about the latitude of Tanger (for a discussion of latitudes and longitudes in Middle-earth, see the essay "A Meridional Grid on the Middle-earth Map" on this homepage). Hence, it does not seem too bold to identify Near and Far Harad with remote precursors of White and Black Africa.
Rhún seems vaguely to be identifiable with Eastern Europe and Asia, beyond a North-South line passing through modern Kiev. Of their geographical structure, almost no data have been recorded. The lands of the Dawn of Ages were no more: "to Cuivienen there is no returning", (S) the Sea of Helcar had gone, perhaps had "vastly shrunken" (QS) and may have been reduced to the Sea of Rhún; the Orocarni, or Mountains of the East, were probably lost. Only Hildorien, where the fathers of Men originated, (S) seems to have been preserved, though probably changed beyond recognition: some sources state that "Men awoke in Mesopotamia." (DA)
Otherwise, no details of the ancient geography of Rhún and Harad are available save one: it is frequently overlooked that Sauron (and the Nazgûl) must have had a strong fortress in Rhún which was never uncovered and destroyed by Western forces. Mordor was not his original refuge and only after the first millenium SA it was "occupied by Sauron, though outside his original realms 'in the East', as a deliberate threat against the West and the Númenóreans." (TI). Also, "he surrounded his abode with fire" (RP), which seems hardly applicable to Barad-dûr. This stronghold continued to exist in the Third Age when from Dol Guldur in 2063 TA "Sauron retreats and hides in the East" (TY); and he stayed there for almost 300 years before he returned "with increased strength" (TY). This East cannot mean Mordor; and he certainly did more there than to wash his black feet in the Sea of Rhún.
The latest tribes of men who immigrated into Beleriand became collectively known as Easterlings and Eastrons: a misleading term for of course they originated from the same place as the "Western" Edain. Because of their physical characteristics, they were also referred to as Swarthy Men, for they "were short and broad, long and strong in the arm; their skins were swart or sallow, and their hair was as dark as their eyes. Their houses were many, and some had greater liking for the Dwarves of the mountains than for the Elves." (S) Though some of them adopted - or stole - a few Elvish-influenced traits of Edainic culture, they never got really comfortable with the Edain.
Yet it seems that originally their customs cannot have been that different from those of the Edain. Their women were as strong as those of the Halethians, "proud and barbaric". (TG) Like the Bëorians, they used to alliterate the names of father and sons; some of their names even remind of the Bëorian language (notably Bór) while others seem to draw from a tongue that was similar to Germanic: Ulfang, Ulwarth etc. while Brodda up to this day exists as a surname in Germany. However, the common denominator of the Atani and Easterling tongues seems to be that both show distinct influences of Khûzdul: "of the tongues of the Easterlings many show kinship with Dwarf-speech rather than with the speeches of the Elves." (NE; see also "Etymologies of the Atani Languages").
In Beleriand, two distinct groups of Swarthy Men rapidly formed: the followers of Bór "who were worty folk and tillers of the earth" (GA), and those of Ulfang the Black who apparently were hunters and gatherers. Both had drawn many fresh recruits before the Nirnaeth Arnoediad; but it seems that few of the people of Bór, if at all, survived it. The Easterlings of Ulfang, though he and his sons were slain, afterwards dwelt in Hithlum but did not learn civilisation there.
The Third Age found their remote descendants and relatives in Near Harad, "a great and cruel people that dwelt in the wide lands south of Mordor beyond the mouths of Anduin" (RP), "bold men and grim, and fierce in despair" (RK). They were still called Swarthy Men or (by the Hobbits) Swertings: "evidently a derivative of swart, which is still in use (= swarthy)", (GN) but otherwise Haradrim and Southrons or Southerners. Gollum described them as having "dark faces. ... They are fierce. They have black eyes, and long black hair, and gold rings in their ears, yes, lots of beautiful gold. And some have red paint on their cheeks, and red cloaks; and their flags are red, and the tips of their spears; and they have round shields, yellow and black with big spikes. Not nice; very cruel wicked Men they look. Almost as bad as Orcs, and much bigger." (TT) And one of the "swarthy men in red", with whom Sam Gamgee had an unpleasant encounter, had "a golden collar. ... scarlet robes ... corslet of overlapping brazen plates ... black plaits of hair braided with gold ... brown hand." (TT) This is evidently still the same phenotype as the Swarthy Men of Beleriand.
But during many millenia, their culture had of course changed much. Their languages now sounded completely alien and incomprehensible to the Dúnedain. The Southrons, as it seemed, were simply "crying with harsh voices like beasts and carrion-birds." (RK) Their arms were now of inferior quality. Noteworthy is the mentioning of "brazen plates" for armour while in the late Second Age their ancestors had yet been "armed with iron" (RP) and the Númenóreans had found to their irritation "that iron was used against them by those to whom they had revealed it". (DN) This suggests a cultural backdrop into the bronze age since. Also, they now used scimitars: a cultural "heritage" from the orcs?
Most reknown they were, though, for the taming of mûmakil which they used in battle as mobile war bases. During the War of the Ring, the mûmakil’s "tusks were bound with bands of gold", also they were decorated with "trappings of scarlet and gold." A battle mûmak was found strong enough to carry a veritable "war tower" on its back which could contain several warriors (probably spear-throwers), and its voluminous body was protected by a "triple hide of his flanks" (TT).
The Swarthy Men apparently never acquired a centralised realm but remained restricted to tribal territories and petty kingdoms, frequently in conflict with each other. But during the War of the Ring their troops appeared remarkably uniform, and it seems that Sauron had finally established a central authority among them. Repeatedly, their dresses and banners were described as scarlet: "wild Southron men with red banners, shouting with harsh tongues " (RK) - "Southrons in scarlet" (RK) - "swarthy men in red" with "scarlet robes" (TT). At least one chieftain of a cavalry unit used the emblem of a "black serpent upon scarlet" (RK) as his standard. Even their tents were "black or sombre red." (RK)
"The King's Men, who were afterwards called the Black Númenóreans, corrupted by Sauron" (KR) were Dúnedain and cannot really be called Southrons. But "after the fall of Sauron [in the War of the Last Alliance] their race swiftly dwindled or became merged with the Men of Middle-earth". (KR) This exchange provoked Gondorian historians to reckon their Sauronian siblings among the Haradrim. Their cultural features and history are more closely explored in "The third Realm in Exile".
The barbary Corsairs, chiefly but not exclusively residing in Umbar, were the heirs and successors of the King's Men, originally composed of Swarthy Men, Gondorian dissidents and Black Númenóreans who apparently had turned loyal to Gondor and then to the usurper Castamir. The Dúnedainic element among them was entirely lost much before the War of the Ring. Their cultural features and history are more closely explored in "The third Realm in Exile".
"The Wainriders were a people, or a confederacy of many peoples, that came from the East; but they were stronger and better armed than any that had appeared before. They journeyed in great wains, and their chieftains fought in chariots." (KR)
Note: This seems to be directly inspired by the ancient people who in Greek were referred to as Amaxoluoi or "Wainmen" whom some have tried to identify with the Goths. Compare also Quintus Horatius Flaccus (Satiric Odes, c. 3,24): "Campestres melius Scythae/quorum plaustra vagas rite trahunt domos/vivunt" - "Better live the nomadic Scythians whose wains by tradition carry on their wandering houses."
It is not known what political structure their vast realm possessed; but the surprising effectivity with which since the 19th century TA they "sapped the waning strength of Gondor in wars that lasted for almost a hundred years" (KR) point to a strong central organisation, a kingdom or khanate which coordinated communication and strategy.
The Wainriders were evidently semi-nomadic, and their strategic defense chiefly relied upon "fortified camps of wagons." (CE) But in contact with the West, esp. Rhóvanion of which they annexed much, they quickly adopted the lifestyle of the conquered Northmen and Dúnedain dwellings. Another noteworthy feature of their society, alien to the West, were their women-at-arms. These provided a distinct "home advantage" for while the male Wainriders were on the battlefield they did not leave "their homes undefended: their youths and old men were aided by the younger women, who in that people were also trained in arms and fought fiercely in defence of their homes and their children." (CE) It is conceivable that during the occupation of Rhóvanion, some Northmen learned from them the habit to train what the Rohirrim later called "shield maidens", (RK) female warriors who would join them in battle or defend the home front.
While the Wainrider empire may not have lasted that long, their culture survived throughout the TA. Even as late as the 31st century, their familiar vehicles could be seen: "Out of the East Men were moving endlessly: swordsmen, spearmen, bowmen upon horses, chariots of chieftains and laden wains." (FR)
The Balchoth were an Easterling nation which held a vassal state of Dol Guldur in eastern and later southern Rhovanion. Balchoth was not the name they gave to themselves, but "so these people were then called in Gondor: a mixed word of popular speech, from Westron balc 'horrible' and Sindarin hoth 'horde', applied to such peoples as the Orcs." (CE) - "They were only rudely armed, and had no great number of horses for riding, using horses mainly for draught, since they had many large wains, as had the Wainriders (to whom they were no doubt akin)" (CE), and with whom they likely shared many other cultural traits. As it is not reported that the Wainrider empire had ever left its grip of eastern Rhóvanion it is likely that the realm of the Horrible Horde was its direct descendant, a diadoch state split off when the coreland had faltered.
Though some have claimed that all of Mordor was a desolate and desertous land, inhabited only by orcs and other fell creatures, the sources state that this was not so. The south of Mordor featured comparatively rich pastures, sufficient to feed Sauron’s huge armies.
Yet, even in the end of TA, Nurn maintained a considerable Mannish population, serving on "the great slave-worked fields far away south in this wide realm [of Mordor] ... by the sad waters of Lake Nurnen". Their existence was grievous, losses must have been high; hence throughout Mordor there were found "great roads that ran away east and south to tributary lands, from which the soldiers of the [Dark] Tower brought long waggon-trains of goods and booty and fresh slaves." (RK)
Surprisingly, when after the fall of Barad-dûr "the slaves of Mordor [were] released", many of them did not leave for Rhún or Harad where they may have come from. Instead, they received "all the lands about Lake Nurnen to be their own", (RK) apparently because they yet considered these sad grounds their home. This would indicate that at least some of the slaves were not imports but that there had survived an indigenous Mannish culture which predated the return of Sauron to Mordor, perhaps remainders of the Gondorian occupation forces.
One may seriously wonder why Gondorian mapmakers referred to Khand as the only land South of Mordor except Umbar by its proper name, for it seems to have taken no outstanding position in history. But its strategically crucial location made it sometimes victim, sometimes ally of both Rhún or Harad to neither of which it properly belonged, and its immediate proximity to Mordor made it particularly vulnerable to its dreadful neighbour. Certainly Khand accounted for a lot of the "fresh slaves" imported to Nurn. Otherwise, nothing is known of it but that at least some of its inhabitants called themselves Variags. This name is said to be of alien, Haradric origin (AL); but it may in fact be a translation of a Northern Mannish root, for Variag also is a known Slavic rendering of Varingar, Old Norse for „people bound by a contract“, root vár „contract“ (from which the Varangian Guard of the Byzantinian emperors derived). Perhaps the Variags of Khand were not an ethnic group but a kind of elite mercenaries in more or less voluntary service of Mordor.
This nation or tribe, if it was a tribe, was first observed during the War of the Ring, and only their description is known as it was provided by a Gondorian soldier: "The new host that we had tidings of has come first, from over the River by way of Andros, it is said. They are strong: battalions of Orcs of the Eye, and countless companies of Men of a new sort we have not met before. Not tall, but broad and grim, bearded like dwarves, wielding great axes. Out of some savage land in the wide East they come, we deem." (RT) During the Battle of the Pelennor Fields, the axe-men were among the most effective forces of the Morgul army. Nothing else is known of them.
During the War of the Ring, for the first time negroid men of Far Harad were seen in Gondor. These black-skinned individuals, obviously unlike the Swarthy Men, appeared to the irritated Dúnedain "like half-trolls with white eyes and red tongues", (RK) and were accordingly - though erroneously - called "troll-men". (RK)
The Edain claimed that Man had been subject to a general fall under the Shadow and only they had repented. However, there were many other Men as well who did not adhere to Angband but were "wild and lawless, refusing alike the summons of the Valar and of Morgoth." (AK) From these the peoples of Rhún and Harad descended, mostly nomadic wanderers on a primitive level, occasionally getting into contact with Avari and Dwarves: "In ancient days the Naugrim dwelt in many mountains of Middle-earth, and there they met mortal Men (they say) long ere the Eldar knew them", (NE) and thus influenced the Easterling and Atani tongues with Khûzdul vocabulary.
It is well possible that this brought some of the Easterlings into the devastating contact with, and fear of, Morgoth: "Alas, it seems probable that (as Men did later) the Dwarves of the far eastern mansions ... came under the Shadow of Morgoth and turned to evil." (DM) And these were those who earliest appeared in recorded history. They followed in the wake of the Halethrim on their westward migration and were noted by the Drúedain who had joined their trecks but of which some "remained in the White Mountains, in spite of their persecution by later-arrived Men, who had relapsed into the service of the Dark." (TD). Also, the wandering Atani "were ever at war ... with Men who had made him [Melkor] their God and believed that they could render him no more pleasing service than to destroy the 'renegades' with every kind of cruelty." (DM) The pressure on the Atani eventually forced (most of?) the proto-Bëorrim to leave their refuges in Dorwinion (see "The mysterious king Bladorthin"). and continue their migration further westward: Only later did the proto-Hadorrim dwelling at the other coast of the Sea discover that "the Lesser Folk had fled from the threat of the Servants of the Dark." (DM) With other Easterlings, however, contact was more friendly, and thus all of the Atani but especially the proto-Bëorrim "showed mingling in the past with Men of other kinds. ... The language of Bëor contained many elements that were alien in character." (DM. For more details on the migrations of the Atani, see "The Indigenous Population of Middle-earth").
In 463, the Swarthy Men arrived in Beleriand, and "some were already secretly under Morgoth's will, and came at his call; but not all. ... Their houses were many, and some had greater liking for the Dwarves of the mountains than for the Elves. But Maedhros ... made alliance with these new-come Men." (S) In fact, Maedhros also persuaded Maglor and Caranthir into this alliance, and it was the allies of the latter who switched sides and turned against the Noldor in the Fifth Battle. "The newcomers abode long in East Beleriand". 12 long years, to be exact.
But in 472 when the armed men of the Edain of Hithlum were all but destroyed, the house of Bór also ended while "Morgoth sent thither the Easterlings that had served him ... and forbade them to leave it." (S) This was not what they had hoped for, but they made the best out of it, oppressing the remnants of the House of Hador. Despite their "many" houses and the rule of numerous "chieftains of the Easterlings" (S) these now seem to have acknowledged a common overlord: In 488 and still in 500 FA (WH), the "chief of the Easterlings of Hithlum" (S) was one Lorgan who "claimed to rule all Dor-Lómin as a fief under Morgoth"; (TC) it is not known when he died. Their rule lasted till the War of Wrath when they as well as "others new-come out of the East" (S) fought on the side of Morgoth and were for the major part destroyed.
The vast majority of the Men of Darkness, however, remained free, though fallen, throughout the First Age. It was only at the beginning of the Second that they fell under the influence of evil when some of Morgoth's swarthy subjects escaped the inundation of Beleriand. "Those of the evil Men who were not destroyed fled back into the east, where many of their race were still wandering in the unharvested lands ... And the evil Men came among them, and cast over them a shadow of fear, and they took them for kings. Then the Valar forsook for a time the Men of Middle-earth who had refused their summons and had taken the friends of Morgoth to be their masters; and Men dwelt in darkness and were troubled by many evil things that Morgoth had devised in the days of his dominion." (AK)
Worst of these "evil things" was Sauron the Shapeshifter, Morgoth’s fierce lieutenant, who was hiding from the War of Wrath so cunningly that not even the Valar could find him. First from his secret stronghold somewhere in Rhún and later from Mordor when he began to build Barad-dûr as the mightiest of his fortresses ever he tried to spread his influence all over Middle-earth. Especially "in the South and in the further East Men multiplied; and most of them turned to evil, for Sauron was at work. ... Men he found the easiest to sway of all the peoples of the Earth. ... Those who would be free took refuge in the fastnesses of wood and mountain, and ever fear pursued them." (AK) The situation was different only in the North-west where, though Bór himself left no heirs, of his people, "it is said, came the most ancient of the Men that dwelt in the north of Eriador in the Second Age and ... after-days." (GA) A popular legend among the Men of Bree to whom this apparently refers tells that in this very location they had already "survived the turmoils of the Elder Days" (FR).(see "The Indigenous Population of Middle-earth"). These Men resisted the lure of Sauron and "had refused to join in the rebellion against the Valar." (DM) But till the late first millenium "in the east and south well nigh all Men were under [Sauron’s] dominion." (RP)
The tide turned when the Númenóreans began to voyage to Middle-earth. The Guild of Venturers, the seafarers from Númenór, at first landed on the north-western shores; but soon they began to travel far south along the coasts of Harad. And wherever they came they started to civilise the indigenious population, introducing agriculture, iron smithery, and many other skills, comforting them and turning them away from the fear of the Shadow. (AK) Around the port of Pelargir, a common speech developed out of the old Adunaic language and its relatives spoken on the continent that "spread thence along the coasts among all those that had dealings with Westernesse." (AL)
Sauron seems to have realised that the stone-age tribes of Rhún and Harad would not be sufficient to withstand this new power. Apparently he launched a cultivation program of his own for the inhabitants of East and South "grew strong in those days and built many towns and walls of stone, and they were numerous and fierce in war and armed with iron. To them Sauron was both king and god; and they feared him exceedingly, for he surrounded his abode with fire." (RP) Of their other cultural features, only one cruel detail has been reported: the human sacrifice of their own ruling class to their acclaimed "king and god", as was recalled by the Wise. "Before ever a ship sailed hither from the West ... the heathen kings, under the domination of the Dark Power, did thus, slaying themselves in pride and despair, murdering their kin to ease their own death." (RK)
Note: A curiously similar phrase appears in Heliodorus' "Ethiopian Story" (book 1, chapter 30): "And when a barbarian loses all hope of his own preservation, he will usually kill everything he loves before he dies, either in the deluded belief that he will be reunited with it beyond the grave or else to save it from the shameless clutches of his enemies."
The Dark Lord turned his subjects militarily superior to the pre-Númenóreans and Northmen who still lived in scattered woodland communities without central leadership. (GC) The rumours which in the 9th century SA came to King Tar-Aldarion's ears made evident that the Númenóreans had stirred up a power they had to reckon with.
During the first and second millenium SA, they did not reportedly get contact with the Easterlings, but they "had explored the coasts of Middle-earth far southward", (TI) colonising the coastal areas of Eriador, Gondor, Umbar and in a long sweep down the shores of Harad. However, about 1695 SA, when Sauron had declared war against the Elves, he drew fresh forces out of Rhún and the Alliance of Dwarves and Northmen in northen Rhovanion was suddenly "involved in war not only with Orks but with alien Men of evil sort. For Sauron had acquired dominion over many savage tribes in the East (of old corrupted by Morgoth), and he now urged them to seek land and booty in the West.". (DM) Rhovanion paid a high toll to this assault: "when the storm passed, the Men of the old Alliance were diminished and scattered, and those that lingered on in their old regions were impoverished, and lived mostly in caves or in the borders of the Forest." (DM) On the other hand, "Sauron was defeated by the Númenóreans and driven back into Mordor, and for long troubled the West no more, while secretly extending his dominions eastward." (DM) Which meant promising military successes, for during a long time indeed, he "was (as reported) wholly concerned with conquests in the East." (GC)
Ultimately, when the Shadow began to fall upon Númenór itself, from its continental ports and landing sites their dominions expanded. At that time the Númenóreans pressed into Middle-earth with lust for power, and they "made settlements on the west-shores, but these became rather strongholds and 'factories' of lords seeking wealth, and the Númenóreans became tax-gatherers carrying off over the sea ever more and more goods in their great ships." (L131) Especially King Tar-Calmacil (d. 2899 SA) earned a bad reputation on that behalf, for "in his youth he was a great captain, and won wide lands along the coasts of Middle-earth" (LE), south of Umbar. He was so strong that even Sauron left Mordor and withdrew once more into the East. But he returned, and when the end of the Second Age drew near, "many of those [Númenóreans] who sailed east in that time and made fortresses and dwellings upon the coasts were already bent to [Sauron’s] will, and they served him still gladly in Middle-earth. ... These renegades, lords both mighty and evil, for the most part took up their abodes in the southlands far away", (AK) that is, along the coasts of Harad which thus fell under the cruel rule of the King's Men who acted as the chief executioners of Sauron's will. (Sauron took advantage by "donating" the Nine Rings to selected overlords of the dominions: for three of them "were great lords of Númenórean race", it was said (AK), certainly including the later Nazgul Lord and Khamul, the Shadow of the East - the other Nazgul probably originated in the indigenious population of Rhún and Harad.) Umbar developed into the largest and most important of these ports. And so, when Sauron’s servants began "to assail the havens and forts of the Númenóreans, and invaded the coastlands under their dominion" (HA), "it was there that Ar-Pharazôn the Golden, last King of Númenór, ... landed and humbled the might of Sauron." (KR)
During the drowning of Númenór, most havens of the Kings' Men perished. Except Umbar, those that survived were too weak to outlast and became absorbed by the native cultures of Harad, themselves improving from the transfer of Númenórean technology.
After Sauron had lost the War of the Last Alliance, he fled, disembodied, to his secret abode in Rhún and was not heard of in the West for over a millenium. This left plenty enough time for the Realms in Exile to steadily expand out of tiny germs stretching along the rivers into vast empires that for a time directly or indirectly controlled all the lands between Lindon, the Grey Mountains, the Sea of Rhún and Near Harad. In fact, "the dominion of the Númenórean kings of Gondor was reaching out northwards towards the borders of Lórien and the Greenwood" which even King Thranduil observed with some scepticism, (GC) and the Northmen of Rhóvanion became close allies and friends. But beyond the Inland Sea, Western civilisation ended. Of the dark things that were brooding there the Southern Kingdom first learned in the late 5th century TA: "More ominous were rumours from the further East: the Wild Men were restless. Former servants and worshippers of Sauron, they were released now from his tyranny, but not from the evil and darkness that he had set in their hearts. Cruel wars raged among them, from which some were withdrawing westward, with minds filled with hatred, regarding all that dwelt in the West as enemies to be slain and plundered." (GC) Thus halfly drawn, halfly driven, they encountered the Dúnedain in 490 TA.
The Northern Kingdom of Arnor was never troubled either by asylum seekers from Rhún or Harad, effectively protected against these side both by distance and geographical barriers; it had its own problems which cannot be discussed here. But now its sibling "Gondor was first attacked by wild men out of the East." (KR) The war refugees approached "mostly over the plain between the Inland Sea and the Ash Mountains" (KR). One may wonder what they expected there for before they reached the Anduin they had to pass the Brown Lands that did not look exactly like a promised land and made supplies hard to get. However, further South this area was an open door to the Southern Kingdom. The Wild Men thus crossed the Anduin and during the next decade entered a good way into Gondorian territory. King Ostoher seemed quite helpless against the tide; "but Tarostar, his son, defeated them and drove them out, and took the name of Rómendacil 'East-victor'." (KR)
The Dúnedain had, however, met a challenge they could never completely overcome. Ever since "war never ceased on their borders." (KR) Other than the rather well settled and defensive Dúnedain of the North, the Gondorians set on military strength and answered aggressively. Matters took a sadly ironic twist when in 541 TA the 'East-victor' was just "slain in battle with fresh hordes of Easterlings." But fortunately for Gondor, "Turambar his son avenged him, and won much territory eastwards." (KR) Indeed he advanced the borders "east to the inland Sea of Rhún" (KR) and established the coastal land of Dorwinion as his easternmost province (for the further history of the Gondorian east-march, see "The mysterious king Bladorthin").
The "Wild Men" found themselves caught between two fires: Driven back beyond the Sea of Rhún by the overmighty foe in the West they must have been forced to return right into the ongoing wars in Rhún from which slowly a serious competitor to the Southern Kingdom was emerging as victor: The realm of the Wainriders. The fate of these unlucky victims of war was of course of little concern to Osgiliath. Gondor-East-of-Anduin was repopulated with Northmen from Rhóvanion who "had increased greatly in the peace brought by the power of Gondor. The kings showed them favour ... and they gave them wide lands beyond Anduin south of Greenwood the Great, to be a defence against men of the East." (KR) Superimposed upon them was only a small aristocracy of Dúnedain, yet the peace of strength gained by this strategy lasted for many centuries.
The new borders drawn had the additional benefit of tightening the grip on deserted Mordor that was now effectively shut off from the North and West and kept under scrutiny. North and Northwest were both subject to allies. The natural way of Gondor's next moves of expansion was southward into Near Harad.
The opposition met there, however, was of a much different quality than before: not trecks of semi-nomadic tribes but well-organised regional kingdoms with fortified burgs and towns of stone, the strongest as well as nearest among them being the haven and fortress of Umbar, heritage of the Númenórean dominions that by then seems to have developed into a third Realm in Exile dominated by Dúnedain, though fallen under the Shadow. On the other hand, once conquered the higher level of civilisation made control much easier than among the wandering tribes of Rhún.
The next move thus inevitably was made against Umbar, so as to remove the lordship of the Númenórean cousins. The port meant much to Gondor as being the site of Ar-Pharazôn’s historical landing it was also a site of national reverence. We do not know what provoked the war or how it was justified by Gondorian authorities. Anyway, in 933 TA, "Eärnil I ... laid siege by sea and land to Umbar, and took it, and it became a great harbour and fortress of the power of Gondor." (KR) The dethroned Black Númenórean aristocracy escaped into the kingdoms of Near Harad which probably were not only allies but tributary subjects to Umbar. Gondor had now achieved its largest extension ever. The Dúnedain of Harad, though, were not yet defeated. The loyal kings of the Haradrim supplied them with manpower to launch a counter-strike that started 82 years later.
Till 1015 TA, "Ciryandil [Eärnil's] son continued the building of ships; but the Men of the Harad, led by the lords that had been driven from Umbar, came up with great power against that stronghold, and Ciryandil fell in battle in Haradwaith. For many years Umbar was invested, but could not be taken because of the sea-power of Gondor. Ciryaher son of Ciryandil [finally] utterly defeated the Men of the Harad, and their kings were compelled to acknowledge the overlordship of Gondor (1050). Ciryaher then took the name of Hyarmendacil 'South-victor'." (KR)
It was then that Sauron, still processing to form a new body for himself, felt both sufficient strength and strategic need to leave his hidden site in Rhún and return into the North-west - not to Mordor which was guarded from almost every side and inaccessible to him but to a different place which would serve his schemes as well as enshroud his identity. He decided for Greenwood the Great, and "coming out of the wastes of the East took up his abode in the south of the forest, and slowly he grew and took shape there again." (RP) The abode he chose was Amon Lanc, a barren hill overlooking the valley of the Anduin. The place was perfectly selected, piercing like a bolt into the weakest spot among his foes' defensive lines, right between the borders of Gondor-beyond-Anduin, Lothlórien, the Wood-elves, and the Northman communities of Rhóvanion. Plus, along the upper course of Anduin and passing by Mount Gundabad he could thus maintain communication and supply routes with his vassal state of Angmar.
Very soon, "a Shadow fell on Greenwood" (TY), and things began to change. The hobbits welling at the Anduin were among the first to notice what was going on when Sauron, known only anonymously as the Necromancer, increasingly summoned forces from among the tribes of Rhún into Rhóvanion that poured into the local Mannish communities. and undermined the social stability."The increase in Men was not the normal increase of those with whom they had lived in friendship, but the steady increase of invaders from the East, further south held in check by Gondor, but in the North beyond the bounds of the Kingdom harassing the older ‘Atanic’ [i.e. Northern Mannish as ethnologically related to the Atani/Edain] inhabitants, and even in places occupying the Forest and coming through it into the Anduin valley. ... The invasions were no doubt also in great part due to Sauron; for the 'Easterlings' were mostly Men of cruel and evil kind, descendants of those who had served and worshipped Sauron before his overthrow at the end of the Second Age." (DM). But note the innocent word "mostly" which indicates that as well there were harmless refugees and oppositionals among the immigrants from Rhún, not a collective evil sapping into Rhóvanion. Indeed it was known that the Northmen in Southern Rhovanion "had been mingled with men of broader and heavier build" (GC) who may have been of Easterling origin, causing among the Northmen an average loss of physical height.
It seems that the establishing of the as yet unidentified Necromancer in Dol Guldur alarmed even the Valar who since the Drowning of Númenor had utterly forsaken Middle-earth. Now they sent the Order of the Istari into the Mortal Lands, and at least three of them went straightforward east of the Inland Sea for reconnaissance in the vastnesses of Rhún. Unfortunately, they did not transfer to general wisdom what they found, for they were not anthropologists or geographers but "went as emissaries to distant regions, East and South, far out of Númenórean range: missionaries to enemy-occupied lands, as it were." (L211) "Of this Order the number is unknown; but of those that came to the North of Middle-earth ... the chiefs were five. .... Of the [two] Blue little was known in the West, ... for they passed into the East with Curunir [aka. Saruman], but they never returned, and whether they remained in the East, pursuing there the purposes for which they were sent; or perished; or as some hold were ensnared by Sauron and became his servants, is not now known." (TI) Into the West only Saruman returned, much later, when "he took his abode in Orthanc". (KR) But he did not distribute maps or ethnographical studies, and what he had found in Rhún will forever remain mysterious. Whether another of the Five, Mithrandir aka. Gandalf, ever went into Harad as well is the subject of much discussion (TI). Historians suspect that the Blue Istari "were founders or beginners of secret cults and 'magic' traditions that outlasted the fall of Sauron." (L211) A source of doubtful value meanwhile attests that "their task was to circumvent Sauron: to bring help to the few tribes of Men that had rebelled from Melkor-worship, to stir up rebellion ... and to cause [?dissension and disarray] among the dark East ... They must have had very great influence on the history of the ... Third Age in weakening and disarraying the forces of East ... who would otherwise have ... outnumbered the West." (LW)
But since they never returned, in the 13th century TA Gondor was worse prepared than it could have hoped for as "in the days of Narmacil I. their [the Easterlings’] attacks began again, though at first with little force; but it was learned by the regent [Minalcar, later becoming King of Gondor] that the Northmen did not always remain true to Gondor, and some would join forces with the Easterlings, either out of greed for spoil, or in the furtherance of feuds among their princes. Minalcar therefore in 1248 led out a great force, and between Rhóvanion and the Inland Sea he defeated a large army of the Easterlings and destroyed all their camps and settlements east [read: west?] of the Sea. He then took the name of Romendacil." (KR)
The destruction even of the settlements suspiciously suggests a total genocide. By this massacre, Romendacil II. had for now saved both Dorwinion and Rhóvanion, and well-nigh for another 600 years, an increasingly fragile peace was retained beyond Anduin. Yet Gondor’s star began to wane. In the 15th century TA, "there was already rebellion in the southern provinces". And in 1448, after the disastrous civil war known as the Kin-strife, the exiled rebels, led by the sons of the usurper Castamir, "established themselves at Umbar. There they made a refuge for all the enemies of the king, and a lordship independent of his crown" that was known hitherto as the Corsairs of Umbar. And worse: "the region of South Gondor became a debatable land between the Corsairs and the Kings." (KR) Being thus contested and cut off from its own southern borders, as well Gondor's "hold upon the Men of Harad was loosened" (KR), and the Castamirioni stirred and supported rebellion against the throne of Osgiliath. The kings of Harad willingly rose against their tributary service and supplied the rebels in the port of Umbar. (HE) Thus, in 1540 TA, "King Aldamir [was] slain in war with the Harad and Corsairs of Umbar", and the conflict continued till eleven years later "Hyarmendacil II. defeat[ed] the Men of Harad." (TY)
In the meantime, Rhún slowly recovered from the destruction evoked by Romendacil II., and a new constellation, known as the Wainriders, began to climb out of the rubble. They controlled a territory of unknown vastness, maybe as large as Gondor or even larger still, forged an empire of unexpected effectiveness. One may wonder how such a huge, centralised entity could consolidate itself among the Men of Darkness. It was not directly ruled by Sauron or a Nazgûl for it often acted against his interests, but a supreme authority of unprecedented quality must have established itself despite the "weakening and disarraying" inflicted by the Blue Istari. - Or, as one may freely speculate, was it one of them or both who had listened too much to their companion Saruman's dreams of power and had themselves assumed the lordship among the Easterlings?
Gondor, though, was both challenged and preserved at once when in 1636 TA "a deadly plague came with dark winds out of the East.", (KR) for hit Gondor so severely that its hold of the provinces beyond Anduin loosened due to massive depopulation, but "no doubt the peoples further east had been equally afflicted" (CE), and so the dooming catastrophe was still prevented for some time. Otherwise, the Wainrider empire already "might have overwhelmed [Gondor] in its weakness; but Sauron could wait." (KR).
The alliance between Umbar and the kingdoms of Near Harad apparently had by then collapsed, "the peoples of Harad were at this period engaged in wars and feuds of their own", (CE) and the Castamirioni continued their strife on their own. But king Telumehtar, "being troubled by the insolence of the Corsairs, who raided his coasts even as far as the Anfalas, gathered his forces and in 1810 took Umbar by storm" (KR), ethnically cleansing the Corsairs, destroying the port entirely and keeping it uninhabited for the following century. "In that war the last descendants of Castamir perished, and Umbar was again held for a while by the kings. Telumehtar added to his name the title Umbardacil." (TY) Well done, but Umbardacil overlooked the much greater peril brooding at the Sea of Rhún. For by now, the Wainrider empire had advanced to the borders of Dorwinion.
In 1851 TA, "stirred up, as was afterwards seen, by the emissaries of Sauron, they made a sudden assault upon Gondor." (KR) The Northmen, still the vast majority of the population in Gondor-beyond-Anduin, "bore the brunt of the first assaults." (CE) Replenishment forces came to the rescue but could not achieve much: during the ill-fated Battle of the Plains in 1856 TA, "King Narmacil II. was slain ... beyond Anduin" (KR), "south of Mirkwood" (CE), "north-east of the Morannon." (HE) "The people of eastern and southern Rhóvanion were enslaved; and the frontiers of Gondor were for that time withdrawn to the Anduin and the Emyn Muil." (KR) Gondor-beyond-Anduin was lost, never to be regained. Due to its favourite geographical position only Dorwinion, cut off from the mainland, apparently held out as a now isolated enclave, preserving an endangered island of post-Dúnedainic civilisation inmidst a storming barbarian sea (see "The mysterious king Bladorthin").
The Wainrider empire now stretched westward to the confines of Mirkwood, meeting Dol Guldur, so that Sauron had by then successfully linked his territories to each other. It controlled the lands from Erebor in the North to the Ash Mountains in the South and Anduin in the South-west, in the east it streteched further south to the borders of Khand. Even the defeat of the Dúnedain might have been ultimate if the Wainriders had not suffered themselves that much from the plague of 1636. But due to its devastating effects, "the forces of Gondor had inflicted such losses on the Wainriders that they had not strength enough to press their invasion, until reinforced from the East, and were content for the time to complete their conquest of Rhóvanion." (CE) For 43 years, it remained a satrapy of the Wainrider empire.
In that time, many Northmen fled from Gondor-beyond-Anduin and "passing north between Mirkwood and Anduin settled in the Vales of Anduin, where they were joined by many fugitives who came through the Forest. This was the beginning of the Éothéod." (CE) Those who stayed became an oppressed minority in their own lands, and the occupants’ numbers steadily increased till they had gained enough power to consider once more a further expansion of their empire.
They had not reckoned with the Northmen, however. "King Calimehtar, son of Narmacil II, [was warned] that the Wainriders were plotting to raid Calenardhon over the Undeeps; but ... also that a revolt of the Northmen who had been enslaved was being prepared and would burst into flame if the Wainriders became involved in war." (CE) This seemed a unique opportunity to push the enemy back beyond the Inland Sea. Calimehtar took the risk of relocating the Southern Army from the river Poros to counter the Wainriders’ invasion scheme for the Haradrim seemed themselves to be more concerned about the threat from the East than from the North. And so, the king, "helped by [the] revolt in Rhóvanion, avenged his father with a great victory over the Easterlings upon Dagorlad in 1899, and for a while the peril was averted." (KR) The Northmen, though, found the resistance harder than expected. They had not expected the strong amazon-style defence of the "dwellings of the Wainriders, and their storehouses, and their fortified camps of wagons" by the Wainrider women who were skillfully trained in defending the home-front. "Thus in the end they never again returned to their former homes" (CE), and southern Rhóvanion for now remained a part of the Wainrider empire.
The mysterious central authority of the Wainriders now aimed into a direction where resistance seemed weaker. "Beyond the reach of the arms of Gondor, in lands east of the Sea of Rhún from which no tidings came to its Kings, their kinsfolk spread and multiplied. ... The eastern Wainriders had been spreading southward, beyond Mordor, and were in conflict with the peoples of Khand and their neighbours further south [i.e. with the Swarthy Men of Near Harad]." (KR) A conquest of that kind was certainly not in Sauron's interest, wasting precious forces on a war that could not be won even by the Wainriders. but it took even his emissaries and instigators a long time to hem these ambitions. It took till 1944 TA that a fragile "peace and alliance was agreed between these enemies of Gondor, and an attack was prepared that should be made at the same time from north and south" of Mordor. "It was also clear that the hatred of Gondor, and the alliance of its enemies in concerted action (for which they themselves had neither the will nor the wisdom) was due to the machinations of Sauron." (CE)
When the war was launched, "the Wainriders had mustered a great host by the southern shores of the inland Sea of Rhún, strengthened by men of their kinsfolk in Rhóvanion and from their new allies in Khand." (CE) They started with "raids to the south of [Rhóvanion] that came both up the river [Anduin] and through the Narrows of the Forest [of Mirkwood, thus advancing close to Dol Guldur]." (CE) The Dúnedain perceived the peril, but their situation was now even worse than it had been a century ago. For Sauron's machinations were even worse than that: The Dark Lord had inflicted a general offensive against the Realms in Exile. At the same time, his vassal state of "Angmar renewed its attack upon Arthedain at the same time as the Wainriders reappeared in great force" (KR), and so the Northern Kingdom was bound on its own territory, unable to support its sibling at the Anduin.
"In this great assault from north and south, Gondor came near to destruction." (KR) In the South, "Umbar was again lost, and fell into the hands of the Men of the Harad" (KR) who later "reoccupied and rebuilt" (HE) the ruined and uninhabited fortress to be their stronghold. "The enemy poured into Ithilien" (KR), but fortunately, Gondor had the benefit of Ithilien's particular morphology. "An attack proceeding from Near Harad - unless it had assistance from Umbar, which was not at that time available - could more easily be resisted and contained [than an attack across the Brown Lands]. It could not cross the Anduin, and as it went north passed into a narrowing land between the river and the mountains." (CE) Using this advantage, "Eärnil, Captain of the Southern Army, won a great victory in South Ithilien and destroyed the army of Harad that had crossed the River Poros."
In the North, things went less lucky. Ironically, the advance of the enemies was much aided by the old road network of East Gondor, which, though it had never been completed, helped to speed the chariot and cavalry troops at least for fifty miles east of the Morannon. (CE) But this was not the only unpleasant surprise: "The enemy vanguard ... was composed not only of the war-chariots of the Wainriders but also of a force of cavalry far greater than any that had been expected." (CE) These latter probably were the allies from Khand. And so, the Northern Army was utterly defeated on the Dagorlad. King Ondoher "and both his sons Faramir and Artamir fell in battle". (HE) The Wainriders came down upon Ithilien from the north to join the Haradrim expected to approach from the Poros, and together to home in on the cities at the Anduin. But general Eärnil, "hastening north, ... gathered to him all that he could of the retreating Northern Army and came up against the main camp of the Wainriders, while they were feasting and revelling. ... Eärnil stormed the camp and set fire to the wains, and drove the enemy in a great rout out of Ithilien. A great part of those who fled before him perished in the Dead Marshes." (KR)
Gondor was saved, the war had been won at a terrible cost. The Northern Kingdom was no more, the House of Anárion was almost extinct, Mordor could no longer be controlled, and Umbar remained throughout the Age a Morgul-knife in the heart of the Southern Kingdom.
The beginning of the third millenium therefore witnessed a considerable turning point: the fall of Minas Ithil in 2002 TA. Her conquerors were not orcs, but "fell men whom the Enemy in his first strength had dominated, and who wandered homeless and masterless after his fall" (TT). The homeless wandering seems to suggest that the Wainriders were once again involved in this war, for, though they do not reappear under this name in recorded Gondorian history, their empire had not perished because of the defeat in 1944. Certainly it was still in existence when in 2063 Gandalf examined Dol Guldur and Sauron retreated once more into his retreat in Rhún, returning but three hundred years later with increased strength. The Wainrider empire may have survived for another long time still but was ultimately doomed. Minas Ithil, however, did not like Umbar become a base of the Men of Darkness for the Witch-king, having retreated from Angmar, took there his new abode and filled it with his orcs.
Neither Gondor nor the Northmen had been able, however, to effectively control eastern Rhóvanion ever longer, and there the grip of the Wainrider empire lasted out. Even in the 26th century TA, when Cirion was steward of Gondor, "in the wide lands of Rhóvanion, between Mirkwood and the River Running, a fierce people now dwelt, wholly under the shadow of Dol Guldur." (KR) This presumably was by then a sovereign diadoch nation split off from the empire of the Wainriders "to whom they were no doubt akin" (CE) but which by then may have been faltered, having grown too large to be maintained forever.
"These Balchoth were constantly increased by others of like kind that came in from the east", (KR) and "they were slaying or driving north up the River Running and into the Forest the remnant of the Northmen ... that still dwelt east of Mirkwood." (CE) Apparently, the Balchoth could not win Dorwinion whose inhabitants were still found there during the War of the Ring; but as far as the Northmen were concerned, "the Balchoth were destroying the last of their kin in the South". (CE) And "often they made raids through the forest [of Mirkwood], until the vale of Anduin south of the Gladden was largely deserted." (KR)
In 2509, "hosts of men were mustering all along the southern eaves of Mirkwood. ... What they lacked in gear of war they made up in numbers, so far as could be guessed." (CE) Their plan, or Sauron's plan, was to expand into the relic of Gondor and take its northern provinces, especially the fertile grasslands of Calenardhon which Sauron may have faked to promise them. "Southern Mirkwood (below the great East Bight) ... was now infested by the Balchoth", (CE) and in 2510, assisted by orcs from Dol Guldur and the Misty Mountains, and "having built many great boats and rafts on the east shores of Anduin, [they] swarmed over the River and swept away the defenders." (KR) The Balchoth "overran the realm (now sparsely populated) north of the White Mountains, pouring into the wold and plain of Calenardon [sic]." (HE)
The invasion may have come out as a success were it not for the famous ride of the Éothéod, who, avenging the destruction of the very last of their southern kinsfolk, took the opportunity to aid the Dúnedain and destroy their hated foe. "Eorl the Young came with his riders and swept away the enemy, and pursued the Balchoth to the death over the fields of Calenardhon." (KR) Cirion was so thankful that he granted the entire province that, he realised, Gondor could not retain on its own, by decree to the Éothéod to be ever theirs, and till the Fourth Age, the descendants of the Éorlingas or Rohirrim, as they called themselves later, remained a loyal ally.
The Southern Kingdom would soon be able to return the favour. In the beginning, Rohan managed on its own to stabilise its borders, "though during the reign of Eorl their eastern bounds along Emyn Muil and Anduin were still under attack." (FI) Meanwhile, the Corsairs of Umbar continued attacks against Gondor; thus, in 2746 the 15th Prince of Dol Amroth was slain during a raid. But it was soon seen that these skirmishes only detracted from the true intentions. For in the fatal year 2758 TA, "in the days of Beren, the nineteenth Steward", (KR) the Necromancer had managed to arrange another time a concerted offensive against Gondor and its ally. From the south, "there was a great attack on Gondor ... by three fleets of the pirates of Umbar. All the coasts were invaded." (HE) At the same time, "the Rohirrim were assailed from the east, and their land was overrun, and they were driven into the dales of the White Mountains." (KR) Presumably, though not named in any chronicles, these mysterious invaders were again the Balchoth who had been driven from Calenardhon but not from Rhóvanion. This was probably the time when Bladorthin gained his merits as "the great king" (H; see "The mysterious king Bladorthin"). The fleets of Umbar meanwhile led the attack from the sea-side: "Three great fleets, long prepared, came up from Umbar and the Harad, and assailed the coasts of Gondor in great force; and the enemy made many landings, even as far north as the mouth of the Isen." (KR) But the landlord Wulf cunningly achieved an alliance with the Corsairs by negotiation. "The Dunlendings seeing their chance" now had reason to hope that they could remove the kingdom of Rohan which for various reasons they perceived as oppressive. They now "were in great force, for they were joined by enemies of Gondor that landed in the mouths of Lefnui and Isen" (KR). In unison with the Easterling attack from the East, they assailed Edoras and defeated it, and Wulf claimed the throne (see "The Indigenous Population of Middle-earth") "Gondor received no help from Rohan, and could send no help thither." (HE)
Crucial for the defeat of this campaign was the accidental coinciding with the Long Winter during which many of the invaders starved. Then the Ruling Steward "at once sent aid to Rohan" (KR), and "before spring came Beregond son of Beren had overcome the invaders." (KR) The Riddermark was freed. In late spring, "there were great floods after the snows, and the vale of Entwash became a vast fen. The Eastern invaders perished or withdrew." (KR)
Afterwards, till the War of the Ring neither Rohan nor Rhóvanion heard again of the Easterlings. Presumably, during the draught of the Long Winter and the following floodings their habitations east of Anduin were so harshly affected that they did not survive any longer, and the history of the Easterling dominions in Rhóvanion had come to end. It was only during the lifetime of King Brand of Dale that they reappeared, now fully under the spell of the Dark Lord.
Also, while the evil power of Minas Ithil - now Minas Morgul - grew and Gondor met increasing threats from this side which cannot be discussed here, the Haradrim seem to have stayed clear from its territory for a long time. Border skirmishes and raids by the barbary corsairs, though, remained no doubt frequent, and so, the 16th Prince of Dol Amroth was slain in 2799 in a battle nowhere recorded in detail. (HE) Then, in 2885, "stirred up by emissaries of Sauron the Haradrim cross[ed] the Poros and attack[ed] Gondor." (TY) This time, they "occupied South Gondor, and there was much fighting along the Poros." (KR) But Steward Turin II "defeated them with aid from Rohan; but the sons of King Folcwine of Rohan, Folcred and Fastred, fell in this battle." (HE)
"Turgon followed Turin, but of his time it is chiefly remembered that two years ere his death, Sauron arose again, and declared himself openly." (KR)
Now Sauron felt almost strong enough to wage what he considered the final assault. Even though Boromir boldly claimed that "by our valour the wild folk of the East are still restrained, and the terror of Morgul kept at bay", other Dúnedain knew they were heavily outnumbered: "now of late we have learned that the Enemy has been among them [i.e. the Corsairs], and they are gone over to Him, or back to Him - they were ever ready to His will - as have so many also in the East." (TT. This statement is otherwise quite chauvinistic: Hard to imagine that "ever ready to His will" would include the Castamirioni and the oppositional refugees from their time). "This is a great war long-planned, and we are but one piece in it, whatever pride may say. Things move in the far East beyond the Inland Sea, it is reported; ... and south in Harad." (RK)
The Easterlings still maintained the traditions of the Wainriders, approaching with wains and chariots, but like in the war of 1944 supported by cavalry units: "Here and there [there was] the gleam of spears and helmets; and over the levels beside the roads horsemen could be seen riding in many companies. ... These were Men of other race, out of the wide Eastlands." (TT) The axe-men were first seen at Cair Andros. (RK) "From the havens of Harad ships of war put out to sea," (FR) the Variags of Khand gathered as well as the Southrons from Harad with their dreadful oliphaunts, and even the black troll-men of Far Harad were seen among the combined forces. "At the same time ... a host of the allies of Sauron that had long threatened the borders of King Brand crossed the river Carnen. ... In the end both King Brand and King Dain Ironfoot were slain, and the Easterlings had the victory." (TY) Once again, Rhóvanion was in peril of getting subdued.
At Pelennor as well, the Men of Darkness almost won the day. But when Aragorn, effectfully assisted by the Dead Men of Dunharrow, had taken the main fleet of the Corsairs, the Dúnedain succeeded in counter-attack, "driving the enemy before them: troll-men and Variags and orcs that hated the sunlight. ... The Southrons were bold men and grim, and fierce in despair; and the Easterlings were strong and war-hardened and asked for no quarter. ... All were slain save those who fled to die, or to drown in the red foam of the River. ... to the land of the Haradrim came only a tale from far off: a rumour of the wrath and terror of Gondor." (RK)
When Sauron fell, "the Men of Rhún and of Harad, Easterling and Southron, saw the ruin of their war and the great majesty and glory of the Captains of the West. And those that were deepest and longest in evil servitude, hating the West, and yet were men proud and bold, in their turn now gathered themselves for a last stand of desperate battle. But the most part fled eastward as they could; and some cast their weapons down and sued for mercy." (RK)
The defeat was total and ultimate. The attack on Rhóvanion collapsed like a house of cards: "When news came of the great victories in the South, then Sauron's northern army was filled with dismay; and the besieged came forth and routed them, and the remnant fled into the East and troubled Dale no more." (TY)
When Sauron's ban was lifted, like being released from a spell, many inhabitants of Rhún and Harad realised whom they had served. The distant regions apparently were shattered by political earthquakes of unprecedented dimensions. "And embassies came from many lands and peoples, from the East and the South, and from the borders of Mirkwood ... And the King pardoned the Easterlings that had given themselves up, and sent them away free, and he made peace with the peoples of Harad; and the slaves of Mordor he released and gave to them all the lands about Lake Nurnen to be their own." (RK)
But the understandable euphoria of the time when those words were written passed, and later historians give us sobering news, the last of the Fourth Age concerning the vastnesses of Rhún and Harad:
"Though Sauron had passed, the hatred and evils that he bred had not died, and the King of the West had many enemies to subdue before the White Tree could grow in peace. And wherever King Elessar went with war King Éomer went with him; and beyond the Sea of Rhún and on the far fields of the South the thunder of the cavalry of the Mark was heard." (KR)
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