The city was built to guard against the men of the White Mountains in the year SA 3320 by the Faithful, those Númenóreans who escaped the destruction of Númenor ten years prior. It was at that time named Minas Anor, meaning "Tower of the Sun". It served as the home of the House of Anárion, as Minas Ithil, built to guard against Mordor, became the dwelling-place of the House of Isildur. The South-kingdom, however, was jointly ruled from Osgiliath by both houses.
In the year SA 3429, Sauron invaded Gondor, capturing Minas Ithil and forcing Isildur to flee. Anárion successfully defended Osgiliath, driving Sauron back for a time, but in the following War of the Last Alliance, even though Sauron was defeated by Isildur, Anárion was slain and rule of Gondor passed to his descendants, who would continue to rule from Osgiliath.
King Ostoher rebuilt the city in TA 420, establishing his summer court there. Gradually, it eclipsed Osgiliath in importance as the original capital slowly declined into ruin, and in TA 1640 King Tarondor permanently moved the King's House to Minas Anor. In the year TA 2002, the city of Minas Ithil on the borders of Mordor was captured by the Ringwraiths, and renamed Minas Morgul. It was then that Minas Anor was renamed Minas Tirith, meaning "Tower of Guard". Soon afterwards, the last king of Gondor, Eärnur, was slain in the Morgul Vale, and rulership of Gondor passed to the Stewards. It was also around this time that the Rammas Echor, the great wall encircling the rich farmlands and suburbs of the city, was built.
The might of Gondor would decline into the late Third Age, and although the White Tower was rebuilt by Ecthelion I in the year TA 2698, the White Tree died in the year TA 2872 with no replacement. After Sauron openly declared himself in the year TA 2951, Ecthelion II strengthened the city's defenses. Only a few years later, Aragorn traveled to the city under the name of Thorongil, and was said to have done great deeds there.
Siege of Minas Tirith
Minas Tirith was eventually, during the War of the Ring in the year TA 3019, besieged by the armies of Mordor, under the Great Darkness generated by Sauron's power. The immense Battle of the Pelennor Fields took place in the fields surrounding the city. Although Gondor and its allies were victorious, Theoden, the King of Rohan was severly wounded during this battle by the Witch-king of Angmar. At about the same time, the Witch-king was destroyed by Éowyn, lady of Rohan. It was also there that Aragorn took command of the City's defenses from the Ruling Steward Denethor after he fell to despair. Gandalf later arrived at the hour of need with Gondor's Army of the South which he had liberated from defending the port city of Pelargir, turning the tide of battle in favor of the Free Peoples. After the battle, the stench of death was heavy and the Pelennor Fields lay strewn with bodies.
On 1 May 3019, the Crowning of King Elessar took place on the plain outside Minas Tirith. After his coronation, he entered the city as the King of Gondor, as he was destined to become from the start of his lifetime. With his coronation, King Elessar refounded the line of the Kings of Gondor, and as he was also the King of the Kingdom of Arnor, Minas Tirith became Capital of the Reunited Kingdom.
Minas Tirith was repaired by its new king and by the Dwarves of Erebor, particularly Gimli, who built a new gate for the city and altogether fixed the layout of the city as well. Minas Tirith was said to have been made even more beautiful than when it was at the time of its founding. The city is known to have stood firm and strong well because of these two renovations.
- "For the fashion of Minas Tirith was such that it was built on seven levels, each delved into the hill, and about each was set a wall, and in each was a gate. But the gates were not set in a line: the Great Gate in the City wall was at the east point of the circuit, but the next faced half south, and the third half north, and so to and fro upwards; so the paved way that climbed toward the citadel turned this way and that and then that across the face of the hill."
- —The Return of the King, Chapter I: "Minas Tirith"
Minas Tirith was surrounded by the Rammas Echor, a large ringwall encircling the city and the Pelennor Fields. This wall was built after Minas Ithil fell and was renamed Minas Morgul. It was repaired by Ecthelion II during the time of the War of the Ring, but it had not the strength to defend the city from the Dark Lord Sauron's legions of Uruk-hai from Mordor. The city itself lay on a hill beneath Mount Mindolluin, which rose above the city's citadel, by a length of a couple of thousand feet. Mount Mindolluin was where Aragorn found the seedling of the White Tree.
The city was divided into seven one-hundred-foot high levels, each surrounded by white walls, except the first walls which had the same kind of black stone as Orthanc as a face. The gates connecting the levels did not lay behind one another in a line, but faced in different directions. A spur of rock, whose summit was level with the city's uppermost tier, jutted out from the front of the city in an easterly direction, dividing all but the first level into two. Each level was scattered with many alleys, narrow passageways, and full-fledged houses (which were probably quite rare in the city). On the sixth level were located the Houses of Healing, surrounded by pleasant gardens. Finally, within the seventh wall, was the Citadel of Minas Tirith, with the White Tower of Ecthelion - three hundred feet high, so that its apex was one thousand feet above the plain.
The First Level was the lowest tier of the city, at which the main gate was located.
During the Siege of Minas Tirith, Uruk-hai cast fire into the First Level, burning many buildings and causing general havoc to many of the defenders. Later on, the Main Gate was breached when Grond was finally used against it, and the soldiers of Gondor and Uruk-hai clashed in the streets of the First Circle but Gandalf ordered a retreat and then made their way up.
Portrayal in adaptations
Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films
Minas Tirith appears briefly in Peter Jackson's first movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, where Gandalf learns about the One Ring; as well as his second film The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers where it is seen as a glimpse in the distance when the rangers of Ithilien hold Frodo and Sam captive. It is a central and major location in Peter Jackson's third movie The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
Tolkien's description of the physical layout of Minas Tirith is largely followed in Peter Jackson's movie. The films crew built a model of Minas Tirith closely based on Tolkien's description, although there are a few of assumptions made by the director and differences from the book. One of these is the assumption that the top of the courtyard of the White Tree was flattened and paved. Another difference between film and book is that in the book the coronation of Aragorn takes place not in the courtyard atop the city but outside the city, and only after his coronation does he march into the city as new King of Gondor.
Despite the book's describing the first wall as dark in colour (similar to Orthanc), unusually high and almost indestructible, in the movies it is not only white and several times lower than the rest of the walls, it's also heavily damaged because of attacks. The film also shows the old White Tree with blossom at the arrival of Aragorn, though in the book Gandalf and Aragorn discover a new sapling on the slopes of Mount Mindolluin and replant it in the place of the old tree.
The Great Gate of Minas Tirith in the films was flanked by towers and bastions made from the white (though black in the book) almost indestructible stone (similar to that of Orthanc) which makes up the entire lower level. The Gate was replaced by one that was made in the Lonely Mountain. In addition there is a wall surrounding Pelennor fields called Rammas Echor which was breached during the siege of Gondor.
The Battle for Middle-earth
In Electronic Arts' RTS The Battle for Middle-earth series, Minas Tirith can be played at in Skirmishes, and appears in the Campaign of the first installment The Battle for Middle-earth. The city's scale and depth are accurate to its depiction in the films.
|Foreign Language||Translated name|
|Belarusian Cyrillic||Мі́нас Ты́рыт|
|Bulgarian Cyrillic||Минас Тирит|
|Chinese (Hong Kong)||米那斯提力斯|
|Kazakh||Мінас Тірітһ (Cyrillic) Minas Tirith (Latin)|
|Kyrgyz Cyrillic||Минас Тиритч|
|Macedonian Cyrillic||Минас Тирит|
|Mongolian Cyrillic||Минас Тиритh|
|Serbian||Минас Тирит (Cyrillic) Minas Tirit (Latin)|
|Sindhi||مڳناس تڳرڳته ?|
|Uzbek||Минас Тиритҳ (Cyrillic) Minas Tirith (Latin)|
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