It was founded at the end of the Second Age (SA 3320) by Elendil, whose sons founded Gondor at the same time. The history of the two kingdoms is intertwined; both kingdoms are known as the Realms of the Dúnedain in Exile.
Before the foundation of Arnor there was already a sizable Númenórean population living there, a result of the slow emigration of Númenóreans which had started under Tar-Meneldur and Tar-Aldarion. Before the arrival of the Dúnedain Arnor was home to Middle Men of Edain stock, and the early colonists soon interbred with the indigenous population. Arnor was originally favoured over the more southern regions (Gondor) because the Elves under Gil-galad lived near it across the river Lhûn. However, in later days after the Númenóreans fell under Sauron's shadow they settled more to the south. This led to a situation where Elendil arrived in an area populated by people who, unlike his own Númenóreans, were mainly still friends with the Elves, and unlike Gondor to the south in Arnor much knowledge of the Elder Days was preserved.
Arnor's second king Isildur (also King of Gondor) was killed in TA 2 by orcs in the disastrous Battle of the Gladden Fields. His three eldest sons were killed with him, but the fourth and youngest, Valandil, survived and became king of Arnor (TA 2 or 10?).
Because Valandil and his heirs did not claim the throne of Gondor the realms were split, but Arnor's ruler kept the title High King, whereas in the south the ruler was just King. At its height, Arnor borders extended from the Ice-Bay of Forochel in the north, the river Greyflood down to Belegaer in the south, the river Hoarwell in the east, and the river Lune in the west. The capital city was Annúminas, and the realm included other cities such as Fornost, Tharbad, Lond Daer, and Tyrn Gorthad.
After the death of its tenth king, Eärendur, in 861, Arnor was shaken by civil war between the three sons of Eärendur. The eldest son, Amlaith, claimed Kingship over all Arnor but was reduced to only ruling the region of Arthedain as his kingdom, while the other sons founded the kingdoms of Cardolan and Rhudaur.
Arnor was refounded in name by Arthedain's king Argeleb I, when Cardolan placed itself under the suzerainty of Arthedain. However, even Arthedain was eventually destroyed. The people of Arnor were mostly wiped out by the wars, but the Hobbits survived in the Shire, men survived in Bree and probably other villages, and the Dúnedain of Arnor created new homes in the Angle south of Rivendell, where some of them became known as the Rangers of the North.
Aragorn II as King Elessar refounded the Kingdom of Arnor as part of the Reunited Kingdom, and made Annúminas his summer capital. After the fall of Sauron, Arnor was safe again for human population, and although it remained less populated than Gondor to the south, in time Arnor became a more densely populated area again, even when it had dwindled in size due to the independence of the Shire.
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