Rhûn, also known as The East and Eastlands in the Westron tongue, is a large region in the far eastern part of Middle-earth. It was the home and kingdom of the Easterlings in the Second and Third Ages. It had many different groups who ultimately fought together and were in Sauron's service. They seem to be based on Central Asian cultures.
We know almost nothing of the lands beyond the great Sea of Rhûn that stood on its borders with the western lands. Even Gandalf had never explored there, and although Aragorn visited once, we have no report of his activities.
Of its ancient geography we can glean a little from The Silmarillion; far beyond the Sea of Rhûn was another inland sea, the Sea of Helcar, and beyond that a range of mountains known as the Orocarni (Red Mountains). Somewhere in the lost east, too, lay Cuiviénen and Hildórien, where Elves and Men first awoke: all the Children of Ilúvatar could trace their ancestries back to the eastward regions of Middle-earth.
Rhûn was the domain of the Easterlings, Men of Darkness who were ready to follow both the Dark Lords and fought as their allies in war. These lands, too, were inhabited by lost Elves, Avari, and by four of the seven clans of the Dwarves.
During the Third Age, Rhûn was visited by three Wizards; Saruman, Alatar and Pallando, and though Saruman returned into the west, the two Blue Wizards remained. Their fates are unknown and whether they were successful in inspiring the peoples they had contact with to resist Sauron's influence is unknown. Sauron himself journeyed into the eastward lands, in hiding from the White Council during the centuries known in the west as the Watchful Peace.
The people of Rhûn were finally subdued in the Fourth Age under King Elessar and his son Eldarion. King Elessar eventually made peace with the Easterlings, and the Easterlings were allowed to remain in their great empire.
In times of peace (or unstable lulls between Easterling attacks), the Men of Rhûn traded their products to their erstwhile enemies as well. As seen in The Hobbit, a number of Elvish guardsmen in the cellar of King Thranduil's subterranean palace drank themselves into a stupor and blindly let Bilbo Baggins and his Dwarf companions escape down the River Running to Lake-town. The massive, wild white Kine of Araw (from which Boromir's Horn of Gondor was crafted) would also prove to provide a source of rare, sumptuous, and mouth-watering meat that was famed around the land and was greatly desired by the monarchs of every sort of kingdom, from the Elvenking to the Steward of Gondor.
Rhûn is a diverse land that borders many known and unknown lands and dominions, the most of any in Middle-earth. It is so large that it could almost be called its own continent. To the northwest are the Dwarvish realms of the Iron Hills and Lonely Mountain, the Mannish kingdoms of Dale, Lake-town upon the Long Lake, and Dorwinion on the Sea of Rhûn. Further northwest was Thranduil's dominion of eastern Mirkwood. To the far west were the Brown Lands.
To the southwest was Dagorlad, the Morannon, and of course, the volcanic plateaus and jagged mountain ridges of Mordor itself. Even further south of that were Rhûn's allies on the plains of Khand and the searing deserts of the Harad. To the east, somewhere out there, were the Orocarni. What lays in the uttermost east no one knows or comprehends, save the people of Rhûn itself.
Some of the great, unknown Easterling cities might be located on the flanks of the Orocarni or, in the case of the plains, upon hills for better defence from sieges. However, the people of Rhûn would also have to contend with the great cities of the remaining four of the seven Dwarf clans, the ones that refused to trek westwards. These cities might have resembled the great fortresses of Nogrod and Belegost, situated deep within the vales of the Blue Mountains during the First Age. If this were so, the other great cities of the remaining clans would most likely be delved into the rock of the Red Mountains. The Southwest may also have been jungle, like that of Far Harad.
Rhûn was known for numerous fighting forces, nearly spelling the doom of Gondor and almost heralding Sauron's complete victory over the entirety of Middle-earth. (See the article entitled "Easterlings" for a more complete digest of their military structure.)
The First AgeEdit
During the First Age, many of Tolkien's works (such as The Silmarillion and The Children of Húrin) feature a faction known as the "Easterlings" that eventually betray the Eldar and take the lands of Hithlum as their fief. It is unclear whether Tolkien's First Age Easterlings came from Rhûn itself, or from the then-unknown lands of Eriador to the east of the Blue Mountains. In any case, information about them and their military structure during the War of the Jewels is sketchy to nonexistent.
However, we can assume that their military was not of the quality of the three houses of the Edain. Because of their distance from the high culture of the Eldar, their weaponry and armor would most likely be inferior to that of their Edain brothers that were armed by the Elves of Beleriand. On their other hand, their work with Morgoth's Orcs would place them in a position to utilize his weaponry after large losses and attrition.
The Third Age and BeyondEdit
Although not much is known of how the Easterling army is composed there are a few things to be learned.
The main weapon of the infantry of Rhûn that marched upon Gondor seemed to be the spear although there were reports of short, swarthy men wielding axes during Battle of the Pelennor Fields.
However, they are not all footmen. In the books, they are described as having bowmen upon horses and then they are described as companies of horsemen. Both the Wainriders and the Balcoth also used chariots. These were supremely effective in the flat no-man's lands that characterized much of Rhovanion in the wide corridor between the southern eaves of Mirkwood and the northern flanks of Mordor, routing and destroying the armies of Gondor under King Narmacil II in the Battle of the Plains. They were to take a considerable toll on the Eotheod as well.
The Easterlings that fought in the War of the Ring established and built on the solid foundation of military excellence and fearsome savagery that characterized their all-conquering ancestors. Often, the Easterlings in a mixed contingent of Orcs, Haradrim, Variags, Corsairs, or Uruk-hai would be the first to clash with the enemy and the last to leave the field. The Rhûnic tradition of bravery and self-sacrifice was imbued within every warrior of Rhûn, instilling him with a concoction of bloodlust and fury that would ensure that he fought to the last. As evidenced in countless battles during the Third Age, the Easterlings would always stand their ground and fight to the last man unless ordered otherwise. This was proven in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. The Easterlings' resolve to fight to the death was also exemplified the next day, when the tables turned against Sauron. While the host of Mordor dropped their weapons, shed their armor, and fled en masse across the bridge to Osgiliath, the host of the Easterlings halted with their backs to the River Anduin and stood their ground. None survived, despite inflicting numerous casualties upon their hated enemies.
The vast Rhûnic army that besieged Dale and the Lonely Mountains in TA 3019 most likely had a sizable support element traveling along with them, for one does not simply win a siege with footmen. It is likely that the siege weapons brought along by the Easterlings differed greatly from their primitive and savage Orc allies.
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