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Thread: Gondor = Venice?

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Eryan began this thread with the following post

You may have remarked the article posted yesterday by Taz on our home page reporting the letter of Tolkien in which we may found a statement that Gondor was actually Venice!
This is not totally new. I already read in some biographical source about Tolkien that Tolkien was talking about Venice in terms of "a City of Gondor", but NOT Minas Tirith - he likened Venice to the Gondorian port Pelargir.
Anyway, Men of Gondor decidedly DO have some "Venetian flavour".
There is yet another obvious parallel: Arnor = western part of the Roman Empire, Gondor = its eastern part, in other words, Byzantium.
And (as I already remarked in the thread on Beren in "Caharcters") the siege of Minas Tirith has much in common with the siege of Vienna. If so, Gondor = Austrian Empire.

Morgoththebeast replied

obviously your roman thoery is incorrect. the gondorians had a firmer grip on the southern part of middle earth. the capital of the roman empire was in the west. if you are saying constantinople was a more powerful city than that of rome your are ridicusally incorrect
Um, no, he's not, actually (Eryan- you are a "he" right? I don't dare guess, what with Tommy being a girl and all...). At least about the eastern/ western empire- I really don't know how that compares to Middle Earth so I don't have much of an opinion on that.

Constantinople began its ascendence in the early 4th century and it became the emperor's favored city relatively quickly. It shared the role of capital of the empire for roughly 150 years. Indeed, co-rulers (one in each city) became increasingly common as the Persian threat on the eastern borders was matched by the Germanic tribes in the northwest. The Sack of Rome by Alaric (410) proved to be a set-back from which the city was slow to recover, and even though it remained important (symbolically as well as in more concrete matters), Constantinople was assuredly the greater city by the early 5th century. By the time the western empire was delegated out of existance in the last quarter of the 5th century, Constantinople was the greatest city in the Mediterranean and the language of the Empire was Greek. Rome (the city) was the capital of a Germanic kingdom- still great, in its way, but no longer "the light of the world".

Even as Rome regained its prominence through the Middle Ages, Constantinople kept pace for a while, declined for a while, and was conquered by the Ottomans, who once again brought it back to strength (for a while- these things are cyclical).

We now return you to your regularly scheduled Tolkien-discussing.
Basically, it all depends on the historical period under discussion, as to whether Rome or Constantinople was in the ascendancy. Jehanne has got it right.

I can accept that Pelargir = Venice having no description to make it otherwise. Why the need to draw these parallels eludes me; however, if that's what makes you happy, who am I to douse the flames of your interest. Carry on; maybe I will learn something new. Wink Smilie
I was trying to find the other topic where we got on a subject like this, but, no luck...I think it was something to the effect of figuring out where Mordor would be, if Middle-Earth was Europe...I think it was decided (or at least suggested) that Mordor would fall in the area of Poland?

Anyway, Men of Gondor decidedly DO have some \"Venetian flavour\".

Not sure what 'Venetian flavor' is...expain please?
i would like to say this in my defense, Constantinople did stand longer than rome but do not forget this when The whole roman empire ,not western or eastern,was in its glory days the place to be was in Rome ok rome was the the most powerful city at the time, i care not what you say if you say the heart and soul of the whole roman empire was in constantinople, then you are incorrect.

[Edited on 3/3/2002 by Grondmaster]
Morgoththebest: If you click on the 'editer' button at the bottom of your post, you can correct any mistakes in your posts, past or present. For those in the future, well you will just have to wait to until they show up in the present. Wink Smilie
Morgoththebest- you are entitled to your scholarly opinion, of course. The problem arises from using the phrase "the Roman Empire" without a chronological context- it implies a monolithic and non-evolving unit (like the phrase "Middle Ages". that one bugs me). It's a useful phrase (in its way) but not a specific one. If you mean the Augustan Age only (one of several possible "glory days"), then Rome was indeed one of the greatest cities in the Mediterranean and the world. But this was a historically brief moment. Even though Rome was a truly vital city in terms of its symbolic, economic, political, etc importance, it was not without competition, and not just from Constantinople. Depending on /when/ in Roman Imperial history you look (from the founding to the fall), Rome shared its glory with several important cities, particularly with the aforementioned Constantinople and with Alexandria, a port that easily matched Rome in wealth and cultural importance. Rome's greatest worth lay in its symbolic meaning, and it was this meaning (independent of weath or power) that lasted the longest in the west (even after the empire shifted its focus eastward). Nevertheless, the "heart" of the Empire moved with its changing fortunes.

But none of this has to do with Tolkien, still. Does anyone have any Tolkien opinions?[Edited on 3/3/2002 by Jehanne]
why do you all team up on me , is it because my name includes morgoth or something i mean he was a very powerful vala. why wont anyone side with me and i thought this was the common mans forum not the professor of mediterreanan history at an ivy league school forum
Morgoththebest: Relax, no one is picking on you, because of your views or your nik, both of which you have the right to hold and express on this forum. And when someone disagrees with your views, don't take it personal, it isn't meant to be. Smile Smilie

Rome was a great city in the time of the Caesars, as was Athens when the Greeks were in the ascension, before the Roman Empire's foundation. There was even a period when Venice held sway atop the economic powers of the western world. Saying this does nothing to belittle Rome.

Probably neither Minas Tirith nor Pelargir was the chief city of the Gondor at its height of power, that honor would have fallen to Osgiliath, until it was razed.
I'm sorry, Morgoth, I really didn't mean to pick on you. I /do/ teach this stuff, as background in my Medieval History classes, so sometimes I get all professor-y and lecture-y.

I also tend to rant (see any thread on a woman character for proof). It rarely has anything to do with the people posting here and more to do with how annoyingly dumb or surprisingly brilliant my students were that day. And if I've been grading papers before I check the boards, all bets are off.

But I really am a nice person! (sometimes, anyway) Why don't we start over? I promise, even if I disagree with you, I'll still respect your opinion.

And I like your name.
:o I go off and get drunk for a weekend, and this is what happens! We get into ancient geography, blimey! I don't really think any of it was really meant to be anywhere, and I reckon in the letter that Taz posted, JRR was just humouring a young fan by pretending to be in Gondor.
I also was absent and also this is what happens!!!
I cannot write anything very sensible right now but I'm happy that the discussion is so hot.
OK, so many questions... I'm overwhelmed... but let's have a go!
As for the resemblances between places from Tolkien's world and places from real world, I do not try to propose any theories which could allow us to identify Gondor with Venice, or Byzantium, or Vienna. Tolkien himself disliked allegory heartily (see the Introduction to the Ballantine edition of the LOTR). However, I read in some other place that he likened the individual experience of the postAuthorID to leaves falling on a leaf mould and creating the soil which then can nourish the germs of his stories. It is thus tempting to try to identify at least some of these leaves...
What I said a propos of Gondor was simply an atempt to identify several such "leaves". First of all, the people of Gondor are descendants of the noble people of Numenor and, thus, sadly, we cannot deny that they have some traits in common with "Aryas" from the Nazi rascist mythology (believed to be the descendants of the people of Atlantis). Yet the "Aryas" were supposed to be blondes with blue eyes, and Numenoreans (and Men of Gondor) were often dark-haired, Faramir has long "raven" hair. I said that for me Men of Gondor have some "Venetian flavour" among others because of that. In my eyes Faramir resembles young handsome dark-haired Venetians from the famous Venetian paintings... and Denethor is really rather like an awe-inspiring Venetian doge!
Another thing, Venice (like Gondor) was founded by fugitives from a noble, more ancient empire... And Venice is not just a city, Venetians really "ruled the waves" (and the coasts!) in the region of Eastern Mediterranean during many many years, the ruins of their castles and fortresses can still be found all over Greece (has anyone see Nafplion?!!!)
As for Byzantium, I think that Jehanne explained that matter very well already. I would only like to add that when I visited Hagia Sophia, that most famous temple of ancient Byzantium, I had a strong feeling of "deja vu" (=having alreday seen it). I simply KNEW it, that particular atmophere... and then I realised that I feel exactly as Pippin when walking slowly with Gandalf in the awesome halls of Denethor in Minas Tirith!
As for the similarities between the siege of Minas Tirith in LOTR and the siege of Vienna by the Turcs in the end of XVII century... I already wrote on that in another thread - that on "Beren" in "Characters".
There exists yet another "leaf", yet another parallel between Gondor and the real world. Chikakat mentioned Poland as a possible real world locality of Mordor... I really don't think so, Chika. Why? Because the situation of Poland just before the outbreak of the Second World War resembled very strongly the situation of Gondor, and not of Mordor!
As stressed by Boromir during the Council of Elrond, Gondor was a border country protecting "The West" from the menace from the East. Poland often played a similar role in respect to Western countries, in XVII century, when they were menaced by Turks, Poland was even called "The Bulwark of Christendom". Then in the twenties Poland played once again a similar role of "the Bulwark of the West" when the Soviet Red Army attempted to bring communist revolution to the entire Europe. And then in the thirties, just before the outbreak of the Second World War, Poland found itself in a hopeless situation, right in between two unfriendly totalitarian powers: the Communist Empire of Staline, and the Nazi Empire of Hitler's Germany. Really like Gondor assailed by both Sauron and Saruman!
However, in contrast to LOTR, the story of the resistance of Poland has a sad ending. Poles were repeatedly cajoled by Hitler to become his allies but they remained faithful to Western ideals of freedom and democracy and they remained allies of England and France. And then in September 1939 Poland was attacked from all sides at once, subdued after a month only of war, and occxupied by both Germany and Soviet Russia. In contrast to the story of Gondor told in LOTR, nobody came to its aid.
I don't know whether you know that Boromir could really be a Polish name?
For Poles, his name means "Wood Peace" (or "Forest Peace", or "Regard for Wood") (Bor = Wood, Forest; Mir = Peace, but also Deference, Regard, Awe).
There are many other Polish names which are constructed in a quite similar fashion, for instance, Casimir, Slavomir, Radomir, Sedzimir, Dobromir... But NOT Faramir - this is NOT at all a Polish-sounding name!
And Jehanne, I hope that you will stay to be professor-y and lecturer-y because your posts make deliciuos reading!

I have not read all the above posts, but I just like to say this: Gondor can't be Venice, cos Venice sucks. I've only just been there, and believe me: it's not that great at all. It's just a dirty littly town of ancient glory. And Gondor might have been ancient glory, but it had it's honour. Venice hasn't. Smile Smilie
If a city could have honor, how could it lose it?

I suggest that when Tommy was in Venice, she wasn't there because she wanted to be, and as such wasn't in the mood to soak in all the history and rich attractions. Of course I also could be wrong.

I was there on a school trip, indeed Grondy, but it was fun, and we weren't soaked in history as such. It just disappointed me... It used to be a city of glory, splendour and honour, but now it has nothing but pigeons, dirty canals and old buildings. It's not romantic at all, I think.

Ahh, but it is who you are with that makes any place romantic. And you have to see the canals by moonlight to cover up the squalor. Besides, now they probably have three or four McDonalds, and all the gondoliers have cell phones sprouting out of their ears. Big Smile Smilie
There is nothing very romantic in the actual site of Troy or Sparta or in the barrow in Maraton if you don't know what they are. But if you know that, you feel very moved indeed.
I for myself prefer shabby ruined places or boring places to well entertained places full of tourists driven through them by pitiless guides as cattle driven to a slaughterhouse! I think the worst case is Alhambra where you even cannot stop...
Grondy: Sorry to disappoint you, but they have cell phones, and there are three McDonalds and a Burger King there... Very Sad Smilie

Venice must be beautiful by night, I'm sure, but so are Paris and Dublin and Berlin and Brussels and Amsterdam and so many places... There's nothing special about Venice, that's what I meant.
This is an interesting theory, Eryan! Could you please tell me where Tolkien said this?
I think it is reasonable, for the way I see it, Gondor is around as is Rohan. The Rhorrim also wear helmets with plumes which are rather Roman...maybe just a coincidence though. Anyhow, if you look at the map of ME, there is a peniunsula that looks like Italy. Hope you all can follow this post, I am falling asleep.
Hi Samwisegamgee,
I am glad that these posts were interesting for you! But please let me know what do you mean by:
Could you please tell me where Tolkien said this?
, and by
for the way I see it, Gondor is around as is Rohan
. I am also a little sleepy now so I need to have this precised! Wink Smilie
I already read in some biographical source about Tolkien that Tolkien was talking about Venice in terms of \"a City of Gondor\", but NOT Minas Tirith - he likened Venice to the Gondorian port Pelargir.
[Edited on 1/3/2002 by Eryan]
What biographical source is what I mean by where tolkien said this. And your second quote is an error...what I meant to say is that Gondor is around Rohan, so Rohan would be around Rome as well, thus, Eomer wears a plume on his helmet, etc.
Unfortunately, I can tell you only that I read that Tolkien compared Venice to Gondor (or rather to Pelargir) in one of his biographies, but which one???? I don't remember the name of his postAuthorID. It was NOT the newest one, though!