I have a question about Middle Earth in general. What year do you think is the most like the world of Middle Earth. Throughout there is very little change in the technologies used. Feanor forges himself a sword, and many thousands of years later, Aragorn hits orcs with... a sword! So I ask, what year in the history of any place (which I hope you specify) had technology the most similar to the technology used in Middle Earth?
Gee that's a hard one Curufinwe.... In almost all ways regarding Health, Wisdom and living in harmony with nature, the Elves and possibly are The Dunedain were ahead of us..... I couldn't even hazard a guess.
The Rohirrim were kindof like the Mongols in that they both were semi-nomadic horse based cultures. However, the Mongols subdivided into individual tribes which tended to fight each other until they all managed to unite. When they did, they created the largest continuous empire in history. Rohan had peace with its neighbors, and was united under one king throughout its history. More importantly, the Mongols were known for their re-curved composite bow, and while Tolkien never specifically says what type of weapons the Rohirrim used, they aren't known for anything other than hitting the enemy really hard in the rear when they least expect it with a charge of cavalry. I think if they had a weapon like the Mongolian bow, it would be mentioned. Most importantly of all, they have castles such as Helms Deep. For me, a comparison of the Mongols of the 13th and 14th century and the Rohrrim doesn't make sense.
As for Byzantium, I'm not as familiar with its history, but I do know that Tolkien refers to Numenor at least once in his letters as his version of the Atlantis myth, which is greek. Byzantium also controls a very important rout from Aisa to Europe, much like Gondor's Minas Tirith controls the passage from the east and south to the north and west along the Anduin. However, Byzantium was a trade based city, while Minas Tirith (Tower of Guard in Sindarin) seems to be more of a militarily inclined city. They both had massively powerful enemies threatening them for periods of time (Persia and Mordor), so there are a few similarities I can see without doing much research.
I think that the closest time in history would be the 13th and early 14th centuries in Europe, when plate mail was becoming more common but before the use of guns.
Byzantium was the kingdom, not the city. Byzantium had a very powerful army. That was the reason it held off against it's enemy's as long as it did.
I agree that the Rohirric culture & language is very Anglo-Saxon, though Tolkien (I believe) insisted that the Rohirrim were NOT merely an import of Anglo-Saxon into his story.
In terms of tech, it always strikes me that the Elves "made" jewels, instead of mined them. When did we start making lab-created gemstones? I don't know, but I'd bet it was long after any of the ages or cultures or empires that the humans of Middle-Earth remind us of.
So, in terms of the swords not changing from Feanor to Aragorn: The elves seem to have learned a lot from the Valar and then passes some of that on to the humans they associated with, but they also seem to not come up with a lot of new tech - as if they are satisfied with the lives they have and need not create or invent out of need, (isn't necessity the mother of invention) but only out of creativity or curiosity... so they advance more in art than they do in tools, I think.
Humans, OTOH, get a sort of technological boost from their contact with the Elves, but humans who are in contact with Elves seem to also gain a sort of Elvish sensibility and so are more Artsy than Tech-y... meanwhile, humans left to themselves seem to have tech & human invention moving at a regular pace ...
OTOH, "good" seems to be associated with low-tech, and evil seems associated with 'higher' tech - or at least machine-age tech (think Saruman). So maybe the reason for the "sameness" of weapons is that when the good guys win, they don't immediately turn around and think up bigger and better explosives.
...Thought it's just also occurred to me that Gandalf with his fireworks is turning fire & explosives (one assumes a kind of gunpowder is involved) to an artistic (i.e. creative) instead of a destructive (i.e. war-time) end.
So maybe the elves are sitting in Valinor right now, with their iLeaves creating new apps and great works of art, with their tech.
If I had to venture a guess, I'd say roughly between the 11th to 13th century. This includes most of your standard medieval arsenal. From leather armor to steel, daggers to longswords, bows and crossbows. You'll also have your reinforced siege towers and armored battering rams to take down the impenetrable final evolution stage of castle walls, before gunpowder came along and made them obsolete.
But at this point you'll cover pretty much everything in canon. If I HAD to choose a specific empire, I'd say a combination of the European armies, namely England and The Holy Roman Empire. Heck most of the Tolkien gear was used in the crusades in the 11th century! You'll also have your Mongols and Ghengis Khan in the 13th century, who are by far the most superior horsemen mankind has ever known.
I think that about sums it up!
I'll just note that while we are reading about the actual horse-culture and arms of the Rohirrim, with the language we are not actually looking at the true language of the Horse-lords. Anglo-saxon is a translated language, just as Modern English translates the Common Speech.
Is Anglo-saxon anything like the actual tongue of the Rohirrim, in any sense or measure? Historically the Rohirrim spoke a language that preceded Anglo-saxon by many years, and for evidence we only have a few words in the genuine language of the Rohirrim (counting those published by the author himself in Appendix F). For examples: trahan 'burrow' kastu 'mathom' and kûd-dûkan 'hole-dweller'
And we can see that Old English holbytla (used in translation), at least, sounds nothing like the genuine word the Rohirrim used, in kûd-dûkan. In Appendix F Tolkien even noted...
'The linguistic procedure does not imply that the Rohirrim closely resembled the ancient English otherwise, in culture or art, in weapons or modes of warfare, except in a general way due to their circumstances: a simpler and more primitive people living in contact with a higher and more venerable culture, and occupying lands that once had been part of its domain.'
The Return of the King, Appendix F, On Translation
That said we have Tom Shippey, for example, 'disagreeing' with JRRT about that, or at least arguing, in part, that the Rohirrim are based on the Anglo-saxons of legend and poetry. But what about the actual tongue? From Letters...
'Since the Rohirrim are represented as recent comers out of the North, and users of an archaic Mannish language relatively untouched by the influence of Eldarin, I have turned their names into forms like (but not identical with) Old English. (...)
The Rohirrim no doubt (as our ancient English ancestors in a similar state of culture and society) spoke, at least their own tongue, with a slower tempo and more sonorous articulation, than modern 'urbans'.
This is the only reference I could find so far with 'slow' in it (given the description noted below), but this seems to be about a manner of speaking. The only other evidence I recall at the moment is that Aragorn chants softly in a 'slow tongue' which then has a strong music in it. And:
'That, I guess, is the language of the Rohirrim,' said Legolas; 'for it is like to this land itself; rich and rolling in part, and else hard and stern as the mountains.'
Hmm. I checked Hammond and Scull's reference to Anglo-saxon (in their amazing Reader's Guide) and could not find them quoting Tolkien describing Old English, or (so far) any Primary World language, in a similar way. Not that he never did, but I think this would be notable, if so.
And even if we say Sindarin, for example, is 'like' Welsh in some way or measure, I'm not sure what that means beyond the external fact that the general phonology and some grammar of Welsh inspired Sindarin. And obviously Tolkien did not use Welsh to translate Sindarin.
With Old English we are really looking at a much later language that only arose in northern Europe well after the Third Age had passed.
Old from our perspective, Anglo-Saxon is an unknown language of the future to Frodo and the Elves, and it was employed by the modern 'translator' (Tolkien playing the part of translator) to translate some ancient, actual language of the Rohirrim (which must be related to the languages of Frodo's day), just like we are looking at Modern English to translate Westron.
This was done not because the original language was necessarily like its translated language, but to try to illustrate a relationship between the languages of Frodo's day. In theory, within the conceit, Tolkien the translator is looking at various languages in the Red Book or copies of it: it's not all one language, and the translation procedure itself is not all Modern English either.
Of course Modern English is the one chosen for the Common Speech so English readers can read it. Obviously if one speaks only German, the Modern English version is again translated into German. German then essentially translates Westron; although Modern English intercedes as it must, as in real life there is no Common Speech version of the tale.
Erm... whatever all that means, or doesn't mean, in the context of this thread