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Umbar by TurnerMohan Umbar by TurnerMohan
Umbar, built by the Numenoreans at the height of their power, the landing place of Ar Pharazon during the campaign against Sauron, strong hold of the Black Numenoreans after the Drowning, and later, of the Corsairs.

Umbar spent most of the third age locked in an ongoing Rome/Carthage-type conflict with the Gondorians. Toward the end of the age it served as the rallying point for legions of haradrim and fleets of pirates in service to Sauron.

I always pictured Umbar (being an important port for the Numenoreans) as one of the great cities in middle earth; older, stronger, and probably more magnificent even than the later cities founded by the Elendil and his sons, Annuminas and Osgilitath (and far surpassing the gondorian fortress cities like Minas Tirith or Dol Amroth)
we see only very little of the city here, which i imagine to be a big, populous city, and a bit of a sprawler aswell. In addition to ancient Carthage, more than a little of Istanbul, a high watermark for human architectural history (and a city of many historical parallels to Umbar) that I had the distinct pleasure of spending some time in back in '09, found it's way in here. I like to think that, like real cities and historical sights of incomparable importance (cairo, tehran, and istanbul, at one time) it is considered greatly lamentable by the gondorians that a great achievement of men like Umbar is inaccessable to them because of current geopolitics.
I may end up doing one of those areal images, with a view of the whole broad, meandering harbor, fortified in key places, and houses, towers and palaces climbing the hills to reach the Great Pillar raised to commemorate Sauron's defeat and humiliation at the hands of men. (that's if i feel like driving myself crazy)
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:iconalexios2:
Alexios2 Featured By Owner Jun 2, 2015  Student Traditional Artist
This is awesome! I really like the incorporation of Byzantine style architecture.
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:iconzireael07:
Zireael07 Featured By Owner Aug 29, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
This is amazing!
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:iconprofion720:
Profion720 Featured By Owner Apr 22, 2014
Reminds me a little of an "ancient/medieval persian city".
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:iconlibra1010:
Libra1010 Featured By Owner Mar 28, 2014
 Master Mohan, please allow me to congratulate you on producing such a fine city-scape? (you can see family resemblance to Minas Tirith, but the bones of the place are older and the structure is distinct: I also admire your idea of using Istanbul as a model, although I suspect natives of Umbar owe more to the Barbary Corsairs than to Ottoman Turks, thin though the line between the two powers could be).

 Since you mention the city of Annuminas here, I would be interested in hearing your thoughts on that lost Burgh: Arnor and it's successor states have some hold on my imagination (despite or perhaps due not least to their somewhat-Carolingian struggles amongst the aforesaid successor states); I see it as something of an 'Athens of the North' in that it's cold, damp and something of a hotbed for discussions of old lore and philosophical niceties (I also find it hard not to see it as being constructed out of that rather sandstone one sees a great deal of in Edinburgh), perhaps with accents of Chicago since it's near a lake.

 Fornost, on the other hand, strikes me as pure Edinburgh; a northern hill-fort built up into something slightly more civilised and even tougher.

 I must admit that I'd love to discuss Arnor, Arthedain, Cardolan and Rhuadur with you, but will confine myself to asking about the old Capitol of Arnor, since I don't know if the subject of the Northern Dunedain will interest you as much as it does me and do not think it polite to assume that it will! 
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:iconnarciedon:
NARCIEDON Featured By Owner Mar 6, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Excellent work!
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:iconartigas:
Artigas Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2013
I love this concept. This is really an authentic design that breathes life. Great composition too. I like the way you choose subjects that are rarely/never explored in tolkenian art. 
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:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Dec 2, 2013  Professional General Artist
Thanks! Umbar is one of those places never actually visited by main characters in stories, but it's talked about. It's one of the many places in Middle-earth I always wanted to know more about (and visit, if such a thing were possible)
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:iconartigas:
Artigas Featured By Owner Jan 16, 2014
That novel that feature the mordorian side of the war, the last ringbearer, is heavily centered in Umbar in the second half of the book. I think you would like it.
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:iconscumdog47:
Scumdog47 Featured By Owner Jul 13, 2013
Umbar was more or less a city-state, right?

I never got the impression the city had a lot of surrounding agrarian areas.
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:iconzeonista:
Zeonista Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2013
People need to eat, and urban dwellers don't raise their own food as a rule. I am in accord with MERP's depiction of the bay as a well-watered area that keeps moisture instead of losing it to the surrounding desert. Estates of the Corsair lords are spaced along its length, keeping the city fed due to the labor of many slaves.
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:iconscumdog47:
Scumdog47 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2013
Makes sense.
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:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2013  Professional General Artist
i dont know, no farming around umbar is ever mentioned, and i tend to think it was a more important place as a trading port for the numenoreans
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:iconzeonista:
Zeonista Featured By Owner Aug 13, 2013
Farmers in the local area would be a very necessary part of keeping Umbar self-sufficient, since it was a center of regional power, and was capable of independent rule when not serving a greater power. People who have to import their daily bread tread a precarious path to power.... Umbar's ability to support itself might also explain why Gondor could not absorb the southern hold. Earnil I could take the city, but the nearby Black Numenorian estates would of course immediately stop grain and fruit deliveries, and set the nomadic tribesmen of the desert to waylay the coastal roads from Harondor. Gondor would get stuck with the job of maintaining the city's food, with bread riots if storms or corsairs took a few grain ships from Pelargir.
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:iconscumdog47:
Scumdog47 Featured By Owner Jul 15, 2013
I guess they imported grain and such from Harad in later years. It would explain the good relations with the southern cultures during the wars against Gondor.
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:iconelrondperedhel:
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013
Wow I just realize with my last comment how the "Istanbul inspiration" was accurate ! :O I didn't precise also that when I say "wooden structures and tents" for late Umbar it will still be with stone constructions, ruins, and some conservated palaces and castles like in the iage, not everything was detroyed of course, and the Haradrim were probably able to built even if they didn't have the same talent as Numenoreans.
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:iconelrondperedhel:
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013
*I meant "UMBAR was taken back by Gondor", not Numenor of course !
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:iconelrondperedhel:
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013
Wow looks cool :) I didn't imagined it like that cause I have more the "pirate harbor" in mind than the "numenorean city", thanks for correcting it.
Let's drop some thougts on it, as usual :

For me this represent the city at the height of its power : at the time of Ar-Pharazôn and until the Last Alliance War. Why ? Cause it's all glorious and stuff. Numenor was taken back by Gondor two times, one time by the Black Numenoreans and once by the (fierce and crual) Haradrim. At least in one occasion it was besieged for month, if it's not years, and probably shot by catapults and other machines like that. So I believe most of the city was in ruins and burnt many times and rebuilt more or less with less and less talent each time. I see the pirate bay with wooden structures and tents on buildings, etc...

Umbar is not a name in Adunaic so it was probably from a local language, there could have been some kind of Haradric settelment before which bring the Numenoreans to live there. Could be interisting to see the city evolve from the same point of view at different ages like : 1/ Haradric tents and a Numenorean ship ; 2/ the first buildings ; 3/ This drawing, end of DA : Etc..
:) (yeah I order drawings now... just kidding)

For the size of the city I'll say that :
- The jemel/twin-city of Umbar was Pelargir, but Umbar was a little bigger, they both grow after the drowning of Numenor. I believe Osgiliath was the same size as Umbar, may be even bigger cause it stayed as the capital, above Pelargir, even if Pelargir was a faithful city so I don't think it was only for political and geographic (the center of Gondor) matters.
- Minas Tirith grow with time and a King (don't remember which one) built some more defenses (he probably added some rings to the city) so it's still a great one.
- Some ( [link] ) estimate armie that can give us help. Also Gondolin is, I think, the most easy : at Nirnaeth Arnoediad, Turgon brought 10 000 men, citizen-soldiers of Gondolin, Elves couldn't be too old to fight for this time and do not make children in times of war so if we estimate (with a garrison of 2.000 to 5.000) the army of Gondolin included 12.000 (1000 for each House but at least two of them were not created at this time) to 15.000 soldiers, with a maximum of 1.000 children and a wife for each Elve, that makes a city of more or less 30.000 Elves. Not that much eh ?

A last thing : the black ships in my french version of the LotR are boats with oars and some are called "Dromons" ([link] which will indicate some byzantine style in late Umbar ;)
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:iconzeonista:
Zeonista Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2013
I too tend to think of Umbar as the CIty of the Corsairs, while forgetting that it was a Numenorian colonial capitol first, and then a Black Numenorian citadel, and then a Gondorian colonial capitol following that. Umbar isn't just a nifty city, like Tunis or Algiers, it is the ruling seat of a coastal realm that projects power inland with silver and steel. So it would be a large and magnificent city, with miles of docks, towering strong walls of Numenorian origin, public and private buildings from milennia of occupation and renovation by different peoples, with the great pillar taking the place of the Colossus or Lighthouse of antiquity. There would be splendor and squalor by the acre, just about all of it unkown to the Free Peoples at large.

BTW I think the word dromon to describe many of the smaller craft of Umbar a pretty accurate term. The Corsairs had a long history of shipbuilding to draw on, and their ships and boats should resemble the 15th-and 16th century Meditrerranean craft more than the Classical era.
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:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jul 5, 2013  Professional General Artist
"rebuilt more or less with less and less talent each time."

yes I think so, the same would be true of Minas Tirith, where gimli remarks that the oldest stonework in the city is of higher quality than the new, and his father gloin, speaking to frodo of erebor remarks that the dwarves there cannot rival their fathers in their craft, (they have improved their building, he says, but the dwarves in the books were not really the architectural behemoths they are in the movies; I think that title tends to go to the numenoreans)

It seems a constant running theme in tolkien's work (as i said before in reference to galadriel) that the world is getting less great, less wonderous as time moves forward, and that once you've lost it you cant get it back. there are exceptions ofcourse; throwbacks or preserved relics of the greater, earlier world, like the white tree, a descendant of Telperion (the respective reigns of aragorn and his son Eldarion, in whom the elves and even the ainur will live on in the human gene pool, would probably be something of a golden age, recalling some of the greatness of those earlier, greater ages) but generally it seems those exceptions are 'fighting the rising tide' so to speak. That's why I love to think of umbar as a great city (probably on par with pelargir, as you point out, or Lond Daer in Enedwaith) and better built than the work of the Faithful after the drowning, having been established during the zenith of numenorean power in Middle Earth, before their last several hundred years' decline (both morally, and, as is often the case in tolkien, in the fineness of their arts) from then on (around SA 2280) to the drowning some 450 years later, during which time numenor continued to get richer, more powerful and more imperialistic, i like to think of numenorean architecture as getting not nescesarily better made or more beautiful (and actually less so) but bigger, grander, more arrogant, more imposing (the same thing happened in rome, the surely most famous "surviving" structure of which, the colosseum, was built in the imperial period and, while undeniably grand, is also completely abhorrent in terms of it's function) a trend culminating in the sauron-concieved and possibly sauron-designed domed temple to melkor, lesser but still grandiose versions of which I imagine cropping up on the Umbar skyline (I picture the temple to melkor, which i may have to take a stab at soon, as being in size and form kind of a demonic version of the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul)

Finally (though this is not specifically remarked as far as I know, but seems fitting with the info tolkien does give us) I like to think of Umbar as having been (of the three major Numenorean ports I mentioned earlier) the settlement that the numenoreans put the greatest amount of their imperial energy into in the last centuries before their downfall. It is afterall, where Ar Pharazon lands to contest sauron, even though Pelargir is technically closer to mordor. and also, I like to think of the late-era Numenoreans (aside ofcourse from the faithful) having bent their energy and focus toward the south, away from the elven kingdoms in eriador, into lands of men who they could conquer, pillage, control and enslave.

It's interesting that the word Dromons is used in the french translation to describe the corsair ships. I dont think it is ever used in the english translation, but it's cool that it lead you to a sort of Constantinople/Istanbul type identity for Umbar, same as me, but for completely different reasons; I tend to think of it being like istanbul in that, very similar to umbar, constantinople was a roman colonial city that grew in power late in their imperial period, survived the "fall" of the empire, became a center of empire in it's own right, engaged in civil wars with rome, adopted a different take on christianity, and was eventually conquered by turks, and served as the staging point for various incursions into europe.

lasty, yes, as you theorized, I intended this to be umbar in it's last generation before the Drowning (you can see the Victory Pillar, which may get it's own closeup drawing, up on the hill)
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:iconelrondperedhel:
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013
Yes most things are declining in ME, that's a world of nostalgy. Tolkien himself said in "The Letters" that for him, as a Catholic, History was nothing but a long defeat and that only small and temporary victories could be won, only evocations of the only true victory : the return of Jesus Christ on Earth ! As an optimistic atheist it's not really my vision but I still think Tolkien's work is beautiful, partly cause of his theological interrogations.

But Minas Tirith was never taken, neither destroyed, so most of it (the first wall and the rocky "ship" in the middle) still remembers the old glory of the Dunedain. While Umbar lost its pillar and probably its first walls, which were not as strong (it's a city and not a fortress at first like MT).

The dwarves are still good architects :
- There is Khazad Dûm and Erebor and the Noldor asked for their help to built Nargothrond and Menegroth.
- Gamling called Gimli to help to rebuilt the wall in Helm's Deep.
I'll say that the Numenoreans are the best to built huge (phallic?) towers while the dwarves are better to built under the ground.

I agree with your explanation on why Umbar will be bigger and more important than Pelargir. But Osgiliath and Anumninas were built as capitals of kingdom while Umbar was just a settlement in foreign lands. The Kings of Arnor and Gondor are said by Elrond to be great builders and they did the tower of Orthanc, the Hornburg, the tower of Amon Sul, etc.
And Lond Daer for example didn't seems to survive better than Arnor's cities and fortress...

I like your comparison to Rome's Coliseum and between Umbar and Istanbul. I verified in my english version and the word used is "dromunds" but I couldn't find if it was a mistake of the typer (my english adobe reader version is full of mistakes and lack one or two chapters).
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:iconturnermohan:
TurnerMohan Featured By Owner Jul 6, 2013  Professional General Artist
Very well said about the christian, catholic undercurrent of tolkien's writing, and as an atheist myself, one who grew up "casually christian" tolkien's mythology does for me what the Judeo-christian mythology mostly fails to do (and I think this is true for many tolkien fans) in that it presents a theological and historical narrative of the world that I'd Like to believe were true (which is resolutely not the case with the bible) I think it's just a better mythology. Tolkien would have probably been horrified (or atleast strongly put off) by the notion that his writing would have that affect, but he was also (as I understand) very devout in his catholicism.

All very good points about why umbar might be a lot more of a wreck by the end of the 3rd age than minas tirith, and about the prowess of dwarvish architecture (i was put off by the ridiculous, corusant-like scale of erebor's halls in "unexpected journey," but the dwarves are indeed known for their architectural genius)

Good points too about osgiliath and anumminas aswell, and I'd forgotten that orthanc was built by the gondorians, not their ancestors. And a big "Yes" about the phallic architecture. I think of the numenoreans (and their descendents) as being a very "apollonian" culture, almost modernist, despite their archaic world of stone towers and longswords. they are a culture that believes in a meta-narrative, specifically the western, modernist meta-narrative of their own greatness and continuing progress (to the point of at first abandoning and then actively declaring war on the gods) and of their superiority over other men, with whom (like modernist western civilization) they are, alternatingly, altruistic teachers and helpers, and conquerors and enslavers. people say tolkien expresses a strong anti-modernist bias, and that's not entirely unfounded, although I tend to think, in his case (a man more concerned with the ancient and timeless than with crafting a contemporary allegory) the arrogance of the numenoreans is not exclusively modern, but is seen in precedents throughout history and mythology (the fall of rome, or of the greek city states, or the biblical flood or drowning of atlantis) so though the effect of tolkien's writing may be "anti modernist" i think it would be more accurate to say that he simply knew what he didn't like, no matter what era it belonged to.
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:iconelrondperedhel:
ElrondPeredhel Featured By Owner Jul 29, 2013
Haha : an american atheist ! ;) Not that common in my american friends (the "worst" I met are an agnostic and some former-muslim theists) but may be cause most of them are from the southern black-community, not really representative of the rest of the US I guess.

Yeah Tolkien was really devout in his catholicism but I'm not that sure that he would've been horrified of your opinion. Some of his friends were not christians (Lewis was an agnostic lately converted to christianism by Tolkien) and most of them were anglicans and not catholics so he had to be open-minded I imagine. Also Tolkien was really "canonical" to the views of the Bible by the Catholic Church but he did have some original views. For him, every great tale is a sketch of the truth, the Bible being the most important "sketch" and the "closer-of-the-truth-in-all-tales". So his own writing are kind of another version, a catholic version, of a lot of other tales, another sketch added to the immortal truth of the word of God... Or at least that's how I envision Tolkien's view on his own work. He was really critic of his own world (saying that it was only to give context and stories to his own languages) but it's easy to see that he had in fact a lot of consideration for it (some drafts conserved during all his life, all the letters exchanged by him with his sons and other relatives, etc.)

I like your lecture of the Gondorians and Numenoreans as a very "appolonian" and "modernist" people. You put some new lights on some aspects of Tolkien's writing, very interisting.
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