The Easterlings were a significant threat to Gondor; they were a more regimented force than the Orcs or even the Haradrim. It is likely that Sauron drew much of his inspiration for his Orc armies from these wicked men. Sauron suffered a harsh and heavy defeat from the Last Alliance, who vanquished his numerically superior Orcs with a ranked and ordered army. The Easterlings were all this and more, so Sauron greatly valued his alliance with the men of Rhûn.[source?]
Centuries later, after Dagor Bragollach, tribes of Men joined the Edain in Beleriand, long after their arrival. These Swarthy Men came from the east, probably Eriador and were also called "Easterlings". Two of their leaders were Bór and Ulfang.
In the East, as well as in the South of Middle-earth, wild and barbaric Men multiplied, and in the Second Age Sauron was ever at work, turning them to evil and dominating them. During the Dark Years, after being driven back to Mordor, Sauron continued his expansions eastwards gaining servants and worshippers.
After Sauron's defeat in the War of the Last Alliance, these "Wild Men" were released by his tyranny but they still had darkness in their hearts. Evil and restless, they battled against each other and some withdrew to the hated west. Thus they encountered Gondor.
Easterlings first enter the records of Gondor in T.A. 490 and since then, tribes of Easterlings brought trouble periodically with several attacks and migrations. Even some Northmen joined forces with the Easterlings because of greed or because of feuds with their kinsmen.[source?]
In the following centuries the Easterlings cease, while Gondor is allowed to extent its borders to the south. That was until the days of Narmacil I when the Easterlings resumed their attacks. In T.A. 1248 an Easterling army marched in the lands between Rhovanion and the Sea of Rhûn and forces from Gondor - aided by Northmen of Rhovanion - defeated them and destroyed their camps and settlements east of the Inland Sea.
This victory was followed by a period when Gondor was again occupied with the south and the Corsairs of Umbar. During that time tribes of Easterlings form the confederacy known as the Wainriders (q.v.) who would trouble the Kingdom and the Northmen, until the disappearance of Gondor's last King. Tribes of Easterlings would continue to harass the Ruling Stewards of Gondor, until the War of the Ring.
Tribes of Easterlings
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- Main article: Wainriders
The Wainriders were a confederation of Easterling tribes who were united by their hate of Gondor, fueled by the dark lord Sauron. Following the Great Plague which weakened Gondor, they started their attacks in T.A. 1856, defeating the Gondorian army and killing king Narmacil II. They rode in great wagons and chariots (which gave them their name), and raided the lands of Rhovanion, destroying or enslaving its people. Gondor gradually lost all of its possessions east of Anduin to them. The thirtieth king of Gondor, Calimehtar son of Narmacil, defeated the Wainriders at the Field of Celebrant, buying some rest for his land. However the Wainriders struck back in T.A. 1944, allying themselves with the Haradrim of Near Harad and the Variags of Khand. They managed to kill king Ondoher and both his sons, but instead of riding on to Minas Anor and taking the city, they paused to celebrate. Meanwhile, general Eärnil of Gondor's southern army had defeated the Haradrim and rode north to defend his king. He came too late to rescue Ondoher, but managed to decisively defeat the Wainriders. Eärnil was later crowned king. After this defeat the might of the Wainriders was broken, and they retreated east. They still held Rhovanion, but never troubled Gondor again. It later turned out that their attacks were staged by Sauron to allow him to reclaim Mordor while Gondor's watch was diverted.
- Main article: Balchoth
The Balchoth were a fierce race of Easterlings, who attacked Gondor while under orders of Dol Guldur. In T.A. 2150 they overran the plains of Calenardhon and almost destroyed the army of the Ruling Steward Cirion, but were defeated by the Éothéod under Eorl the Young. Like the Wainriders they rode in chariots and wagons, and they may have been descendants of this people.
- Main article: Variags
The Variags were from Khand, and they first appeared in the West in T.A. 1944, fighting alongside the Wainriders. They later appeared during the battle of the Pelennor Fields. Little was known about them, but they appeared to be a race of horse-men much like the Rohirrim, although they were fiercely loyal to Mordor.
The weapons that the Easterlings used were primarily jagged spears, making them especially effective against cavalry, as well as a shorter, odd, glaive-like version used for close combat. They also were known to run their foes down in great Wains, or wagons. Easterlings (such as those of the Pelennor Fields) were bearded and used axes.
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