Annúminas (The Tower of the West, or maybe better Tower of the Sunset) was the first capital of the Kingdom of Arnor, in the northern part of Middle-earth, for several centuries. It was founded by King Elendil, probably the S.A. 3320 , after the downfall of Númenor. We do not know much of its appearance, though we can imagine that, being the main city of Arnor, it was probably the largest and beautiful settlement of the Dúnedain in the North-Kingdom. Númenorians, in fact, were known to be great architects and builders.
Though, we can speculate the presence of a tower, given by the meaning of the name (remember that minas means tower), where probably one of the three palantíri was kept; and the existence of the King’s House, where Elendil and his heirs had their throne and kept their heirloom, the Sceptre of Annúminas. It was built on the southeast shore of the Lake Evendim (or Lake Nenuial in Sindarin, which means Lake of Twilight – that is why I think the translation of Annúminas as Tower of the Sunset is probably the most accurate), close to where the Brandywine River starts, so we can imagine the presence of a haven and docks for the fishing and commercial activities, probably the main ones. I like to think it was similar to the greatest cities of Númenor, like the harbors of Rómenna and Andúnië, though maybe it was smaller in comparison – they were fewer in number.
In LotrO we can play around it and it is visually stunning: great buildings made of white stone, like Minas Tirith was, surrounded by a semi-circular defensive wall on the lake’s side and from the natural defense of the hills on the southern side. It was in fact placed on a hill slope and for this reason there were few levels. The rulers were buried within the Way of Kings, where a ceremonial Tomb of Elendil was; while, on the northern part of the city, on a fortified island called Tyl Annûn*, there was a bigger and important building, the Ost Elendil, which was the home for the Throne Room.
Annúminas plan, from LotRO.
This is, just to stay on the waves of this blog, very similar to another rappresentation in a movie of an ancient Italian city, Pompeii – at least, the harbor part. (This reconstruction, as confirmed by the director and his crew of Pompeii, has been as loyal as possible). Of course, the resemblance comes only when Annúminas is flooded.
Reconstruction of Pompeii, from the namesake movie.
* I cannot say if it was an island from the beginning, or if that was part of the city which was flooded by the lake during the years of ruin (which is my most likely idea), just like half of Annúminas appears, since it was built on a higher terrace on the water and we can clearly see other smaller buildings on its feet. Anyways, you could only reach the Ost Elendil through a long bridge, so in a way it was isolated.
The “island” of Tyl Annûn and the building Ost Elendil, from LotrO.
Surely, it was a city full of life and activities, with gardens, pools and markets all around the place; though, it was abandoned probably during the T.A. 861 when, after the death of Eärendur, the last and tenth king of Arnor, the North-Kingdom was divided among Eärendur’s sons and the chief city of Arnor became Fornost.
“[…] after the war and slaughter of the Gladden Fields the Men of Westernesse were diminished, and their city of Annúminas beside Lake Evendim fell into ruin; and the heirs of Valandil removed and dwelt at Fornost […]” (The Lord of the Rings, book 2, chapter 2, The Council of Elrond)
Annúminas from above the hill, from LotrO.
During the War of the Ring, at the end of the Third Age, Annúminas was still a ruin for more than two thousand years. King Elessar decided to refound the city as a seat of Kings; in fact, he visited Arnor quite often and dwelt there for some time during the Fourth Age. We do not know how many people decided to move there after that, though I do not think many, except Aragorn’s closest entourage and soldiers. We can imagine that the city stayed partially flooded and probably only the Ost Elendir and few other buildings were actually restored to be used again. Maybe, after few centuries of the Fourth Age and the human population grew again in Arnor, Annúminas became once more one of the most important city of the North. But this, as always, is only my speculation.
Random thoughts: what was the approach of the peoples of Middle-earth, in this case the Dúnedain, regarding the restoration and the re-use of old buildings? Did they want to keep old ruins as memory? Or did they want to make them anew because the past is the past and they needed the old settlement restored for their new needs? These are questions I would like to answer in the future (I have few ideas already, but of course this needs a deeper study). For now, I would like to hear your thoughts!