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Discussing: (Re) Building Roads

(Re) Building Roads

For two different  but related story ideas, I need to ask some questions about the roads between Gondor and Arnor.

1) How far would it be from the front gates of Minas Tirith to where a camp for rebuilding the route between Gondor and Arnor be established? Would the terrain be gradually rising?

2) Supposing that Elessar has decided the best solution to two problems a) disposing of serious malefactors say a step below being executed for their crimes in a society where they probably do not have long term prisons, and b) rebuliding the roads to help knit together his two very different realms--and how to go about coming up with who's doing that is by sentencing those felons to stated periods of labor on the roads has opened up a whole raft of ideas and questions about how this is going to happen. I don't mean methods of roadbuilding per se, or the tools used, but in arranging for this to happen. That brings me to wondering how far a coffle of say, 20 chained men, afoot, would be able to get, on average, per day over fairly level ground, since I realize that depending on weather, roughness, etc., it'd be less. This is supposing the group also includes an officer on horseback, several guards on foot who possibly are urging them on with whips, and a support staff including teams of mules and wagons containing supplies. How far could they go per day? How many wagons would they need? Note: This is not transporting materials for the building, but basic supplies for the journey.

Thank you in advance for your help! And please bear in mind that I'm new here, so if this has been covered in previous threads, or I overlooked some other relevant source, I'd appreciate those being pointed out to me!




Re: (Re) Building Roads

Interesting questions, and I look forward to the stories you have in mind...

I assume that for question 1 you mean an initial camp, because as the work continues, the camp would have to move. Looking at Fonstad's maps, the distance from the gate of Minas Tirith to the Rammas Echor going north, by road, is ten miles. Your initial camp could be anywhere beyond that point, depending on how bad you assume the road close to MT to be. The road seems to run parallel to the White Mountains, so a fairly up and down terrain I'd say, even if slopes would be gradual (assuming that ancient Gondorian roadbuilders used some common sense).

For how fast chained prisoners would move... - assuming that they have their legs free, I'd say it depends to some degree on how they are treated (rest breaks, number of hours walking per day, how hard they are urged on). I'd estimate basic walking speed for a group thus chained at somewhere around 2 miles/3 kilometers per hour.

Factoring in the supply carts (mules or horses), googling gave me a distance of around 13 miles per day for an army unit with supplies (Alexander the Great), which I assume includes time needed to care for the animals along the way, and things like making camp at night.

A few more thoughts

  • For materials (rocks), the road does run fairly close to the White Mountains, so materials might be transported to depots along the road from quarries, independent of prisoner movements (unless they're put to work in these quarries as well).
  • Also, something that's not a problem within Anorien, but after Anorien the North-South Road does run through Rohan for a considerable distance, and I wonder whether (again, assuming that maintaining that part of the Road would be Gondor's responsibility) the Rohirrim would be keen on significant numbers of (presumably fairly dangerous) convicts on their land.
  • How many prisoners of this category would there be? And where would the line between execution-hard labour-prison be drawn?



Re: (Re) Building Roads


Thank you for replying!

Yes, my initial idea was a base camp that would add additional ones as the work moved north, but now that I have been reading Morwen Tindomeril's fanfic, it also occurs to me that there could also be a sea/river component, which I will need to consider more. Since my main character in this fic, the main person directing this project, is a newly created lord of Gondor with a townhouse in MT, for part of the time, it would be handy for him to be able to reach the base camp easily from the city. Brilliant! Thank you! (Clearly, I also need to spend more time with maps and the Atlas!)

How the prisoners are treated will depend in part on who is shepherding them north....and various conditions/factors surrounding their trek. I would imagine that the first few will have it the worst.

Alexander the Great--sheesh, I should have thought to ask my husband, who has spent the last 2 yrs becoming an expert on him and his times! By osmosis, I now know a lot more about him myself....8^) BTW, he is curious as to what source you used; he thought, optimistically, about 15 mi/day.

As to your points:

  • Yes, the quarries,. Haven't decided whether or not the prisoners will work there too, although it isn't unlikely some of my characters's supervising personnel will visit them, and possibly try to recruit some help.
  • Rohan IS something to consider. However, given that I am basing the fundamental idea of Elessar's disposing of some prisoners by this method (from reading some of Larner's work)  and knowing as he does the usual route, surely he might have discussed this with Eomer (is there a way of putting accents in these posts?) before the Court in which the sentencing was done. Still, the first group may run into some difficulties if this isn't well-known to the Rohirrim....But how is an Easterner, Southron, or for that matter, most Gondorrim, going to seamlessly fit into Rohirric society if they escape? Some of these felons are high-born, some are upper-level bureaucrats who went off the rails, and some are captured prisoners who aren't going to be ransomed, or who aren't going to be drafted into the army in peacetime (yes, I know it isn't exactly peacetime at this point, but a lot of military must have been aware that their numbers would lessen, until Elessar got around to an active war on his borders.) Meanwhile, he needs to do something with these people, he strikes me as a very pragmatic sort--why waste possible resources? One character, sentenced to labor, is going to find himself doing work closer to his original occupation, simply because it's needed.
  • At an early point, the main character asks how many, and is told a rough estimate of 5,000. I also think that this may be augmented by non-prisoners who are otherwise displaced by the War, for whatever reason, looking for a new life. Elessar will want to recruit settlers for the North, and there may be more Dunedain there than the Gondorrim think. Would 100,000 be a reasonable guess?

I apologize for sounding vague on a lot of this, but this was originally going to be a short story, and is now growing into a much larger, longer piece, so I am thinking aspects out as I become aware of them. Thanks again!--Barra



Re: (Re) Building Roads

Hi Barra,

I'm afraid I didn't keep the link I used, but here's another one, which even goes into more detail: (I think we can assume Gondor has invented the horse collar…)

Population in the North: for my own world-building purposes 100.000 Dunedain in the North would be on the high side, but if you have a few larger towns (10.000 or so) you're fairly far along the way already.

 (is there a way of putting accents in these posts?)



(or you can do it 'by hand' if you know the html codes: Click on "Click to turn HTML editor On/Off" and type the &-etc. code for the character you want)

Isn't it fun when a story runs away with you?



Re: (Re) Building Roads


Thanks for the link! Looking at that site, another page gave me another idea for an aspect of this story!

As for how to put accents in, my own fault for being in a hurry and not looking at the icons thoroughly. Thanks!




Re: (Re) Building Roads

Hi Barrabird,

Tolkien does give some details relevant to hardened soldiers' marching capacity, how they carry provisions, and other considerations for a long journey. This might help give you ideas about how each day's walk would be organized (frequent breaks), how long they could walk each day (depends upon the season), how much baggage they'd need, and at least put a strong upper limit on how far chained soldiers could walk in each period. You could probably estimate how many pack horses it takes to equal the capacity of one wagon....

(A league is about three miles or five kilometers.)

"With Isildur went his three sons..., and his Guard of two hundred knights and soldiers, stern men of Arnor and war-hardened."

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 1, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields

"They needed some baggage and provisions in houseless country; for they did not expect to find any dwellings.... On the march each man carried with him two days' provisions...; the rest, and other baggage, was carried by small sturdy horses.... They had been tamed; but though they would carry heavy burdens (at walking pace), they would not allow any man to ride them. Of these they had only ten."

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 1, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields: Notes, Note 8

"[The] soldiers of the Dúnedain, tall men of great strength and endurance, were accustomed to move fully-armed at eight leagues a day 'with ease': when they went in eight spells of a league, with short breaks at the end of each league (lár, Sindarin daur, originally meaning a stop or pause), and one hour near midday. This made a 'march' of about ten and half hours, in which they were walking eight hours. This pace they could maintain for long periods with adequate provision. In haste they could move much faster, at twelve leagues a day (or in great need more), but for shorter periods. At the date of the disaster, in the latitude of Imladris (which they were approaching), there were at least eleven hours of daylight in open country; but at midwinter less than eight."

Unfinished Tales, Part 3, Ch 1, The Disaster of the Gladden Fields: Notes, Note 9

Hope this helps! Let us know when you finish your stories, they sound interesting....

- Barbara



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