A name for the lands that lay beyond the Great Sea, otherwise known as Aman, the Blessed Realm where the Valar and the Maiar dwelt. During the First Age and most of the Second, the West was part of the World, and could be reached by ship. After the founding of Númenor, the Valar placed a Ban on the Númenóreans from sailing there, fearing that they would be tempted by the bliss of the Undying Lands, and that fear proved well-founded.
In II 3319 King Ar-Pharazôn led a great fleet from Númenor that broke the Ban and attempted the conquest of the West. He failed utterly, and brought about the Downfall of his own realm, but at the same time the lands of the West were taken away from the World, and after that time only the Eldar could travel the Straight Way and come there. By the time of the War of the Ring, the lands of Aman - by that time the Ancient West - had been lost to Mortals for more than three thousand years. Even at that time, certain Mortals were granted the special blessing of being allowed the travel there, notably Bilbo and Frodo Baggins.
The West itself had existed since the beginnings of Arda, and had been occupied by the Valar throughout the Years of the Trees. The timeline for this entry shows the period after the Downfall of Númenor and the removal of Aman from the Mortal World, thus approximating the period when it might more meaningfully be called the Ancient West.
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