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Umbar was first fortified by the Númenóreans in II 2280; the Corsairs established themselves in the City after III 1448; their City was under Gondorian occupation from III 1810 until at least III 1856
The coasts of Middle-earth, to the south of Gondor
The Corsairs originated as followers of Castamir the Usurper who fled to Umbar after his defeat
Originally descended from the Dúnedain, at least in part
Other names
The Haven of Umbar, sometimes simply called Umbar


About this entry:

  • Updated 27 September 2023
  • This entry is complete

City of the Corsairs

The far southern Haven of Umbar

Map of the City of the Corsairs

Far southward of Gondor, on the western shores of the Harad, a crooked headland stood out into the Sea and protected a natural harbour. The inlet behind this headland branched into two main arms of the Sea, and at the end of the southern of these arms stood the ancient port city of Umbar. In the latter half of the Third Age, this city was occupied by the Corsairs, a seagoing people who were enduring enemies of Gondor.

The Origins of the City of the Corsairs

Umbar had been a city of the Númenóreans since the Second Age, with its fortress being raised in II 2280, and indeed there may have been an even older harbourage on the same site.1 The Númenórean settlers there were mainly of the King's Men, and later Black Númenóreans, who opposed the Faithful of Gondor. In the year III 933, Eärnil I of Gondor sailed a great navy southward to besiege and capture Umbar and drive out the Black Númenóreans. The ensuing conflict continued for more than a hundred years, but in III 1050 Eärnil's grandson, Ciryaher Hyarmendacil, finally brought the city firmly under the power of Gondor.

After Hyarmendacil's conquest, Gondor held Umbar for nearly five hundred years, but events changed in the civil war of the Kin-strife. That war ended with the defeat of Castamir the Usurper, but Castamir's sons and followers were able to escape across the sea from the port of Pelargir. Umbar had supported Castamir during the civil war, and his followers sailed there and established themselves in opposition to the King. These people began to raid Gondor's coasts and attack its shipping, and so it was at this time that Umbar became the City of the Corsairs.

Centuries of Warfare

Umbar was a great loss to the Gondorians, not only because of the strength of the fortress and harbour, but also because it was their main bastion in the south. At this time in history, the Haradrim had long been subject to the power of Gondor, but now that Umbar had become the City of the Corsairs, Gondor's power over the Harad began to fail. It was during this period that land between the rivers Poros and Harnen, known as South Gondor or Harondor, became a debatable land between Gondor to the north and the Haradrim to the south.

The Corsairs now allied themselves with the Haradrim and began to make open war against the Gondorians. Eldacar's successor, Aldamir, was slain in those wars, but Aldamir's heir Vinyarion led his people to victory, claiming the title of Hyarmendacil, 'South-victor'. His defeat of the Corsairs proved less than robust, however, and they continued to trouble Gondor over the years to come. Their numbers were increased by the disaffected or rebellious who abandoned Gondor and travelled to the City of the Corsairs.

In III 1634, the Corsairs staged a daring raid against Gondor. Led by the great-grandsons of Castamir, Angamaitë and Sangahyando, they attacked Pelargir on Anduin, ravaging that city and slaying Gondor's King, Minardil. This was at a time when the Great Plague was beginning to sweep across Gondor, and the South-realm was unable to immediately respond to this devastating attack.2

It was long before Gondor regained its strength. Meanwhile the Corsairs began to raid once again along the coasts, ranging as far as the Anfalas in far Western Gondor. It was Telumehtar, great-grandson of slain Minardil, who was finally able to take direct action against Umbar. In III 1810, Telumehtar launched a war against the City of the Corsairs and conquered it, bringing it once again under the power of Gondor. This King of Gondor was therefore known to history as Telumehtar Umbardacil, the 'victor over Umbar'.

The war of Telumehtar Umbardacil destroyed the last remnant of the house of Castamir in the City of the Corsairs, and Umbar was now once again held by Gondor for a time. The history of the city over the next few centuries is a little unclear, but it was certainly still held by Gondor in the time of Telumehtar's grandson Calimehtar (who ruled Gondor until III 1936).

At some point over the following centuries, Umbar fell into the hands of the Haradrim, who revived the tradition of the Corsairs. After III 2460, new bands of Corsairs were sailing from their city to raid to coasts of Gondor. Notably, their attacks were coordinated with the Orcs of Mordor, showing that the Corsairs had come under the influence of Sauron by this time.

This became a common pattern, and several more times over history, the Corsairs would sail from their city to weaken Gondor's defences while other foes attacked on other fronts. In III 2510, attacks by the Corsairs allowed the Balchoth to enter Gondor almost uncontested, but these Balchoth were driven back by Eorl following his desperate Ride from the North. Again in III 2758, three fleets attacked from the City of the Corsairs to exhaust Gondor's defenders, preventing the Steward from sending aid when Rohan was overrun.

The War of the Ring

In each of these cases, the Corsairs were driven back to their own city, but Gondor lacked the strength to make war on Umbar directly. Three centuries passed, and in that time the Corsairs continued to build their strength. As the War of the Ring approached, the fleets of the City of the Corsairs once again posed a great threat, but in Gondor a captain named Thorongil3 urged Steward Ecthelion to take action. Thorongil led a daring raid into Umbar itself, burning many of the Corsairs' ships and defeating the Captain of the Haven.

These events took place nearly forty years before the War of the Ring, and over the following decades, the shipbuilders of the Corsairs were busy. They prepared a new fleet to take part in the War, and sailed it to harry the coastlands of Gondor, planning once again to draw defenders away from the main assault. In this they succeeded at first, so that Minas Tirith was able to draw fewer soldiers from its fiefs than had been hoped. At Pelargir, however, the Corsairs were overcome by Aragorn and the Dead Men who followed him, so that the fleet of the Corsairs sailed to the Battle of the Pelennor Fields as reinforcements for the Gondorians, helping to turn the tide of that battle.

So the Corsairs were defeated in the War of the Ring, but their city still remained in far-off Umbar after the end of the Third Age, and of its ultimate fate we are told nothing. After the victory in the War of the Ring, we know that Gondor and Rohan waged campaigns to pacify the South, which suggests that they must have taken some action against the City of the Corsairs. If the city survived into the Fourth Age, then, it seems like to have done so under Gondorian rule, as it had been for much of its history.



The name Umbar is pre-Númenórean in form. If this place had a name before the arrival of the Númenóreans, this seems to imply that an earlier settlement of the Men of Middle-earth must have existed.


The effects of the Great Plague in Gondor were devastating, but we're not told of its effects on the City of the Corsairs. It appears to have originated in the south and lessened as it passed northward, so we might expect that the southern city of Umbar suffered at least as badly as Gondor. It seems telling that, after the raid on Pelargir in III 1634, we hear no more of the Corsairs until they troubled the coasts of Gondor during Tarondor's time, nearly two centuries later.


This Thorongil was none other than the young Aragorn, serving in the forces of Rohan and Gondor for a time. His raid on the City of the Corsairs was in fact his last act in the service of the Stewards.

See also...

Haven of Umbar


About this entry:

  • Updated 27 September 2023
  • This entry is complete

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