Tarma Tar-Calion

Source: Chris Seeman, Other Hands

In the early years of Second Age, Vala Mandos gave the Covenant Stones to the line of Elros. They were immense, perfectly round spheres of pure laen, designed to be used in securing alliances with other Free Peoples of Middle-Earth. Their power to bind oaths were great, for Mandos their maker is the Master of Fate and Judge of the Dead, and knows all that passes in the world; but equally important was the power of the priest-kings of Númenor what wielded them, since they alone among men had the authority to name God the Creator Ilúvatar himself as witness to an oath. As it is written in the Book of Silmarils: "For so sword, good of evil, and oath may not be broken, and it shall pursue oathkeeper and oathbreaker to the world's end." The great size and indestructibility of the stones served, moreover, a monumental purpose: to stand as an awe-inspiring memorial of the gravity of the words that had been sworn upon it.

The stones remained unused in the keeping of the kings at Armenelos for the greater part of the Second Age. But Tar-Palantir, the last Erûhîni (Faithful) king, saw in a vision the plight of the Faithful what would follow his death, and summoning Amandil, the Lord of Andúnië, to his presence, the king entrusted one of the stones to the keeping of his family. This was stone that Isildur brought with him to Middle-Earth to compel the King of the Mountains to swear and oath of allegiance to the Dúnedain of Gondor. Isildur had it installed in the Hill of Erech; after the Oathbreaking the stone's depths grew black and impenetrable by any light.

The other Covenant Stone was brought to Middle-Earth by Ar-Pharazôn, last king of the Westernesse, when he came to Umbar to challenge the might of Sauron. Ar-Pharazôn purposed to constrain his opponent to swear an oath of fealty. On the highest hill of the headland above the Haven Ar-Pharazôn caused a great white pillar to be built as a monument, and it was crowned with the Covenant Stone that took the rays of the Sun and of the Moon and shone like a bright star that could be seen in clear weather even on the coasts of Gondor or far out upon the western sea.

Ar-Pharazôn's challenge to Sauron had been over the latter's claim to the title "King of Men," and in swearing fealty to the king of Númenor (however falsely), Sauron ceded to him that prerogative of rule. After Akallabêth, the fragile power of Umbar's Temple of Mulkher (which had become the institution that integrated the form of slave-domination over the men of the Harad) began to crumble, and the weakened military power of the lords of Umbar led to rebellion among the Haradrim, who sought to reassert their independence from the Númenórean yoke.

The contradiction inherent in these "wars of liberation" was that the royal tradition of independence to which the Southron leaders appealed was itself a creation of Númenórean patronage and hegemony. The Dúnedain had originally taught the men of Harad agriculture, forging technology, and administrative skills—all necessary ingredients for kingdoms—and then actually assisted the most powerful of the Haradrim to establish such kingdoms by integrating them into a tributary system.

The client-kings of Haradwaith received Númenórean military support for their royal claims over their own people, and they in turn saw to the collection of tribute for their foreign masters. "Independent" Southron kingdoms could not exist without Númenórean power to back them up. Some kind of political-military arrangement therefore had to be established in the wake of the loss of Númenor itself. Oaths of alliance and protection were sworn between the lords of Umbar and the kings of Harad at the hill of the crystal, because of the awe in which it was held in the memory of both.

It was on the basis of these oaths that the lords of Umbar were able to maintain Southron support against the Gondorian investment of Umbar by King Eärnil and his successors for over a century of protracted war. When Ciryaher utterly destroyed this alliance in 1050 and became Hyarmendacil the South-Victor, he had to co-opt the central symbol of that alliance in order to ensure that all future political relations would be controlled by Gondor. It was Hyarmendacil who resumed the Númenórean tradition of patronage towards the kingdoms of the Harad as a guarantee of tribute. This he did by holding the sons of these kings "hostage" in the court of Osgiliath, and by forcing their fathers to swear allegiance and friendship to the line of Anárion before the pillar of Ar-Pharazôn. The tributary system of "homage" to Númenor was thereby re-established by recourse to a sacred relic of that system.

Tarma Tar-Calion, as the monument was called in Noldorin language, stood and guided all ships of Gondor, and later, the rebel dúnadan lords of Umbar, for many centuries. Dúnedain regarged it as one of the marvels of the world, the others being the Gates of Argonath, Dome of the Stars in Osgiliath (destoyed in the Kin-Strife), Walls of Minas Anor, Watchtower of Amon Sûl, the Sea-Ward tower in Lond Ernil and the Halls of the Faithful in Pelargir (destoyed by and earthquake in 1450). It was around the 20th century when Sauron's power over the Haradrim kingdoms had grown great enough to create new forms of internal political stability. Alliance of Southron nations overrun Umbar and the memorial of Sauron's humiliation was thrown down. It was this decisive act which led the kings of Gondor and Arnor to realize for the first time that "a single will and power sought the destruction of the survivors of Númenor."

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