I was pondering about Saruman's role as an opportunist ally of Sauron, when I realized that I had absolutely no idea how strong his army was compared to Sauron. We know Saruman fielded an impressive war economy in the relatively compact area of Isengard, and Sauron had behind him the might of the entire realm of Mordor, also implied to be heavily geared towards military production. Both have an obvious numerical superiority in the battles they fight.

However, I have no idea at all how large their armies were, overall. It is implied that Saruman's army was mostly gone after Helm's Deep, so I guess Sauron, who manages to keep fighting despite the crushing casualties at Pelennor fields, has by far more soldiers under his command. I'd like to see numbers, though. Is there anything in canon about the total amount of troops Saruman and Sauron could muster?

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    Where does Sauron keep his armies? Up his sleevies.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:12
  • 1
    I recall Peter Jackson saying (in one of the commentaries) that he envisioned something like 200K but that there weren't any real estimates in the books or extra materials. Just that it's a big army and bigger than the army that could be fielded by the good guys.
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:14
  • tolkiengateway.net/wiki/Battle_of_the_Pelennor_Fields
    – Valorum
    Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 12:17
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    I don't have enough information to justify writing an answer, but I'll provide a comment to hopefully give people a place to look. If you're asking about the book, then I'm not sure. For the movie, I have a much better answer. Aragorn said in The Two Towers that Saruman's army was 10,000 strong at least (which was mostly eliminated during the Battle of Helm's Deep). For the army at Minas Tirith, there are some behind-the-scenes videos pertaining to this where one of the people working on it said that it was roughly 200,000 strong, if I remember correctly. Commented Mar 30, 2016 at 17:15
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    @Spar10Leonidas And in the book it's Merry when he's telling Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas about it (after the battle of course): 'Well, of all sorts together, there must have been ten thousand at the very least,' said Merry. That's probably where the figure comes from for the film.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 19:25

6 Answers 6


As noted by Richard in the comments, there isn't any definitive figure for Sauron's army, but we could guess anywhere upwards of 50,000 due to this bit of text, taken from Richard's link here:

Mordor's troops consisted of some 18,000 Easterlings and Haradrim,[2] several Haradrim war Oliphaunts, and tens of thousands of Orcs.

Again Saruman's army in the Battle of Hornburg is not specified, rather just an army "of great size". However the films mention 10,000 Uruk-hai. Not much is said about what is left of the army after that battle, and Saruman himself flees to Hobbiton with a group of men nearby and set up a thug gang calling himself "Sharkey".

Expanded analysis:

The important thing to note here, which you touched base with in the question, is that Tolkien implies technology, progress and military regime as bad and evil. The more natural Elves and Hobbits are depicted ultimately as good and innocent, and Man falls somewhere in between, which I personally feel is very fitting for the post-1900 world.

The idea of a huge "machine" of military is very much the depiction of evil Tolkien witnessed as a soldier in WWI, and his witnessing the industrialization of the world, the felling of trees and forests for "progress," is a direct influence on his writings.

Even though it's fairly obvious that big + aggressive = bad in Tolkien's world, and small + brave and courageous = good, it's still interesting to take it apart and theorize it's roots.

  • That's only the troops at that one battle. Sauron had plenty more elsewhere.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 8:56
  • 1
    Correct, but it's not said exactly how many, so we can only guess that it's "more than 50,000" due to the facts we can gather.
    – John Bell
    Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 9:00
  • It gets even more difficult to estimate since there were attacks in Dale, and battles in Lorien and Mirkwood also going on while the fight in Gondor and Rohan was going on. This is alluded to in the end of the LoTR and in the Appendices that show the timeline of when Galadriel lays bare the pits of Dol Guldur, and the fight in Dale is summarized. Commented Mar 31, 2016 at 13:04
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    @JohnBell Ten thousand is suggested in the book but by Merry and after the battle took place: ''Well, of all sorts together, there must have been ten thousand at the very least,' said Merry.
    – Pryftan
    Commented Dec 20, 2017 at 19:23

There aren't any canon figures on the relative strengths of Saruman's vs. Sauron's armies. But as this quote indicates, Saruman was deluding himself if he thought he was anything but Sauron's tool.

TLOTR, book III, Ch. 8:

A strong place and wonderful was Isengard, and long it had been beautiful; and there great lords had dwelt, the wardens of Gondor upon the West, and wise men that watched the stars. But Saruman had slowly shaped it to his shifting purposes, and made it better, as he thought, being deceived – for all those arts and subtle devices, for which he forsook his former wisdom, and which fondly he imagined were his own, came but from Mordor; so that what he made was naught, only a little copy, a child’s model or a slave’s flattery, of that vast fortress, armoury, prison, furnace of great power, Barad-dûr, the Dark Tower, which suffered no rival, and laughed at flattery, biding its time, secure in its pride and its immeasurable strength.


According to TolkienGateway.net, Mordor's troops consisted of some 18,000 Easterlings and Haradrim, several Haradrim war Oliphaunts, and tens of thousands of Orcs just for the Battle of Pelennor Fields. Estimates for the number of orcs are over 50,000, with the full army size at 75,000.

Sauron had over 60,000 orcs, trolls, beasts, and Easterlings in reserve back in Mordor. These forces were unleashed through the Black Gate at the Battle of the Morannon.

This adds up a full army count of at least 135,000.

But wait! There's more!

During the Battle of Pelennor Fields, Sauron also sent many Easterlings to fight in the Battle of Dale.

Sauron also lost several thousand orcs in the Fall of Dol Goldur, a few hundred in the Siege of Gondor, and a few hundred in the Attack on Osgiliath.

Adding those up, Sauron likely had at least 140,000 soldiers under his command.


People are vastly overestimating sizes here. I'll go in order of battles and then make a conclusion.

At the battle of Amon Hen we see a large scouting party of no more than 100 Uruk-hai; about 20-30 escaped with Merry and Pippin. After joining up with the orcs they likely swelled to 50 orcs and Uruk-hai. They where killed when the Rohirrim ambushed them.

At the Battle of the Hornburg, 10,000 is the number most thrown around. I agree it's heavily implied in the movie that this was Isengard at full capacity due to them having to expand industry into Fangorn forest and, as stated in the movie, having trouble arming the Uruks. I would estimate that no more than a few dozen Ents attacked Isengard and the garrison (including orcs in the pits) was around 10,000 bringing Isengard's full army to 20,000.

As for Mordor. The main force that attacked Minas Tirith in Pelennor Fields, contrary to popular belief, didn't come from Mordor, rather Minas Morgul, and was led by the Witch-king. Doing pixel measurements and given estimates the main orc army at Minas Tirith was around 30-40,000, I'd say the main force that marched out of Minas Morgul was around 45-50,000 due to expending men at Osgiliath. So Minas Morgul 50,000 orcs.

The Haradrim, assuming they brought their full force of Oliphaunts to Pelennor Fields, has around 10-20 and say each one carried 2 dozen men. That's 20 times 24 which is 480 men on the Oliphaunts. As for their land army I've heard that around 3000 men were at the Black Gate so I’ll be generous and say another 6000 fought on Pelennor Fields. So including the forces in reserve in Mordor I’d say that the Haradrim had around 10,000 men and 10-20 Oliphaunts.

The Easterlings were harder as most of their forces participated in the war in the north however a significant force did take part in the southern theatre. It was mentioned that 5,000 Easterlings were in Mordor at the Battle of the Black Gate. As this was only a reserve I’d say at least 20,000 took part in the Battle of Pelennor Fields as we know that Rhûn has huge manpower and the only reason there would only be 5,000 in Mordor was if the main army was killed at Pelennor Fields. So I would put the Easterlings at 25-30,000 at least.

Next is the corsairs. It was mentioned that they would plunder southern Gondor with 50 ships. Assuming that these ships where all the same size as the ones in the movie and calculating that each ship could hold 200 at full capacity, 200x50 is 10,000 so that's where I would max out the corsairs' strength.

Finally Mordor; in the movie it's said that there are 10,000 orcs in the plains of Mordor. I'd say that's way too low considering Minas Morgul is a small city and had 45-50,000, whereas Mordor is an entire region. I'd say Mordor could field at least 100,000 orcs, but during the War of the Last Alliance 600,000 orcs were used by Sauron. However this was before significant losses like losing the orcs of the Misty Mountains and Dol Goldur, so I'd say at the time of The Return of the King Mordor could field 300,000 orcs, trolls, Uruk-hai at full capacity.

So that bring our totals at full capacity:

Isengard: 20,000
Minas Morgul: 50,000
The Haradrim: 10,000 with 10-30 Oliphaunts
The Easterlings: 30,000 (at least)
The Corsairs: 10,000 men and 50 ships
Mordor: 300,000

So to answer your question, Isengard could call upon 20,000 fighting orcs at full capacity, while Mordor and her allies could call upon around 500,000 men, orcs, etc.

  • 3
    You have a lot of unsourced and non-evidenced numbers here. Could you edit this to include where you’re getting some of the numbers from?
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Apr 12, 2020 at 21:57
  • What distinction are you drawing between Mordor and Minas Morgul? Do you mean Barad Dur instead of Mordor?
    – chepner
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 13:30

In the Battle at the Black Gate, 60 000 soldiers from many regions of Mordor. Of Mordor. Not the surrounding area; in fact from the chapter in which Sam and Frodo wander through Mordor, it's implied Sauron just hastily put together a force to crush all opposition in the Battle of the Morannon. So the entire army of Mordor and all its allies must have been at least a hundred thousand. And the army of Isengard at its full capacity likely could not have reached 20 000. I think not more than 17 000 unless he continued breeding orcs and arming them, then he would have 20 000, probably including the Dunlendings.

In The Return of the King, chapter 3:

In that dale behind the Morannon were the tunnels and deep armouries that the servants of Mordor had made for the defence of the Black Gate of their land; and there now their Lord was gathering in haste great forces to meet the onslaught of the Captains of the West.

I think this had something to do with Sauron's defeat at Minas Tirith. As in, his forces are scattered, the captains of the West are coming for his doorstep (he was monitoring them with his other Black Riders), and the Witch-king was dead. So he quickly calls another finger of his ultimate force (more on that later) destined to crush the captains of the West for good, so he did. So, about that finger. To quote Denethor in The Return of the King, "The Siege of Gondor":

For a little space you may triumph on the field, for a day. But against the Power that now arises there is no victory. To this City only the first finger of its hand has yet been stretched. All the East is moving.

Remember, even Sauron can't make Denethor see things that are not there, so Denethor must know the true size of Sauron's grand army. Since Denethor has seen Sauron's forces through the Palantír himself, I'm assuming that means I'm in for some math. So it's said the forces of the Southern warriors number three times the size of the original force of Rohan; from The Return of the King, "The Battle of the Pelennor Fields:

And if the Rohirrim at their onset were thrice outnumbered by the Haradrim alone, soon their case became worse;

I'm not putting another quote, but the Rohirrim at their onset numbered 6 000, so the force of Mordor at the City numbered at the very least 20 000, I'd say around 40 000. So if that force is but a finger of Sauron's hand, and Sauron has 9 fingers (nine fingers, so that influences his entire army size. that's... whatever)... well, Sauron has at least 500 000 troops. That's more than the entire Roman army. And they didn't even need all of it to take over all of Greece, Egypt, Italy, and more which honestly couldn't really provide any true resistance.

Now, to finish, I think Saruman could have gathered 20 000 troops. Why? Well, you saw it coming; a quote from Theoden; The Two Towers, "The road to Isengard":

"But there are not men enough in the Mark, not if they were all gathered together and healed of wounds and weariness, to assault the stronghold of Saruman."

Theoden is saying here that even when he knows at least 10 000 of Saruman's orcs and men were defeated a while ago, Saruman still has the strength to halt any attack. He's saying that even if all men in the Mark rallied together, it still wouldn't be enough to launch an attack. And that number can be up to 14 000. Also Theoden likely also means manpower, it's obvious you can't take the tower of Orthanc, because it's unbreakable. But later he is also surprised at how Saruman's entire force is scattered when he arrives at Orthanc. (Well, actually everyone in the company was, including Gandalf.) All in all it's implied Saruman must still have some force at Isengard after sending most of his troops away. So that's my conclusion. And also my concussion, I am very flustered.

Extra edit: what? the 60K? well, yeah, 60K at least, but I highly doubt it's that much more. perhaps 62 000, but no more.

  • 2
    Can you add a quote to back up 60k? I don't recall anything along these lines in The Land of Shadow (though my memory is certainly not perfect). The Black Gate Opens (which doesn't feature Frodo and Sam) has 'forces ten times and more than ten times their match' which would equate to roughly 60k at least. Commented Apr 6, 2021 at 17:40

This is only a guess.

Saruman had the lesser army at Isengard. We know he had orcs and Uruk-hai. We also know that 10,000 attacked Helms Deep. When the Ents fought back destroying Isengard we can see onscreen around 5,000 - 10,000 throughout the scene. Assuming there were more in the pit we can assume the army had 25,000.

Sauron, as we know, had a much larger force in and out of Mordor. We can say that when Sam, Frodo and Gollum arrive at the City of the Dead we see around 50,000. This is orcs and the Nazgûl. But when Minas Tirith is attacked, in the behind-the-scenes the VFX team say they created 200,000. At the Battle of Pelennor Fields we see orcs, Uruk-hai, the Haradrim and Easterlings with Mûmakils. Judging by the amount of characters on screen we can see at least another 100,000 - 150,000.

Finally in Mordor. In the Blu-ray extended edition we see an encampment of around another 200,000 and that's across the entire 40 mins of Frodo and Sam in Mordor. At the Battle of the Black Gate we see another 200,000 - 300,000.

This leaves the entire army of Sauron at 825,000 but it could possibly more if I include his allies of the North and the goblins.

These are the estimates:
Orcs - 525,000
Uruk hai - 200,000
Haradrim - 18,000
Easterlings - 50,000
Wild men, Mûmakil and cave trolls - 7000

In The Hobbit we know of Sauron's army at Dol Guldur which was the size of 100,000 - 375,000. After all we can estimate his army from the Second Age to the end of the Third Age consisted of 1.2 million+.

  • Citation needed.
    – user89104
    Commented Apr 13, 2020 at 3:09

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