From GoF scene where Death Eaters are returning after Voldemort's return, there seems to be VERY few of them (don't recall exact # but my impression was between a dozen and two dozen).

Also, Order of Phoenix seems to have fairly few members as well.

These are probably the "officer/elite corps" of the bigger fight. Is there any estimate of how many actual participating fighters were there on both sides in the original conflict? I'm fine with either human-only totals, or overall (e.g. count giants on Voldemort's side).

On the Death Eater side, you can count/not count Imperioused people if any info like that is available.

  • This is somewhat related to recent "how many wizards are there" question but was actually triggered by my re-read of GoF. – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 9 '11 at 18:40
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    do you include demi or sub human populations in this question? because according to the books there were a number of non-human magical creatures involved as well. – Xantec May 9 '11 at 19:40
  • @Xantec - I am OK with either answer, see "I'm fine with either human-only totals, or overall (e.g. count giants on Voldemort's side)." part. – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 9 '11 at 20:30
up vote 18 down vote accepted

First of all, I'm going to use the estimates from this question, they should be good enough for the number of wizards. This will remain somewhat in the background. Also, I'm only going to count human wizards, I'm not going to try and figure out the rest.

The best estimate for the number of inner circle death eaters in the first war comes from the resurrection scene in Goblet of Fire. When all of the death eaters return, there is a dialog of several pages, but I recall that there were about 12 missing, and about 30 or so present, giving the total number to be 40.

Assuming this number for the inner circle, we can speculate that there would be at least 5 outer circle for every inner, quite possibly more. So, the total number of death eaters should be between 250-300.

The best clue to the number of people fighting is the photo in Order of the Phoenix. There are 26 people who are in the photograph or mentioned as being original members of the Order. I think we can assume that there are at least 4 others for every one we know about who fought Voldemort, so maybe around 125. We know that the order was seriously outnumbered, as is stated at the end.

So, given my rough guessing, there were around 400-500 wizards actively participating in the war. Probably only 20% of the population of wizards of England. No doubt there were others who were neutral, trying to keep Muggles from finding Wizards and the like, but probably not all that many.

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    @Pearsonartphoto - may I inquire what the 3:1 and 2:1 ratios you cited are based on? (e.g. are they totally random guesses, or based on some in-universe/canon info, or based on real life guerilla or military ratios)? – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 9 '11 at 20:31
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    @DVK: They are educated guesses, and the education doesn't really have much to do with anything... I wouldn't be surprised if they are higher, but I would be surprised if they were lower. – PearsonArtPhoto May 9 '11 at 20:38
  • @Pearsonartphoto - I would expect them to be higher, possibly significantly so. IIRC the numbers were something like between 4 and 6 direct reports as far as optimal efficiency, but it's a very vague memory. – DVK-on-Ahch-To May 9 '11 at 20:46
  • @DVK: I'll revise my estimates accordingly. – PearsonArtPhoto May 9 '11 at 21:31
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    @Peasonartphoto I like your estimates. Historically, the American Revolution would back your numbers up. I've read that around 5% of the population were responsible for starting the American Revolution and around 10% participated in it. Even if there is 10,000 wizards in England, your numbers would still be accurate. – Ryan May 9 '11 at 22:29

We can attempt to derive the number of members of the Order of the Phoenix and the number of Death Eaters from a couple of passages in the books.

In Order of the Phoenix Chapter 9 Moody shows Harry a photograph of the original Order and names the following people:

  1. Himself
  2. Albus Dumbledore
  3. Dedalus Diggle
  4. Marlene McKinnon
  5. Frank Longbottom
  6. Alice Longbottom
  7. Emmeline Vance
  8. Remus Lupin
  9. Benjy Fenwick
  10. Edgar Bones
  11. Sturgis Podmore
  12. Caradoc Dearbon
  13. Rubeus Hagrid
  14. Elphias Doge
  15. Gideon Prewett
  16. Fabian Prewett
  17. Aberforth Dumbledore
  18. Dorcas Meadowes
  19. Sirius Black
  20. Lilly Potter
  21. Peter Pettigrew
  22. James Potter

While it is possible there were other members not in the photograph, it seems likely that they tried to get all the members present for the photograph as Moody tells Harry that that was the only time he met Aberforth.

A number in the low twenties is also consistent with what we know about the numbers of the reconstituted Order, from Order of the Phoenix Chapter 4 (my emphasis):

“Is anyone going to bother telling me what the Order of the Phoenix — ?”

“It’s a secret society,” said Hermione quickly. “Dumbledore’s in charge, he founded it. It’s the people who fought against You-Know-Who last time.”

“Who’s in it?” said Harry, coming to a halt with his hands in his pockets.

“Quite a few people — ”

“ — we’ve met about twenty of them,” said Ron, “but we think there are more...”

If we take Ron's word for it, there are somewhat more than 20 members in the new Order (some of the old members are dead, and some new members were not around the first time). This is more or less confirmed by Mr. Weasley in the beginning of Deathly Hallows:

"And as there are around twenty of us, that greatly dilutes the power of the Fidelius Charm.

We can derive the number of Death Eaters from something Lupin says in Order of the Phoenix Chapter 9 (my emphasis):

“Oh, Molly, come on, it’s about time you got used to hearing it — look, I can’t promise no one’s going to get hurt, nobody can promise that, but we’re much better off than we were last time, you weren’t in the Order then, you don’t understand, last time we were outnumbered twenty to one by the Death Eaters and they were picking us off one by one...”

Thus, if there were 20 Death Eaters for each person in the photograph there would have been 440 Death Eaters in the original conflict. While it is possible that Lupin was exaggerating somewhat, there must at least have been many, many, many more Death Eaters than Order members.

When Voldemort returns to power, there are perhaps slightly more than 30 Death Eaters in the graveyard, if Harry is to be trusted:

All he had learned there was the Disarming Spell, “Expelliarmus” ... and what use would it be to deprive Voldemort of his wand, even if he could, when he was surrounded by Death Eaters, outnumbered by at least thirty to one?

There were at least eight empty spaces there that Voldemort addresses:

Voldemort moved on, and stopped, staring at the space — large enough for two people — that separated Malfoy and the next man.

He had reached the largest gap of all, and he stood surveying it with his blank, red eyes, as though he could see people standing there.

“And here we have six missing Death Eaters . . . three dead in my service. One, too cowardly to return ... he will pay. One, who I believe has left me forever ... he will be killed, of course ... and one, who remains my most faithful servant, and who has already reentered my service.”

This knocks us up to about 40 Death Eaters. Note that as this is immediately after Voldemort's rebirth, everyone present must have already been a Death Eater the first time around.

Additionally, in Order of the Phoenix there is a mass breakout from Azkaban in which 10 Death Eaters escape. This adds on another eight Death Eaters (the Lestranges were already accounted for in the two-person gap that Voldemort addressed) thus bringing us to around 50.

Furthermore, it is unlikely that these 50 are the only Death Eaters. At most these are the only ones who have a Dark Mark. But we know from Deathly Hallows that only Voldemort's inner circle merited the Dark Mark:

Harry thought he knew why Greyback was not calling Voldemort. The werewolf might be allowed to wear Death Eater robes when they wanted to use him, but only Voldemort’s inner circle were branded with the Dark Mark: Greyback had not been granted this highest honor.

Thus, it is possible that there were in fact many more Death Eaters, perhaps even approaching Lupin's estimate.

We also have the following comment from Sirius in Order of the Phoenix telling us that Voldemort had huge numbers on his side (my emphasis):

“Well, firstly, he wants to build up his army again,” said Sirius. “In the old days he had huge numbers at his command; witches and wizards he’d bullied or bewitched into following him, his faithful Death Eaters, a great variety of Dark creatures. You heard him planning to recruit the giants; well, they’ll be just one group he’s after. He’s certainly not going to try and take on the Ministry of Magic with only a dozen Death Eaters.”

This would fit with the above – a core group of Death Eaters, with several hundred other fighters not part of the inner circle (and Lupin's number may have been including this broader group).

The anti-Voldemort side probably also had additional people besides for the Order of the Phoenix, e.g. some of the Ministry, Mrs. Figg (who may be technically part of the Order but probably didn't do much fighting) and perhaps others, but those numbers are harder to account for.

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