Arda

   'The Realm', name of the Earth as the Kingdom of Manwë.
   -----
   The World.
   In the language of the Elder Days, 'Arda' signified the World and all that is in it. Arda was created through the Music of the Ainur to be a dwelling place for the Children of Ilúvatar (that is, Elves and Men).
   Originally a flat world, the continents were surrounded by a mighty ocean, Ekkaia or the Encircling Sea, and separated by Belegaer, called the Great Sea. In the First Age, the regions to the north and west of Middle-earth (the bay of Forochel) were occupied by the country of Beleriand, but this was destroyed during the tumults of the War of Wrath.
   In the Second Age, the isle of Númenor was raised in the Great Sea for the Edain to dwell on. This island existed through most of the Second Age, but was destroyed in the Downfall of Númenor as a result of the pride of the Númenorean people in defying the Ban of the Valar and sailing to Aman in the west.
   After the Downfall, the shape of Arda was changed, and it was made 'bent' (or 'round' as we should say in modern terms). Aman was taken out of the world, and could only be reached by the Elves, following the straight road that was granted to them. As Aman was taken away from Arda, new lands and continents were created. From the late Second Age onwards, the World began to take the shape that we know today.

J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle-earth glossary. . 2003.

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