1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Ararat (mountain)

ARARAT (Armen. Massis, Turk. Egri Dagh, i.e. “Painful Mountain,” Pers. Koh-i-Nuh, i.e. “Mountain of Noah,”), the name given to the culminating point of the Armenian plateau which rises to a height of 17,000 ft. above the sea. The massif of Ararat rises on the north and east out of the alluvial plain of the Aras, here from 2500 ft. to 3000 ft. above the sea, and on the south-west sinks into the plateau of Bayezid, about 4500 ft. It is thus isolated on all sides but the north-west, where a col about 6900 ft. high connects it with a long ridge of volcanic mountains. Out of the massif rise two peaks, “their bases confluent at a height of 8800 ft., their summits about 7 m. apart.” The higher, Great Ararat, is “a huge broad-shouldered mass, more of a dome than a cone”; the lower, Little Ararat, 12,840 ft. on which the territories of the tsar, the sultan, and the shah meet, is “an elegant cone or pyramid, rising with steep, smooth, regular sides into a comparatively sharp peak” (Bryce). On the north and west the slopes of Great Ararat are covered with glittering fields of unbroken névé. The only true glacier is on the north-east side, at the bottom of a large chasm which runs into the heart of the mountain. The great height of the snow-line, 14,000 ft., is due to the small rainfall and the upward rush of dry air from the plain of the Araxes. The middle zone of Ararat, 5000–11,500 ft., is covered with good pasture, the upper and lower zones are for the most part sterile. Whether the tradition which makes Ararat the resting-place of Noah’s Ark is of any historical value or not, there is at least poetical fitness in the hypothesis, inasmuch as this mountain is about equally distant from the Black Sea and the Caspian, from the Mediterranean and the Persian Gulf. Another tradition—accepted by the Kurds, Syrians and Nestorians—fixes on Mount Judi, in the south of Armenia, on the left bank of the Tigris, near Jezire, as the Ark’s resting-place. There so-called genuine relics of the ark were exhibited, and a monastery and mosque of commemoration were built; but the monastery was destroyed by lightning in 776 A.D., and the tradition has declined in credit. Round Mount Ararat, however, gather many traditions connected with the Deluge. The garden of Eden is placed in the valley of the Araxes; Marand is the burial-place of Noah’s wife; at Arghuri, a village near the great chasm, was the spot where Noah planted the first vineyard, and here were shown Noah’s vine and the monastery of St James, until village and monastery were overwhelmed by a fall of rock, ice and snow, shaken down by an earthquake in 1840. According to the Babylonian account, the resting-place of the Ark was “on the Mountain of Nizir,” which some writers have identified with Mount Rowanduz, and others with Mount Elburz, near Teheran. From the Armenian plateau, Ararat rises in a graceful isolated cone far into the region of perennial snow. It was long believed by the Armenian monks that no one was permitted to reach the “secret top” of Ararat with its sacred remains, but on the 27th of September 1829, Dr. Johann Jacob Parrot (1792–1840) of Dorpat, a German in the employment of Russia, set foot on the “dome of eternal ice.” Ararat has since been ascended by S. Aftonomov (1834 and 1843); M. Wagner and W. H. Abich (1845); J. Chodzko, N. W. Chanykov, P. H. Moritz and a party of Cossacks in the service of the Russian government (1850); Stuart (1856); Monteith (1856); D. W. Freshfield (1868); James Bryce (1876); A. V. Markov (1888); P. Pashtukhov and H. B. Lynch (1893). Mr Freshfield thus described the mountain:—“It stands perfectly isolated from all the other ranges, with the still more perfect cone of Little Ararat (a typical volcano) at its side. Seen thus early in the season (May), with at least 9000 ft. of snow on its slopes, from a distance and height well calculated to permit the eye to take in its true proportions, we agreed that no single mountain we know presented such a magnificent and impressive appearance as the Armenian Giant.” There are a number of glaciers in the upper portion, and the climate of the whole district is very severe. The greater part of the mountain is destitute of trees, but the lower Ararat is clothed with birches. The fauna and flora are both comparatively meagre.

Both Great and Little Ararat consist entirely of volcanic rocks, chiefly andesites and pyroxene andesites, with some obsidian. No crater now exists at the summit of either, but well-formed parasitic cones occur upon their flanks. There are no certain historic records of any eruption. The earthquake and fall of rock which destroyed the village of Arghuri in 1840 may have been caused by a volcanic explosion, but the evidence is unsatisfactory.

The name of Ararat also applies to the Assyrian Urardhu, the country in which the Ark rested after the Deluge (Gen. viii. 4), and to which the murderers of Sennacherib fled (2 Kings xix. 37; Isaiah xxxvii. 38). The name Urardhu, originally that of a principality which included Mount Ararat and the plain of the Araxes, is given in Assyrian inscriptions from the 9th century B.C. downwards to a kingdom that at one time included the greater part of the later Armenia. The native name of the kingdom was Biainas, and its capital was Dhuspas, now Van. The first king, Sarduris I. (c. 833 B.C.), subdued the country of the Upper Euphrates and Tigris. His inscriptions are written in cuneiform, in Assyrian, whilst those of his successors are in cuneiform, in their own language, which is neither Aryan nor Semitic. The kings of Biainas extended their kingdom eastward and westward, and defeated the Assyrians and Hittites. But Sarduris II. was overthrown by Tiglath Pileser III. (743 B.C.), and driven north of the Araxes, where he made Armavir, Armauria, his capital. Interesting specimens of Biainian art have been found on the site of the palace of Rusas II., near Van. Shortly after 645 B.C. the kingdom fell, possibly conquered by Cyaxares, and a way was thus opened for the immigration of the Aryan Armenians. The name Ararat is unknown to the Armenians of the present day. The limits of the Biblical Ararat are not known, but they must have included the lofty Armenian plateau which overlooks the plain of the Araxes on the north, and that of Mesopotamia on the south. It is only natural that the highest and most striking mountain in the district should have been regarded as that upon which the Ark rested, and that the old name of the country should have been transferred to it.

See also H. B. Lynch, Armenia (1901); Sayce, “Cuneiform Inscriptions of Lake Van,” in Journal of Royal Asiatic Society, vols. xiv., xx. and xxvi.; Maspero, Histoire ancienne des peuples de l’Orient classique, tome iii., Les Empires (Paris, 1899); J. Bryce, Transcaucasia and Ararat (4th ed., 1896); D. W. Freshfield, Travels in the Central Caucasus and Bashan (1869); Parrot, Reise zum Ararat (1834); Wagner, Reise nach dem Ararat (1848); Abich, Die Besteigung des Ararat (1849); articles “Ararat,” in Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, and the Encyclopaedia Biblica.  (C. W. W.)