Ararat Genesis 8:4

Genesis 8:4

The mountain which the general consent of western Asia and of Europe regards as the Ararat on which the ark rested, is the mountain of Ara Dagh in Armenia. One would think there could be no question as to the identity of Ararat, seeing that the Scripture says distinctly that it was in Armenia, and in that country there is no mountain comparable to this. It is in all respects a most noble mountain—the finest, perhaps, in the world, and well worthy of the distinction assigned to it, as the cradle of the human race, and of the place it holds in the monumental history and the religion of the world. He whose mind is imbued with such conclusions as were yesterday exhibited, and regards this as the source and center of the stone religion and stone history of the world, must look upon it with an interest greatly enhanced by all the considerations which that view of it opens. When our own eyes first beheld the “dread magnificence” of Ararat, we had already seen the loftiest and most remarkable mountains of the old world; but yet the effect of the view of this mountain was new and surprising. The reason appeared to be this—most of the loftiest mountains of the world are but peaks of the uppermost ridge of mountain chains. It is these, perhaps, only, that are visible in the distance—and by the time you come near enough to look directly up to the summit, your ascent, however gradual, has been such that you are surprised at the small apparent height of the peak above you. We recollect to have experienced this effect very sensibly on reaching, after a long ascent, the village of Kasbek, at the foot of the  highest peak of the same name in the Caucasus. The snowy height seemed so small, that one could scarcely believe this to be the same mountain which had been visible a hundred miles off, shining gloriously among the clouds of the morning; and it required an effort of recollection, upon all the ascending way we had for many days passed, to apprehend how high indeed it was.

Now Ararat is not by any means in actual altitude so high as the Caucasian summit; yet the view of it is far more grand and impressive. The reason is, that it is not merely a summit of a ridge; it is a whole and perfect mountain. Whether you view it distant or near, the whole of its noble proportions, from the level of the plain to the summit, covered with snow even in the height of summer, are taken in at one view. It is, in fact, the culminating point, the gigantic corner-stone, of the ranges of the mountains which bound the three great empires of Russia, Turkey and Persia. Never had nations a more noble boundary, nor is there, perhaps, another object on earth, which, from its mere natural aspect, would seem so worthy to be regarded as a monument of the greatest event in the world’s history—the bridge between the antediluvian and the postdiluvian worlds. “Nothing,” as Mr. Morier well remarks, “can be more beautiful than its shape; more awful than its height; all the surrounding mountains sink into insignificance when compared with it; it is perfect in all its parts; no hard, rugged features, no unnatural prominences, everything is in harmony, and all combines to render it one of the sublimest objects of nature.” The valley from which it rises is that of the river Aras, the ancient Araxes. The rise of the mountain from its broad base is gradual, till it reaches the region of perpetual snow, which is somewhat more than one third below the summit, when its shape becomes more conical and steep. The cone is surmounted with a crown of ice, which glitters in the sun with peculiar brightness, and becomes the cynosure of the traveler’s eye for many days. This peak is, however, not alone in all this glory. It has near to, and arising from, the  same broad base, “another self,”—alike most nearly, but lower and smaller in all its proportions; although, if not overlooked by its tall neighbor, it would be reckoned among high mountains. Hence, perhaps, it is, that the sacred text speaks of the “mountains of Ararat,” rather than of a single mountain.

The taller summit of Ararat is 17,750 feet above the level of the sea, and 14,573 feet above the level of the plain; the lesser summit is 13,420 feet above the sea, and 10,435 feet above the plain. Many attempts were made in former times to attain the summit, access to which the native Armenians believe to be supernaturally interdicted; yet with strange incongruity, they sell to pilgrims relics from the wood of the ark, which is still believed to lie upon the summit. It was not till 1829 that a successful attempt Note: The success of this attempt has, however, been much questioned, and is stoutly denied by all persons in the neighborhood of the mountain.] was made by Professor Parrot, a German, acting under Russian auspices. Twice was he repelled by the snowy crest; but in the third attempt he succeeded, and stood upon the mountain of the ark! He found himself on a slightly convex and almost circular platform, about 220 feet in diameter, which at the extremity declined rather steeply on all sides. This was the silver crest of Ararat, composed of eternal ice, unbroken by a rock or stone. On account of the immense distance, nothing could be seen distinctly. The whole valley of the Araxes was covered with a gray mist, through which the towns of Erivan and Sardarabad appeared as dark spots. To the east-south-east was the lesser Ararat, whose head, as viewed from this higher point, did not appear like a cone, as it does from the plain, but like the top of a square truncated pyramid, with larger and smaller rocky elevations at the edges and in the middle. In that case it must have presented much of the appearance of a druidical circle, with its central object; and this is a curious fact, when taken in connection with the notion which some entertain, that the ark in fact rested on the lesser Ararat; as it is not easy to see how the  inmates of the ark, including heavy cattle, could have descended from the higher summit.

The party spent three quarters of an hour on the summit, and then, after planting an oaken cross thereon, descended. In descending, “it was a glorious sight to behold the dark shadows which the mountains on the west cast upon the plain, and then the profound darkness which covered all the valleys, and which rose gradually higher and higher on the side of Ararat, whose icy summit was still illuminated by the beams of the setting sun.”

It remains to be added, that Ararat has since been the scene of a fearful visitation, which in a few moments changed the entire face of the country. This was a dreadful earthquake, which commenced in June, 1840, and continued at intervals till September in the same year. As the most destructive shock occurred in the day-time, the loss of life did not exceed fifty; but the destruction of property was great, and traces of the calamity will be borne down to future ages in the fissures and landslips of the district. Even the aged mountain did not escape. Vast masses of rock, ice, and snow were detached from the summit and lateral points of the mountain, and thrown, “with horrid ruin and combustion down,” at a single bound, into the valley of Akhori, where the fragments lie to this day, scattered over an extent of several miles.