Ararat, from the southwest.
in eastern Turkey that is commonly known as Ararat. The Turkish
name means "mountain of pain" and is a rendering of Çiyaye
Agiri, which in Kurmanji (the language of the Kurds) means "the fiery
mountain". In Armenian, it is called Massis. A satellite photo can be
Ağrı Dağı, to use a name that does not create a famous
misunderstanding, is a stratovolcano,
which means that it is essentially an isolated cone that was
by the eruption of lava, ashes, and pyroclastic flows. As a
consequence, it becomes very steep when one approaches the summit,
which rises more than 3½ km above the plain and
reaches a total height of about 5123 m. The violent way in
it was formed, explains why Ağrı Dağı looks so much like other
stratovolcanoes (e.g., Etna
Ararat, from the south.
"Isolated", though, the conic mountain is only because there are no
summits in the direct neighborhood. At some distance, however, one can
the Little Ağrı Dağı, and several other volcanoes. The photo
to the left
shows the Ağrı Dağı in the distance, and in the foreground a
nineteenth-century flow of volcanic, molten stones, which are
from another volcano called Tendürek.
Still, the snow-capped Ararat is the largest and most impressive of all
summits in eastern Turkey, and was the center of the ancient kingdoms
which are essentially the valley of the river Araxes (north of the
mountain) and the area surrounding Lake Van (south of the mountain).
The summit, from the south.
Impressive as it is, it is only logical that Ağrı Dağı has been
identified in the Middle Ages with the mountain
mentioned in the Bible as the site of Noah's disembarking after the
Flood, the Ararat (Genesis
8.4). This identification, however, is incorrect. The Bible does not
refer to a summit called Ararat, but to "the mountains of
Ararat", and this proper name refers to the kingdom of Urartu (cf. Jeremiah 51.27).
Ancient Jewish authors and early translators of the Bible were well
aware that there was no mountain called Ararat. The author of the
second-century BCE Book
(5.28, 10.15) states that the Ark landed on "Mount Lubar" in "the land
of Ararat", and the Jewish historian
that "Ararat" referred to a summit south of Lake Van. He also records a
tradition that identified Noah's landing site with
Mount Baris in a country north of the Tigris
called Gordyene (Jewish Antiquities,
1.93). Josephus adds that in his days, bitumen could still be found
near the site of the Ark.
Ararat, seen from the northwest.
sources concur. In his account
of the Flood, Berossus
also refers to the presence of bitumen near the place where the Ark
landed, the Epic of
also refers to mountains in what is now Kurdistan, and
the Quran speaks of Al-Gudi (text).
The author of Jubilees,
Flavius Josephus, the Babylonian writers, and the Quran have retained
an older tradition, which puts the Ark's landing site
Van and the Tigris. This must be the site which the ancients believed
was the location of the final act of the story of the Flood, where the
hero disembarked and sacrificed.
It may perhaps be identified with a summit northeast of modern Cizre
called Cudi Dağı (satellite),
where eastern Christians -unaware of the identification of Ararat
with Ağrı Dağı made in the West- and Muslims still venerate
the tomb of
Jona Lendering for
Revision: 11 October 2007