H. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) Lynch.

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Monseigneur's windows looked out upon a wretched village,
which appeared doubly miserable in the cold light. At half-past
nine we mounted our ponies, and set out for Ashtarak. Mugni
lies to the south 'of the hill of Karniarch — a name which our
native guide pronounced Garnara. The surrounding country
maintains the stony and inhospitable character of the waste
through which we had lately passed. A short ride brought us to
the descent into the little township — an oasis of verdure, a pretty

142 Armenia

church, with a cluster of roofs and gables, tall poplars, terraces
of flat house-tops. But when we had passed within the precincts,
this pleasant impression faded ; were the crumbling walls of the
houses in course of demolition, or was this rude masonry of mud
and stone succumbing to the storm of yesterday ? We proceeded
down a narrow street which is lined with lofty trees and channelled
by a swirling stream. Here the owners of the ponies were lying
in wait for us ; a sure instinct had placed them upon our way.
According to the published statistics Ashtarak possesses some
3000 inhabitants, all of Armenian race.

By eleven o'clock we had procured horses and were again on
the road to Erivan, The entire region is strewn with rocks and
presents the same bleak appearance, except where, here and there,
a stream descends the barren slopes and sustains a slender line of
green. In such places you may discern the rare site of a village,
a few poplars, the grouped architecture of a church. At length,
after long winding between the stony eminences, we opened out
a view over the great plain. The sky had not yet cleared, and
mists obscured the forms of the mountains ; but the whole lap of
the plain was revealed. Patches of soft blue relieved the surface
of the dim country — the vegetation of the rich campagna about
the banks of the Araxes. We rode on, always descending, over
these stony uplands, until they dipped to the floor of the level
ground. Luxuriant gardens filled the gently- pursing hollow,
intensely green after the heavy rain of the preceding day. Pools
of water lay on the road ; the water-courses were brimming over.
The orchards were clothed with fruit of ideal perfection in form
and colour ; we admired the size and brilliant hues of the cluster-
ing peaches, side by side with the bending branches of the apple
and the pear trees, with the deep shade of the walnut and the
mulberry trees. Ripe grapes hung in abundance from the low
vine-stocks. . . . Such are the outskirts of Erivan, a town
embowered in foliage. We reached the central park at half-past
one o'clock.



Erivan is a town of gardens in which a network of irrigation
channels preserves from early spring into late autumn the per-
fection of the foliage. In the heart of the business quarter is
situated a little park, disposed into shady alleys and promenades
for the citizens, but presenting also pathless spaces of forest land.
We were tempted to pitch our tents in the secluded portion. But
the storm had soaked the soil ; solid walls were a preferable shelter.
We encamped in the naked rooms of a building which faced the
park and bore the pretentious inscription. Hotel de Londrcs. Our
first care was to dispatch a mounted messenger to General Frese,
Governor of Erivan, who was residing at the summer resort of
Darachichak, I begged His Excellency to instruct his people to
assist us in our preparations, and to furnish us with a letter to the
commandant of the Cossacks, stationed on the slopes of Ararat.

On the morning of the i6th of September our courier returned
and informed us that the Governor had sent the necessary
instructions to the Nachalnik, or chief of the district police. I
had already made the acquaintance of that important official,
chief of police for the district of Erivan, and acting chief of police
for the town of Erivan. A brief experience had taught me that
without his active co-operation all private efforts were made in
vain ; the forces one set in motion returned in useless circles to
the point from which they had started. But it so happened
that the Nachalnik was an extremely amiable person ; he had
helped us, he would help us again. Without delay he provided
us with a letter to the Cossacks ; nothing remained but to make
a start. But in the East one can never count upon being able to
proceed on one's journey before the cavalcade is already on the
outward road. I had read of the difficulties which had been

144 Armenia

experienced by previous travellers in finding horses in the district
neighbouring Ararat to convey them to the higher slopes. I
had therefore made contracts with owners in Erivan to provide
us with the necessary animals. When I summoned these in-
dividuals, they were no longer forthcoming, they were nowhere to
be found. I then endeavoured to hire a carriage, to take us as
far as Aralykh, with the resolve to trust to fortune later on. I
offered handsome prices to several drivers ; they pleaded the
badness of the road and refused to go. Finally I had recourse
to the posting authorities ; they swore that in all their stables
not a single horse remained. Convinced of the futility of further
steps on my own initiative, I sought out the private abode of the
chief of police. The hour of the mid-day meal was already over ;
a fierce sun was beating upon the silent streets.

I crossed the shady alleys of the little park, in which not
another person moved. A few steps through the blinding glare
of an adjacent side-road, deep in white dust, brought me to the
enclosure which surrounds the residence of the Nachalnik. I
knocked at the little postern door. A drowsy servant opened to
me, and, in answer to my enquiries, informed me that his master
was asleep. Compromising for once with the valuable principle
of always addressing oneself to the supreme authority, I turned
away and walked to the station of the town police. But not a
single officer was in attendance at headquarters ; a couple of men
were dozing in the guard room, outstretched upon the wooden
seats. No other course was open but to arouse the Nachalnik ;
I returned and again knocked at the little door. It was pleasant
to be offered a seat in a spacious verandah, overlooking a garden ;
nor was it long before the master of the house appeared. There
are individuals in whom a tendency to corpulence, while it appears
to dispose them favourably towards their fellow-men, has induced
a provoking habit of restful satisfaction, and has built up a wall
of self-possession against which nervous temperaments beat in
vain. The Nachalnik was not wanting in these passive qualities ;
and I could not doubt that they would be exercised on the
present occasion as I observed the approach of his burly form.
The white tunic was partially buttoned, the hair was matted on
the brow, the eyes were still heavy with sleep. I quickly apprised
him of the nature and extent of our troubles ; how the owners of
our hired horses had broken their contracts, how the various forms
of transport had been successively requisitioned, with equal failure

To Ararat 145

in every case. Tartar pony men, Molokan drosJiky drivers,
Armenian posting contractors — not a man among them could be
induced to stir. Our luggage, accompanied by Wesson and
Rudolph, had left that morning in a waggon of the post ; we
ourselves were determined to follow them, if necessary on foot.
To this petulance he replied with the utmost composure, to the
effect that the people were free to make their own bargains, and
that he could not compel them to go. It was the familiar story,
the honourable attempt to rule the East upon Western principles,
the patient endeavour, rich both in humour and in pathos, to
infuse the drowsy mass with the elements of vitality and make it
respond to those inducements of enlightened self-interest which
move the peoples of the West. In the mouth of the Nachalnik
the enunciation of this principle was not without a certain vein
of almost tragic irony. Himself the child of a race which has
scarcely yet assimilated the motives and the restraints of civilised
life, he had been transplanted from the frozen North to this
burning valley ; and the hot sun was already drying up those
scanty springs of action which had so recently been set free. It
was plain that the position could not be carried directly ; but it
occurred to me at that moment that there was a weak place on
another side. This heavy man, whose languid negatives and long-
drawn affirmatives were capable of almost infinite resistance, could
be stirred to a fury of words and gestures by the suggestion that
his authority had been slighted, or his orders left unfulfilled. He
had been endowed with a talent, rare in one of his temperament,
for grandiose histrionic expression ; and it was not so much, I
think, the matter at issue which moved him, as the favourable
opportunity which was offered in such circumstances for a
luxurious display of his talent to himself. I had observed in
the garden the graceful figure of the young sergeant whom he
had lent to me the day before. He had changed his travelling
dress for the elegant skirted coat of Georgia ; a row of silvered
cartridge-heads glittered upon his breast, and the dark moustache
was carefully pencilled upon the clean-shaven cheeks. I beckoned
him to me and begged him to confirm what I said. The sergeant
had been obliged to use the name of the Xachalnik, and in that
name to threaten horse-owners and posting contractors in turn.
Yet not a man among them could be made to move. I added
that it would seem as if, in the absence of the Governor, there
was an end to all authority in the town. At this speech the

146 Armenia

Nachalnik rose from his chair and summoned his servants about
him. He cursed the mongrel race of horse-keepers, Persians or
Tartars, the blood of brigands all. Who could tell in what holes
these thieves were hiding .? We should go by the post, and post
horses iinist be found. Arrived at Aralykh, the Cossacks would
mount us on their own horses ; and we should no doubt be able
to impress some animals in the neighbourhood for the transport
of our tents. His emissaries flew in all directions, with the result
that, within the respectable space of three hours, a post cart, drawn
by a pair of horses, was standing at our door.

Erivan is situated on the northern skirts of the valley of the
Middle Araxes — a valley distinguished by its important geo-
graphical situation, by the great works of natural architecture
which are aligned upon it, and by the high place which it holds
both in legend and in history as the scene of momentous cata-
strophes in the fortunes of the human race. The natural avenue
from east to west across the tableland of Armenia, it gives easy
access to this heart of Asia Minor from the shores of the Caspian
Sea. The nations about and beyond the Caspian have found
their way along this avenue to the coasts of the Black Sea and
the Mediterranean ; and, while tradition connects these scenes
with the site of Paradise, the bloody wars which they have
witnessed have suggested to a graceful writer the appropriate
recollection of the curse of the flaming sword. ^ Along the line
of the 40th degree of latitude a succession of plains extend
across the tableland, varying in their depression below the higher
levels, watered by the Araxes and by the upper course of the
Western Euphrates, and each giving access to the other by
natural passages. The first is this valley of the Araxes, with its
more narrow continuation westwards through the district between
Kagyzman and Khorasan ; the second is the plain of Pasin ; the
third the plain of Erzerum. Yet while the plains of Pasin and
of Erzerum are situated respectively at an altitude of 5500 and
5750 feet, the valley of the Araxes in the neighbourhood of
Erivan is only 2800 feet above the sea. Both on the north and
south of this considerable depression, even the plainer levels
of the tableland attain the imposing altitude of 7000 feet,
while its surface has been uplifted by volcanic action into long
and irregular convexities of mountain and hill and hummock.

' Bryce, Transcaucasia and Ararat, 4tli and revised edition, London, 1S96, p. 312.

To Ararat 147

On either side of the extensive plain which borders the
course of the Middle Araxes rise mountains of astounding
proportions and of large variety of form. Let us dwell for ii
moment on the character of the northern barrier, which closes the
prospect from the slopes of Ararat at a distance of from 30 to
50 miles. The immense bulk of Alagoz extends across the
horizon from the longitude of Ararat to the districts adjoining the
left bank of the Arpa Chai. In that direction the mass occupies
a space of about 40 miles, rising from the level tracts through
which the Araxes flows to a height of over 13,000 feet and
inclined from north of east to south of west. The snowy fangs of
the shattered crater are situated a little west of the longitude of
the dome of Ararat ; from those peaks the outline of the moun-
tain is shadowed on either side in an almost horizontal bar. On
the west the streams of molten matter have met with little
resistance to their onward flow ; the eastern slopes have been
confined by the bulwark of the border ranges, and are of com-
paratively insignificant extent. Where the base gathers beyond
the river is a distance from the slopes of Ararat of about 35
miles ; the two summits are nearly 60 miles apart. Yet so
large is the scale of this colossal mountain, and so even the
surface of the intervening plain, that, seen through the clear
atmosphere of an Eastern climate, it fills the eye with its huge
presence, sweeping the valley with massive foundations, and
drawn across the sky in a long and rounded bank, broken only
by the trident of shining peaks.

Such is the character, to a point about north of Ararat, of the
northern wall of this valley of the Araxes — the length of a single
mountain, an unbroken barrier from west to east. At that point
the mass of Alagoz meets the spurs of the border ranges, and its
base mingles with the base of the volcanic elevations which rise
along their inner edge. These elevations continue the wall of
mountain eastwards, but incline it towards the south ; they come
forward in front of the giant volcano and narrow the plain. Yet
so gradual is the transition that it is scarcely perceptible ; until
the eye is awakened by the change in the sky-line, so even before,
so restless now, fretted by the shapes of cones and little craters
which, behind the soft convexities of flanking outworks, feature
the chain which separates the basin of Lake Sevan from the
waters which wash the base of Ararat.

On the southern side of the great plain there is a remarkable

148 Armenia

correspondence with the northern border in the constitution of
the mountain masses, and an interesting difference in the manner
in which they are disposed. On the north you have first a single
mountain, and then a mountain system ; on the south the hne
commences with a mountain system and ends with a single mass.
On the north the mountain system steps out in advance of the
mountain ; on the south, by a happy reversal of the order, the
mountain stands forward alone. Alagoz and the belt south of
Lake Sevan are answered by the Ararat system and by the
fabric of Ararat.

The range which I have termed the Ararat system is known
in the country under the name of Aghri Dagh, a name which
is equally applied to Ararat, but of which the roughness on the
palate appears to express with greater felicity the rugged
character of the system to which Ararat belongs. From the
wild and mountainous country which, about the 42nd degree of
longitude, borders the right bank of the Upper Araxes before it
enters the plain of Pasin, there extends across the plateau in an
easterly direction a long and comparatively narrow range, which,
skirted on the one side by the course of the Araxes, and on the
other by the plain of Alashkert, composes the spine of this
central region of the tableland, and is interposed as a barrier
between north and south. The appearance of the chain presents
a striking contrast to the convex shapes which feature the
adjacent landscapes ; the sides are abrupt, the summits sharp,
and the peaks rise from deep valleys to a height which reaches
over I 1,000 feet. Where the Araxes leaves the narrows near
the town of Kagyzman, this range is seen massed upon the right
bank of the river ; and after following the stream along the 40th
degree of latitude, it inclines to the south-east. Aided by this
slight inclination in the direction of its southern barrier, the
valley rapidly expands, and attains its greatest dimensions at a
point just south of Alagoz. It is at that point that the western
slope of Ararat, which has risen in advance of this satellite
system from a low cape in the west, begins to gather in height
and volume, concealing the rough features of these obsequious
mountains behind the royal sweep of a long train.

At the back of this even western slope a pass of about 7000
feet connects the fabric of Ararat with the spinal system which it
succeeds and resumes. Ararat takes up the line of the southern
border, and draws his entire length along the valley in a direction

To Ararat 149

from north-west to south-east (Frontispiece). There he stands, Hke
some vast cathedral, on the floor of the open plain. The human
quality of this natural structure cannot fail to impress the e}'e ;
and, although its proportions are not less gigantic than those of
the opposite mass of Alagoz, it contrasts with the Cyclopean
forms of that neighbouring mountain a subtle grace of feature and
a harmonious symmetry of design. Slowly the long slope rises
from the western distance, a gently undulating line ; and, as it
rises, the base gradually widens, advancing with almost imper-
ceptible acclivity into the expanse of plain. So it continues,
always rising against the sky-ground, always gathering at the
base, until at a height of 13,500 feet it reaches the zone of
perpetual snow. The summit region of Ararat presents the
appearance of a vast dome of snow, crowning a long oval figure
of which the axis is from north-west to south-east. The whole
length of this roof, on its north-eastern side, is exposed to the
valley of the Araxes. The vaulting is less pronounced upon the
west than on the east, and ascends through a succession of snow-
fields to the highest point of the dome. The average inclination
of this north-western slope, where it rises more immediately
towards the summit from the almost horizontal train, is only
18°, while its whole length has been computed by Parrot at no
less than 20 miles. From the massive roof, which attains a
maximum elevation of nearly 1 7,000 feet above the sea, or
14,000 feet above the plain, the outline sinks by a steeper but
still easy gradient towards the south-east ; the snow-covered
slope dips at an angle of about 30°, and the side of the dome,
when seen from that point of the compass, presents the appear-
ance of an almost perfect cone. The south-eastern side of
Ararat is encumbered below the snow-line by banks or causeways
of piled-up rocks, which branch off from wedge-shaped ridges
descending fanwise from the summit region, and fall into the
plain. On the south-east these causeways narrow the fork of an
upland valley, of which the saddle is placed at a height of 8800
feet. This valley separates the greater from the lesser Ararat,
and determines the extension of the south-eastern slope. The
horizontal distance of the valley from the summit of the greater
Ararat is about 5 miles. From this saddle the outline of the
fabric rises, and now more rapidly than before. The shape of a
beautiful pyramid is presented ; the pointed summit reaches an
altitude of about i 3,000 feet, and is placed at a distance from
VOL. I L 2

150 Armenia

the valley of only 2 miles. The south-eastern slope of this
lesser mountain at first declines with rapid gradients, which give
sharpness to the graceful cone, and then is drawn through the
eastern distance, a gently undulating outline, sinking to a dim
promontory in the east.

Such is the profile and such the appearance of the majestic
structure upon which eye and mind dwell. When we come to
investigate the underlying principle, we find that, along a line of
upheaval which has been uniform in a direction from north-west
to south-east, two mountains have been reared by volcanic action,
their axes following the line of upheaval and their summits 7 miles
apart. The south-eastern slope of the greater mountain and the
north-western side of the smaller are contiguous at an altitude of
about 8000 feet ; they meet, as we have seen, in a fork or valley at
an elevation which ranges between 7500 and 8800 feet. In other
words, this valley is the point of intersection between the bases of
either mountain ; and that part of the fabric which lies below it
may be regarded as the common foundation of both. But the
base of the smaller and more pointed mountain is merged into
the base of the larger and less steep ; and the forms of the lower
portion of the structure continue the contours of Great Ararat as
they sweep away to the south-east. The pyramid of Little
Ararat rises directly from the upland valley ; Great Ararat rises
from the floor of the plain. These features lend unity to the
whole fabric, and preserve an exactly proportionate relation
between the shape and size of the two mountains and the pro-
traction of their basal slopes.

The base or foundation of the Ararat fabric gathers im-
mediately from the surface of the plain, advancing ever further
into the even country as the weight of the upper structure grows.
If the ground plan of the entire fabric may be described as a long
elliptical figure of which the axis is from north-west to south-east,
then the point at which the base is most developed lies north-east
of the summit of Great Ararat, in the latitude of Erivan. When
already, along the axis of this figure, we have followed the long-
drawn outline from the cape in the distant west to where, beyond
the Little Ararat, it slowly falls away into the east, the eye turns
naturally to the face of the mountain, and dwells with ever-
increasing admiration upon the subtle structural qualities there dis-
played — the combination of grace with extraordinary solidity, the
easy transition from the lower to the middle slopes, and of these

To Ararat 15 i

to the uppermost seams. From the margin of the marshes which
border the right bank of the Araxes the ground commences to
inchne ; yet so gradual is at first the rise that, if we measure on
our base plan, we find that it is not more than about 3000 feet
within a space of 10 miles. If it be permissible, in the gradual
process from one gradient to another, to fix a division between
the upper structure and the base, the dividing line may be
drawn at an elevation of about 5800 feet, at a distance from the
summit of 6^ miles, and of 10 miles from the floor of the plain.
Beyond that line, the seams which mount to the dome of snow
appear to commence their long climb ; the eye follows them on
their upward course until they attain the summit region and end
in a long cornice of snow. The extraordinary elevation of Ararat
above the plain of the Araxes — it may be doubted whether there
exists in the world another mountain which rises immediately from
a level surface to such a height — is balanced and controlled by
this broad and massive base, and by the exquisite proportions of
the upper structure which rises to the snowy roof. Yet neither
the strength nor the symmetry of this admirable fabric has been
proof against decay. Momentous convulsions from within have
completed the work of gradual corrosion, and have opened a wide
breach in the very heart of the mountain, where it faces the river
and the plain. From the snow-beds of the lofty cornice to the
base at the gathering of the seams the whole side of Ararat has
been fractured and rent asunder ; the standing portion overhangs
the recess with steep walls, which spread within it perpetual
gloom. Further east, just in advance of the saddle which divides
the Ararats, a grassy hill of unwieldy shape and flat summit
interrupts the basal slopes, and offers an isolated contrast to the
symmetry of the neighbouring forms. The chasm of Akhury and
the hill of Takjaltu are minor features in the structure of Ararat
which are seen and recognised from afar.

But most of all, as we realise the vision, which in the noblest

Online LibraryH. F. B. (Harry Finnis Blosse) LynchArmenia, travels and studies (Volume 1) → online text (page 16 of 49)