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distant from the Kara Su.

^ Parrot says the same thing, op. cit. p. 108.

* For a discussion of the name see Parrot, op. cit. p. no. Ritter {Erdkiinde, x.
508) also refers to Brosset {^Bulletin de F Acad, de Sc. dc St. Pt'tershoiirg, 1841, vol.
viii. p. 43), but is in error when he says that Brosset spells it Aghuri. He actually
spells it Acorhi, and throws doubt upon the popular derivation of the name. It would
appear that the old Armenian name for the place was Akuri or Agguri, and that later
Armenian writers turned the word into Ark-uri in order to extract the signification
which I have given in the text. I have adopted the spelling of the Russian official map,
which practically reproduces the old word. Dr. Belck has made the ingenious
suggestion that the Adduri of the Assyrian inscription of Shalmaneser II. (859-824
B.C.) — a name which is applied to the mountains whither Arame, king of Urardhu .or
Ararat, fled before the armies of the Assyrian monarch — may be represented by the
Armenian Akuri or Agguri {Verhaiidhtngen der Berliner Gesellschaft fiir Anfhropo/ogie,
1893, p. 71). That the ancient name of a district often survives in that of a town in
these countries is proved by the analogy of the town of Van, which bears the name of
the kingdom of which it was formerly the capital, the Biaina of the Vannic texts.

184 A7'inenia

1000 souls ;^ the houses numbered some two hundred, and were
built -of stone with the usual flat roofs. The settlement owed its
prosperity, and even its existence, to a stream which then, as
now, issued from the jaws of the chasm, fed by the melting ice
and snow. It was placed at the open exit from the gorge, where
the trough flattens out into the base. The church and the larger
portion of the village were on the right bank of the stream ; on
the left, opposite the church, stood a square-shaped fortress,
built of clay after the fashion of the country. A near eminence
was crowned by the walls of a spacious palace, which served as
a summer residence for the Persian sirdars of Erivan. It was
indeed a delightful resort during the heats of summer. A cool
draught descended from the snows of the summit region ; and
the little stream supported considerable vineyards and orchards,
so that the traveller, on approaching Akhury, could take refuge
from the glare of the plain in quite a little wood of apricot trees.
The church — said to have been called Araxzlvank (Arakelotz
Vank ?) — was reputed to have been built on the site of Noah's
altar. It dated from the eighth or ninth century ; and to such a
height had the ground about it risen since its foundation, that the
two side doors had become embedded in soil up to the crossbeams.
Just beyond this pleasant oasis you entered the chasm, and, after
proceeding for nearly two miles up its boulder-strewn hollow, you
reached the little monastery of St. Jacob, which stood on the
edge of a natural terrace a few hundred feet above the bottom of
the gulf, immediately overlooking the right bank of the stream.
The chasm had at this spot a depth of some 600 to 800 feet,^
and the elevation of the site of the monastery above sea-level
was 6394 feet.^ Parrot, who established his headquarters in this
lonely cloister, has handed down to us a charming illustration of
the place, and a pleasant description of the chapel, with its walled
enclosure and garden and orchard, the residence, at the time of
his visit, of a single monk. Like the church of Akhury, it
commemorated a religious event in the story of Ararat. A
monk of the name of Jacob, afterwards bishop of Nisibis, reputed
to have been a contemporary and relative of St. Gregory, was

1 Wagner [op. infra cit. p. 166) says that at the time of tlie catastrophe the
Armenian inhabitants numbered nearly 1600 souls, besides Kurdish labourers.

- Von Behagel {apiid Parrot, op. cit. 2nd part, p. I S3) says 1000 feet. I quote
Parrot p. 147.

•' Parrot, op. cit. p. 147. Von Behagel {loc. cit.) says that it was 325S Paris feet,
or 3472 English feet, above the plain of the Araxes.

The Heart of Ararat 185

seized with the desire to convince the sceptics of the truth of the
Biblical narrative, and to assure himself of the presence of the
Ark on the summit of Ararat by the evidence of his own eyes.
In the pursuit of this purpose he made several attempts to scale
the mountain from the north-east side. On each occasion he fell
asleep, exhausted by the effort ; as often as he awoke, he would
find that he had been miraculously transported to the point from
which he had set out. At length God looked with compassion
upon his fruitless labours, and sent an angel who appeared to him
in his sleep. The Divine message was to the effect that the
summit was unattainable by mortal man ; but the angel deposited
on his breast a fragment of the holy Ark, as a reward for his
faith and pains.^ Beyond St. Jacob's, on the same or eastern
side of the chasm and on the edge of the precipice, was situated
a tiny shrine, built of hewn stone, at an altitude of about 1000
feet above the monastery.' It stood by the side of one of the
rare springs which are found on Ararat — a well of which the
waters are still deemed to possess miraculous powers, and which
still attracts numerous pilgrims from the plains. As you followed
the gulf still further, the sides increased in steepness and the
abyss in depth, until, at a distance of about two and a half miles
from the cloister,'^ it ended in an almost perpendicular wall
of rock which towered up to the snowy cornice of the dome.
Tournefort, whose description is in other respects fantastic, has
used language to portray the aspect of the upper end of the chasm
which would be true at the present day. He speaks of the
terrible appearance of the ravine, one of those natural wonders
which testify to the greatness of the Saviour, as his Armenian
companion observed. He could not help trembling as he over-
looked the precipices, and he asks his readers, if they would form
some conception of the character of the phenomenon, to imagine
one of the loftiest mountains in the world opening its bosom to
a vertical cleft. From the heights above, masses of rock were
continually falling into the abyss with a noise that inspired fear.'*

On the evening of the 20th of June i 840 a terrific earthquake
shook the mountain, and not only the shrine and cloister, but the
entire village of Akhury with the sirdar's palace were destroyed

1 Parrot, op. cit. p. 135 ; Dubois, op. cit. vol. iii. p. 471. Most travellers tell this
story with amplifications and variations. It is to be found in its earliest form in Faustus
of Byzantium (book iii. chap. x. ).

- Parrot, op. cit. p. 205. •* Von Behagel, apiid Parrot, loc. cit.

^ Tournefort, op. cit. vol. ii. p. 368 set].

1 86 Armenia

and swept away. An eye-witness, who was pasturing cattle on
the grassy slopes above the chasm on the side opposite to the
shrine and the well, tells us that he was thrown on to his knees
by a sudden reeling of the ground, and that, even in this position,
he was unable to maintain himself, but was overturned by the
continuing shocks. Close by his side the earth cracked ; a terrific
rolling sound filled his ears ; when he dared look up, he could
see nothing but a mighty cloud of dust, which glimmered with a
reddish hue above the ravine. But the quaking and cracking
were renewed ; he lay outstretched upon the ground, and thus
awaited death. At length the sounds became fainter, and he was
able to look towards the ravine. Through the dust he perceived
a dark mass in the hollow, but of what it was composed he could
not see. The sun went down ; the great cloud passed away
from the valley ; as he descended with his cattle in the failing
light, he could see nothing within the abyss except the dark mass.
Another spectator has left us an account of the various phases of
the phenomenon, as they were experienced from a standpoint
below the village. He happened to be working in a garden a few
versts from Akhury, on the side of the plain. His wife and
daughter were with him ; two of his sons appeared towards
evening and brought him a report about his cattle. Two riders,
returning to the village, exchanged a few words with the party,
and rode on. The sun was beginning to sink behind the
mountains, and he and his people were preparing to go home.
In an instant the ground beneath their feet oscillated violently,
and all were thrown down. At the same time loud reports and
a rolling sound, as if of thunder, increased the panic into which
they fell. A hurricane of wind swept towards them from the
chasm and overturned every object that was not firm. In the
same direction there arose an immense cloud of dust, overtopped,
towards the upper portion of the ravine, by a darker cloud, as of
black smoke. After a momentary pause the same phenomena
were repeated ; only this time a dark mass swept towards them
from the direction of the village with a rolling and a rushing
sound. It reached the two riders ; they were engulfed and dis-
appeared. Immediately afterwards the two sons were overtaken
by the same fate. The mass rolled onwards to the gardens, and
broke down the walled enclosures. Large stones came tumbling
about the unfortunate peasants ; and a great crag swept down
upon the prostrate witness, and settling by his side, caught his

The Heart of Ara7^at 187

mantle fast. Extricating himself with difficulty, he succeeded in
lifting his unconscious wife and daughter from the earth, and in
flying with them over the quaking ground. After each shock
they could hear the sound of cracking in the chasm, accompanied
by sharp reports. They were joined by fugitives, escaping from
the neighbouring gardens, and they endeavoured to make their
way to Aralykh. It was morning before they reached their goal ;
during the night the sounds and shocks continued, always fainter
but at periodical intervals. This catastrophe was followed on the
24th of June by a second and scarcely less momentous collapse.
On this occasion a mass of mud and water burst from the chasm,
as though some colossal dam had given way. Blocks of rock
and huge pieces of ice were precipitated over the base, and the
flood extended for a space of about thirteen miles. Not a trace
was left of the gardens and fields which it devastated, and the
Kara Su was temporarily dammed by the viscous stream.^

It is to the credit of the times in which we live that no such
event could now occur in Russian territory without exhaustive
and local scientific investigation, while the results of the
catastrophe were still fresh. The task of reporting to the
Government was entrusted to a Major of Engineers, who was
ordered to open an enquiry on the spot. His account was to the
effect that masses of rock were precipitated into the chasm from
the overhanging heights ; that they were accompanied in their
descent by vast quantities of snow, unloosed by the sinking
foundations of the uppermost seams. A river of boulders and
snow and ice streamed with lightning rapidity down the gulf,
buried the cloister and the village with all its inhabitants, and
choked up the trough of the abyss. The earthquake was
attended by the opening of fissures in the ground, from which
there issued water and sand, and even flames.'-^ The mention of
this last phenomenon appears to have aroused the curiosity of
men of learning, and to have excited in them a strong desire for
further light. The site was visited in 1843 by a German man of
science. Dr. Wagner, and in i 844 by the great geologist Herrmann

1 The testimony of these witnesses is given by Abich, Geognosiiche Reise zii/ii Ara)-at,
with two drawings of the chasm, in Monatsberichte der Gesellschaft fiir Erdkunde zu
Berlin, series 2, vol. iv. 1846-47. The account is reproduced in his Geologische Forsch-
iingen in den kaukasischen Ldiidern, Vienna, 1882, part ii. pp. 395 seg., and illustrated
by a fine geological view of the chasm in the Atlas, plate vi. It can best be understood
in the reprint. See also Wagner, op. inf. cit., and Ritter, Erdkunde, x. pp. 507 seg.

- See the summary of this report in Ritter, Erdkunde, x. pp. 509 seg.

1 88 Armenia

Abich, whose researches are always careful and complete.^ These
two authorities unfortunately arrived at opposite conclusions as to
the character of the convulsion, Wagner begins by discrediting
the account of the Russian Major, and suggests that he had never
left the walls of Erivan, having lost his travelling money at play.
He considers it absurd to suppose that the mass which destroyed
Akhury and the fragments of rocks which were projected far and
wide can be attributed to the operation of purely seismic forces,
dislocating the crown and sides of the abyss. They must have
been due to eruptive volcanic action, of which he thought he
could see the traces at the upper end of the chasm, the site,
according to his view, of one of the old craters of Ararat. They
were impelled through the air by steam and escaping gases from a
fissure in the bottom of the ravine. We must therefore form the
conception of an eruption accompanied by an earthquake, not of
a landslip effected by seismic shocks.'-^

That this theory is open to objection on the simple ground of
probability, it does not require scientific knowledge to perceive.
In the first place an eruption of Ararat is unknown within the
historical period ; in the second, the destruction of Akhury was
only one of many catastrophes which were occasioned by earth
movements on the same day. On that same evening the valley
of the Araxes was visited by a violent earthquake, and thousands
of houses were overthrown." It is true that Wagner supposes an
eruption of steam rather than of fire, and favours the hypothesis
of vast reservoirs of water beneath the mountain having burst in
upon the molten mass below. But this ingenious supposition is
rendered unnecessary and improbable by the minute researches of
the next trained worker in the same field. Abich asks how it
would be possible for eruptive action to have broken forth in a
narrow valley — on such a scale that huge crags of lOO to 150
feet in circumference were propelled for a distance of over three
miles ■* — without leaving any trace of volcanic ejectamenta on the
adjoining heights and on the slopes beyond. A careful examina-
tion of the disposition and character of the debris, as they were

^ See Moriz Wagner {Reise nach dei/i Ararat iiini dciii Hochland Artiienien,
Stuttgart, 1848, contained in Widermann and Ilauff, Reiscii iind Laudesbeschreibiingen,
Lieferung 35), and Abich in op. cit.

- Consult the argument in Wagner, op. cit. pp.176 saj.

^ See Ritter, Erdkunde, x. 510; and for former earthquakes see Dubois, op. cit.
vol. iii. p. 474 ; Abich, Geolog. Forsch. part ii. pp. 390 scq. with map.

■• " 5 versls in a direct line" are Abich's words, op. at. p. 413.

The Heart of Ararat 189

disclosed within the trough of the chasm, as well as on the surface
of the base of the mountain, established in his mind the veracity
in all essentials of the official version of the Russian Major of
Engineers, He observed that the fragments of rock which are
strewn over the basal slopes before the entrance to the chasm is
reached, become concentrated as you proceed, and are collected
into long ridges of boulders, which issue from the mouth of the
gulf Yet not a single one among these fragments was found to
be identical in nature with the fragments on the adjacent valley
sides. How account for this striking circumstance on the
hypothesis of an eruption from fissures along the base of the
valley ? When he came to investigate the origin of these piled-
up boulders, he discovered that they exactly corresponded with
the rock of the seams which are found along the upper end of
the chasm, overhanging the abyss. He was even able to ascribe
approximately the former position of the largest of the crags
which recline upon the base to a site on the left wall of the
chasm, immediately beneath and supporting the snows. From
his writings we may extract the following explanation of the
phenomena to which the destruction of Akhury was due. The
upper structure of Ararat had been seriously weakened on the
north-eastern side by the slow but persistent action of snow and
ice, and by the corrosive tendencies of veins of sulphurate of iron.
The earthquake precipitated portions of the higher seams into the
chasm, together with masses of snow. A dense cloud of dust
was induced by the falling rocks, and the setting sun lent to this
cloud a lurid hue. Immense quantities of boulders were hurried
down the trough of the chasm, accompanied by a stream of mud
and melting ice. The course of this composite current was
directed upon the village by the configuration of the left wall of
the chasm. As the sides of the valley fell in, its upper portion
became obstructed at the neck or narrow which still exists about
at the point where the little shrine used to overlook the abyss.
A mighty dam was formed by the fallen masses, and the head of
the valley became a huge morass. Further lapses of rock and
snow took place from the summit region, and the heats of June
dissolved the frozen elements in the morass. On the 24th the
dam yielded to the overpowering pressure, and the second act of
the catastrophe was fulfilled.

As a result of this earthquake, the ridge enclosing the upper-
most end of the chasm was found to have acquired about double

190 Armenia

its former extent. The height of the precipice had also increased
considerably, especially on the eastern side. The summit
remained intact, but the fabric of Ararat lay henceforth exposed
to its innermost core.^

We set out at a quarter-past eight in the morning, mounted
on little hacks. The Armenian Makar, who had accompanied us
on the previous expedition, was deputed to be our guide. It took
us some twenty minutes to cross the belt of sand and camelthorn
at a pace of about six miles an hour. Then the ground com-
menced to rise with more perceptible acclivity, and we made our
way across the massive base. The still air, and the restfulness of
the stately fabric before us exercised upon us their now familiar
spell. Grey clouds enveloped the snows of the region,
collected above a veil of tender mist.

We were pointing towards the entrance to the chasm, and we
noticed that, in that direction, there exists a considerable concavity
in the surface of the base. One might almost form the conception
of a flaw in the mountain, extending to the pedestal upon which
it is reared. On either side of us, but more especially on our left
hand, the rounded contours of the basal slopes were curving
inwards to a wide depression, up the trough of which we rode.
Is this feature the result of landslip and of floods issuing from the
chasm, or was the pedestal always weaker upon this side ? I am
inclined to ascribe it in part to an inherent defect in the structure,
which has been enlarged and accentuated in the process of
centuries. It would appear that the streams of lava which fed the
base on the north-west and south-east were not directed in equal
volume to these north-eastern slopes. Such a distribution of the
molten matter which contributed to build up the fabric would
account, at least in some measure, for the subsequent subsidence
of Ararat on this its north-eastern flank.

As we proceeded, this hollow formation became more
pronounced ; we were approaching the mouth of the chasm. We
observed how much more copious was the flora which covers this
portion of the base. In place of the burnt herbage over which we
had ridden on our journey to Sardar Bulakh, we here admired an
abundant growth of low and thorny bushes of which the tiny and
delicate pink and white flowers were showered upon a ground of
grey and green {AtrapJiaxis spinosa). Long streamers of sansola

1 Kilter, Erdkttndc, x. pp. 512, 513.

The Heart of Ararat


{Kodiia prostrata, Schrad.) bent towards us, and gigantic yellow-
grasses rose like spears {Calamagrostis epigejos, Roth.). The stream
which issues from the chasm — exhausted at this season — feeds
and fertilises the sandy soil, and, perhaps, the layers of mud
which were left by the flood of 1840 have not been without effect
on the nature of the land. We were reminded of that catastrophe
by the huge fragments of conglomerate rock which are strewn
over the hollow throughout a considerable area. On our return
I took a photograph of the largest of these crags, where it lay.

Fig. 38.

among bouquets of spangled atraphaxis, outlined against the sky
(Fig. 38). Abich informs us that the fragment which lies
immediately in front of it was incorporated with it at the time of
his first visit in 1844 ; the mass then measured at the base 285
feet in circumference, with a height of 45 feet.^ I have already
said that this careful investigator was able to trace its origin to a
site at the upper end of the chasm, overhanging the abyss.
According to his theory, it must have fallen in after the first act
of the catastrophe, and been transported in the course of the
second act to its present place. It was pushed down the trough
of the ravine and over the gentle incline of these basal slopes by

^ Abich, Gcolog. Forsch. part ii. p. 412.

192 A^nnenia

the action of the viscous stream, until that action lost its force
when the stream was freed from the compression of the gorge
and radiated outwards over the pedestal.^ To us plain people the
position of these crags was a source of amazement, and the Greeks
would have made the chasm the residence of a Cyclops who
hurled such missiles at adventuresome men.

At half-past ten we halted at a small Kurdish village, situated
at the mouth of the chasm. These Kurds have erected hovels of
loose stones with roofs of mud, and they can boast or deplore, in
the person of a starshiua, a direct official connection with the
Russian Government. It was amusing to see a Kurd in the dress
of a Russian dignitary stepping out to meet his European visitors.
He wore a dark blue coat ; a large brass badge of office hung
upon his breast. Ever since the great convulsion the Kurds have
haunted the site of Akhury, rummaging for anything valuable in
the buried ruins. Makar explained to us that we were now
standing where once stood the prosperous township, with its
ancient church and pleasant gardens. The woods of apricot, the
rich vineyards have disappeared entirely ; it would be difficult to
discover a single tree. Just west of the miserable hamlet you
still remark the deep watercourse which is the principal vent for
the drainage of the ravine. The channel is dry at this season,
and is overhung by steep banks some 100 to 150 feet high. We
observed that these banks are composed of a sandy soil, inlaid
with rocks. Yet the valley, even in autumn, is not entirely devoid
of water ; here and there we were refreshed by the sight of grow-
ing grass, and by the sound of little runnels. The trough of the
ravine has at this point an elevation above sea-level of about 5570
feet, while its sides, which are formed by the cleft in the base of
outer sheath of the mountain, are as yet scarcely more than 200
feet high. It extends almost in a straight line, and in a south-
westerly direction, to the very heart of Ararat. The flanking
cliffs rise and the valley narrows, until the formation assumes the
proportions of a gulf many thousands of feet in depth, overhung
by the snows of the summit region. Imagine a gigantic cutting,
with a length of several miles, at the uppermost end of which an
almost perpendicular precipice supports the snowy roof of Ararat!
Even from this standpoint we could perceive the vertical seams at
the head of the chasm, shadowed walls of grey rock with veins of

' Abich, op. cit. pp. 413, 414. It is evident that he had Wagner's objections in his

The Heart of Ararat 193

orange hue, the higher ledges sprinkled with the first snows of
autumn and half concealed by light, dissolving mist.

We mounted to the top of the cliff on the right or eastern
side of the ravine, in order to obtain a view on either hand.
Towards the east stretched the contours of the upper portion of the
base, clothed with withered grass and strewn with stones. Abich
tells us that these fragments are different in origin and character
from the boulders and stones in the trough of the ravine ; and,
as we have seen, he uses the fact as a powerful weapon against
the eruptive theory which Wagner propounds. Looking across
the valley, our eyes rested on a little settlement on its opposite or
western flank. It occupies a higher site than that of the Kurdish

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