Legends of Mount Ararat

Turkey's highest point, strong national symbol ofArmenia, Mount Ararat wraps itself in legends and fabulous stories. The best-known account makes this volcano covered in eternal snow the site where Noah's ark took refuge during the biblical flood and awaited the retreat of the waters. Myths that exacerbate the natural beauty of the place.

Mount Ararat, a mighty dormant volcano

Mount Ararat

Standing on the high plateau Armenian, Mount Ararat dominates a mountain range in eastern Turkey. Intense volcanic activity gave birth to it about 1.5 million years ago. Eruption after eruption, this crater or rather these craters rose patiently to become the highest peaks in the region. Looking further into the profile of Mount Ararat, two peaks emerge, linked together by a wide band of lava.

The "Grand Ararat" approaches 5,160 meters while the "Little Ararat", the sixth highest peak in the country and an almost perfect cone, rises between 3,896 meters and 3,925 meters (according to sources). A giant covered in ice and snow, Turkey's roof is believed to be a dormant volcano topped by a thick ice cap. 

Beyond its geological nature, Mount Ararat appears as a site shrouded in a sacred aura. The civilizations that successively occupied its flanks and settled at its feet granted it a central position in their mythology. For the Sumerians as for the ancient Armenians, it was the place where the sun came to rest at night. Strangely, the star seemed to set there every evening and emerge from it every morning. 

For Noah, Mount Ararat is the ultimate refuge


For Christians, it is the mountain mentioned by the Bible after the flood. Genesis, first book of this collection of sacred texts, tells that God wishing to purify the Earth of a humanity become corrupted gave the order to Noah, the last virtuous man, to build a ship.

This was to house Noah's family, but also a couple of each of the animal species that then occupied the Earth. For 40 days and 40 nights, waterspouts fell on the Earth, destroying all life. For the next 150 days, the ship wanders, carried by the waves, until it "runs aground" on the top of a mountain, waiting for proof that the waters have disappeared. 

The Bible names the place of this grounding the mountains of Ararat. For the first Christians and in Islam, Mount Ararat was further south, embodied by Mount Djoudi. However, the belief has evolved to make the Armenian mountain range, more majestic and higher, the site where Noah's ark would have landed.

Like a boat on Mount Ararat


Like other founding myths, men have sought to give more substance to this story by finding evidence of its veracity. As early as the 5th century, commentators claim that the arch is still visible at the top of the mountain.

Research and expeditions to unearth it have multiplied in the past. The anomaly of Ararat or the site of Durupinar, in the shape of a boat, appear as so many possible vestiges of Noah's fabulous ship.

The Sumerian, Mesopotamian and Babylonian civilizations prior to the Bible story also have myths relating to a flood. And each of them saw Mount Ararat as the site that saved one of the key figures in their mythology. Since the dawn of modern civilization, this place has held a strong symbolism. 

An Armenian legend


For the historical inhabitants of the region, the Armenians, Mount Ararat, which they called Masik (or Masis for Greater Ararat only), remains the home of Ara. Deified mythical hero, descendant of Haïk, the founding father of Armenia, he belongs to a cult that preceded Christianity, officially adopted in the 4th century in this country. 

According to legend, he possessed an exceptional beauty which earned him the name of Ara the Beautiful. So much so that he caught the attention of Queen Semiramis… Herself of divine descent, this Assyrian warrior sovereign would be the founder of Babylon and its hanging gardens.

Becoming the widow of King Ninos of Nineveh, she openly declares her interest in Ara, whom she had never met and who then reigned over the province of Armenia. She showers him with gifts, but he pays no attention to her advances. Disappointed and hurt, the sovereign raises her powerful army and marches on Armenia.

She fights battle after battle in the region surrounding Mount Ararat in an attempt to get closer to the object of her attention and seduce him by force. Ara the Beautiful continues to ignore his advances. He dies, wounded during a fight, while Semiramis had asked that he be spared by all means.

Mount Ararat in Armenia, symbol of a millennial country


From there, the versions of the story diverge. Having the king's body brought to his palace, the queen attempts to use the magical powers she is endowed with and invokes the gods to restore Ara to life. Failing to do so, she nevertheless declares that the king was resurrected to avoid further fighting with the Armenians.

A divergent version of the story says that the servants of Semiramis cannot find the body of the man among the dead. The queen is filled with regret at the sight of the atrocities she has caused. These two interpretations of the legend relate in all cases the conquest of Armenia and its highest peak by the Assyrians. One of the many episodes in the turbulent history of this country.