Armenians dance Kochari on Mount Ararat
Mount Ararat (Turkish: Ağrı Dağı; Armenian: Masis) is a snow-capped and dormant compound volcano in Turkey. It consists of two major volcanic cones: Greater Ararat (the highest peak in Turkey and the entire Armenian plateau with an elevation of 5,137 m (16,854 ft) and Lesser Ararat (with an elevation of 3,896 m (12,782 ft).
The Ararat massif is about 40 km (25 mi) in diameter. The Iran-Turkey boundary skirts east of Lesser Ararat, the lower peak of the Ararat massif. It was in this area that, by the Tehran Convention of 1932, a border change was made in Turkey’s favour, allowing it to occupy the eastern flank of Lesser Ararat.
Mount Ararat in Judeo-Christian tradition is associated with the “Mountains of Ararat” where, according to the book of Genesis, Noah’s ark came to rest. It also plays a significant role in Armenian culture and nationalism. The mountain can be seen on the coat of arms of Armenia.
The Bible says that Noah’s ark landed on the mountains of Ararat. This does not refer to any specific mountain or peak, but rather a mountain range within the region of Ararat, which was the name of an ancient kingdom of Urartu (Ararat).
Urartu, corresponding to the biblical Kingdom of Ararat or Kingdom of Van (Urartian: Biai, Biainili) was an Iron Age kingdom centred on Lake Van in the Armenian Highlands.
“Urartu” is cognate with the Biblical “Ararat,” Akkadian “Urashtu,” and Armenian “Ayrarat.” The name used by the local population as a toponym was Biainili (or Biaineli), which forms the root of the Armenian “Van”, hence the names “Kingdom of Van (Bianili)” or “Vannic Kingdom.”
Scholars believe that Urartu is an Akkadian variation of Ararat of the Old Testament. Indeed, Mount Ararat is located in ancient Urartian territory, approximately 120 km north of its former capital.
Strictly speaking, Urartu is the Assyrian term for a geographical region, while “kingdom of Urartu” or “Biainili lands” are terms used in modern historiography for the Armenian (Hurro-Urartian) speaking Iron Age state that arose in that region.
In the early 6th century BC, the Urartian Kingdom was replaced by the Armenian Orontid dynasty. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in 521 or 520 BC by the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Assyrian is called Arminiya in Old Persian and Harminuia in Elamite.
In Armenian mythology Mt. Ararat is the home of the Gods, much like Mt. Olympus is in Greek Mythology, and in the modern-era Ararat has been revered by the Armenians as symbolizing their national identity.
Ararat dominates the skyline of Armenia’s capital, Yerevan. Ararat is the national symbol of the Republic of Armenia, being featured in the center of its coat of arms.
According to the medieval Armenian historian Moses of Khoren in his History of Armenia, the plain of Ayrarat (directly north of the mountain) got its name after King Ara the Handsome.
Here the Assyrian Queen Semiramis is said to have lingered for a few days after the death of Ara. According to Thomson, the mountain is called Ararat corresponding to Ayrarat, the name of the province.