I’ve been reading a biography of Henry Rawlinson, one of these larger than life nineteenth century characters who was one of the first to translate Cuneiform script, as well as incidentally being one of the people responsible for fomenting the mid nineteenth century British paranoia about the Russian expansion into Central Asia.
Like most people of his time Rawlinson’s world was based around scripture and an assumption that it constituted a historical narrative – it basically formed the underpinnings of his universe of discourse, and consequently Rawlinson was very interested in Mount Ararat and evidence of the ark – just as he found cuneiform inscriptions about the capture of Valerian and the accession of various Persian kings mentioned in the story of Alexander he expected to find similar information about Ararat and the Ark.
So, why Friedrich Parrot?
Parrot was the first westerner to ascend Ararat, but also turns out to have been one of these larger than life characters. The English Wikipedia entry doesn’t really suggest this but the French Wikipedia has considerably more detail.
I’d first come across Parrot when I went cross country skiing in the Pyrenees twelve or so years ago, where he was credited with being the first (recorded) person to travel the mountain chain from end to end – and being blessed with a memorable name helped made sure I remembered him.
What is of course interesting is the extent to which Parrot’s career as a scientific explorer flourished as a result of Russian patronage and their interest in their newly acquired territories in the Caucasus, and that scientific expeditions were not just a British or French nineteenth century phenomenon …
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