Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam

Omar Khayyam (ō´mär kīäm´), fl. 11th cent., Persian poet and mathematician, b. Nishapur. He was called Khayyam [tentmaker] probably because of his father's occupation. The details of his life are mostly conjectural, but he was well educated and became celebrated as the outstanding mathematician of his time. As astronomer to Sultan Malikshah, he was one of a group that undertook to reform the calendar. Their work led to the adoption of a new era, the so-called Jalalian or Seljuk era, beginning Mar. 15, 1079. Although he wrote a number of important mathematical studies, Omar's fame as a scientist has been greatly eclipsed in the West by the popularity of his Rubaiyat, epigrammatic verse quatrains. The work was little known in Europe until the freely paraphrased English translation of them was first published by Edward FitzGerald in 1859. This influenced all subsequent evaluations of his poetry, even among native speakers of Persian, where FitzGerald's translation led to a new appreciation of his output. FitzGerald omitted many of the quatrains (which were independent and unconnected) and rearranged them into a unity expressing his conception of Omar's philosophy; it is, however, impossible to establish definitely that many of the nearly 500 quatrains attributed to Omar are really his work. The hedonism of his verse often masks his serious reflections on metaphysical issues. The verses have been offered in literally hundreds of editions.

See study by A. Dashti (tr. 1972).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Omar Khayyam: Selected full-text books and articles

FREE! The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam: The Astronomer Poet of Persia By Omar Khayyam; Edward Fitzgerald John C. Winston, 1898
The Age of Faith: A History of Medieval Civilization -Christian, Islamic, and Judaic - from Constantine to Dante: A.D. 325-1300 By Will Durant Simon and Schuster, 1950
Librarian’s tip: "The Age of Omar Khayyam: 1038-1122" begins on p. 319
A Treasury of Great Poems: English and American By Louis Untermeyer Simon & Schuster, 1942
Librarian’s tip: Discussion and text of "The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam" by Edward Fitzgerald begins on p. 838
A Saintsbury Miscellany: Selections from His Essays and Scrap Books By A. Blyth Webster; Sir Herbert Grierson; Sir George Saintsbury Oxford University Press, 1947
Librarian’s tip: "Fitzgerald's 'Omar Khayyam'" begins on p. 89
Edward Fitzgerald By Joanna Richardson Longmans, Green, 1960
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Omar Khayyam begins on p. 19
FREE! Interpretations of Literature By Lafcadio Hearn; John Erskine Dodd Mead, vol.1, 1920
Librarian’s tip: Chap. XXI "Edward Fitzgerald and the Rubaiyat"
FREE! The Digressions of V.: Written for His Own Fun and That of His Friends By Elihu Vedder Houghton Mifflin Company, 1910
Librarian’s tip: Discussion of Omar Khayyam begins on p. 403
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