Segments in this Video

Introduction to Omar Khayyam (01:29)


This film will explore how the Medieval Persian poet, scientist and philosopher came to embody ideas of 19th century Britain.

Medieval Islamic Poet (02:28)

Narrator Sadeq Saba will explore why Khayyam's work is still relevant to Iranians. Visit Neishabour, his 1048 AD birthplace and a Silk Road cultural hub.

Neishabour Scholarship (03:26)

An expert describes the medieval Iranian city. In 1040 AD, the Seljuks took over and opened the Nezamiye network of science and philosophy schools. After studying, Khayyam became a court adviser to Emperor Malik-Shah.

Rubáiyát Tradition (01:19)

The Iranian four-line poetry style accompanied by music predates Islam. A local man sings Khayyam's work for admirers in Neishabour.

Khayyam in Modern Iran (03:03)

Saba examines antique manuscripts in a Tehran library. Literary expert Ali Dehbashi discusses his recent book on the medieval Iranian poet's universal spiritual appeal.

Khayyam in the West (05:27)

Cambridge scholars celebrate the Iranian poet. Learn how Edward Fitzgerald discovered the Rubaiyat through Orientalist Edward Cowell in 1844—identifying with his philosophy of the human spirit.

Middle Eastern Scientific Golden Age (02:47)

Khayyam's mathematics work built on ancient Greek, Indian and Chinese ideas. A Cambridge expert describes medieval Islamic contributions to the field.

Khayyam's Mathematical Work (03:21)

A Cambridge expert uses visual aids to demonstrate the Iranian scholar's contribution to cubic equations, and links it to his poetry.

Khayyam's Musical Poetry (03:06)

Traditional Iranian musician Mohammad Reza Shajarian discusses music in Persian culture and describes recording the medieval poet's work.

Challenging Notion of Afterlife (02:21)

Iranian philosopher Dariush Shayegan explains Khayyam's use of wine as a metaphor for living in the moment.

Khayyam's Astronomy (05:08)

Learn Islamic motivations for studying astronomy. Experts explain the medieval scholar's contribution to the Iranian solar calendar—still in use today.

Reforming the Jalali Calendar (02:28)

An expert uses an astrolabe to demonstrate how Khayyam calculated the solar year—a major Iranian contribution to astronomy.

"Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyam" (03:18)

Learn how Whitley Stokes discovered the poem in 1861. Victorian readers were attracted to its universal message and Fitzgerald’s translation that referenced English literature.

Khayyam's Literary Appeal (02:09)

Learn how the Rubáiyát resonated with Victorian questions of faith, Darwinism, and prehistory.

Rubáiyát Translation Debate (02:55)

Learn Fitzgerald's poetic contribution to Khayyam's text. Victorian critics viewed his publication as Orientalist.

Rubáiyát and Orientalism (02:15)

Painter Aydin Aghdashloo discusses how Khayyam's work inspired Western fantasies about the Middle East—in turn influencing Iranian illustrations.

Rubáiyát in the U.S. (02:52)

Experts describe how Americans received Khayyam's work—inspiring consumer products unrelated to the medieval Iranian poet.

Khayyam and American Culture (03:50)

Learn how Walt Whitman identified with the medieval Iranian poet. Many saw the Rubáiyát philosophy as license for consumerism; an expert discusses how politics have overshadowed Persian literature in the West.

Khayyam's Legacy (03:52)

Fitzgerald died in 1883 at 74; his statue is unveiled in a ceremony at Khayyam's mausoleum in Neishabour. An Iranian expert discusses the Rubáiyát's ongoing appeal.

Khayyam's Modern Message (00:47)

An original thinker, the medieval Iranian poet challenged orthodoxies and questioned destiny.

Credits: The Genius of Omar Khayyam (00:37)

Credits: The Genius of Omar Khayyam

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The Genius of Omar Khayyam

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Omar Khayyam has enchanted readers ever since Edward FitzGerald translated his poetry and published it as The Rubaiyat in 1859. But few know that Khayyam was also a mathematician whose contributions during the Golden Age of Islam are still being lauded ten centuries later. Filmed in Iran, this program looks at the many accomplishments of Omar Khayyam and shows why a work that espouses a “live for the moment” philosophy resonated with the Victorian West as much as it now does with the people of modern Iran. In addition, cultural theorist Dariush Shayegan discusses themes in The Rubaiyat, Marcus du Satoy talks about the poet’s mathematical prowess, and Helen Walker of the Royal Astronomical Society explains how Khayyam’s reforms to the Persian calendar make it more accurate than the Gregorian calendar used today. A BBC Production. (Portions with English subtitles, 60 minutes)

Length: 60 minutes

Item#: BVL55703

ISBN: 978-0-81609-007-5

Copyright date: ©2009

Closed Captioned

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