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Omar Khayyam’s birthday?

May 18, 2021

It has become generally accepted that the historical Omar Khayyam was born on 18th May 1048. So today is the day on which we usually celebrate the anniversary of the famous astronomer, mathematician, philosopher, and perhaps poet. We shall be celebrating as usual this year with an appropriate beverage, and we hope that other readers will be joining us in marking the occasion. The verses (or rubaiyat) that are attributed to Omar Khayyam have given much that is good and valuable to the world.

However, this year, there is a question mark about the celebration. A forthcoming book by the Iranian American academic Mohammad H Tamdgidi raises doubts about the validity of 18 May 1048 as the birth date for Khayyam The existing dating is largely due to the work of the Indian Swami Govinda Tirtha, whose book The Nectar of Grace published in 1941 gives a detailed interpretation of earlier information about Khayyam’s horoscope. Dr Tamdgidi queries the validity of Tirtha’s analysis and suggests, from further horoscope interpretation, that a more accurate date for Khayyam’s birth is 10 June 1021. He also believes that Khayyam’s death was 10 June 1123, rather than the generally accepted idea of his death being some time between 1126 and 1131.

Dr Tamdgidi’s work is presented in a new book due to be published on 1 June 2021. The book is entitled Khayyami Millenium: Reporting the Discovery and the Reconfirmation of the True Dates of Birth and Passing of Omar Khayyam (AD 1021-1131). It is volume 2 of a series with the (to us rather impenetrable) title of Omar Khayyam’s Secret: Hermaneutics of the Rubaiyat in Quantum Sociological Imagination. It appears that there are intended to be 12 volumes in the series of which numbers 1 and 3 will be published simultaneously with number 2. More details are available on the web site of the series publishers OKCIR, see https://www.okcir.com/.

We have no expertise in horoscope interpretation and so are in no position to judge the rival merits of Tirtha’s and Tamdgidi’s claims. We shall be very interested to hear views from readers who have more relevant knowledge and who get a chance to see the full analysis in the new books. Meanwhile we shall, for the time being, continue to mark today as an occasion to celebrate our heritage of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Barney Rickenbacker permalink
    May 18, 2021 2:50 pm

    I have no relevant knowledge on Khayyam’s birthday date but I’m sticking by May 18.

  2. martinrkim permalink
    May 18, 2021 3:35 pm

    How many angels food on the head of a pin? I could care less about these debates about dates, I’ll stick with the dates I grew up with and the poems I love as interpreted by Fitzgerald

    From Martin K’s cell

    >

  3. May 19, 2021 4:27 pm

    The following comments come from Bob Forrest.

    The problem with determining Omar’s date and year of birth, is that one has to work from the verbal ‘horoscope’ for him as given by Baihaqi / Beyhaqi, and calculate back to see when all the planets were in those positions. The verbal ‘horoscope’ reads thus in Tirtha p.XXXII:
    “His ascendant was the Gemini. The Sun and the Mercury were on the degree of the ascendant in the third degree of the Gemini. The Mercury was ‘Samimi’ and the Jupiter was aspecting (Nazar) both from triangulation (Tathlith).”

    Tirtha explains the meanings of Samimi, Nazar and Tathlith, and it is clear from these definitions that the positions of the various celestial bodies are somewhat ill-defined compared to today’s usage of accurate geocentric longitudes and such like. So one does wonder how accurate a fit any retro-calculations can be expected to be. Nevertheless, Tirtha seems to me to have made a valiant effort with possible dates (p.XXXII-XXXIV), & sensibly to have opted for 18 May 1048 as the ‘best fit.’ Interestingly he rejects 18 May 1021 in the process, close to Tamdgidi’s proposed 10 June 1021. At the moment, having seen only press releases and extracts from Tamdgidi’s book, I’m not clear why he has gone for the 10 June 1021 option, but I personally will take some convincing that Tirtha has gone so badly wrong. For a start, in one abstract from Tamdgidi’s Book 3 (p.20) we are told that “Beyhaqi …. should be corrected to accurately state the Gemini degree to be 18” (it is the third degree in the original – as above.) In other words, the very source which gives us any information about Omar’s birth has to be ‘corrected’ before it yields Tamdgidi’s ‘true’ result!

    Of course, it is not unknown for there to be scribal errors in ancient manuscripts, but what worries me about Tamdgidi is his reliance not just upon the retro-calculations involved in dating the horoscope, which is soundly scientific when guided by error bounds, but also upon astrology, involving the deduction of life events and character readings from the horoscope, which is certainly not soundly scientific! To some extent Tirtha too set great store by astrology, but he did not allow astrological interpretations to influence his retro-calculations – he did not start tinkering with Baihaqi’s text to get an astrological image of the Omar he would, as it were, ‘like to see’ – and that, I fear, is what Tamdgidi might be doing. I could be wrong – I use the word “might” in the last sentence advisedly – and so I await the publication of his first three books to get the full story. But I am a little perturbed that (again going off press releases and abstracts) Tamdgidi claims to have discovered the true origins of Khayyam’s “Tent Maker” pen-name from his horoscope, and to have discovered proof that Omar really did write a divan of 1000 quatrains in the course of his lifetime, not sporadic and independent quatrains as is commonly imagined, but an interrelated sequence of them forming an astrologically nuanced Book of Life. Furthermore, “their poet definitively intended the poems to remain in veil”, which I guess would neatly explain the various debates over Omarian authorship. With three of Tamdgidi’s books due out, and nine to go, one wonders what other revelations are in store!

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