Epic is a literary genre that is comprised of long narrative poems that recount legendary stories centered around brave heroes and glorious deeds. The subject of these epics can be anything such as myths and fantasies, supernatural, religious writing, philosophical or moral tales. Epic poetry has been popular since ancient times and transcends borders or generations. They are passed down from generation to generation as a way of solidifying a nation’s history and principles. They can also have other central themes involving philosophy or moral lessons such as The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri.
Epic poems can be both oral and written in nature. They have been sung in royal courts as entertainment for kings, used by generals before battle to instill patriotism and vigour in their soldiers, and have been sung by poets as past-time for the common people in theatres or public stalls. Fiction is important and enriching for the human soul, so it comes as no surprise why epic poems were popular even in ancient times. They had the ability to be eloquent, long, and detailed stories covering a wide range of topics.
These long poems were constructed with elaborate technical language with a large vocabulary that could put forth recurring ideas and themes. The primary purpose of these poems was to educate and entertain rather than record, hence the characters in them were often transformed into archetypes that confronted ideological patterns and fought dangerous mythological creatures. These central themes were either universal or specific to one nation or culture depending on where the poem originated from. Almost all ancient cultures had their own local version of epic stories was an important part of their folklore and cultural identity.
The European Epic tradition began with Iliad’s Homer and The Odyssey in Ancient Greece. They are an important read nowadays for aspiring poets as they served as one of the first epic storytelling techniques and carved a path for future poets to tell their own story in a similar form. The epic by Iliad recounts major historical events such as the building of Rome, the fall of Troy, etc. Its heroes and characters are very notable and well known all around the globe. Although epic poems are thought to mostly have historical settings, there are many epics that have contemporary settings and even science fiction that have become common now. Poetry novels can also be thought of as epic, with specific styles and techniques that are sustained over the entire writing.
There many other popular epics such as The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri and the Indian Mahabharata, the latter being the longest-running epic in the world with over 200,000 verse lines and is almost ten times the size of both Homer and The Odyssey combined.