The epic is a broadly defined genre of poetry, which retells in a continuous narrative the life and works of a heroic person or group of heroic persons either historical, religious or mythical.

In the West, The Iliad and Odyssey, and in the East, the Mahabharata and Ramayana, are often named as examples.

The first recorded epic is the Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. The longest epic (and, in general, work of literature) of all time is the Mahabharata. whose 100,000 verses make it four times the size of the Bible and seven times the size of "Iliad and the Odyssey."

The first epics are associated strongly with the oral poetic tradition; literate societies have often copied the format, and the first example is Virgil's Aeneid, following the style and subject matter of Homer. Another obvious example is Tulsidas' Ramacharitamanas, following the style and subject matter of Valmiki's Ramayana.

More commonly, the word "epic" is used in reference to any fictional work; covering a relatively great deal of both geography and time. Examples of non-poetic epics are Beau Geste, The Great Indian Novel and Star Wars''.

Notable epic poems, in chronological order:

Table of contents
1 Hindi epic poetry
2 English epic poetry
3 German epic poetry
4 Italian epic poetry
5 Hebrew and Jewish epic poetry
6 External links
7 References

Hindi epic poetry

(more to be written)

The ancient Sanskrit epics of the Ramayana and Mahabharata laid the cornerstone for much of Hindu religion. Indeed, the epic form prevailed and verse was and remained until very recently the preferred form of Hindu works. Hero-worship was and is a central aspect of Indian culture, and thus readily lent itself to a literary tradition that abounded in epic poetry and literature.

While the Puranas, a massive collection of verse-form histories of India's many Hindu gods and goddesses, followed in the tradition, the first true epic poetry to appear in the vernacular (in the case of Hindi) was Tulasidas' (1543-1623) Ramacharitamanasa. It is great classic of Hindi epic poetry and literature, and shows the revered sage Tulsidas in complete command over all the important styles of composition - narrative, epic, lyrical and dialectic. He has given a human character to Rama, the Hindu avataar of Vishnu, potraying him as an ideal son, husband, brother, king and so on. It was based on the Ramayana.

English epic poetry

(to be written)

German epic poetry

(to be written)

Italian epic poetry

(to be written)

Hebrew and Jewish epic poetry

Though an abundance of historical reminiscence and legend lay in the storehouse of Jewish literature, none of it was built into epic poems until relatively recently. Religious and secular poets, it is true, often treated of such subjects as Abraham and Isaac and the near sacrifice of Isaac on Mount Moriah, Jacob and Joseph and the story of their lives, Moses and Aaron and the departure from Egypt, Joshua and the entrance into Canaan, Jeremiah and the fall of Jerusalem, Elijah the Prophet, etc. These, however, are often considered only poems with an epic coloring; a pure epic poem according to the rules of art was not produced during the Middle Ages.

The stern character of Jewish monotheism prevented the rise of hero-worship, without which real epic poetry is impossible. Solomon de Oliveira is probably one of the first of whom an epic is known ("Elat Ahabim," Amsterdam, 1665). The first to produce an epic poem was N. H. Wessely with his Mosaide "Shire Tif'eret" (Berlin, 1789-1802), an epic on the Exodus from Egypt. The influence of a similar work by the German poet Klopstock is evident. Next to him stands Shalom Kohn with his "Ner David," an epic poem on King David (Vienna, 1834). The influence of these two epics on the readers and poets of that time was considerable.

In addition the following poets may be mentioned from that and the succeeding period: Issachar Bär Schlesinger ("Ha-Ḥashmona'im," Prague, 1817); Samuel Molder ("Beruriya," Amsterdam, 1825); Süsskind Raschkow ("Ḥayye Shimshon," Breslau, 1824); Gabriel Pollak ("Ha-Keritot," Amsterdam, 1834, and "Ḳiḳayon le-Yonah," ib. 1853); and Hirsch Wassertrilling ("Hadrat Elisha'," Breslau, 1857, and "Nezer Ḥamodot," ib. 1860). Works of this sort have been written by M. I. Lebensohn, J. L. Gordon ("Ahavat David u-Mikal," Wilna, 1856, and vols. iii. and iv. of his collected works, St. Petersburg, 1883), Chaim N. Bialik, and S. Tschernichowski.

External links


  • Heroic Song and Heroic Legend by Jan de Vries ISBN 0405105665