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Tablet containing a fragment of the Epic of Gilgamesh

An epic (from the Ancient Greek adjective ἐπικός{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} (epikos), from ἔπος{{#invoke:Category handler|main}} (epos) "word, story, poem"<ref>Epic Online Etymology Dictionary</ref>) is a lengthy narrative poem, ordinarily concerning a serious subject containing details of heroic deeds and events significant to a culture or nation.<ref>Michael Meyer, The Bedford Introduction to Literature (Bedford: St. Martin's, 2005), 2128. ISBN 0-312-41242-8.</ref> Milman Parry and Albert Lord have argued that the Homeric epics, the earliest works of Western literature, were fundamentally an oral poetic form. These works form the basis of the epic genre in Western literature. Nearly all Western epic (including Virgil's Aeneid and Dante's Divine Comedy) self-consciously presents itself as a continuation of the tradition begun by these poems. Classical epic employs dactylic hexameter and recounts a journey, either physical (as typified by Odysseus in the Odyssey) or mental (as typified by Achilles in the Iliad) or both. Epics also tend to highlight cultural norms and to define or call into question cultural values, particularly as they pertain to heroism.

Another type of epic poetry is epyllion (plural: epyllia), which is a brief narrative poem with a romantic or mythological theme. The term, which means "little epic", came into use in the nineteenth century. It refers primarily to the erudite, shorter hexameter poems of the Hellenistic period and the similar works composed at Rome from the age of the neoterics; to a lesser degree, the term includes some poems of the English Renaissance, particularly those influenced by Ovid.{{ safesubst:#invoke:Unsubst||date=__DATE__ |$B= {{#invoke:Category handler|main}}{{#invoke:Category handler|main}}[citation needed] }} The most famous example of classical epyllion is perhaps Catullus 64.

Some of the most famous examples of epic poetry include the ancient Indian Ramayana and Mahabharata, the Ancient Greek Iliad and the Odyssey, Virgil's Aeneid, Dante's Divine Comedy, John Milton's Paradise Lost, and the Portuguese Lusiads.


Epic poetry sections
Intro  Oral epics or world folk epics  Notable epic poems  References  Bibliography  

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