The Best Masterpieces of Epic Literature



There are plenty of things to consider when determining whether a title is indeed epic literature. Usually, such a story includes some patterns. For example, there are lots of journeys into the underworld in epic poems. Also, the poets often ask the gods to give them the power to tell these epic stories. Anyway, each story mentioned below is absolutely unique and valuable for history.

Epic literature consists of emotions expressed in a very unusual way. Every literary technique used by them is special. Here you will find the most impressive epic masterpieces of all times.

Epic of Gilgamesh

This is one of the oldest surviving epic literary works in the world, the largest work written by cuneiform, one of the greatest works of literature of the Ancient East. Speaking of time, the masterpiece was created in Akkadian on the basis of Sumerian legends for one and a half thousand years, starting from the XVIII-XVII centuries BCE. The most complete version of the epic of Gilgamesh was discovered in the middle of the XIX century.

The main characters of the epic masterpiece are Gilgamesh and Enkidu, about whom songs in the Sumerian language also reached, some of them were created at the end of the first half of the 3rd millennium century bce. The epic heroes had the same adversary — Humbaba, guarding the sacred cedars. Their deeds are watched by the gods, who in the Sumerian songs bear Sumerian names, and in The epic of Gilgamesh — Akkadian. Many literature scholars believe that these similar events are described also in Beowulf. The literary work “The Epic of Gilgamesh” which is based on the actual Assyrian king is a hymn to friendship, which not only helps to overcome external obstacles but transforms, ennobles.

The epic about Gilgamesh, written by a Middle Eastern author of the 25th century BCE, is telling the story of the life of the ruler of the city of Uruk.

The Homeric Poems – The Iliad

Homer’s great epic literature had a tremendous impact on world literature. The Iliad is an epic poem based on the events of the Trojan War. This masterpiece does not describe the whole war, but only the last few months of the Achaean siege of Troy, which is the most important for all 10 years of civil war. This epic work of literature is an interweaving of mythology and history.

Although there is some gods’ power shown, the human factor in the story is much more remarkable. The main theme of the ancient epic masterpiece is the wrath of Achilles: insulted by the leader of the Greek troops, the Achaean king Agamemnon, he refuses to fight (1st book); during the war, Trojans go on the offensive and approach the Greek camp (12-13th book); Patroclus, a friend of Achilles, perishes (16th book); in revenge, Achilles kills Hector, the son of the Trojan king Priam (22nd book). After the solemn funeral of Patroclus (23rd book), Achilles leaves anger and at the end of the 24th book returns Hector’s body to his father.

The Homeric Poems – The Odyssey

This epic poem is one of the greatest works of world epic literature. The masterpiece is full of fiction and poetic brilliance. Odyssey wants to get home to Ithaca, where he has to fight with Poseidon. In this ancient poem, the epic character must get home before the suitors coerce his wife into marriage.

The language with which this great epic literature work was written, unusually figurative. The image of Odysseus became a reflection of the era when the Greeks discovered the sea. Situations when warriors went sailing on their ships and their connection with their relatives turned out to be broken for a long time found their mythological embodiment in the story of the journeys of Odysseus.

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

This story is considered by literary scholars of the whole world as the greatest epic literature work of new European literature, “War and Peace” covers all social layers of Russian society at the beginning of the 19th century.

This great epic masterpiece shows the war Russia in 1812 and the life of three famous characters in literature. The first is Pierre Bezukhov, the illegitimate son of the count, who wants to inherit and longs for spiritual fulfillment. The next character in the literature work is Prince Andrei Bolkonsky, who leaves his family because he wants to take part in the war against Napoleon, without fear of his power. The third key character in the literature work “War and Peace” is Natasha Rostova, a charming daughter of a nobleman who attracts the mentioned men.

Hawaii by James A. Michener

James Michener shows the reader the magical, exotic world of the Pacific Islands. This is a great epic piece of literature about men and women who somehow found themselves far from home. The story takes place in the Hawaiian Islands little more than a thousand years ago. This is a work of literature about human nature. Here the fates of noble kings full of power and freedom-loving farmers are intertwined, the faith of persistent missionaries and the barbaric customs of the natives. This masterpiece is telling about life, relationships, struggles, successes, and failures of those who lived some time on the island.

The Faerie Queen by Edmund Spenser

Some sources claim that Spenser created his epic story after the works of Ariosto and Virgil. This is a great epic literature work about a knight who wants to marry Una that is the ideal female character in many ways. The thing is that Spenser is looking for ways to connect Queen Elizabeth to the very famous man, British ancestor, King Arthur. This masterpiece of literature is really easy to read.

Epic literature is an endless source of new knowledge about ancient times and dark ages. Stories about kings, wars, relationships capture from the first page. Every story written by the greatest poet’s worth reading.

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