If you can call yourself a well read person then you should have read at least one epic at some point of your life. Most of the stories about the ancient kings, queens and gods that you read about actually come from epics. Not only that, some of the most used idioms derive from the epics of the ancient times. As a follow up to the list of 10 books I have suggested in an earlier article, here I have listed 6 great epics that everyone must read. There are many translations, editions, and levels of language and you can select the one that best suits you.
The story of the war between king Rama of India and king Ravana of Sri Lanka. This story begins just as the Iliad of Homer begins, where a prince goes to get back a princess from another powerful king who abducted her. Although in Iliad the princess goes on her own will, in Ramayana it is an abduction. The story also provides verbal evidence to the claim that the ancient Sri Lankans had a “flying machine.” Things be as they may, both these kings are still held in great reverence by the peoples of their respective lands even today.
Debatably considered as the earliest surviving epic. Although the epic of Gilgamesh is the most ancient, historians believe that the Mahabharata was composed even before that as the story depicts The Kurukshetra War among kings that lived long before the Gilgamesh tablets were engraved. That is one additional reason why this story belongs to the list of epics that everyone must read.
The Epic of Gilgamesh
The earliest surviving work of literature. The story tells us about King Gilgamesh and his rule, and his encounters with different powers and his journeys of adventure. Although not completely recovered, we are fortunate enough to possess some of the most ancient versions of the story. What list of epics would be complete without the longest surviving work of poetry?
Composed by Homer, this is the story of the Trojan war. Most probably one of the most read epic poems of all times beside Odyssey. The story chronicles all events from the preparation for the Trojan war to the death of the Trojan hero Hector and his funeral games. Heroism and sacrifice at their best, Achilles and Hector will haunt you for many days if you read this great epic.
The story of Odysseus returning from the Trojan war. Considered to have been composed by Homer this is one of the most taught epics in the field of education too. After many years of war at the Troy Odysseus sets out to come home but due to divine intervention he has to face many obstacles before he could return home and establish his rule again. His wife Penelope too undergoes trouble at home but keeps the faith in Odysseus thus taking the crown for virtuousness and loyalty in all women. This should be in any list of epics that everyone must read, for any level of readers.
Written by Ovid this is the youngest of the epics listed here. In its fifteen books of various themes such as love, power, nature, mutability, and violence, the poem tell you the history of the world starting from the creation. It ends at the deification of Julius Caesar. The epic has inspired great poets such as Dante Alighieri, Geoffrey Chaucer, and William Shakespeare.
Let me give you a little description of the general nature of an epic, although some epics I have listed here do not conform to them. The themes of an epic generally are heroism, love, betrayal, and glory among many other related sub themes. They start from the middle of the story and go to the future in flash backs. Epics contain many epic similes-an extended simile which could be a small story itself. Narrating an event in the history, and starting with an invocation to the gods, the stories tell us the glorious achievements of a nation and its heroes. What ever your age maybe and what ever your education maybe, here is my list of epics that everyone must read.