Originating before the invention of writing, primary epics were composed by bards who used complex rhetorical and metrical schemes by which they could memorize the epic as received in tradition and add to the epic in their performances. The oldest epic recognized is the Epic of Gilgamesh c. The poem details the exploits of Gilgameshthe king of Uruk. Although recognized as a historical figure, Gilgamesh, as represented in the epic, is a largely legendary or mythical figure.
After the formative period of the Vedic age, literature moved in several different directions.
The close of the Vedic period was one of great cultural renewal, with the founding of the new monastic religions of Buddhism and Jainism… General characteristics An epic may deal with such various subjects as mythsheroic legendshistories, edifying religious tales, animal stories, or philosophical or moral theories.
Epic poetry has been and continues to be used by peoples all over the world to transmit their traditions from one generation to another, without the aid of writing.
These traditions frequently consist of legendary narratives about the glorious deeds of their national heroes. Such ages have been experienced by many nations, usually at a stage of development in which they have had to struggle for a national identity. This effort, combined with such other conditions as an adequate material culture and a sufficiently productive economy, tend to produce a society dominated by a powerful and warlike nobility, constantly occupied with martial activities, whose individual members seek, above all, everlasting fame for themselves and for their lineages.
Uses of the epic The main function of poetry in heroic-age society appears to be to stir the spirit of the warriors to heroic actions by praising their exploits and those of their illustrious ancestors, by assuring a long and glorious recollection of their fame, and by supplying them with models of ideal heroic behaviour.
One of the favourite pastimes of the nobility in heroic ages in different times and places has been to gather in banquet halls to hear heroic songs, in praise of famous deeds sung by professional singers as well as by the warriors themselves.
Heroic songs also were often sung before a battle, and such recitations had tremendous effect on the morale of the combatants. Among the Fulani Fulbe people in the Sudan, for instance, whose epic poetry has been recorded, a nobleman customarily set out in quest of adventures accompanied by a singer mabowho also served as his shield bearer.
The singer was thus the witness of the heroic deeds of his lord, which he celebrated in an epic poem called baudi. The aristocratic warriors of the heroic ages were thus members of an illustrious family, a link in a long chain of glorious heroes.
And the chain could snap if the warrior failed to preserve the honour of the family, whereas, by earning fame through his own heroism, he could give it new lustre. Epic traditions were to a large extent the traditions of the aristocratic families: The passing of a heroic age does not necessarily mean the end of its heroic oral poetry.
An oral epic tradition usually continues for as long as the nation remains largely illiterate. Usually it is after the heroic age has passed that the narratives about its legendary heroes are fully elaborated. Even when the nobility that originally created the heroic epic perishes or loses interest, the old songs can persist as entertainments among the people.
Court singers, then, are replaced by popular singers, who recite at public gatherings. This popular tradition, however, must be distinguished from a tradition that still forms an integral part of the culture of a nobility.
For when a heroic epic loses its contact with the banquet halls of the princes and noblemen, it cannot preserve for long its power of renewal. Soon it enters what has been called the reproductive stage in the life cycle of an oral tradition, in which the bards become noncreative reproducers of songs learned from older singers.
Popular oral singers, like the guslari of the Balkans, no doubt vary their songs to a certain extent each time they recite them, but they do so mainly by transposing language and minor episodes from one acquired song to another.
Such variations must not be confounded with the real enrichment of the tradition by succeeding generations of genuine oral poets of the creative stage. The spread of literacy, which has a disastrous effect on the oral singer, brings about a quick corruption of the tradition.
At this degenerate stage, the oral epic soon dies out if it is not written down or recorded. The ancient Greek epic exemplifies the cycle of an oral tradition.
Originating in the late Mycenaean period, the Greek epic outlasted the downfall of the typically heroic-age culture c. After Homer, the activity of the aoidoiwho sang their own epic songs at the courts of the nobility, slowly declined.
During the first half of the 7th century, the aoidoi produced such new poems as those of Hesiod and some of the earlier poems of what was to become known as the Epic Cycle.
It seems probable that these rhapsodes, who played a crucial role in the transmission of the Homeric epic, were using some sort of written aids to memory before Homeric recitations were adopted in 6th-century Athens as part of the Panathenaic festivals held each year in honour of the goddess Athena.
Verbal formulas To compose and to memorize long narrative poems like the Iliad and the Odyssey, oral poets used a highly elaborate technical language with a large store of traditional verbal formulas, which could describe recurring ideas and situations in ways that suited the requirements of metre.
So long as an oral epic tradition remains in its creative period, its language will be continually refined by each generation of poets in opposite directions, refinements that are called scope and economy. Scope is the addition of new phrases to express a larger number of recurrent concepts in varying metrical values fitting the possible positions in a verse.
Economy is the elimination of redundancies that arise as gifted poets invent new set phrases that duplicate, both in a general sense and in metrical value, the formulas that already exist in the traditional stock.
Nowhere has this refinement proceeded any nearer to perfection than in the language of the Homeric epic.A great extension of an epic is to teach the Hero's Journey.
Since most epics follow this pattern, the terms are commonly taught together. Check out our lesson on the Hero’s Journey!
By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades text complexity band. The World Through Literature; Foodways in World History; Monomyth: Hero's Journey Project.
(also spelled Sunjata, Sundjata, or Soundjata) is an oral epic celebrating the life of Sundiata, the founder of the thirteenth-century Mali Empire of West Africa. There are written versions of the epic (just as there are written summaries of.
A Hero’s Journey The epic poem Beowulf is one of the most well-known Anglo-Saxon works of all time. The story expresses many themes that are common in Anglo-Saxon culture, such as: goodness, loyalty, evenness, and bravery.
In narratology and comparative mythology, the monomyth, or the hero's journey, is the common template of a broad category of tales that involve a hero who goes on an adventure, and in a decisive crisis wins a victory, and then comes home changed or transformed.
Is the hero’s journey formula so flexible that it can be applied to any story with a main character and a beginning-middle-end story arc? Try to identify a successful book or . He is made to fight his antagonist, Enkidu, and then go on a long journey to bring the plant of life — a journey on which he learns the lessons of life.
Although the epic is written nearly 4, years ago, critics are unanimous that it is a human work. The Iliad ( BCE) Iliad is another example of an epic. It was written by the popular Greek poet, Homer.