The Epic Tradition


There is a Facebook group on Epic and Medieval/Renaissance in Film for students taking The Epic Tradition and/or Medieval to Renaissance English Literature.

Try writing your own epic… Read Somewhat Epic, or The Tescoliad’ by Jonathan David Rowland.


Audio Resources

You can download or listen to streaming extracts from a variety of Epics from Internet sources. Most of the webpages reproduce the relevant part of the text onscreen.

Streamed audio files often require installation of RealPlayer, which is a free download, linked from the relevant sites. RealPlayer brings other software with it (that’s why it’s free) so read all options carefully when you install it or you may end up installing extra stuff that you don’t want or giving it free access to the Internet. Links on this page to audio files requiring installation of RealPlayer are marked .

You should control all programs with Internet access with a firewall. Make sure you know what programs are linked to the Internet from your computer, and what data they are transmitting, at all times.

Install a virus checker, update it every day and use it!


*   Iliad Book 1 in Ancient Greek: Stanley Lombardo reading Book 1 of the Iliad [Full version in mp3, clips available as ]. To read along, use the version on Perseus digital library. The Display Preferences tab can be used to select whether to show the text in the Greek alphabet or in Latin transliteration.

*   Homeric Singing - An Approach to the Original Performance: information on sung Homeric epic, including a sung sample of Demodokos’ song about Ares and Aphrodite from the Odyssey (University of Vienna) [Full version , shorter versions available as mp3/wav files]

*   BBC4 ‘In Our Time’ series (Listen Again): includes ‘The Aeneid - the Roman history of the world’, ‘The Odyssey - Homer’s epic tale of Odysseus' return home ’ and ‘The Epic - from Homer to Joyce


*   Brief summaries of the mythological background to the Trojan War and the Fall of Troy and Homer’s Odyssey, with illustrations of artefacts of the period, by Bruce Precourt at UWM (plus links to more material on Greek mythology)

*   Background information (with search facility) on the myths alluded to by Homer at the Encyclopedia Mythica

*   Roman History: site also includes items on the founding of Rome, Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus and the Punic Wars

*   Suetonius, The Lives of the Caesars: The Deified Augustus: Suetonius (69AD-c.140AD) on Augustus

*   Tacitus, Annals (109AD): Tacitus (55AD-sometime after 117AD) on Augustus

*   Homer, The Iliad: Alexander Pope’s translation

*   Homer, The Iliad: Samuel Butler’s translation

*   Homer, The Odyssey: George Chapman’s translation of Books 1-12

*   Homer, The Odyssey: Alexander Pope’s translation

*   Homer, The Odyssey: Samuel Butler’s translation

*   Various essays on classical literature and the classical world, including Homer and Homeric culture, by John Porter (University of Saskatchewan)

*   Essays on the Iliad and the Odyssey by Ian Johnston (Malaspina University-College). There’s also a Glossary and Index for the Iliad

*   Making a boar’s tusk helmet – see Iliad 10.305-8.

*   Study Guide for Homer’s Odyssey by Robin Mitchell-Boyask (Temple University)

*   Maps of the Odyssey

*   Map of the Underworld by Carlos Parada

*   Virgil, The Aeneid: John Dryden’s translation

*   Virgil, The Aeneid: A. S. Kline’s translation (an excellent, close translation, very useful for analysing textual details)

*   T. H. Becker, ‘Ambiguity and the Female Warrior: Vergil’s Camilla’ (Electronic Antiquity: Communicating the Classics, IV:1 (August 1997))



*   Translation of The Divine Comedy by Tony Kline; includes index and notes. Downloadable

*   Translation of The Divine Comedy by Rev. Henry Francis Cary (University of Adelaide Library); includes illustrations by Gustav Doré and biographical link. Downloadable



*   Anniina Jokinen: ‘sentence et solas: Joy and Sensuality in Paradise Lost Before and After the Fall.’ An examination of sexuality in the text

*   Illustrations of Paradise Lost: includes work by Doré, Blake, Medina, Burney and Martin

*   John Rogers has a series of lectures on Paradise Lost (podcasts. Can also be downloaded free to iTunes for audio or video broadcast by accessing Yale University in iTunes U)

Mock Epic

*   Online edition of Hudibras by Samuel Butler (1612-1680)

*   Online edition of Pope’s The Rape of the Lock

*   A Key to the Lock, Pope’s humorous and pseudonymously-published interpretation to The Rape of the Lock

*   Jack Lynch’s annotated edition of Dryden’s MacFlecknoe

*   Online extract from Pope’s The Dunciad

*   Jack Lynch’s edition of Book 4 (1743 edition) of Pope’s The Dunciad

*   History of composition and publication of the four versions of The Dunciad

*   Online edition of Henry Fielding’s Tom Jones. Book 4, Chapter 8: A battle sung by the muse in the Homerican style…

Influences of Epic


*   Online edition of Alexander Pope, ‘An Essay on Criticism’ in verse. Part 1, Part 2, Part 3



*   Online edition of Don Juan by George Gordon, Lord Byron

*   Online edition of Matthew Arnold’s essay ‘The Function of Criticism at the Present Time’ (1865)

*   Extract from Sohrab and Rustum by Matthew Arnold

*   Online edition of John Keats’ fragmentary Hyperion (1819) and The Fall of Hyperion (1856)

*   Image of first manuscript page of John Keats’ fragmentary Hyperion (1819)

*   Online edition of Robert Browning’s The Ring and the Book (1968)

*   Online edition of The Idylls of the King by Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1842-1885)


The Epic Novel or novels influenced by the Epic Tradition

*   Searchable online edition of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (1818)

*   Online edition of Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Free Will

*   Gilbert McInnis, ‘Free Will and Necessity in Milton’s Paradise Lost’

*   Gloria Cigman gives an overview of the relationship between God and man in the context of free will:

    Two elements link the vast spectrum of Genesis-time and the landscape of seven or so centuries of English literature. They are constant, but far from unchanging; each carries baggage that sometimes impedes and sometimes enhances our perception of the human condition. One is the God of Genesis, who grew despondent about the beings that he had created in his own image and left them to cultivate their own insights and strategies. Faced with the mutations that the image of God undergoes in the Bible from now on, the creatures respond by persistently re-creating their creator without ever quite shedding him. They may be subservient or defiant, they may worship or revile; they may set themselves up in rivalry, but even when they go so far as to reject the God of Genesis, they always address their anger or regret to him. When they strive for power, his is the kind of power they want. When they cease to believe, he is the God they don’t believe in.

    The other constant and equally vacillating element is the notion of free will, which is both a resource and a burden: it offers power, but it brings responsibility, guilt and blame. Its natural protagonist is the ever-hovering denial of choice, the insistence that human endeavour is always subject to boundaries and limitations. Called Fate, the will of God, determinism or DNA, this constraint creates a confrontation that fertilises the imagination and breeds countless ambiguities and ambivalences. As literature engages with the recurring concerns of the human head and heart, it recognizes rival claims for the supremacy of free will and that of an invincible potency outside of human control, and yet by its very nature it fosters moral judgement that can only be valid where there is freedom of choice and action.

(Gloria Cigman, Exploring Evil Through the Landscape of Literature, 2002, pp. 21-22)


*   Outline of Omeros

*   John B. Van Sickle, ‘The Design of Derek Walcott’s Omeros

*   An overview of Walcott and his work, including images of some of his paintings, is found in Jöran Mjöberg, ‘A Single, Homeless, Circling Satellite: Derek Walcott, 1992 Nobel Literature Laureate’ (26 June 2001). Images of other Walcott paintings, many of them depicting St Lucia, can be found by using the Google image search facility

*   WikiOmeros: an ongoing commentary to Omeros hosted by the University of Warwick. Information on the project and links to supporting pages can be found on The Epic Tradition Omeros page


Robert Temple, Netherworld (2002) (submitted January 2007 by Mel Hargreaves, Epic 2002-3)

Comment: ‛Definitely a good introduction to epic tradition and easy to read’. See also book review at The Richmond Review



Thanks to contributors for URL assessment and details: Mel Hargreaves, Elspeth Fisher, Dan Taylor, Misha Juklova

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Page last updated: Friday January 01, 2016 14:50