The Odyssey

4 Epic Poems Everyone Should Read At Least Once

To be fair, there are many books that deserve to be read. However, these epics are very important and essential to anyone; from scholars to the average citizen. Epic poems are usually very long stories told in specific poetic formats. Their themes often vary but they all frequently feature a hero of some sort as the driving force for whatever morals were relevant. These works are necessary to at least know of, because they all can teach us about the time they were written in as well as reflect the authors personal beliefs and ideals. But they all also contain very interesting stories with exciting adventures or daring perils. Here are four epics everyone should read!



1. Homer’s ‘Iliad and Odyssey’


Technically, this counts as a double entry. However, the Odyssey is the sequel to Homer’s Iliad. The Iliad is the story about the city of Troy and the ten year siege that various Greek states began. The main focus of the Iliad is the tension and actions between the almost immortal warrior, Achilles and the king of Mycenae, Agamemnon.


The Odyssey on the other hand, focuses on the events after the war is over, and the men must return to their homes. The great journey revolves around Odysseus, king of Ithaca, and details his ten year trip back home after the ten year siege. Both of these stories have deep roots in Greek mythology and they are the perfect pair for a first epic read.


Scene from The Odyssey

Image via The Spectator


2. Dante’s ‘The Divine Comedy’


Dante Alighieri completed this work one year before he died. This is cryptic given that The Divine Comedy  chronicles Dante’s experience being lead through hell and its nine circles, then through purgatory and the seven terraces, and finally to heaven and the nine celestial spheres. The Divine Comedy is interesting because it gives some of the most detailed descriptions of these three distinct realms of the afterlife. 


Dante gives his first person testimony as if he has really made such a great journey. However, this actually allows us to analyze the poem as a reflection of Dante and himself as well as a reflection of the events going on in his time. This is seen through all of the different spirits and people Dante passes on his journey. Each one is significant and they are all meticulously categorized and put into each of their settings to symbolize a certain aspect of either the views of the author, views of the church at the time, or views of the society Dante was a part of.


circles of hell

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3. Virgil’s ‘The Aeneid’


The next entry is written by the same person that guides Dante through the circles of Hell in The Divine Comedy. Dante even praises Virgil directly for this work in particular numerous times in his work. However, Virgil’s epic is his own masterpiece. Borrowing some elements from traditional Greek folklore and mythology, he formed The Aeneid.

Virgil borrowed many themes and ideas from Homer’s style in the Odyssey and Iliad. Virgil’s epic revolves around the hero Aeneas from Troy and tells how he becomes the founder of the Roman culture and state. Aeneas leads his Trojans around Italy to conquer the Latins and settles the roots for the Roman empire.


The hero of Troy

Image via Andreas Kluth



4. Snorri Sturluson’s ‘Prose Edda’


Snorri’s Prose Edda covers the mythological history of the Norse and their viking ways. This collection of stories gives a detailed telling of the Norse religion chronicles the exploits and adventures of several heroes and deities. Snorri’s Prose Edda is important, as this and another Edda contain all written evidence of the Norse mythology. Both detail the Norse pantheon and division of gods, trolls, and all other paranormal Norse creatures. 




Image via Simple Wikipedia


Featured Image via Kallidad – Bandcamp