Why Should We Read Epics?

by Amy

In the vast expanse of literary forms, epic poems hold a distinguished place, weaving the fabric of civilizations, cultures, and the human condition through their lines. These ancient texts are not merely stories; they are the repositories of human wisdom, the chronicles of our ancestors, and the mirrors reflecting the eternal struggles and triumphs of humanity. The question arises: why, in our modern era of rapid technological advancement and digital media, should we still dedicate our time to reading epic poems? This article explores the multifaceted answers to this question, highlighting the characteristics of epic poems through examples and arguing for their continued relevance and importance in contemporary society.

Understanding Epic Poems

Defining Characteristics

Epic poems are lengthy narrative works, often composed in verse, that detail the heroic exploits of characters, usually embodying the values and ideals of a particular culture or society. They are characterized by a grandiose style, a wide scope of action, including battles or long journeys, and the involvement of supernatural forces or deities. The protagonists of these epics are not ordinary beings; they are heroes who perform extraordinary feats, often with the aid of or in opposition to gods.

Historical and Cultural Significance

Epic poems are windows into the societies from which they originate. They serve not only as entertainment but also as educational and cultural conduits, teaching future generations about the values, conflicts, and aspirations of their ancestors. These works often arose in oral traditions, where stories were passed down and embellished over generations before being written down, making them collective creations of their cultures.

The Why: Delving into Epic Poetry

1. A Glimpse into the Human Psyche

Epic poems offer unparalleled insights into the human psyche. Characters in epics like Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, Virgil’s Aeneid, and the Indian Mahabharata navigate through love, loss, vengeance, and redemption, showcasing the complexity of human emotions and relationships. These narratives allow readers to explore facets of their own humanity, offering lessons on resilience, courage, and the pursuit of justice.

2. Cultural and Historical Windows

Through the lens of epic poetry, readers travel across time and space, gaining a deeper understanding of the cultural and historical contexts that shaped civilizations. The Epic of Gilgamesh, one of the earliest known works of literature, not only entertains but educates us about the social structures, religious beliefs, and philosophical questions of ancient Mesopotamia. Similarly, Beowulf offers insights into the Anglo-Saxon era, reflecting its societal norms, values, and conflicts.

3. The Art of Storytelling

Epic poems are masterclasses in storytelling, employing techniques that have influenced narratives across centuries. The use of medias res, in which the story begins in the middle of the action, flashbacks, extensive character development, and the exploration of themes like heroism, fate, and the divine, have all seeped into modern literature and film. Engaging with these texts enhances our appreciation and understanding of narrative structure and the evolution of storytelling.

4. Language and Expression

The linguistic richness of epic poems is unmatched. Works like Dante’s Divine Comedy and Milton’s Paradise Lost not only showcase the beauty and power of their respective languages but also expand their possibilities. The original formulations, similes, metaphors, and the overall poetic craftsmanship enrich readers’ linguistic appreciation and can enhance their own expressive capabilities.

5. Ethical and Philosophical Exploration

Epic poems are fertile ground for ethical and philosophical exploration. They pose timeless questions about duty, fate, free will, the nature of good and evil, and the pursuit of the ultimate truth. The Bhagavad Gita, a 700-verse Hindu scripture that is part of the Indian epic Mahabharata, for instance, is a profound philosophical and moral dialogue about duty, righteousness, and the paths to spiritual liberation.

Contemporary Relevance of Epic Poems

Adaptation and Influence

The influence of epic poems extends beyond literature into films, video games, and other forms of media, demonstrating their timeless appeal and adaptability. Understanding these epics allows contemporary audiences to appreciate the roots of numerous cultural references and themes prevalent in today’s entertainment and media.

Universal Themes

The themes explored in epic poems—such as the quest for identity, the struggle between good and evil, and the search for meaning in a chaotic world—are as relevant today as they were centuries ago. These universal themes transcend cultural and temporal boundaries, offering insights into our collective human experience.

Cultural Preservation and Continuity

In an era where globalization threatens to homogenize cultural identities, epic poems stand as bastions of cultural preservation and continuity. They remind us of the rich tapestry of human history and the diversity of narratives that shape our world. Engaging with these texts is an act of cultural preservation, ensuring that the wisdom, traditions, and stories of the past continue to enlighten future generations.


The argument for delving into epic poems is compelling, encompassing their role in understanding the human condition, appreciating the art of storytelling, exploring ethical and philosophical questions, and preserving cultural heritage. These ancient texts are not relics of the past but living documents that continue to inspire, challenge, and enrich our lives. In reading them, we engage in a dialogue with our ancestors, exploring the depths of human experience and emotion. The legacy of epic poems is their ability to connect us across time and space, reminding us of our shared humanity and the enduring power of story. Thus, the journey through epic poetry is not just a scholarly pursuit but a journey of the soul, offering wisdom, inspiration, and a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us.

Related Articles


Discover the soulful universe of PoemsHubs, where words dance with emotions. Immerse yourself in a collection of evocative verses, diverse perspectives, and the beauty of poetic expression. Join us in celebrating the artistry of words and the emotions they unfold.

Copyright © 2023 poemshubs.com