Epic

Dante: The Divine Comedy

Domenico di Michelino, La Divina Commedia di Dante (Dante and the Divine Comedy). 1465 fresco, in the dome of the church of Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence. Wikipedia.The Divine Comedy (Italian: Divina Commedia) is a poem by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321). In three canticles; Inferno, Purgatorio and Paradiso, it describes Dante's progress on a mystic journey, through hell and purgatory, escorted by the poet Virgil, and through Heaven guided by Beatrice, an idealised portrait of the historical Florentine woman who was the object of Dante's unrequited love.

The poem is generally considered one of the central works of western literature. It gave profound expression of the medieval worldview, in an educated vernacular which would pave the way for renaissance humanism. Itself densely allusive, the work has inspired poets, painters and artists of all kinds ever since.

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Free online texts

Danteonline.it: Commedia. Italian text. HTML format.

Dartmouth College: DanteLab - a customisable digital reader.

Gutenberg: The Divine Comedy, translated by H.F. Cary. Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: The Divine Comedy, translated by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.  Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: The Divine Comedy, translated by Charles Eliot Norton. Vol I. Hell | Vol. II Purgatory | Vol III Paradise. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: The Divine Comedy of Dante Alighieri, translated by Henry F. Cary. Harvard Classics Edition. Multiple formats.

ItalianStudies.org: The Divine Comedy, translated by James Finn Cotter. HTML format.

Online Library of Liberty: The Divine Comedy, Italian text and English translation by Courtney Langdon. Multiple formats.

Poetry in Translation: The Divine Comedy, prose translation by A.S. Kline. Multiple formats.

Sacred Texts: The Divine Comedy -  Italian textEnglish translation by H.F. Cary (1888). TXT format.

University of Adelaide: The Divine Comedy - The Vision of Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise, translated by Henry Francis Cary; illustrated by Gustave Doré. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Divina Commedia - Italian text, multiple formats. Divine Comedy, translated by Longfellow. HTML and other formats.

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Beowulf

Beowulf fighting the Dragon. Marshall, Henrietta Elizabeth (1908) Stories of Beowulf, T.C. & E.C. Jack. Via Wikimedia Commons.Beowulf is an Old English epic poem. While the only surviving manuscript is thought to date to around 1000 CE, the narrative reflects conditions in the continental homeland of the Anglo-Saxons during the Sixth Century.

The hero, Beowulf, is a prince of the Geats, a people based in Modern Sweden. He travels to Heorot, court of King Hrothgar of the Danes to fight the monster Grendel, and Grendel's mother. Later, as King of the Geats, he is killed in a final mortal struggle with a dragon.

The relationship between the pagan and Christian elements in Beowulf has been the subject of much debate, often bound up with questions about the role of oral and literary composition in its creation. The poem continues to spark much scholarly and popular interest, sustained by feature films and high-profile translations such as those by J.R.R. Tolkien and Seamus Heaney.

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Free online texts

British Library: Beowulf - digitised Old English manuscript.

British Library/University of Kentucky: Electronic Beowulf. Browse the original Old English manuscript and multiple transcriptions online.

Gutenberg: Beowulf, modern English translation by  Francis B. Gummere (1910).  Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: Beowulf, modern English translation by J. Lesslie Hall. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Beowulf with the Finnsburgh Fragment, Old English text, edited by A.J Wyatt, revised by R.W. Chambers (1914). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Beowulf, Old English text, edited by Walter John Sedgefield (1913). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Beowulf, translated by Chauncey Brewster Tinker (1912). Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: Beowulf, translated by Clarence Griffin Child (2000). Multiple formats.

McMaster University: Beowulf in Hypertext - Old English text and modern English translation by  Francis B. Gummere (1910).

Poetry Foundation: Beowulf - modern English translation by  Francis B. Gummere (1910). HTML format.

Sacred texts: Beowulf - Old English | Modern English translation by Francis B. Gummere (1910) | The Story of Beowulf, retelling by Strafford Riggs (1933).

University of Adelaide: Beowulf, modern English translation by  Francis B. Gummere (1910). Multiple formats.

University of Cambridge Digital Library: Beowulf, verse translation by William Morris (1898).  Digital manuscript image.

Wikisource: Beowulf - Old English editions and modern English translations. HTML format.

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Vyasa: Mahabharata

Vyasa grants Sanjaya divine vision. Wikimedia CommonsThe Mahābhārata (Sanskrit: महाभारतम्, Mahābhāratam) is a Sanskrit epic, one of  the longest in world literature, and along with the Ramayana, one of two considered sacred texts of Hinduism.

Traditionally ascribed to the sage Vyāsa, the poem deals with the Kurukshetra war between two sets of cousins, the Kauravas and the Pandavas. The historical kernel of these events is thought to date back to Vedic India around 1000 BCE, although the Mahabharata itself is thought to have been written down in the period from 400 BCE.

Embedded within the Mahabharata is the Bhagavad Gita, a philosophical dialogue between the Pandava hero Arjuna and his charioteer, the god Krishna, taking place before the onset of the climactic battle with the Kauravas.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: Mahabharata. K.M. Ganguli translation. Multiple formats.

Holy Books.com: The Mahabharata - K.M Ganguli translation, PDF format.

Internet Archive: The Mahabharata, translated by K.M. Ganguli (1884-96). Multiple formats.

Online Library of Liberty: The Ramayana and the Mahabharata, verse translation by Romesh C. Dutt. Multiple formats.

Sacred Texts: The Mahabharata, Sanskrit text and English translation by K.M. Ganguli. HTML format.

Wikisource: Sanskrit text and partial text of the English translation, by K.M Ganguli. HTML and other formats.

Performances and Reviews

New York Times: Peter Brook transforms an Indian epic for the stage, by Margaret Croyden, 25 August 1985.

YouTube: Peter Brook's The Mahabharata. See also the IMDB page.

Other Resources

Ancient History Encyclopedia: Mahabharata.

Brown University: The Mahabharata, pages by Sanskrit scholar James L. Fitzgerald.

History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps: Grand Illusion - Dharma and Deception in the Mahabharata, podcast episode by Peter Adamson and Jonardon Ganeri.

The Independent: The Book of a Lifetime - The Mahabharata, by Alice Albinia, 9 June 2011.

Librivox: The Mahabharata by Vyasa: The epic of ancient India condensed into English verse, public domain audiobook.

London Review of Books, How to Escape the Curse, John's Smith's translation reviewed by Wendy Doniger.

UC Davis: Mahabharata, synopsis by V. Vemuri.

Wikipedia: Mahabharata.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Bhagavad Gita

Ramayana

Bloom's Western Canon - The Mahabharata is listed.


Virgil: The Aeneid

The death of Dido, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Wikimedia CommonsThe Aeneid (Latin: Aeneis) is an epic poem by Virgil written between 29 and 19 BCE, during the early years of Augustus' rule of Rome. The appearance of a Roman national epic at around this time may reflect the role Virgil's patron, Maecenas, as cultural advisor to Augustus.

Virgil embellishes existing stories linking the Romans to the Trojans to systematically synthesise Latin traditions with Homeric myth, integrating many other Greek and Roman poetic influences. The legend of Aeneas' exile from Troy is the kernel for a foundation myth that prefigures the unification of Italy, and in the story of Aeneas and Dido, the struggle for supremacy between Rome and Carthage.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: The Aeneid, translated by John Dryden. | Translation by E. Fairfax Taylor. | Translation by J.W. MacKail. | Aeneidos. Latin text. Multiple formats.

Intratext, Aeneid, translated by John Dryden. HTML format. 

Latin Library: Aeneid. Latin text, HTML format.

Loebulus. L063N - Virgil -- Eclogues. Georgics. Aeneid, Books 1-6. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Loebulus. L064N - Virgil -- Aeneid Books 7-12, The Minor Poems. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Latin and English.

Online Library of Liberty: Aeneid, translated by John Dryden. Multiple formats.

Perseus: Aeneid, translated by Theodore C. Williams | Translation by John Dryden | Latin text, edited by J.B. Greenough. HTML and XML formats.

Poetry in Translation: The Aeneid. HTML format, translated by A.S. Kline.

Sacred Texts: The Aeneid, translated by John Dryden. HTML format.

Theoi: Aeneid, Books 1-6, translated by H.R. Fairclough. HTML format.

University of Adelaide: Aeneid, translated by John Dryden. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Aeneid: Full Dryden translation along with other partial and incomplete translations.

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Hesiod: Works and Days

The Works and Days (Greek: Ἔργα καὶ Ἡμέραι, Erga kai Hēmerai) is a poem in 828 hexametres by Hesiod, who may have lived around 700 BC. It is addressed to the poet's brother Perses, urging him to reconcile their quarrel, and invoking a number of myths to illustrate the need to act justly. Hesiod goes on to advise Perses on how to work as a farmer. The Works and Days of the title are the activities of the farming year and the auspicious days on which to perform them, invoked in a sort of verse almanac in the final two thirds of the poem.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica.

Loebulus. L496 - Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English.

University of Adelaide: Works and Days, translated by H.G. Evelyn-White. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: Works and Days, translated by H.G. Evelyn-White (1920). Multiple formats.

Other Resources

History of Ancient Greece: Oligarchs and Hesiod, podcast by Ryan Stitt.

Internet Archive: The Successors of Homer, by William Cranston Lawton (1898). Multiple formats.

Librivox: Works and Days, The Theogony, and The Shield of Heracles - Public domain audiobook.

Literature and History: Hesiod's Lands and Seasons - The Works and Days of Hesiod. Podcast and transcript.  

Wikipedia: Works and Days.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Hesiod: Theogony.

 Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.

Bloom's Western Canon: Works and Days is listed.


Hesiod: The Theogony

The Theogony (Greek: Θεογονία, Theogonía), a poem by Hesiod, is the earliest and most important systematic account of Greek mythology. Little is known of Hesiod other than that he was a farmer in Boeotia, probably in the 7th century BCE. This background is reflected in the opening of the Theogony, in which Hesiod is inspired by the muses while pasturing sheep on Mount Helicon. The poem goes on to describe the creation of the world out of primeval chaos, the genealogy of the Gods, the struggle of the Titans and Olympians, and the divine parentage of human heroes.

Hesiod wrote in a similar epic dialect to Homer, though he is often seen as reflecting a later development. The relatively systematic worldview presented in the Theogony has made it a key point of comparison with the earliest Greek philosophers, a number of whom continued to use poetic forms and indeed myth.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica.

Loebulus. L496 - Hesiod, the Homeric Hymns, and Homerica. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English.

Perseus: Greek text - English text, translated by Hugh Evelyn-White (1914). HTML and XML formats.

Sacred-Texts: Theogony, translated by H.G. Evelyn-White. HTML format.

Theoi: Theogony ,translated by H.G. Evelyn-White. HTML format.

Wikisource: The Theogony, translated by H.G. Evelyn-White (1920).  Multiple formats.

Wikisource: ΘΕΟΓΟΝΙΑ. Greek text. Multiple formats.

Other Resources

History of Ancient Greece: The Greek Genesis, podcast by Ryan Stitt.

History of Ancient Greece: Oligarchs and Hesiod, podcast by Ryan Stitt.

Librivox: Works and Days, The Theogony, and The Shield of Heracles - Public domain audiobook.

Literature and History: Before Orthodoxy - Hesiod's Theogony - Ancient Greece's Creation Story. Podcast and transcript.

Wikipedia: Theogony.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Homer: The Iliad and The Odyssey.

Hesiod: Works and Days.

 Ancient Greek resources: Learn to read Greek classics in the original.

Bloom's Western Canon: The Theogony is listed.


Homer: The Odyssey

The Odyssey is an ancient Greek epic poem following the wanderings of Odysseus on his return from the Trojan War. As such, it is a sequel to the Iliad, although its exact relationship to the earlier poem is as controversial as the historical existence of Homer, the traditional author of both epics. As with the Iliad, the story opens 'in the middle of things' with Odysseus held captive by the goddess Calypso. His adventures in the ten years since the fall of Troy are recounted as the story advances towards his final homecoming.

Free online texts

Gutenberg: The Odyssey, translated by Alexander Pople. Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: The Odyssey, done into English prose, translated by Samuel Henry Butcher and Andrew Lang. Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: The Odyssey, Rendered into English prose for the use of those who cannot read the original, translated by Samuel Butler. Multiple formats.

Loebulus. L104 - Homer - Odyssey I: Books 1-12. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English.

Loebulus. L105 - Homer -- Odyssey II: Books 13-24. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English.

Perseus: Greek text (Loeb edition, 1919). English translation (Butler, 1900), revised by Timothy Power and Gregory Nagy. English translation (A.T. Murray, loeb edition, 1919).  Online texts.

Poetry in Translation: The Odyssey, translated by A.S. Kline (2004). Multiple formats.

Theoi.com:  The Odyssey. Translated by Murray, A T. Loeb Classical Library Volumes. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1919.

Wikisource: Οδύσσεια - Greek text. English translations by Alexander Pope (1725), William Cowper (1791), Samuel Butler (1898). HTML and other formats.

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Lucretius: On the Nature of Things

Lucretius' On the Nature of Things (Latin: De Rerum Natura) is an epic poem dramatising an epicurean, materialist view of the world. As such, it is unique in Latin literature, as the later Roman reception of Greek philosophy was heavily influenced by Cicero's rejection of epicureanism.

Free online texts

Gutenberg: On the Nature of Things, translated by William Ellery Leonard. Multiple formats.

Internet Archive: De Rerum Natura Libri Sex. Latin Tuebner edition (1874). multiple formats.

Internet Classics Archive: On the Nature of Things, translated by William Ellery Leonard. html and txt files.

Perseus: De Rerum Natura - Latin text . English translation (Leonard, 1916). html texts.

Wikisource: On the Nature of Things, translated by William Ellery Leonard (1916). html.

Audio Resources

BBC Radio 4 In Our Time: Epicureanism. Melvyn Bragg with Angie Hobbs, David Sedley and James Warren.

Literature and History: Episode 45 - The Uncuttables, Lucretius' On the Nature of Things and Epicurean Philosophy. Podcast and transcript by Doug Metzger.

Librivox: Lucretius - public domain audiobooks in English, Latin and French.

Other Resources

1911 Encyclopedia Britannica: Lucretius.

Gutenberg: Three Philosophical Poets - Lucretius, Dante and Goethe, by George Santayana. Multiple formats.

History of Philosophy without any gaps: Reaping the Harvest: Lucretius - podcast by philosopher Peter Adamson.

Internet Archive: Lucretius, by W.H. Mallock (1898).

Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Lucretius.

Leeds International Classical Studies, Volume 1. Peer-reviewed articles on Lucretius.

PhilPapers: Lucretius - bibliography with open access option.

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy: Lucretius, by David Sedley.

The Great Conversation: Further reading at Tom's Learning Notes

Latin resources: Learn to read Latin texts in the original.

Bloom's Western Canon: On the Nature of Things is listed.


Homer: The Iliad

'Sing, O muse, of the rage of Achilles, son of Peleus', the opening words of Homer's Iliad, have a strong claim to be the opening words of Western literature. Whether Homer ever existed, and what role he played in the text's emergence out of oral tradition have been debated for centuries.

Although full of allusions to the wider story of the Trojan War, the Iliad focuses on the events of a few weeks, Achilles dispute with Agamemnon and his withdrawal from battle, the death of his comrade Patroclus, his duel with Hector, and the eventual restoration of Hector's body to his father Priam; a series of incidents driven by the central theme of Achilles' wrath.

The Catalogue of Ships in Book Two is remarkable for a portrait of the Greek world with significant correspondences to the historical reality of the late Bronze Age, hundreds of years before the poem is believed to have been written down in the 8th Century BC.

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Free online texts

Gutenberg: The Iliad, translated into English blank verse by William Cowper (1791, Appleton & Co. edition 1860). Multiple formats.

Gutenberg: Iliad - books I-XII with an introduction, a brief Homeric grammar, and notes, by D.B. Munro (1890). Greek language edition with English notes in multiple formats.

Gutenberg: Iliad books 13-24 with notes, by D.B. Munro (1890). Greek language edition with English notes in multiple formats.

Loebulus. L170N - Homer -- Iliad I: Books 1-12. PDF of public domain Loeb edition in Greek and English.

Poetry in Translation: The Iliad, translated by A.S. Kline. Multiple formats.

Wikisource: The Iliad of Homer, translated by Alexander Pope (1715-20). Online text.

Wikisource: The Iliad of Homer, translated by Theodor Alois Buckley (1876). Online text, currently incomplete.

Wikisource: The Iliad of Homer rendered into English prose for the use of those who cannot read the original, translated by Samuel Butler (1898). Online text.

Wikisource: The Iliad, translated by Augustus Taber Murray (1924). Online text.

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