Epic poems are some of the oldest types of literature ever written. The Epic of Gilgamesh is considered the oldest surviving epic poem, and it is estimated to have been written in 2100 BC on clay tablets in Ancient Mesopotamia.
Epic poems generally are written in a formal style; contains a third-person narration and an omniscient narrator; talks about a muse who gave inspiration to the writer; takes place long before living memory; includes a journey; features an extremely brave hero; pits the hero against extremely difficult obstacles; and looks with concern upon the future of a civilization.
Epic poems aren't so popular anymore, but some very famous ones still exist, like the Iliad and The Odyssey. In the Iliad, a war starts between Greece and Troy because a Trojan prince stole a Greek queen as his wife.
The king of Sparta (who was the person whose wife had been abducted) attacked Troy. It was destroyed, and in the Odyssey, one of the kings who went to the war finds his way back home through many trials.
Another epic poem is the Mahābhārata, an Indian poem written in Sanskrit, which is considered the longest poem ever written, at 200,000 lines.
The Aeneid is a poem by the Roman poet Virgil, which concerns the fate of the defeated Trojan king, who eventually founds Rome.
Beowulf is an Old English epic poem, whose author is unknown. It features a king named Beowulf who kills various giants and even a dragon, becoming a good and powerful king at the end.
The Nibelungenlied is a German epic which concerns the legendary king Siegfried, which was written in the 1200s. Siegfried appears in oral stories long before the poem is written.
The Divine Comedy was finished by Dante Alighieri in 1320. It took him 12 years to write and is Dante's imaginary journey through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.
The Faerie Queene is an English epic written by Edmund Spenser. It is about the reign of Elizabeth I and begins with the “Invocation of the Muse”, in which a muse supposedly tells the author to write the poem.
Finally, Paradise Lost is the epic poem version of the tale of the Garden of Eden. It was written by John Milton in 1667 and is about Adam, Eve, and Satan.
Many of these epic poems have equally epic heroes to go with them.
The hero of the Iliad is Achilles, who defeats his enemy, Hector, in single combat. Unfortunately, the heroic Achilles, whose only weakness is his heel, gets shot in the fatal point by Paris.
The Odyssey's hero is Odysseus, who travels over the treacherous seas to get back to his home, where his wife is waiting for him.
The half-demigod king of Uruk, Gilgamesh, is the main character in his Epic, where he travels long ways to get immortality, before finding out that it is unobtainable and going back home, a better king.
These are just some examples of epic poems and heroes, and there are a lot more.