Basically there are two kinds of epic – a) Primary – also known as Oral or
Primitive folk epic and b) Secondary – also known as literary. The first belongs to
the oral tradition and is thus composed orally and recited. The secondary epic is a
literary work of art. In the first category we may place, for example, Gilgamesh,
the Sumerian epic of around 3000 B.C., the earliest extant work in the oral
tradition. Other examples of the primary epic are the Homeric epics, Iliad and
Odyssey (1000 B.C.) whose heroes are Achilles and Odysseus respectively.
Beowulf, the earliest extant English epic, also falls in this category. In the second
category can be included Virgil’s Aeneid, Lucan’s Pharsalia, Tasso’s
Gerusalemme, Aristo’s Orlando Furioso, Milton’s Paradise Lost etc.