A national epic is an epic poem or a literary work of epic scope which seeks or is believed to capture and express the essence or spirit of a particular nation; not necessarily a nation state, but at least an ethnic or linguistic group with aspirations to independence or autonomy. National epics frequently recount the origin of a nation, a part of its history, or a crucial event in the development of national identity such as other national symbols.
- The Americas - The True History of the Conquest of New Spain by Bernal Díaz del Castillo
- Indic Civilization – the Mahabharata and Ramayana
- Mesoamerican Civilization – the Popol Vuh
- Sinic world – the Four Great Classical Novels: Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Water Margin, Journey to the West, and Dream of the Red Chamber
- Western Civilization – the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer and the Aeneid of Vergil
For languages spread across various nations, earlier national epics of the older nation work as language epics. For example, national epics of England, such as The Canterbury Tales, or the works of Shakespeare are used as language epics across the English-speaking world, and the Shahnameh, the national epic of Iran (Persia) is used as a language epic by other Persian-speaking communities, in Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. See national epics for more examples.
Religious texts such as The King James Bible (English), Luther Bible (German), Quran (Arabic), and Tanakh (Hebrew) have similar impact within a specific language, while the Bible itself (in all translations) is instead a supranational epic of Western civilization.