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This is a subtrope of The Epic in which the course of an actual military campaign in some combination of Real Life or traditional history is the main subject. Because of this the plot, setting, and characters will come pre-constructed. This decreases flexibility but saves work for the author, though he still has enough to do. It is written from an authorial omniscience perspective and shows the viewpoint of one Historical Domain Character after another on both sides. It has the advantage that Battle Epics are usually written about a Real Life Crowning Moment of Awesome. This type leans heavily on special effects.

If the title of a movie is the same as the name by which a campaign is recorded in historical accounts, that is a clue that this is a Battle Epic.

This trope is Older Than Feudalism. However it is most common in films. Sometimes it can be a TV miniseries.

Examples of Battle Epic include:



  • The Battle of Maldon: Fragmentary Old English epic poem about a historical battle between Anglo-Saxons and Vikings in the 990s CE.
  • The Iliad: Possibly Trope Maker. It was thought to be essentially historical (if not in every detail) by the listeners.
  • Romance of the Three Kingdoms: Likely more close to history than Iliad.
  • The Song of Roland: Medieval epic around the clash of Franks and Saracens at Roncesvalles in the Pyrenees, 778 CE.[1]
  • Tain Bo Cuailnge a.k.a. The Cattle Raid of Cooley: Ancient Irish prose epic about a war between the two enemy kingdoms Connacht and Ulster.
  • "Tale of Styrbjorn": An exiled Viking prince battles his uncle for the kingdom of Sweden. A short tale thanks to its extreme condensation, but epic in scope.


  1. In actual history it were the Basques, not the Saracens, but it's exactly the kind of thing you can expect from those nasty Saracens!
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