Flammeus Gladius

Carmina et Verba pro Discipulis Meis

Tag: barbarians




“My keen insights are wholly unique!
Next to me, every scholar’s a freak
And a loser most vile
With an unpolished style!”
So he said. But he didn’t know Greek.


—Tom Riley

Barbarus in Roma

Barbarus in Roma



As captive taken to Eternal Rome,
As tall and ruddy slave amongst the free
And short and dark, he thirsted fearfully
For German beer and all the joys of home.

He saw no glory in the hippodrome
Nor on the sand where skilled slaves fought to see
Who would endure in vile utility
Under the unconcern of Heaven’s dome.

Civilization was, to him, disease–
Though the diseased were sure that they were fine
And gloried in their vain civilities.

In his lashed heart, he failed to fall in line.
In his fierce spirit, he was hard to please.
He was converted, finally, by wine.



–Tom Riley



(Second Place, Napa Town and Country Fair, 2017.)

Barbarus Superbus

Barbarus Superbus



Your spiritual empire is expanding–
But I remain a proud barbarian.
It’s universal prayer that you’re demanding.
Your spiritual empire is expanding
Beyond all bounds, beyond all understanding.
But I’m a convert you will never win.
Your spiritual empire is expanding,
But I remain a proud barbarian.



–Tom Riley

California Boy

California Boy



(for Andrew Conemac)



They sent you into frozen exile, far

From any place where people make good wine.

They made you wish upon a northern star.

The sky did not display a friendly sign.

You might as well have crossed the ancient Rhine

And lived amongst the savages who slew

The legions of the Emperor.  Define

Your loss?  I guess I’ll leave that up to you.

But now, at long last, life is made anew:

You’re back in California once again!

You’ve joined a sunnier and cooler crew.

Your spirit knows delight and says amen.

You’re California with a vengeance, sir—

Way beyond what you previously were.




–Tom Riley

De Defensoribus Latinae

De Defensoribus Latinae


(for Maria Ferguson)


“Hoc dicens ferrum adverso sub pectore condit




Who will stick up for Latin?  You and I,

Maria, stand elected by the Lord

To offer Heaven one great battle cry

And charge ahead with one sublime accord.

The ignorant have mindlessly ignored

The shining language that made Virgil great—

So, like Aeneas, we take up the sword

And do our bit for Rome’s eternal fate.

Though it is true I come to battle late,

I have youth on my side, love, thanks to you.

Infirmities of age for now abate.

Your smile has made me almost good as new.

Righteous we are – and therefore furious.

Barbarians were fools to mess with us.


–Tom Riley