Follow TV Tropes


Miles Gloriosus

Go To

"I hear you been tellin' about how you killed all them Jenkins brothers. With one bullet, wasn't it? Ain't that right? All these good folks here believe your little stories, don't they? Why, they believe you're just a stone killer, don't they? Seems these folks trust you. They think you're gonna save their little town. They think you're gonna save their little souls! But we know better, don't we?"
Rattlesnake Jake, Rango

He's a soldier; he's a real man! Just listen to all his exploits and how the very gods are afraid of him! Admire his pristine uniform and shiny medals that prove his valour! Behold the physique that has been honed over years of adventure and peril! He loves danger! He will seek out any peril to test himself against!

Just don't put him near an actual fight.

The Miles Gloriosus (pronounced "ME-lace glor-ee-OH-sys") claims to be some sort of mighty warrior or doer of the impossible. A soldier, Great White Hunter, Gentleman Adventurer, Hunter of Monsters, Superhero or other dangerous occupations are all possible. He is full of boasts about his many adventures, making himself out to be the ultimate badass. But when real danger rears its ugly head, Miles reveals what's Beneath the Mask and proves to be a Dirty Coward, anything but what his stories make him out to be, leaving whoever was foolish enough to be taken in by them to fend for themselves.


Miles is Always Male, as women aren't usually expected to distinguish themselves in danger. This doesn't mean they wouldn't boast on how they brave through such quests, however.

The Foil of The So-Called Coward or the Cowardly Lion. Since he is invariably all talk, falling for his stories is a mark of the Naïve Newcomer. Those who are not taken in may, in peace and quiet, find him more or less amusing, which depends on his skill on storytelling, but when trouble arises, he is always The Load. May be No Hero to His Valet, Type 1 only. Often considering himself God's personal gift to women, he is frequently part of a Love Triangle, his stories making him triumphant, until danger reveals to the heroine which man really is admirable.

May be a Small Name, Big Ego, but may also be running a con and may be proud of himself for reasons other than his boasted prowess. It can be hard to tell because one of his chief traits is his utter shamelessness. No matter how clearly he was reduced to quivering terror by the merest hint of danger, as soon as the danger ends he will snap back to the boasting mode, making it hard to tell whether Believing Their Own Lies is in effect. He is incapable of realizing that people might think better of him if he says Think Nothing of It. Sympathetic examples may suffer from an Inferiority Superiority Complex, and hiding their own insecurities under a braggart façade.


Any annoying braggart may be taken for the Miles Gloriosus, which is why subverting this, having them turn out to be brave and good at fighting — or even just competent — is a surprise. (See Boisterous Bruiser for the character most likely to subvert it.) Such surprises often fall under Glory Seeker; he may also go for glory at the expense of others: Glory Hound. Similar in ego to The Fighting Narcissist, but the latter generally has the fighting ability to back it up.

Named for a stock character in ancient Roman theater: the term translates to "boasting soldier."

Particularly annoying subtrope of Fake Ultimate Hero and particularly egotistical subtrope of The Münchausen (the latter of whom can actually back it up). Inverse of the Cowardly Lion. Similar to Lord Error-Prone. If the plot ever forces him to stand and actually act like the badass he claims to be, then it's Becoming the Boast. Villainous versions may overlap with Heroism Addict. May be inclined to say Nobody Calls Me "Chicken"!... right before saying Screw This, I'm Outta Here!

Compare Smug Super, Nominal Hero, and Phony Veteran.

Contrast Shrouded in Myth, Armchair Military, Badass on Paper and Let's Get Dangerous!. Subtrope of Paper Tiger.

Example subpages

    open/close all folders 

    Audio Drama 

    Fan Works 
  • In Savior of Demons, Haabu is a total Glory Hound, as his internal monologues reveal. Judging from his questionable involvement in any actual fights (he only appeared on New Arcos to shout orders at the Saiyans and look important), he is likely a Miles Gloriosus as well.
  • Naturally the usual characterization of Gilderoy Lockhart in Harry Potter fanfiction. Note however an interesting subversion in Like a Red-Headed Stepchild, where he ends up actually believing his own stories due to Mind Rape gone wrong, and actually delivering on his usual bragging.
  • In The Weaver Option Ormuz Vandire is a Naval Admiral commanding a battlegroup that hasn't seen battle in one hundred and fifty years. Despite this he boasts that his fleet could wipe out Taylor's battle-hardened fleet in just an hour. When Ormuz is actually deployed to defend Cadia against a Black Crusade, he suffers a panic attack when Magnus engages his fleet and has to be forcibly relieved of command. As a result of the delay in orders, the battlegroup suffers the most severe losses of any Imperial element in the battle.

  • A non-warrior example occurs in the Russian children's song "The Vaccine", which is about a kid boasting that he's not afraid of getting a vaccine because clearly, only a coward would be, right? Naturally, come the time of the actual vaccine, he finds himself against a wall with trembling knees...
  • A song from the American Civil War entitled 'the Valiant Conscript' pokes fun at this tendency among green recruits. The speaker, said conscript, spends the first several verses boasting of how he's going to whip the Yankees, and eventually ascend to command the entire Confederate Army, until 'poets sing his story'. When the Yankees actually show up he sings this verse instead:
    [On hearing a gunshot] What's that? Oh dear, a boiler's burst, a gas-pipe has exploded!
    Maybe the Yankees are hardby with muskets ready loaded
    Oh, gallant soldiers, beat them back, I'd join you in the frolic
    But I've a chill from head to toe, and symptoms of the colic!

    Myths & Religion 
  • In Greek Mythology: While recognized as the god of war and embodiment of physical power, Ares only fought when he had a clear advantage; any time he faced anything close to a fair fight, he had his ass handed to him. To his credit, it's not that he didn't try; he just couldn't win. He was trapped and humiliated by Hephaestus when he and Aphrodite (Hephaestus' consort) were caught in an illicit love affair, fled in fear from the monster Typhon, lost a boxing match to Apollo, was wounded by the hero Diomedes with the aid of Athena forcing him to flee the battle, was defeated by Hercules twice (stripped of his armor one of the times) was stuffed in a bronze jar by the Aloadae (Hermes had to get him out) and defeated in battle with Athena every time they came to blows. Zeus himself - his father - once told him he was worthless. It must be noted that Ares was generally regarded as the god of carnage and bloodlust associated with war, whereas Athena was the goddess of strategy and military prowess. The characteristics of the two were combined in the god Mars, who was held in much higher regard by the Romans than the Greeks ever regarded Ares. Also, note that this form of Ares is the form we have recorded from the city-states—like Thebes and Athens (which had Athena as their patron goddess)—which held Ares in relatively low esteem. Other, more warlike Greek cities had a higher opinion of Ares; Sparta's warlike society had a much higher opinion of Ares, but they didn't write as much, so their myths are not as well attested.
  • The Bible: In Galatians 6:3, Paul has some words on the subject: "For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself." (KJV)
  • Nicolas Chauvin is a probably mythical soldier who served in the First Army of the French Republic and later in La Grande Armée of Napoléon Bonaparte. He is said to have been very loyal and dedicated to Napoleon despite having been wounded 17 times in his nation's service, resulting in his severe disfigurement and maiming, as well as Napoleon himself awarding him a Sabre of Honor and a pension of 200 francs, as well as ridicule during the post-Napoleon Bourbon Restoration. His last name is the origin of the word "chauvinism", originally meaning extreme nationalism, nowadays meaning any kind of extreme bigotry where one's group is considered superior and others are inferior.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • This is the traditional personality of a heel in Professional Wrestling. They talk a good game about how badass they are, and usually love to smack around the lower level guys, but they turn into a Dirty Coward when facing the top-tier faces (or sometimes even when the lower level ones put up too much of an even-handed fight), revealing that all their talk was a bunch of hot air. In the territorial days, this was an Enforced Trope in Memphis.


    Web Original 
  • In the Adventures of The League of S.T.E.A.M. episode, "Tall Tails", Crackitus, Thaddeus and Jasper boast about encounters they've had with the Kraken. Until it actually arrives...
  • Captain Hammer in Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a variant: he's an arrogant blowhard, but he's also as tough and brave as he says. The only reason he's brave, however, is because he is so super-strong and Nigh-Invulnerable that he has never been injured in his life. It's telling that he flees, crying like a baby, the very second that he feels pain for the first time.
    "I think this is what pain feels like!"
  • Drea of Watch Girls Play. By far the most likely to boast and swear at the screen while playing horror games. Also the most likely to give a Girly Scream when the monster confronts her.
  • Illustrated well in this Skyrim machinima, which paints the Dragonborn as a cocky mercenary who brags about his dragonslaying skills but runs away screaming when he encounters an actual dragon (or even a wolf). Naturally, one great battle of which he was the Sole Survivor turns out to have been because he ran away and hid, only coming back after both sides had wiped each other out, before lying to the guards who'd come to investigate.
  • The Navy Seal Copypasta is a parody of the Internet Tough Guy described below. The "story" essentially involves a loser on an internet forum getting mad at the person he's arguing with and than trying way too hard to make himself seem scary to get back at the guy.
  • R. H. Talltales of World's Greatest Adventures is a massive example of the "adventurer" type, constantly boasting about "exciting discoveries" that are actually completely mundane.
  • General Ironwood of RWBY fits this to a T; he spends the series A) boasting about how strong and capable his army is, B) putting himself in positions of ultimate authority, C) getting completely outmanuevered by the villains and D) withdrawing his forces from any conflict where he doesn't have a clear, overwhelming advantage. It's not that Ironwood is a weakling, it's just that he completely overestimates what he's capable of, underestimates what the baddies can do, and even when he does fight, it's always against relatively weaker opponents. Near the end of Volume 7, he learns that Salem has Complete Immortality, and that she's on her way to attack Atlas personally. He then makes the pragmatic decision to raise Atlas higher into the sky to escape her forces, while endangering the people still needing to be extracted from a freezing Mantle and hordes of Grimm.

    Real Life 
  • The deadly, unstoppable Mall Ninja lands squarely in this category. The term "mall ninja" is a pejorative term for someone who is boastful about their abilities in martial arts and/or hand-to-hand weapon skills (especially online), but who never has any experience in an actual fight. Here are the exploits of one example of the species.
  • Military impostors have existed for as long as there have been professional armies; throughout history, people have claimed to have served with Roman legions, with George Washington at Valley Forge, or with any other fabled military unit of the recent past. For a modern example, the FBI estimates that, for every genuine former Navy SEAL alive today (about seven thousand, not counting active-duty servicemen), there are about three hundred impostors.
    • In America, it's legal to make such claims due to the First Amendment's protections on free speech. But if the faker then tries to also dress the part or gain any material benefits from their supposed military status, they're in legal trouble, because that's fraud. Plus, even if the liar doesn't try to gain any benefits besides bragging rights, actual military veterans tend to humiliate this kind of liar as payback. The term for it in American military culture is "stolen honor", and it's one of the few things that almost every American soldier comes down hard on.
  • North Korea. Despite constantly making threats against other countries and singing about their own amazing badassery and power, they have probably one of the worst military strengths in the world, and hide behind China every time someone might actually bother retaliating. The only reason North Korea hasn't collapsed in on itself is because China props it up, and even the Chinese are getting sick of the act.
  • The Internet Tough Guy is essentially this. They'll go on spectacularly long rants and speeches about how they'd kick their opponent's ass if they met in person, than crumple like wet paper the second something potentially dangerous or scary appears - see the aforementioned Navy SEAL copypasta.
  • The infamous Westboro Baptist Church. They'll provoke, insult, and piss off anyone from average citizens to hardened soldiers, but the second someone retaliates they fall apart begging for help and file a Frivolous Lawsuit. Many believe that they do this intentionally; since they're hated by basically everyone, the only way they can get money is to play the Wounded Gazelle Gambit and provoke people into attacking them so they can then sue for damage.
  • General George McClellan of the Union forces during the American Civil War has been described like this. While he was rightly praised as talented at raising and training armies for battle, McClellan has also been lambasted as an incompetent, insubordinate braggart who was so cowardly as a fighting commander that he directly prolonged the war. Abraham Lincoln once famously asked if he could borrow the army for a short while, since McClellan didn't seem to be doing much with it.
    • Several of the commanders of the Army of the Potomac (the same army raised and trained by McClellan) also turned out to be this. General Joseph Hooker, for example, boasted that he would bring victory, but was manhandled by Robert E Lee. One of the things that allegedly made Ulysses S Grant popular with the rank-and-file is that he didn't make such promises.
    • Future Union General William Tecumseh Sherman (at the time a colonel who helped set up what would become the Louisiana State Seminary) felt that many of the Southerners clamoring for war with the North were this. He outright stated as such during a dinner with many of prominent Southern politicians and personages when invited to present his views on the increasing turmoil between the North and South.
  • Hugues De Vermendois, younger son of Henry I of France, Count of Vermendois, and leader of a Crusader army during the First Crusade. He was a terrible soldier and military leader, but thought very highly of himself; he fits this trope so much that The Other Wiki described him as 'an ineffectual leader and soldier, great only in his boasting.' He sent this laughably arrogant letter to the Eastern Roman Emperor Alexius I Comnenus demanding a proper welcome to the Byzantine Empire:
    • While sailing across the Adriatic Sea, Hugues had his fleet hit by storms, sinking most of the ships and throwing his own ship upon the shore. He quickly came under the control of Alexius, who persuaded him to become his liegemen and wouldn't let his small force of Crusaders go anywhere until he swore not only to restore to the Byzantine Empire all the territories conquered by the Turks, but to let him have all the land he took in his conquests become his fiefs (essentially, in order to possess them, they would have to swear allegiance and enter into service to Alexius). He then tried to persuade Godfrey of Bouillon, one of the leaders of the First Crusade, to pledge allegiance to the Emperor; when Godfrey pointed out that Hugues was now basically a slave, Hugues said that they wouldn't be able to progress any further without his protection.
    • Later, he was sent back to Alexius to appeal for reinforcements to siege Jerusalem; Alexius was uninterested, so Hugues went back to France, where he was promptly hated for achieving basically nothing as a Crusader, and threatened with excommunication for his failure. Throughout all of this, Hugues was convinced he was a brilliant military leader.
  • Dan Bilzerian, son of jailed '80s corporate raider Paul Bilzerian, exposed himself as one of these. A washout from Navy SEAL school, he ran a popular Instagram feed showing off, in addition to things like sports cars and attractive women he was allegedly dating, his vast gun collection, with captions like "My biggest fear is that someone will break in and I won't be able to decide which of my guns to shoot them with." He might not have been joking. Caught in the middle of the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, the deadliest in U.S. history, he started running back to his house, ostensibly to pick the right gun out and go back to save the day, passing many mortally wounded victims along the way, only to stop at a police car when he realized the shooting was over. And then he posted a video of this to his feed.
  • Todd Rogers is the world's first professional videogame player, and used to hold many high-scores in videogames, most of them given to him in the 80s. They didn't have any sort of photo or video proof but were still accepted by the organization Twin Galaxies, a partner of the Guinness World Records. A lot of these records were either impossible, way higher than the second place, or would take days of constant play to achieve. He never managed to repeat his feats near cameras when asked. And his most infamous record is 5.51 in Dragster even though analysis of the code claims the lowest time possible is 5.57. He had fans that whenever someone came and dared question his records, called that person just jealous and he had people in Twin Galaxies making sure his records stayed valid. In 2018 all his records were removed and he was banned from Twin Galaxies. Here's a list of his suspicious records.
  • Neo-nazi Chris Cantwell appeared at the "Unite the Right" white-supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where he gave media interviews bragging about how he's always armed and ready for a fight, dismissed all the violence at the event, and even seemed to be wishing for more. He's also previously been featured on The Colbert Show for his brave defense of freedom in Keane, NH, which consisted of him and his buddies harassing parking enforcement officers. Then he found out there was a warrant for his arrest and the video of his Inelegant Blubbering quickly went viral, gaining him the nickname "the Weeping Nazi".

Alternative Title(s): Boasting Soldier, Miles Glossorius


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: