Program Principles

The retreat’s instructional programming has three key principles: theory, practice, and place.

Theory component: Participants will be provided with a modest (10-15 hours) amount of preparatory reading and audio content beforehand.  Once in Rome, we will meet in a well-furnished seminar room to discuss key concepts and examples.  Analysis of great examples will be a prominent theme.  

Practice component: Every participant will have multiple opportunities to apply the examples and concepts by speaking in front of his colleagues.

Place component: Persuasion always happens in a physical setting, which can often determine success or failure.  We will travel through key sites in Rome and discuss important historical acts of persuasion which occurred in each place, including how the setting affected the outcome.  These will add up to a journey through the key moments of Roman History.


Day Zero:

Arrival Day (Sunday, June 30)

Day One, Monday

6 Hours of Program Content

Seminar Focus: Basic Concepts of Rhetoric and their Modern equivalents

Historical Theme: The Fall of the Roman Monarchy & the Establishment of the Republic.

Rhetoric in Place: Capitoline Hill & Museums.

Key Figures: Tarquinius Superbus, Collatinus, Lucretia, Brutus.

Day Two, Tuesday

6 Hours of Program Content

Seminar Focus: Training and Performing (Memoria, Actio)

Historical Theme: The Decline of the Republic.

Rhetoric in Place: Roman Forum.

Key Figures: Marius, Sulla, Cicero, Catiline.

Day Three, Wednesday

3 Hours of Program Content

Seminar Focus: Generating Persuasive Content (Inventio)

Physical Challenge Excursion

Day Four, Thursday

6 Hours of Program Content

Seminar Focus: Flow, Pace, Structure (Dispositio)

Historical Theme: The Fall of the Republic.

Rhetoric in Place: Circus Maximus, Forum of Caesar, Curia Pompeiana

Key Figures: Caesar, Pompey, Brutus.

Day Five, Friday

6 Hours of Program Content

Seminar Focus: Choosing the Right Words (Elocutio)

Historical Theme: Republic into Empire.

Rhetoric in Place: Forum of Augustus, Res Gestae, Ara Pacis, Pantheon

People: Marc Antony, Augustus

Day Six, Saturday

3 Hours of Program Content

Seminar Focus: Presentation of Participants’ Speeches.

Day Seven, Sunday, July 23:

Depart. (Sunday, July 7)


Where are we staying?

We will be staying in the Villa Magnolia on the Janiculum hill.  This is a quieter spot, a short distance across the Tiber from the heart of the city, but still within walking distance of many major sites.  The retreat will take up the entire Villa’s grounds, and we will have it all to ourselves.

What is the content going to be like?

What we have found to work best is to learn the theory by focusing on real examples of speeches and writings from history, from great individuals.  This is a method of speakers and writers Frederick Douglass, Hunter S. Thompson, Cicero, and most of the greats.  Real examples allow you to critique, emulate, modify, redeploy, etc.  But this work is made much more effective if supplemented by and organized according to a study of rhetorical theory.  Our method incorporates both real examples and theory.

Our goal is to give you not just a week’s worth of intensive content, but a set of habits and practices that you can incorporate into a routine, to refine and build over years of practice.

Does classical rhetoric still apply today?

What Bernard Arnault said about building a luxury brand also applies to the most effect speaking today:  “It’s a paradox.  To be successful, you have to have a combination between modernity and timelessness.”

Because of revolutions in media technology, the spoken word has never been so important. Podcasts and new media channels allow everyday speakers direct access to both niche and general audiences across the world. For this reason effective speakers are more in demand than ever, and the best are able to distinguish themselves.

Because of the increase in cheap, ephemeral content on the internet, timelessness matters more than ever.  Words addressed to a single occasion can be continually shared on YouTube for years – decades, maybe. 

“Classical” is another word for timeless.  The principles and strategies of classical rhetoric are timeless because they were formulated over a very long period, through trial and error, based on what works to persuade humans, and how best to train ourselves to persuade.

Cicero talks about the importance of writing to refine one’s speaking voice.  Neil deGrasse Tyson has admitted, “Hardly any sentence in public comes out of my mouth unless I have written it down once before.”  Two highly adept speakers saying essentially the same thing: when you study the art of rhetoric, you begin to recognize the enduring patterns.  

More questions? Reach out to