Monday, February 24, 2014

Here are some pics from my latest trip to Pennsylvania
Dave and his Girlfriend

Todd and Cheryl-- We've known each other since we were 4 years old!


Mark's Wife



With Jim from university

Cheese Lasagna, with meatballs

Chicken quesadilla and salad

Mushroom Cheesesteak!

Sour Beer from Belgium

Jim, Bill, and Jordan

Snow in my town

Mosaic walls in Philadelphia

Magic Garden in Philadelphia

Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia


Tuesday, July 12, 2011

On Time and Rivers Flowing

On Time and Rivers Flowing

I arrived in Luhansk in what is euphemistically called the monsoon season. As Nataly and her husband Dima drove me from the airport in Donetsk we were able to watch the brilliant lightning storms that have been plaguing the region in recent weeks. Indeed these storms are far more violent than what we are used to in the northeastern US and continued for much of last week. Their sudden onset was likely to catch someone walking down the street leaving them soaked to the bone and cold.

The storms did cause some damage. The internet servers at the university were damaged, leaving us without the ability to do any online work. In addition, some neighborhoods in the city were left without power for a few days and some regions of the Donbas have been without power for about a week. As those of you who have been to Luhansk know, the storm water drainage system seems mostly to consist of evaporation. When the storms have been particularly violent the streets and sidewalks have become raging rivers. I have been lucky to have been spared the worst of the effects of the storm and have never been more than drizzled upon. My poor friend Kate was caught in one of the violent downpour and told me she was completely soaked in seconds. But since the purchase of an umbrella on Thursday, the weather has been picture perfect and the town has dried out, leaving a few isolated mud puddles and swarms of mosquitoes.

My classes have been going very well. We start at 9am and work until about 2. On a typical day, we start with a warm-up exercise, usually describing what we did the day before (this week we are working on the past tense) and then play a few rounds of a game in which the students have to reproduce a structure built of Legos by giving each other directions. From there, I will give a lecture. This week’s topic is US business culture. The students and I will then engage in a discussion on the topic and then move onto some comprehension and vocabulary work.

I really do not know how I used to get all of that done in four hours. When 2pm comes around, we have scarcely finished our vocab work and I still need to also get the students prepared for their weekly presentation. This week, their presentation will consist of a mock job interview. If we can get the internet back, I will have them do a job search for a US company and then perform organizational research on the company. If not, Helen, my fantastic co-teacher, and I will assign companies to the students and give them a brief rundown of what they need to know to prepare for the interview.

After class, I go to the university café for my dinner. Lunch is the major meal of the day here and it is really too much food. The first dish is a vegetable salad which usually consists of cabbage, tomatoes, and sweet peppers. From there I get a large bowl of borsch. There are several varieties of borsch and the café ladies change it around for me pretty often. Then comes the final course, which consists of meat and vegetables or noodles.

After lunch I go to the Internet Café for a few hours to check my e-mail, Facebook, Kontacte (the Russian Facebook), and my classes for Franklin Pierce. I have been going to the café across the street from the University as I only have 3 hours between lunch and supper- not enough time to go to the center of town. If there is enough time after checking my classes I will walk to the Polana café and have a beer or coffee before supper and read. Vica still works there, and some of the waiters are still there from previous years, but for the most part there is a new batch of waitresses, who have learned the ins and outs of taking care of the “Amerikanitz.”

After dinner I meet with friends or go back to the café to read. After 6 years of coming to Lugansk, I have developed a number of friendships with former students and colleagues. Probably my oldest friend here is Victor. Victor is a bear of a man and the master of all things outdoors. He is now dean of the Institute of Tourism, but his background is in biology and botany. At least once a year, Victor will organize an outing to the university farm and botany research center situated on a beautiful river n the Russian border. A more gracious host and friend you will never find.

It is the custom here to go for walks in the evening, so after my dinner I usually walk with one or two of my friends. The other day I had a nice walk in the university gardens with my friends Alina and Galina. Alina is about to enter the Master’s program here for teaching English. Galina recently gave up her teaching position to explore business opportunities. Sometimes I see Lee and Utoshi, two ladies who are were not my students, but who I met on Facebook. They are both lovers of all things Japanese and fascinating to chat with. Lee was an exchange student in Vermont. Utoshi has never been to the US, but her English is very good. Both are also “foodies” and the pictures they take of their creations make me hungry! Sometimes I see my friend Kate, who is also an English teacher. She teaches English to second graders and has a second job at one of the many English schools in the area. She is also trying to help me with my Russian.

After the walk, sometimes we go to a café for a snack and then I will walk my friends home, or at least to the bus stop. If it is not too late, I will read for a while in my room or call home to the US to see how my son and mom are. Around 11, I call it a night and start the whole process over again.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

On Returnings

On Returnings

This year is the 6th time I have been to Luhansk, Ukraine to teach in Franklin Pierce University’s Summer Language Institute. It is almost like a homecoming, really. In my first year here, I didn’t know a soul, literally. The people from the Luhansk Taras Shevchenko National Pedagogical University tried very hard to show me around the city and keep me from getting too lonely before my FP colleague Mary G showed up. At that time, no one knew what to expect from the other, but as the month drew on, we formed a real working relationship and many lasting friendships.

Over the years, the faces changed on both sides. Oxana, without whose help and guidance I could not have survived in Luhansk or managed to successfully teach two huge multi-level classes has left the university. Nataly, who literally saved my life when I got sick the first year, left to finish her studies in Kiev (but is back!). Ira, who had been with us for 5 years, has had to limit her involvement as she continues her studies. Drs. Hagerty and Van der Reit have both retired from Franklin Pierce and now contribute their experience and vision to new endeavors. Dr. Hagerty is the provost of the Hellenic American University in Athens, while Dr. Van der Reit has become an entrepreneur in the US.

It is in this context of change that I find myself again in my room. Getting here this year was quite the adventure. Because of budget constraints, I only had $1,400 to get to Kiev, which immediately became a challenge. The only flight available at all that fell within budget included two layovers, each for extended periods. So as I left my house on Friday afternoon, I knew what I was getting into, but an intellectual understanding of a situation is far different from the reality.
My ex-wife, Susan, and our friend Tina drove me to the airport on Friday afternoon. We left an hour to get to Logan Airport, which under normal circumstances would be more than adequate. What she and I had not counted on was traffic to Cape Cod, and so my nice relaxing trip to Logan became a nightmare. Once we hit Somerville, the traffic slowed to a crawl. And as we move at 5mph down I93, we watched the minutes… and hours... tick away. I tried hard to maintain a Zen attitude, but I have to admit, by 6:30 I was despairing to make my 7:15 flight. As we inched towards the tunnels that lead to Logan from I93, Susan was able to maneuver us into the right lane, enabling us to slide into the tunnel and the road opened before us and we made it to the airport in 10 minutes. While I was waiting at check in, a airline worker gathered all of the people for the London flight and gave us priority check in, and security was a snap. So I was in the happy position of having 15 minutes for a quick bite and a beer next to my gate.

The flight to London was quite nice. Next to me and across the aisle, there were mothers and their small children, who I learned were going to 1st grade. Now, anyone who has made an extended flight with small children around knows that the cramped quarters of an airplane are not the ideal circumstances for a kid to show how good they really are, but both these children were the best behaved and politest kids with whom I have ever flown. The little girl next to me and her mother were visiting family in Lithuania and towards the end of the flight we had a pleasant conversation.

I had 8 hours to kill in London. Not quite enough to explore the city, but enough to potentially become a problem. I decided to go through immigration for a laugh and walked around the perimeter of Heathrow a bit. It was a little chilly outside but I was breathing the British air and watching the great mass of humanity pass me by. I did have a chat with a fellow from Dubai who was on his way home after an extended trip to the UK. But all in all, my British experience was very limited, but I did scout out a train that would take me into central London in 15 minutes. While I decided not to try it on the way to Luhansk, I may give it a shot on the way home. Even walking around the city for an hour will be a treat.

From London, I flew to Helsinki, Finland. I have heard on good authority that Helsinki is a pretty rocking town, but to be honest, even with the prospect of 17 hours there, my insane fear of missing a connection prevented me from trying to venture into the city. And it was 11pm at night and I was dead tired. I did take advantage of the free Wi-Fi to send some e-mails and check my classes, but soon, I found a quiet bench to lie down and using my laptop case as a pillow managed to get 5 hours sleep.

Helsinki’s airport does not seem to be very busy at any time, but at 6am on a Sunday morning it was quiet as a tomb. The shops were open, and I did manage to get a nice breakfast at the café. Another two hour nap on a more comfortable couch and I still had hours to kill. At least I was somewhat productive and managed to read a huge chunk of a book I need for a series of lectures I am writing.

When I finally made it to Kiev, I had two hours to get through customs and passport control. As some of you may have experienced, this could have been touch and go. But in preparation of the Euro Cup soccer championships next year, Kiev built a new international terminal. “Simply amazing” is the only way I can describe the difference between this year and the last five years. I was through passport control in a record 10 minutes; there were three large and modern luggage stations and customs was large and well staffed. I was chosen for a spot check and was questioned about some things in my suitcase, but even with that delay I was out of there in a half hour. And as I walked into the main terminal building, there was my friend and colleague Ira with my tickets for Donetsk.

Ira and I had a quick meal at the outdoor café near the domestic terminal (which has not been renovated) and caught up on news. And as quickly as I arrived, it was time to board my plane for Donetsk. On the flight I sat next to a Ukrainian woman who was living with her husband in Ohio. She was on her way to visit some relatives near Donetsk and we spent a pleasant hour in conversation. Upon landing, we said our goodbyes and I found Natasha and her husband in the airport. We collected my bag and drove into Luhansk.

At this point I was pretty worn out, but we chatted awhile and watched the brilliant thunderstorms that lit the sky. I napped fitfully in the car and I woke up just as we passed the Metro market just outside of Luhansk and within a few minutes I was in my room.
The University Hotel has undergone some renovations in the last year. They expanded the hotel by moving down the hall; there are now a total of 16 rooms. And my room also had some improvements. They added some electrical outlets (which will allow me to have the satellite box and the TV on at the same time), added a very nice area rug, and a new refrigerator.
My first day in Luhansk started off rainy. I arranged to have breakfast at 10am to allow me to sleep in, but I woke up at 7am and decided to go to the internet café and check in with everyone. After breakfast I went back to the hotel and took a nap for a few hours, had my dinner, and then went down to my favorite café, “The Clearing” to read and have a few beers. Vica, who has worked there many years, was happy to see me and I think that she is now a manager there. But with all of the rain, it was quite chilly so after a few hours I went back to my hotel for a good night’s sleep.

Tuesday was Constitution Day in Ukraine, so I also had the day to myself. I wanted to make sure that Olga, the café manager had time to spend with her family, so I only had breakfast at the café and set out on my day. After the internet café, I went to The Clearing. The waitress was going to bring me a beer—but I declined; it was only 10:30. So I had a few lattes and worked on the class I was writing for Franklin Pierce and waited for my friends Lee and Utoshi to come by.
Lee and Utoshi are friends from Luhansk and we had a pleasant walk around the city and dessert at a nice café in the center of town. Lee has been to the US twice and her English is very good. She works now at a shop in the center. Utoshi works with computers and is a jewelry maker. They have been friends since childhood and have an apartment in the east side of the city. They walked me home after our dessert and went to a birthday party for one of their friends. I relaxed for a while in my room, then read in the café and waited for my friend Galina to call.

Galina and I had a pleasant dinner at the restaurant of her godfather and then walked around for a little while. She lives past the stadium off of Defense Street and we walked between my corner and her corner twice. Finally, it was getting late and we stopped by her apartment to pick up my French press and thermos which I left with her last year. I also had a chance to chat briefly with her brother Sasha, while she looked for my coffee pot—Sasha had moved it and she couldn’t find it! I had to head home before I was locked out of my hotel and she told me she would find the coffee pot and we would meet again to pick it up.

So as I write this, my class starts in less than two hours. Starting today the real work of the summer begins. But more on that latter…

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Summer Institute 2009

I returned to Luhansk for the fourth time in as many years, to teach for Franklin Pierce University’s Summer Language Institute. Despite the short time between when my day job ended and my flight, I arrived in the city reasonably well rested and ready to go.
The flight from Boston to Amsterdam went well, with no major drama in the air, although I lost my phone either on the plane or in Schiphol airport. The loss of the phone was problematic, as it meant that I had lost my address book, with all of my Ukrainian contacts in it. I spent most of my 6 hour layover in Amsterdam trying to track the thing down; I finally gave up and found a place to hunker down with a cup or two of coffee.

The four hour in Kiev was mostly pleasant. It took forever to get past Immigration, for reasons that I could not quite understand. There were plenty of people working in the Foreign Desk and they seemed to moving with some speed. I spent an hour playing peek-a-boo with an adorable little boy, who was behaving excellently in such a crowded, hot, line. Besides the peek-a-boo, we also “flew” some action figures around. Finally, I was waved to the Domestic Desk and was out of there in two minutes.

While making my way past the frenzied sharks that are the Kiev taxi corps, I had to lug my luggage around the airport to the outdoor cafй between the international and domestic terminals. I had a few grivnas left over from last year, enough to get an order of fries and a beer. I was starting to get worried, as they kept announcing in Ukrainian, Russian, and English that many of the domestic flights were being delayed. Without my phone, I would have no way of making new arrangements with my Luhansk University contacts.

As it turned out, the delayed flights were all going to the Crimea. Crimea is a major tourist destination and I was traveling on a Ukrainian holiday weekend. That Sunday was Constitution Day and many people were going to Sevastpol and Yalta for a long weekend. My flight to Donets went without incident, except for having to pay 77grivnas ($10) for an extra 5 kilos of luggage; that was a shocker, as I had packed very light this year.

I arrived in Donetz at 11pm and my colleague Irina and our driver found me pretty quickly. The luggage retrieval in Donetz is the most efficient system I have ever seen. The luggage is taken from the plan and put on a truck. The truck follows the bus carrying the passengers from the runway to the terminal and when we get off the bus, we unload our suitcase and are free to go. Retrieving a suitcase in the domestic terminal in Kiev is a nightmare; the room where you pick up the suitcase is very small (20x30 feet) and suitcases for all of the incoming flights are run past a slow moving, short conveyor. Getting a cart anywhere near the conveyor is out of the question and the queue is more akin to a mosh pit.

The drive to Luhansk is two hours, and I did catnap in the car. Irina and I made plans to meet at breakfast and planned out the week. Because Sunday and Monday were a national holiday, the ladies of the university cafй only had to feed me brunch and I was free to explore the city and fend for myself (and they were free to rejoin their families). I took the opportunity to see how the recession is affecting the city.

I was expecting many more obvious signs of economic distress, but was glad to be wrong. The most obvious change is the closure of the ubiquitous casinos. I latter learned from one of my students that this was a change in the government policy; the national government revoked the licenses for the casinos and is reimbursing the license owners for their cost. The decision seems to be loved or hated along party lines. Supporters of the current government seem to support the decision. Everyone, however, seems to believe that the system needed reform and that too many licenses were issued.

The construction that was ever-present on the Soviet and Defense Streets axes has come to a close, but the projects are completed. The multiplex movie theater is finally finished and seems to be doing a brisk business. One of my students and her mother invited me to view a showing of African violets which is going on in the theater. It was quite nice; my mom used to raise African violets when I was a boy, but these were fancy varieties and quite pretty. The new office buildings have not gotten any tenants, as far as I can tell (although they are still working on the interiors), but the stores seem to be doing a brisk business, even the high end ones.

We started class on Tuesday with the traditional ceremonies. I had an opportunity to meet with Acting Rector Savchenko for a chat and a cup coffee before the ceremonies. He is always quite interested in the workings of the Summer Institute and we caught up on news from both Universities.

Dr. Savchenko then offered to organize a trip to the University’s archeological dig at Olvia (Olbia) on the Black Sea. Olvia was a Greek colony of the Melanesians, founded in the 5th century BC, and went through various incarnations until being abandoned during the early Byzantine period. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance. I will not only be visiting, but told I will participate as well. Since I was not expecting to be doing “dirty work,” I will have to buy a few t-shirts and another pair of shorts. But this is a dream come true for me and I would not miss it for the world.

Irina and I decided a few months ago that we would spend more time dealing with business topics, so I had some preparation to do before class. This week was spent looking at the economic crisis and the US government’s response. The students were quite interested in the causes of the crisis and had some interesting ideas about how Ukraine should be handling the situation. Like any group of people, my students could not agree to a solution.

On Saturday, I spent the Fourth of July playing baseball with my students. Teaching about baseball is a tradition in the Summer Institute and one of my old students even joined us for the game. We were almost rained out, but as nine o’clock rolled around, the rain stopped. The field we normally play at was going to be a muddy disaster, but one of the students knew about an artificial turf field behind the university. It turns out this was the perfect field for a game of baseball; level, clean, and clear marks where we could set our bases. An apartment block stood over the field, and soon we had a bit of an audience. Several sat on the benches around the field, while many watched from their balconies and windows.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Home from Luhansk

Since I made it home I have been constantly on the go, so I haven’t had the opportunity to discuss how the Summer Institute and the trip home went, so here goes, albeit late.

The Summer Institute did go very well this year. We had a much larger group of students this year and their skill levels varied considerably. To keep things sane and to make sure all the students got something out of class, Irina, my Ukrainian teaching colleague split the students into two mixed sections, and making sure we had students of different skill levels in each section. Over the course of the 4 weeks, we went over (besides English) US business culture, US history, American Literature, and American Cinema. The students really seemed to like the curriculum and worked very hard. I can honestly say that we made some real progress. Dr. Kurylo, the Luhansk University President, who came to graduation and knows some of the students, noted the improvement in his speech as well.

This year’s students were a very social bunch. On the third Saturday, they organized a “sashlik” or traditional barbeque at the University farm. I felt kind of bad as they were all working like demons to prepare the food while Mary and I just hung out and chatted. I did help find some firewood, which was the least I could do. There is a cool little river (the border with Russia) and some “frolicking” ensued. The weather was perfect for a swim and we made a few trips there during the day. We also went target shooting in the woods. I am apparently a pretty good shot; I won my first round. Dr. Shevchenko, the acting rector, and my dear friend Victor showed up so the “adults” had a little side get together. Mary and I rode home in one of our students Nissan Armada, which he bought in New York and shipped to Ukraine.

On the last Thursday, we held a combined class in the morning, leaving the afternoon for a trip to the champagne factory near Donetz. This place was pretty neat. It was built into an old gypsum mine, so you have to travel through the old mine shafts to get around. All the while, trucks and other vehicles speed past you moving product or equipment around. It was definitely pretty impressive. Everywhere you look, you see stacks of bottles of sparkling wine (since working on EU membership they can no longer call it champagne) in various stages of aging and fermentation. In the caverns carved out of the mountain, these aging racks go on as far as the eye can see. The tour ended with a tasting, where we sampled various types of their products and I have to say I am a fan of the “brut.” Most Ukrainians seem to like the semi-sweet.

On the way home our van died. Gennady, our Georgian driver, and I tinkered with the thing, but the pulley that held the belt for the cooling system seized up and there was nothing to be done with it but wait the two hours while other cars showed up from Luhansk. We took the opportunity to relax and have a little picnic on the side of the road. I learned a little about Georgia from Gennady (which has come in handy since Russia invaded them last week) and talked shop with Irina. If I had to be stuck on the side of the road, hours from home, in a place where I only had a rudimentary knowledge of the language, that was the place and those were the people to do it with.

Graduation went off the next day without a hitch. The student presentations were great and everybody had a good time. A lot of us just hung out afterwards because we just didn’t want to say goodbye. Eventually, we were shooed out of the hall because Mary and I had an appointment with the CEO of the Luga-Nova Vodka factory.

I had met their CEO, Leonid, at a party in New Hampshire a few months earlier, so after exchanging greetings he took us on a tour of the facilities. The factory is very impressive and an interesting combination of old and new technology. The factory makes many varieties of vodka and each had its own infusion process for flavor. The factory was shut down for the week as all of the workers were sent on vacation in Crimea. The tour ended with a delicious lunch in the worker’s cafeteria, which is probably the nicest one I have ever seen. Leonid takes very good care of his workers and the US could learn a lot from him. After a generous sampling of Luga-Nova’s latest brands, Mary and I went back to the hotel for a well deserved nap.

Saturday morning was spent packing and cleaning up the hotel room. It is truly amazing how much junk accumulates after a month! Mary and I had a lunch date with some of our students, so we met them and walked to the restaurant, which was across the street from the library. I hadn’t been down that street this trip to Luhansk, so I was pretty impressed with the renovations to the library building. Since we had troubles saying goodbye again, the lunch lasted about 5 hours (!) which was fine for me as I was in very pleasant company. No sooner was lunch over than the teaching team went out for a quiet dinner in a very cool Uzbek restaurant.

The next morning, Mary and I flew into Kiev without incident but all of the plans we had made to explore and go to the Buddha Bar were dashed against the rocks of our own exhaustion. We managed to get some dinner in before completely dying for the night in the Hotel Lybid.
The real drama started when we tried to get out of Kiev. Our ride showed up early, which was great, and the ride to the airport was without incident. We got in line to check in, but this guy about three people in front of us took about ½ hour to get checked in. My blood pressure continued to rise as the minutes ticked past. Finally he got out of the way and the two people in front of us breezed past, lowering my blood pressure. Then Mary and I got to the front of the line. The woman takes one look at us and starts talking away in Russian or Ukrainian and everyone around us starts to get angry. Luckily it was not us that they were angry with; Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM) had overbooked our flight; not by one or two, but by, as it appeared, close to 40 people. They finally found someone who spoke English to explain this to us, which means I was number 40 in line when I hit the ticket counter to make new arrangements.

There were a few ways this could have been handled. The best way would have been to have five or six people gather our information and figure out who needed to get to Amsterdam and who did not. Those of us going elsewhere could then find new connections and move on quickly. The second best way would have been to have five or six people deal only with us who got bumped. Then there was option number three- have two people available to deal with an increasingly hostile mob around the kiosk, one of whom was dealing exclusively with a party of 14 French people trying to stay together, and one person who took lots of breaks and seemed incapable of making any decision without first consulting the woman dealing with the French people. And then there were the people who had regular business at the kiosk.

After an hour and a half of jostling for a place in line, I finally got to the woman not dealing with the French people and in pretty amazing time got a flight to Boston via Frankfurt. The best part was that the flight was on Lufthansa in Business Class. I have never had the money to fly business class, so this was a real treat. Business class has big seats, amazing food and drinks, and a pre-flight lounge, which was pretty sweet. The best part was actually getting in two hours earlier than expected. My wife and I had plans for dinner that night and we were concerned that those would be disrupted by our friends at KLM. Susan was a real trooper, rearranging Mary’s limo service back to New Hampshire and staying awake late into the night to stay informed of the situation.

The flight into Boston, after the drama in Kiev, went pretty well. Susan and I had a wonderful early dinner at The Burren in Somerville and within a few hours I settled in my own bedfor a well deserved rest.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Sunday Salon-August 11, 2008

Julius Caesar
Philip Freeman
Simon & Shuster

Julius Caesar has been making a comeback in the last decade. Michael Parenti’s The Assassination of Julius Caesar and Adrian Goldsworthy’s Caesar; Life of a Colossus are just two of the recent treatments of this larger than life figure, almost legendary in his own day, mythic in ours. Freeman’s stated purpose was to parse out the myths from the facts and his Julius Caesar is a brilliant and compelling narrative which will help the general reader realize just how important Caesar was to the way western civilization evolved.

While the current trend in historical studies is to minimize the role of the “great men,” it is hard to ignore the fact that at times some people do change their world, for the better or worse, and without them, that change would not come. Caesar was one of those men. But Caesar knew, as Freeman points out, that his power was not cut from the whole cloth of his charisma. Caesar was dependent on the Roman lower classes for his political and military successes. Bertolt Brecht asks the question in his Questions from a Studious Worker, “Caesar conquered Gaul- Did he not even have a cook with him?” As Freeman shows, Caesar knew his cooks and his men. Growing up in a gritty working class neighborhood, Caesar saw better than his richer contemporaries the problems of the lower classes in late Republican Rome.

The inability of the Roman nobility and their “business leader” allies to deal with the social and political problems created by the rapid expansion of the state created an instability that was to prove as fatal to the Roman Republic as it did to Caesar himself. A century of civil war, of which Caesar’s crossing of the Rubicon was but a small blip, left the state as little more than a resource to be exploited for the personal gain of the various contenders for power. The entrenched interests of the nobility left any notion of reform unacceptable and the increasing violence of the reaction left little room for compromise.

Freeman’s Caesar is neither a hero nor a villain, to use the author’s own definition of the extremes. But his treatment of his subject is sympathetic, and justifiably so. There is little doubt that Caesar’s motives were self serving, but that does not take away from the effect of what he tried to do. The land reform question, which claimed the lives of many reformers before Caesar, was not solved by the time of Caesar’s death, but one does have to ask the question of how Roman society would have evolved had he been successful. Much like how Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal reforms were designed to ameliorate the worst problems of the working classes, Caesar’s land and debt reforms did not radically change the Roman system, but strengthened it. Caesar was a product of that Roman political system, a system in which he was just the most successful manifestation of what competence and charisma could accomplish. To destroy the system would have been to destroy his own place in his society.

Freeman’s Julius Caesar is a good read and well worth the effort of the general and specialized reader. I highly recommend it.