Memoirs of Hadrian


In 1981, Marguerite Yourcenar became the first woman to be elected to the prestigious French Academy, a measure of the extraordinary place she holds in the history of French letters. This historical novel, unique in its approach to a figure from Roman history, creates a vivid and historically accurate portrait of the 2nd-century Roman Empire under Hadrian’s rule. The work is a fictional first-person narrative in the form of Hadrian’s letters–mostly to his nephew Marcus Aurelius–written shortly before his death. Contemplative and analytical recollections of his accomplishments, his hopes for Rome, and his personal relationships, the letters reveal Hadrian to be a highly intelligent, often wise man, conscious of the great power he wields.

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