Yourcenar, unlike Hadrian, has read Marcus Aurelius's "Meditations"
and, by having Hadrian engage in this lengthy passage of introspection in the context of his letter to Marcus Aurelius, is able to set him up as the progenitor of some of the younger man's ideas. Self-examination is at the heart of the "Meditations," originally prepared as a series of notes, "Marcus Aurelius Antoninus to himself," for his own self-improvement.
"If thou art pained by any external thing," Marcus Aurelius reminds himself, "it is not this that disturbs thee, but thy own judgement about it." Marcus Aurelius even forsees his mentor's slide into oblivion:
"Words that everyone once used are obsolete, and so are the men whose names were once on everyone's lips...even Augustus, Hadrian and Antoninus are less spoken of now than they were in their own days."