Memoirs of Hadrian
by Marguerite Yourcenar
In BriefThe fictionalised autobiography of the Roman Emperor Hadrian, as though written at the end of his life, in the form of an extended valedictory letter to his eventual successor, Marcus Aurelius. Hadrian reflects on his accession, his military victories and stewardship of the empire; meditates on the ecstasies and tragedies of his personal life; and provides insights into his character, philosophy and legacy.
Why you should read itYourcenar's novel is a monumental achievement, going further than any writer before or since in developing the conceit of a first person narrative set in the ancient world. No other novel, not even Robert Graves's "I, Claudius", is quite so believable in the insights it offers into the mind of a figure from ancient history.