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Constantine Cavafy, the famous poet of modern Greece, was born in Alexandria. From an early age he was taught English, French and Greek. He completed his education in the Hellenic Educational School of Alexandria. He lived in Liverpool and in London for a while and then he went on to Constantinople. He travelled to many countries and had great difficulty in adapting professionally. At the age of 26, having returned to Alexandria, he was appointed to the Ministry of public works, where he remained at the post of Vice Superintendent for 34 consequent years, until 1922. In 1932 he got cancer in the larynx and in April 1933 he died.

As a person he was reserved, encephalic, sensitive, with a distorted erotic passion. His poems tend to be more of prose pieces. His themes are classified into philosophical, historic and hedonistic. Among his characteristic poems are “the Walls”, “the Windows”, “Trojans”, “Ithaca”, “Thermopiles”, “Anticipating the barbarians”, etc.

Cavafy was enchanted by the myths of classic antiquity; however, he could only use unexploited parts of them, so he sought for a mythology that had not yet been utilized . That was Hellenistic and Byzantine mythology, a mythology that suited him, since it expressed a world of decay, a world that lived in the agony of decadence and desperation. He felt that agony himself too. In that agony he found the reflection of his personal experiences.

The language that Cavafy uses illustrates his eccentric style. It is a strange puristic Greek that approaches Romaic a lot, but at the same time it retains its official structure. The structure of his poetic work is distinctive. He narrates through “myth”, the historic theme he selects and finishes with the moral of the poem, which is always something strong and full of emotion. He draws his conclusions simply, naturally and concisely.

As I.M. Panagiotopoulos writes in his book about Egypt, "for the people who love poetry Alexandria is almost incomprehensible without Cavafy". This natural and human poet has made this city his feud, by living through present time all its past glory, as he has greatly written in one of his famous poems :

“...Bid farewell to Alexandria that departs;

and kiss Alexandria goodbye, for you lose it forever”…


1.Where is Alexandria situated and what is its population?

2.Who was the founder of the city? When?

3.Write a small description of the history of the city (in brief) and its changes through the years

4.Would you like to visit Alexandria one day? Why (not)?

5.What fascinates you most about this world-famous city?

6.Do you know a poem by Cavafy? Which one is it and why do you like it most?

Research, compilation, and editing in the English language by IRENE DOURA - KAVADIA

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