Cavafy’s Life 1863–1882

April 20, 1863: Constantine Peter Cavafy is born in Alexandria, Egypt, the ninth child of Peter Ioannis Cavafy (1814–70) and Harikleia Photiadi (1834–99). His father is a wealthy businessman, founder of P. J. Cavafy and Co., an import-export business with offices in London and Alexandria. A prominent member of the Greek community, both he and Cavafy’s mother descend from the Greek upper class in Constantinople.

1870: Peter Cavafy dies, precipitating the family’s economic crisis. P. J. Cavafy and Co., the family business now run by Cavafy’s brothers, struggles to survive.

1872–77: Harikleia, forced to rent the grand family home on Rue Cherif, leaves Alexandria for Liverpool and later London, taking along her youngest sons. Constantine attends school in England, where English becomes his primary language. P. J. Cavafy and Co. goes bankrupt, and the family loses its fortune.

1877–82: Return to Alexandria. Harikleia sets up her household on Ramleh Street. Cavafy continues his studies independently, then enrolls in the Hermes business lyceum (high school).

Constantine P. Cavafy
First photograph without a moustache, undated.
Peter Ioannis Cavafy
Only extant picture, undated, taken in Geneva
Cavafy Archive, S.N.H.
Three Cavafy boys
Photograph dated 1873 taken in Liverpool
Left to right: John, age 12; Paul, 13; and Constantine,10.
Cavafy Archive, S.N.H.
Picnic at a wealthy Greek home in Alexandria. Photograph, undated, of the Benakis and Choremis families. E.L.I.A.