An insight into Greek poetry through Cavafy

An insight into Greek poetry through Cavafy

Athens pays tribute to celebrated bard Constantine Cavafy whose verses inspired a whole generation of Hellenes, both in his native Alexandria and in Greece.

Athens welcomes the opening of an archival space dedicated to Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), widely considered the most distinguished Greek poet of the 20th century. Cavafy was born in Alexandria, lived in England for much of his adolescence, and later moved to Constantinople. During his lifetime, Cavafy was an obscure poet, living in relative seclusion and publishing little of his work. His acclaimed poems – from Waiting for the Barbarians, where leaders in ancient Greece prepare to yield their land to barbarians, to  Ithaca, where the poet evokes Homer’s Odyssey to stress the importance of the journey rather than the destination – Cavafy’s work and contribution to the literary landscape of his time cannot be understated. His singular knack of distilling the essence of ancient epics into the modern era is what lends Cavafy’s poetry its timeless appeal.

Cavafy Archives, Onassis Foundation

The recently inaugurated Cavafy Archive, located on Frynichou Street in Plaka, hosts more than 2,000 items, including manuscripts of poems, hand-compiled printed editions, works in prose, articles, studies, and notes by the Alexandrian poet, along with his personal archive rich in correspondence and photographs. The archive also boasts almost 1000 books from his library and a collection of works of art referencing the poet’s legacy, his life and continual impact on contemporary art, literature, and poetry. Political, sensual, profound, evocative of Homeric lyricism and yet inextricably modern, the internationally acclaimed poet compiled his work systematically,  creating a unique literary and personal archive.

One hundred and sixty years after his birth, Constantine P. Cavafy gains a new home, from which the unceasing sensibility of his timeless poetry shall now be transmitted, President of the Onassis Foundation, Anthony S. Papadimitriou, notes.

Since its inauguration, the Cavafy Archive has been constantly enriched with new belongings and exhibits, including many of the poet’s original furniture and decorative items from his Alexandria home. The objective is not to use this space as a Cavafy ‘museum’ but to allow the visitor to grasp the essence of the spiritual and material life of the poet as much as possible, with no further artificial sensationalism. The space conveys the ambience of the rooms where Cavafy lived, alongside his furniture and poems, with a handful of documents from the artistic milieu of Alexandria that contextualize the political and artistic landscape of Alexandria during Cavafy’s lifetime.

Cavafy Archives, Frynichou, Plaka

Eva Manidaki and Thanassis Demiris of Flux-office, who undertook the design and curating of the Archive’s venue, note: “We were thrilled to be involved in such a challenging project, as we had to bring such an eminent poet’s obscure reality to light. The core concept behind the design is to superimpose the existing building with a second, implicit layer, in the form of fragments, shrouded in complexity. Each of the items and accessories become part of a new narrative. The three distinct spaces of the Archive serve as a vessel for the memory of the poet’s personal life—his relationship with light, shade, textures, and colours. The Cavafy Archive reserves access to a garden currently under construction, bearing thematic planting arrangements that draw inspiration from Alexandria’s flora, as described in his poems.”


Parallel to this exciting celebration of Cavafy’s life and literary contribution, the Cavafy House in Alexandria, where Cavafy spent most of his life and created a major part of the work that elevated him to the status of a globally-renowned poet, will open its doors in 2024. His home has been restored and rearranged by the Hellenic Foundation for Culture to shed light on Cavafy’s relationship with the city of Alexandria.

The Cavafy Archive

Frynichou 16B,  10558 Plaka

Tel: +30 210 3713 000

Working hours: Tuesday, Thursday & Saturday, 11:00-18:00
Free entrance

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