Cavafy, Venizelos, and the National Schism: Revisiting a Debate

Such a writer can never be popular. He flies both too slowly and too high. Whether subjective or objective, he is equally remote from the bustle of the moment, he will never compose either a Royalist or a Venizelist Hymn.
Thus wrote E.M. Forster in the concluding paragraph to his historic essay “The Poetry of C.P. Cavafy,” first published in the Athenaeum on April 25, 1919 (Forster 1919:248). The accuracy of his first prediction might reasonably be questioned, at least if the plethora of translations of the Greek poet’s work that have appeared since Forster first introduced him to the British public nearly a century ago is any measure of “popularity.” On his second prediction, however—that Cavafy “will never compose either a Royalist or a Venizelist Hymn”—Forster was, of course, proved to be absolutely correct.
But if the poet Cavafy never entered the Royalist-Venizelist fray—contrary to Kostis Palamas, for instance, and many of his “generation of 1880” who extolled Venizelos in their work (Argyriou1988:338–341; Kitromilides 2008: 385, 388)—he was perhaps not as “remote from the bustle of the moment” as Forster declared. Indeed, two years earlier (August 6, 1917) Forster himself had described a somewhat different Cavafy in a letter to Robert Trevelyan:

I am very well, and as an escape from the war Alexandria is matchless; or rather escapes; I went to see a Greek poet yesterday whose mind overflowed on the subject of a school at Volo. This school has been the butt of mistaken or malignant criticisms, and a cause celebre resulted which the Greeks of Alexandria, Smyrna, Jannina, and the Tauric Chersonese have been following as best they may. The school triumphed, and its triumph is perpetuated in a very large expensive and red bound book, and in lectures delivered by Kyrios Apostolopoulos and I know not whom else to crowded audiences. But in triumphing it has expired. Its young ladies—for it was a female school—have returned unsmirched but unfinished to their homes.
Lago and Furbank 1983: 266–267 [1]
The cause célèbre over which Cavafy’s “mind overflowed” was the Nafplion Trial in April 1914 of the demoticist educators Alexandros Delmouzos and Demetrius Saratsis, who had implemented, along with other reforms, the use of the demotic in the Higher Municipal Girls’ School in Volos (Savidis 1987:238–239). [2] In 1912, the year in which the two educators were charged—and one year after a new constitution made katharevousa the official state language with the acquiescence of Venizelos–Cavafy had sent a copy of his poems to Saratsis (Savidis 1966:222; Stavridi–Patrikiou1988:103–105), [3] and the following year he sent one to the demoticist journalist Apostolos Apostolopoulos—Forster’s “Kyrios Apostolopoulos” (Savidis 1966:226). [4] The records of the trial were published in a volume in 1915—the “very large expensive and red bound book”, a copy of which rests today in Cavafy’s personal library. [5]
Cavafy’s participation in the “educational demoticism” movement (Dimaras 2008:322) is well documented and indicates a position on at least one chapter in the history of the Venizelos era (Savidis 1985:207–246 and Stavridi–Patrikiou 1988). A possible stance on the poet’s part toward other chapters in that history has in the past been the subject of heated debate. At the safe distance of half a century, and on the occasion of a volume honoring the Venizelos scholar Lily Macrakis, I propose to revisit that debate, in the hope that recent research might suggest some new angles from which to view it, and shed new light on earlier evidence. Our time frame corresponds to the period from Venizelos’ rise to power in Greece to the deposition of Constantine. [6]
The earliest relevant testimony is that of Michalis Peridis in his 1948 biography O βίος και το έργο του Kωνστ. Kαβάφη. According to Peridis:

Cavafy followed with great interest the war of Greece and her Allies against Turkey, the Greek–Bulgarian War, the World War, the great political crises that broke out in Greece and had as a consequence the division of Greece into two camps, the struggle of the Allies against Germany. He was a devout Greek patriot and was proud of his nation, whose moral and material glories he knew as only a few. He was stirred by the liberation of Greek territories and believed that Hellenism is destined to play a role worthy of itself in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the war of the Allies against Germany he was on the side of the former, because he believed that their victory constituted a victory of the peoples.
He admired Eleftherios Venizelos and believed in his policies, and when the Greeks of Egypt were called upon to adhere to the Movement of Thessaloniki, he signed a Declaration of allegiance dated 14 March 1917.
Peridis 1948:104–105
Except for the fact of Cavafy’s signature to the Declaration of allegiance—about which more further on—one hesitates to take Peridis’ testimony à la lettre, not only because Peridis himself was absent from Alexandria during part of the period in question, [7] but also because by his own acknowledgement it was based essentially on impressions:

I draw these conclusions from the conversations that many of his friends and I myself had with him, at different periods, as well as from his general beliefs.
Peridis 1948:104
Stratis Tsirkas and Timos Malanos took up the matter twelve years later, crossing swords in a series of articles published in the Nέα Eστία (Tsirkas 1960a:240–243; 1960b:1022–1025; Malanos 1960: 521–525). [8] Tsirkas, for whom an anti-Venizelist stance on the poet’s part was congruent with his theory of an anti–British Cavafy, saw Peridis’ testimony as “dictated by [his own] Venizelist sentimentality” (Tsirkas 1960b:1024; 1978:146). He brought to bear the account of the sociologist Demosthenis Danielidis, according to whom Cavafy had expressed anti–British sentiments at a gathering in 1925 at the offices of the periodical Γράμματα (Tsirkas 1960a:242–243; 1978:139–140). Malanos, ever eager to counter Tsirkas’ theories, entered the debate by producing testimonies of “old friends” of the poet purportedly showing a pro–British stance. [9] Of these, Nanis Panagiotopoulos—George Seferis once said that this “Alexandrian friend” was “the only one I am prepared to believe when he tells me about Cavafy, whom he knew well” (Seferis 1974:395) [10] —provided a detailed and thoughtful recollection, one more supportive in fact of Tsirkas’ views than of Malanos’, as the former was quick to point out. [11] The following is an extract from Panagiotopoulos’ letter (dated February 27, 1960):

[Cavafy] admired Anglo–Saxon civilization and showed a faint haughtiness with regard to his English education. I don’t think this is incompatible with a critical stance or even hostility, at certain times and for specific reasons, toward English policy.
Before the First Great War, when political passions were not yet intense, such thoughts and feelings were rarely put to the test. When Venizelos was at his height—in 1912–1913—I remember him as pro-English and Constantinian, but without shouting about it. And I don’t find it puzzling if he maintained those feelings after the schism as well, since they were connected somewhat by tradition with two great “beliefs” of his life, Constantinople, the city of his origins and of the vision of the Great Idea, and England, who had raised him.
At the time of Danielidis, it’s possible that the discussion at “Γράμματα” coincided with an ebbing of his pro–English feelings.
Malanos 1960:524–525; Tsirkas 1960b:1024–1025; 1978:145–148 [12]

Tsirkas brought to the debate still other (oral) testimonies which in his view “confirmed that Cavafy remained anti–Venizelist to the end” (Tsirkas 1960b:1025; 1978:148–150).

It was probably on the basis of Panagiotopoulos’ testimony that George Savidis joined the discussion, in the context of a lecture on Cavafy’s “political sense” delivered a week before the April 21, 1967 coup d’état in Athens. He also took the opportunity to acknowledge the limits of the evidence:

[…] although a civil servant at a time not much more innocent than our own, we have no firm evidence about the political convictions of the man who died around one month before the [second] assassination attempt against Venizelos. They tell us he was Constantinian—but I don’t know what that means, when I hear the same about Varnalis, or when I remember Karyotakis.
In 1916, Karyotakis’ father, a state-employed civil engineer from the Peloponnese, on account of having refused to sign the declaration of allegiance to Venizelos’ Revolutionary Government—something that Cavafy in any case did—was dismissed from the service. This injustice probably contributed to the later union activity of Kostas Karyotakis, who temporarily volunteered in the Nοεμβριανά. However, four years later, the day after the electoral triumph of the anti-Venizelists, he wrote to his brother: “Some would think I’m a Venizelist, the way the success has left me almost indifferent.”
Savidis 1985:106 [13]
Despite (or perhaps because of) the apparent impasse, Savidis’ intimation of something akin to “parallel lives” of Cavafy and Venizelos—the near-coincidence of the death of the former and the attempt on the life of the latter—is helpful to our project. It is reinforced by the allusions he makes in other studies: first, to the publication of Cavafy’s “first major political poem” (“Waiting for the Barbarians,” 1904) taking place one year before the revolt at Therisso; and, second, to Cavafy’s “creative apogee” of 1928–1932 falling within Venizelos’ “legendary four-year term” (Savidis 1985:320; also 238). Savidis leaves it up to his reader “to conclude if it is a matter of coincidences or of symptoms.” In the same spirit, I would suggest another parallel—taking into account their closeness in age [14] —in the watershed that the year 1910 marked in the careers of both men: of Venizelos, who left behind the period of his “formative years” as a “Cretan rebel,” studied in depth by Lily Macrakis (Macrakis 1992), [15] as he assumed for the first time, in October of that year, the office of Prime Minister of Greece; of Cavafy, who closed the chapter of his first poetic period, which he himself designated as “before 1911,” just as he composed, also in October 1910, the poem “Ithaka.”
The same month he was writing “Ithaka”—whose political dimension, first discussed by Michalis Pieris (1994:7), is suggested by the poet himself [16] —Cavafy was revising the poem “The Ides of March” (first composed in March 1906), as a “self-comment” found in the poet’s papers, dated 20 October 1910, reveals. [17] Here is the poem in its final version: [18]

Guard, O my soul, against pomp and glory.
And if you cannot curb your ambitions,
at least pursue them hesitantly, cautiously.
And the higher you go,
the more searching and careful you need to be.

And when you reach your summit, Caesar at last—
when you assume the role of someone that famous—
then be especially careful as you go out into the street,
a conspicuous man of power with your retinue;
and should a certain Artemidoros
come up to you out of the crowd, bringing a letter,
and say hurriedly: “Read this at once.
There are things in it important for you to see,”
be sure to stop; be sure to postpone
all talk or business; be sure to brush off
all those who salute and bow to you
(they can be seen later); let even
the Senate itself wait—and find out immediately
what grave message Artemidoros has for you.

A comparison with the earlier version, also extant, shows that the most significant change made to the poem in 1910 [19] was the addition of those verses detailing the obstacles standing between the “man of power” and the message he must read; that is:

be sure to postpone
all talk or business; be sure to brush off
all those who salute and bow to you
(they can be seen later); let even
the Senate itself wait—
An addition that prompted Cavafy’s comment:

Both the talk and the business may be urgent and their postponement harmful (not very probable in any case, to stay within the realm of logic), but they can never be as urgent as Artemidorus’ message, which if ignored brings immediate death.
This is the best; accept it; & send the poem. 20.10.’10.
Haas 1983:98–99 [20]
Could the revision of “The Ides of March” in October 1910, developing that part of the poem which specifies the dangers—absent from the Plutarchean source [21] —that await him who reaches the summit of fame and power, reflect the recent events surrounding Venzelos’ political ascension? The scene calls to mind in particular—in form if not in content—his “momentous speech” of 18 September 1910 in Constitution Square in Athens “which marked his entry onto the national stage in front of a crowd of thousands” (Mazower 1992:898, 901), part of his adoption of what Mark Mazower calls a “messianic role” (Mazower 1992:904). And if the climate of “political messianism” may be related to the Nietzschean thought circulating in “intellectual and artistic circles in Athens” of the time (Mazower 1992:896), then it is perhaps not irrelevant that a personal note in which Cavafy expressed his disagreement with aspects of that thought, at least as it was formulated by “Greek Nietzscheism,” was penned on 10 September 1910:

What a hideous thing these new philosophical ideas on harshness, on the rightness of the predominance of the strong, of the supposedly cleansing work of the struggle for the obliteration of the small and sickly etc.etc. […] Not harshness, but Leniency, Compassion, Compromise, Goodness (these, of course, judiciously, without exaggeration) are both Strength and wisdom.
Savidis 1987:123, 143 [22]
One must, of course, err on the side of caution. However, before leaving the watershed year 1910 we may consider a rather intriguing detail concerning the publication of “The Ides of March.” Despite his decision on 20 October 1910 to “send the poem,” “The Ides of March” was actually published in January 1911, in the third volume of the annual literary journal Kρητική Στοά, [23] edited in Irakleion, Crete by I.D. Mourellos—writer, publisher, and future biographer of Venizelos.
While the first volume of the Kρητική Στοά (1908) contained only Mourellos’ own work, the second (1909), which included works of a number of known writers and scholars including Palamas, Nikos Kazantzakis, Galateia Kazantzaki and Georgios I. Chatzidakis, had earned the praise of the Athenian press (mixed with hymns to the “heroic island of Crete”). [24] In the third volume Cavafy joined this roster, along with others including Aristos Kambanis, Romos Filyras, and Georgios Skliros. [25] The poet was therefore in good company. Nevertheless, his decision to publish in the Cretan journal raises some questions, given that, since the presentation of his work by Grigorios Xenopoulos in the Athenian Παναθήναια in 1903, he had sent poems out for first publication only to Παναθήναια and Nέα Zωή, and from 1911 onwards would limit this kind of collaboration almost exclusively to Nέα Zωή and Γράμματα, both of them Alexandrian journals considered at the time to be Panhellenic in scope and European in standards (Savidis 1966:184). [26]
The first publication of “The Ides of March” in Kρητική Στοά in 1911 was an event curious enough to attract the attention of the editors of the literary page of the Alexandrian newspaper Tαχυδρόμος fifty years later (1961). Indeed, they were prompted to address a query to Mourellos himself, whose reply was printed in their 29 October 1961 edition:

The poem by the Alexandrian poet C.P. Cavafy “The Ides of March” was first published in Crete, in a journal that appeared in Irakleio. The editors of our literary page contacted the publisher of the journal, the writer Mr. I. Mourellos, to learn how the poem reached his hands. Mr. Mourellos, in a letter of 17 October [1961], informs us that he met the poet in Alexandria, on a trip there, and that the poet personally gave him the “Ides of March”. [27]
Some scattered evidence supplements our knowledge of Mourellos’ acquaintance with the poet. He was one of the first twelve recipients of the second “pamphlet” of Cavafy’s poems (“Poems 1910”), whose circulation began in April 1910 and was something of a “family affair,” given the relatively few number of copies sent to “known personalities from Greece” (Savidis 1966:155). [28] A copy of the second volume of the Kρητική Στοά found in the poet’s library bears the manuscript dedication “To the friend Mr. C. Cavafy in remembrance of our acquaintance. Giannis Mourellos” (Karabini-Iatrou 2003:8, entry 1.30). [29] Mourellos does not, however, reappear on the lists of recipients of Cavafy’s collections, although he apparently stayed in contact with him: in addition to the volume of Kρητική Στοά containing Cavafy’s poem (Karabini-Iatrou 2003:8, entry 1.31), a copy of his short–story “Allons–chauffeur”.Mια ιστορία από τον πόλεμο, undated but probably c. 1911–1915, is found in the poet’s library, bearing the less personal dedication “To Mr. Cavafy with many greetings. I Mourellos” (Karabini–Iatrou 2003:32, entry 3.34). And in 1928 it was Mourellos who, through the pages of another of his Cretan journals (Nεοελληνικά Γράμματα), related the testimony of their common friend Takis Kalmouchos on how the “great” Cavafy perceived the first “discovery” by critics of his own work:

And about that matter of who first discovered Cavafy. The poet himself recently, bidding farewell to his friend and our friend, the artist Takis Kalmouchos, told him:
—You’re going to Crete; you’re going to Athens. Be sure to find Mrs. Kazantzaki. Give her my love, my esteem for her and for her work. She is the first person who understood my work and who spoke seriously about my writings in public.
That is more or less what the great Cavafy says and thinks.
Mourellos 1928:988 [30]
In 1910 Mourellos was not yet writing the “hymns” to Venizelos—to quote Lily Macrakis (1992:518)—that would be his later biographies of 1936 (Aγάπησε ποτέ; Oλόκληρη η προσωπική και καθαρώς ιδιωτική ζωή του Bενιζέλου) and 1964 (Bενιζέλος: Oι αγάπες του, οι χαρές του, οι οδύνες του), based in part on interviews with Venizelos that took place in 1934. But it was soon afterward (1911) that he launched the publication of the Nέα Eφημερίς, the first Cretan bi-weekly newspaper (Droulia-Koutsopanagou 2008) and one that expressed the views of the Liberal Party in Crete. Correspondence from 1922 shows Mourellos at that time to be a “close friend” of Venizelos, who shared important thoughts and plans with him, and through him with other Cretan “friends” (Svolopoulos 1988:127). [31] And in a letter from Mourellos to Venizelos dated 28 September 1926, in which he informs him of the imminent appearance of his new periodical Nεοελληνικά Γράμματα, Mourellos reminisces about the earlier Kρητική Στοά, which Venizelos appears to have known:

In fifteen days I will be bringing out the first issue of my new literary journal, Nεοελληνικά Γράμματα. Do you remember my Kρητική Στοά? It was famous. I believe I will soon make my Nεοελληνικά Γράμματα famous as well. [32]
Seferis, in commenting on “The Ides of March,” noted the image with which the poem left him:

I saw an unknown poet, his book in his hand, swimming through the crush of the crowd, in order to reach that summit, that Success, that Caesar.
Seferis 1974:417
The reader will decide whether the notion of the poet Cavafy, as a modern-day Artemidorus, delivering through the pages of the Kρητική Στοά a message of caution to the triumphant Prime Minister of Greece as he embarked upon his new career, belongs to realm of the reality or the imagination. But let us move, in both time and space, to events of April 1915 [33] in Alexandria, and specifically to Venizelos’ celebrated visit to that city following his resignation, the previous month, over the King’s refusal to commit troops to the Dardanelles campaign. An eyewitness account of the visit is given by Cavafy’s friend Penelope Delta: [34]

The Greeks of Alexandria gave him an unprecedented welcome. The local authorities, both the Sultan Hussein and the English, received him with extraordinary honors. The streets, the windows, the balconies were filled with people, blue and white flags waving in all the streets, and on the whole route of the procession, from the windows and the balconies, they showered him with flowers. From the balcony of our office where we were standing, and even before his car appeared, we heard from a distance the noise, the cheers of thousands of Greeks who had descended to the streets to greet the creator of Great Greece. From a distance, as it turned from Muhammad-Ali Square into Cherif-Pacha Street, we saw the sea of people drawing near. The car was moving slowly, because in front, in back, from the marchepieds on the sides hanging on to the hood, the wings, the doors, people, hanging like grapes, shouting “hurrah!”, were hindering its progress, while from the street, the balconies and the windows flowers poured like rain into his car and onto his route. Mikes Salvagos, standing up on the left marchepied, was waving his hat, shouting, the veins in his neck and face swollen from all the cheering.
A German woman married to a Franco-levantine, Margot Bacos, who was on our balcony and who of course had no kind feelings for Venizelos, said as she saw Salvagos:
Quelle nécessité de se démener ainsi? La réception faite à votre grand homme est unique. La présence de Miké Salvago sur le marchepied n’ajoute rien, ni ses cris non plus. La colonie grecque entière le proclame. Les exagérations ne peuvent que nuire à ce beau triomphe
Delta 2002:11–12; also Gialourakis 2005:174–178
To which we may add this detail from another eyewitness, Antonios Sachtouris, General Consul of Greece in Alexandria at the time:

The human sea of Greeks was something indescribable. Foreigners told me that it reminded them of the triumphant welcome of a conquering Roman Emperor.
Kitroeff 1989b:132
Although it seems unlikely, we do not know if Cavafy was among the crowd of some twenty-five thousand Greeks who descended into the streets of Alexandria in April 1915 to welcome Venizelos (Kitroeff 1989b:132). What appears certain is that he did not meet Venizelos during the duration of the two-week visit that followed. The poet is not mentioned in the accounts of the gatherings that brought Venizelos together with the Alexandrian Greeks, be they at the home of Delta’s brother Antonis Benakis, where Venizelos lodged during his stay (Delta 2002:12–14) and where Cavafy was a frequent guest, [35] or, more significantly, at the literary circle “Nέα Zωή” with whom his close ties are well known. [36] What Cavafy did do shortly thereafter (May 1915) was to revise and re-publish an old poem, one written some twenty years earlier, [37] centered on the opposition between secluded “wise men” attuned to the messages of imminent events and the “people” (in the sense of “crowds”) outside in the street who are unable to hear. This was “But The Wise Perceive Things About to Happen,” inspired during Cavafy’s early period by the mysticism associated with Apollonius of Tyana (Bowersock 1983:181, 184–187; Haas 1984:213–214), but which must have taken on new connotations in the historical and political context of the spring of 1915:

But the Wise Perceive Things about to Happen

For the gods perceive future things, ordinary people things in the present, but
the wise perceive things about to happen.

Philostratus, Life of Apollonios of Tyana, viii, 7
Ordinary people know what’s happening now,
the gods know future things
because they alone are totally enlightened.
Of what’s to come the wise perceive
things about to happen.
Sometimes during moments of intense study
their hearing’s troubled: the hidden sound
of things approaching reaches them,
and they listen reverently, while in the street outside
the people hear nothing whatsoever.
The timing of the revision and (re-)publication of “The Ides of March” and “But the Wise Perceive Things About to Happen,” two poems on political wisdom [38] which the poet placed side by side when he later established the thematic ordering of his poems, presents an intriguing coincidence with two moments of popular adulation—one might say, illustrations of political messianism—in the career of Venizelos. On a different level, and in a very different way, others of Cavafy’s poems appear to reflect, with varying degrees of focus, the climate of the period of the national schism. Taking as a starting point the first serious indications of a rift between king and politician in 1913, [39] we observe a concentration of historical poems composed through 1917 that present the motif of political division between members of a dynasty, a race, or a religion, often against a backdrop of foreign power–play. And when we focus on the reverberation of the schism in Alexandria, culminating in the call for the adherence of all Egyptian Greeks to the Provisional Government of Thessaloniki, we come across an expression of violence on a level rarely attained in Cavafy’s historical poetry, as personal and dynastic politics fade before communal confrontation.
Certainly the poem which most closely reflects the schism, as well as the “escalation of the interventions of the foreign powers in [Greece’s] internal conflicts” as Giannis Dallas has noted (Dallas 1974:151), is “Envoys from Alexandria” from June 1915, set at the time when the rival Ptolemaic brothers Ptolemy VI Philomitor and Ptolemy VIII Evergetis were vying for the throne of Egypt just as the Roman army was sealing its supremacy in the Hellenized East:

Envoys from Alexandria

For centuries they hadn’t seen gifts at Delphi
as wonderful as those sent by the two brothers,
the rival Ptolemaic kings. But now that they have them,
the priests are nervous about the oracle. They’ll need
all their experience to decide
how to express it tactfully, which of the two—
of two brothers like these—will have to be offended.
And so they meet secretly at night
to discuss the family affairs of the Lagids.

But suddenly the envoys are back. They’re taking their leave.
Returning to Alexandria, they say. And they don’t ask
for an oracle at all. The priests are delighted to hear it
(they’re to keep the marvelous gifts, that goes without saying)
but they’re also completely bewildered,
having no idea what this sudden indifference means.
They do not know that yesterday the envoys heard serious news:
the “oracle” was pronounced in Rome; the partition was decided there.

But earlier, in “The Battle of Magnesia” (November 1913), Cavafy had imagined the reaction of Philip V of Macedon upon learning of the defeat of Antiochos III of Syria at the hands of the Romans: though embittered that Antiochos had refused him assistance in his own fight for survival, he cannot forget that “though enemies, they do belong to our race.” In “Exiles” (October 1914, unpublished) he had portrayed exiled Byzantine Greeks plotting their return to power, with the Photian schism possibly in the background [40] —Dallas made the connection here with the “flare–up of the modern political schism of the urban class parties” in Greece (Dallas 1974:150)—and in “Of Dimitrius Sotir (162–150 B.C.)” (March 1915), had related the efforts of the son of Selefkos IV Philopator, while a hostage in Rome, to resurrect Syria by reclaiming his throne from usurping relatives. Later, in “In the Year 200 B.C.” (June 1916), [41] he set the refusal of the Spartans to participate in Alexander’s Persian campaign:

a pan–Hellenic expedition without
a Spartan king in command
was not to be taken very seriously.

against the expansionist triumphs—according to a policy not unlike that of Venizelos as Savidis points out [42] —of the expedition:

And from this marvelous pan–Hellenic expedition,
triumphant, brilliant in every way,
celebrated on all sides, glorified
as no other has ever been glorified,
incomparable, we emerged:
the great new Hellenic world.
And in “Aristovoulos” (October 1916) he staged an episode of domestic intrigue against a background of foreign power–play, with the attempt of Herod I the Great to dislodge the descendents of the Hasmonean dynasty (and his own relatives by marriage) from the throne of Judea. [43]
The establishment of the Provisional Government of National Defense in Thessaloniki in October 1916 brought the schism to the Greeks of Alexandria in a very real way. Already at the time of Venizelos’ visit in the spring of 1915 Alexandrians who were close to the politician felt unease at the prospect of having to choose sides. Penelope Delta speaks of divided loyalties among some of her siblings and of her own bitterness and uncertainty:

Our convictions were quite mixed. We all wanted […] “the two Betas [=Bενιζέλος/Bασιλιάς].” Antonis was very much a Royalist, although at the same time Venizelist. Alexander was much less a Royalist and more a Venizelist. […] We, somewhat embittered by the disagreement “of the two Betas”, leaned rather more toward Venizelos, without knowing the situation very well.
Delta 2002:14
The memoirs of a visitor to the Benaki home—and to Cavafy’s salon on the rue Lepsius—a year later reveal a climate of increasing division. Philippos Dragoumis, Vice–Consul at the Greek Consulate of Alexandria from March to August 1916 (and clearly of Royalist leanings [Dragoumis 1984]), [44] convinced that “nine tenths of the Greeks in Egypt are Venizelist and fanatically in favor of the Entente” (Dragoumis 1984:35), had at first hoped to make them “see the situation more calmly” (Dragoumis 1984:29–30). By June he found that “[these] gentlemen avoid me as if I had the plague, because they’re afraid people might say they talk with a Germanophile!” (Dragoumis 1984:80). Even the Benaki siblings—who by his account were now maintaining at least the appearance of a neutral stance—were subject to similar accusations:

In the evening [12 June 1916] I dined at Antonis Benakis’ home. Benakis, who was once a Venizelist, as was Mrs. [Penelope] Delta, now sees clearly the man’s character. Here he maintained a very dignified position. He didn’t speak at all, but neither did he hide his opinion, most simply he avoided getting mixed up in all the gatherings of the Alexandrians. They accuse him, along with Mrs. Delta and her husband [Constantine Deltas], of being Germanophile, because according to the opinion of the Greeks, no one can be just Greek, but they have to follow blindly some foreign faction. If you’re not with the Entente and Venizelos, you’re a Germanophile!
Dragoumis 1984:87
By October the situation in Alexandria was one of schism. [45] Alexander Kitroeff details the events that ensued within the Greek community:

The “national schism” in Greece created a profound political division among the Greek community in Egypt. When Venizelos, having resigned as prime minister, formed the “provisional government” in Salonika in [October] 1916 he demanded the public allegiance of all Greek citizens. […] The pro–Venizelist Greek Community of Alexandria succeeded in obtaining the consent of all 26 Greek Communities in Egypt, plus three in the Sudan and one in Eritrea, for convening a Congress with the purpose of expressing support for the Salonika Government. The Congress, at which all of the communities were represented, issued a declaration to the effect that, as far as it was concerned, King Constantine had already been deposed, was answerable to the country’s justice and had incurred the «damnation» of Hellenism. The Congress also called upon the British government to give formal recognition to the Salonika Government.
Kitroeff 1989a:50–51 [46]

The wording of the declaration, which received the unanimous approval of representatives and the “large crowd of people” in attendance, is worth noting:

[The Congress] declares King Constantine deposed from the Greek Throne, delivering him to the justice of the Fatherland and the damnation of Hellenism. [47]
The next act, which directly involved Cavafy along with some thirty thousand other Egyptian Greeks, took place in March 1917. I again quote Kitroeff:

The supporters of the monarchy kept a low profile during this period although their press criticised Venizelos’ “divisive policies.” In March 1917, after Britain had formally recognised the Salonika government as the sovereign Greek government, the Residency in Cairo […] called upon [Greek citizens] to sign lists recognising the new, sovereign Greek government. According to newspaper reports, 25,319 signatures were collected within a month, this figure representing 80% of the total number of adult male citizens who were required to sign.
Kitroeff 1989a:51; also Soulogiannis 2005:279
The “Proclamation”, signed by Commander–in–Chief Archibald James Murray, giving a deadline of 5 April, was published in the Alexandrian Tαχυδρόμος on 6 March. [48]
It was Tsirkas who undertook to place the poet’s signing of the Declaration of allegiance within this historical and political context. In addition to the two Congresses, he cites the hastily convened meeting of the Greek Chamber of Commerce on 22 March, and the words of its President, the staunch Venizelist Demetrius Theodorakis, delivering the British ultimatum:

The registration of Greeks [in Egypt] adhering to the government of Thessaloniki has already been taking place for a fortnight and the number of declarations, both in our city and in all of Egypt, swells each day, demonstrating in a resounding way the feelings of the Greek communities. But, Gentlemen, the British Residency has set a deadline for receiving these declarations, after which we don’t know what decisions it intends to make. We must therefore hasten to make declarations in due time, for we are not simply going to show that the Liberals are in the majority, but are going to prove that those with opposing beliefs number so few as to be counted on the fingers of our hands.
God help us […] if we are considered unworthy of our noble ancestors, and the hatred and disdain that the King’s perfidy has incited spreads unjustly to all of us. Note well that the Greek name itself has been put in danger on his account, and we are obliged to defend it and purify it. We must all make a stand and renounce the indecencies, the deceit, and the perfidy that have polluted Greek land.
Tsirkas 1958:471; Theodorakis 1950:17–18
Tsirkas considered it important to establish whether Cavafy signed the declaration before or after the British “ultimatum,” noting that Peridis gave the date 14 March without indicating whether this was by the old or the new calendar; in either case he saw the poet’s late subscription, given his position as a civil servant, as a sign of “admirable fortitude” (Tsirkas 1958:471). Although Peridis gave no source for the specific date he cites, he apparently had seen the “form of [Cavafy’s] adherence to the Government of Thessaloniki”, for such is included on a catalogue of items that he “took” from the poet’s archive after his death. [49] From the “official” lists of adherents as these were printed, in alphabetical order, in the newspapers Tαχυδρόμος and Oμόνοια, we may establish that Cavafy’s name does not appear on the “First List of the Greeks of Egypt Adhering to the National Movement of Thessaloniki” printed between 16 and 22 March [50] (17 March in Tαχυδρόμος for names beginning with the letter “K”), [51] but on the “Second List of the [Greeks] Adhering to the National Movement of Thessaloniki from Alexandria and Moudirias Becheras” printed in Oμόνοια on 23 March, [52] the day after Theodorakis’ speech. If Cavafy did in fact sign the declaration on 14 March (necessarily by the new calendar, as by the old one this would be 27 March), [53] this would have between the ultimatum issued by Murray and Theodorakis’ speech to the Chamber of Commerce (22 March).
Whatever the case may be, it is instructive to read in the 17 March edition of Tαχυδρόμος—the one in which Cavafy’s name could have appeared but did not—the front page editorial entitled “What the Referendum Will Prove,” outlining the newspaper’s purpose in printing the names of signatories. The editor of Tαχυδρόμος and Oμόνοια was Sotiris Liatsis, a Venizelist with whom Cavafy maintained a friendship; as a matter of fact one of the oral testimonies cited by Tsirkas was that of Liatsis’ wife, according to whom the two men “were old friends but they argued over politics. Cavafy, you see, was anti–Venizelist” (Tsirkas 1960b:1025; 1978:149). [54] The newspaper goes to great lengths to preclude any accusation that in printing the names it aimed at “coercing” those who were reluctant to sign. I quote long excerpts from the text for reasons that I hope will become evident:

The publication of the names of those Greeks of Egypt who have adhered to the Provisional Government of Thessaloniki by applying for the protection of the British Authorities in that country does not aim at coercing morally the followers of the deposed king, but at proving both to the authorities of the country and to the Government of the National Triumvirate and to the germano–levantines of Athens, that the vast majority of the embodiment of Hellenism in that country […] by responsible, signed declarations, recognize as their national government the one that is provisionally established in Thessaloniki. […] The proclamation of General Murray left full freedom of choice to the Greeks of Egypt.
Not one Greek was pressured or threatened by the Proclamation. Proof of this is the virulent as well as underhanded campaign taken up by the followers of the deposed king the day following the publication of the proclamation, seeking through the circulation of malignant rumors and the creation of imaginary dangers to deter the more naive of the Liberals from going forward with the declaration indicated by the proclamation.
[T]he referendum, which the publication of the names […] will constitute, not only documents the patriotism of Hellenism in Egypt and its dedication to him who […] is already struggling to save, along with those liberated, Greece herself from the tyranny of the traitors. It also constitutes a brilliant manifestation of gratitude toward the Powers, benefactors of Hellenism.
Of course, as an indirect consequence of the triumphal referendum of Hellenism in Egypt will come the separation and differentiation of the followers of the deposed king by the subjects of the National Government. How many will remain of them, however, we may assuredly deduce from the number and the social importance of those who have by now adhered to the Provisional Government amongst those Greeks who justly or unjustly were considered Royalists or hesitated to declare their political convictions. It was terrorism that was exercised against the Liberals by those who, disrespectable of the country’s authorities, unworthy of their generous hospitality, slanderers of their liberal feelings, saw to it to portray the acceptance of British protection as some sort of recantation and national betrayal […]. [55]
At least one Royalist close to Cavafy differed with this view: Timos Malanos. [56] Writing many years later in his Aναμνήσεις ενός Aλεξανδρινού (1971), he incorporates his account, which unwittingly adds ammunition to Tsirkas’ argument, into a guided tour of the city:

On the other side, after crossing the breadth of Averoff Street, we come to a large building connected more than any other with the history of modern Greece. Precisely on the first floor of that building was the well–known law office of Georgios Roussos, which during the period of the national schism would become the political office of Venizelism. It was there that the decision was made, for political reasons, for the printing and distribution of a historical document. And I call it historical, although I could call it, as many others did, coercive. For God help the Egyptian Greek who would ignore it. God help him who would not declare, by placing his signature on it, that he sides with the Government of Thessaloniki. He risked the danger of being considered an enemy of the Allies and consequently of the British, who in essence held the keys of Egypt. That is why that document–terror, which only a few headstrong people refused in the end to sign, became the grounds for passions in the community to be enflamed even more. In any case, now that those troubled years belong to the past, I don’t think there’s reason any more to hide the truth. And the truth is that the majority of Greek Egyptians at that time were with the Government of Athens. Consequently, those who took the initiative for a referendum of this kind intentionally distorted the conviction of the majority, and perhaps their own as well, in order to protect, as they claimed, the economic interests of the [Greek] colony.
Malanos 1971:54–55
Speaking of the “political convictions” of poets, Savidis (1985:106) once declared that “between the feeling a poem conveys to me, and the information contained in an ‘official record of compliance,’ I prefer to believe the poem.” Tsirkas, discussing Cavafy’s subscription to the Declaration of allegiance in March 1917, wondered how it could be possible “for there not to be in his papers some evidence showing under what circumstances he decided to sign”, and suggested that the poem “A Great Feast at the House of Sosibius,” written two or three months later (June 1917), might be just that (Tsirkas 1978:19–20): [57]

A Great Feast at the House of Sosibius

Lovely was my afternoon, extremely
lovely. The oar grazes, very lightly,

the Alexandrian sea, sweetly calm; caresses it.
We need a respite like this: our toils oppress us.

Let’s look at things innocently, serenely, every now and then.
But evening’s fallen, regrettably. Look, I drank up all the wine,

not a single drop remains inside my flask.
It’s time we returned to other things, alas!

A celebrated house (the famed Sosibius and his nice
spouse; lets put it that way) invites us to a feast.

We must go back again to all our dirty tricks—
and once more enter the dreary fray of politics. [58]

Tsirkas commented:

Under the name of a favorite of Ptolemy IV Philopater of Egypt, who from his protector’s kin killed off uncle, mother, brother, wife and sister, as well as a hostage, the Spartan king Kleomenis […], can be heard by association, to my ear at least, sosibius – salvage – salvago. Mikes K. Salvagos, who would soon become president of the Greek Community (1919–1948), was, during the years of the First World War, Venizelism’s most powerful personality in Egypt. It was he who gave the welcoming introduction to Eleftherios Venizelos in April 1915 in Alexandria, when he came to tour the Greek communities before the movement of Thessaloniki. The Salvagos salon, which was governed by his “nice spouse” Argini, daughter of Emmanuel Benakis, was the choicest and the most “exclusive”; decisions were made therein which sealed the fate of Hellenism abroad.
Tsirkas 1978:19–20
Tsirkas’ hypothesis is compelling—we remember the cheering Mikes Salvagos hanging from Venizelos’ car—and the poem is certainly one of the most revealing of Cavafy’s understanding of political intrigue. I would, however, argue that the poem that best reflects the events of March 1917 in Alexandria is one that was (re–)written that very month. This is “A Great Procession of Priests and Laymen”: [59]

A Great Procession of Priests and Laymen

A procession of priests and laymen—
each walk of life represented—
moves through streets, squares, and gates
of the famous city, Antioch.
At the head of this imposing procession
a handsome white–clad boy
carries the Cross, his arms raised—
our strength and hope, the holy Cross.
The pagans, lately so full of arrogance,
now reticent and cowardly,
quickly slink away from the procession.
Let them keep their distance, always keep their distance from us
(as long as they do not renounce their errors).
The holy Cross goes forward; it brings joy and consolation
to every quarter where Christians live;
and these God–fearing people, elated,
stand in their doorways and greet it reverently,
the strength, the salvation of the universe, the Cross.

This is an annual Christian festival.
But today, you see, it is more conspicuous.
The state is delivered at last.
The vile, the appalling Julian
reigns no longer.

For most pious Jovian let us give our prayers. [60]

Tsirkas himself had detected a “wind of pogrom blowing” in this poem (Tsirkas 1958:310). Indeed, it is the climate of violence that characterizes Cavafy’s imagined triumphal procession of Christians of all callings who, behind their emblem of “power,” sweep through the “streets, squares and gates” of Antioch at the news of the death of Julian the Apostate, terrorizing the city’s pagans, before so “arrogant” and who now “shrink back.” The confrontation of two communities, the end of the reign of a “vile and appalling” king, and the “deliverance” of the “state”:

The state is delivered at last.
The vile, the appalling Julian
reigns no longer.

And most significantly, embedded in the Christian’s cries and highlighted through Cavafy’s trademark use of parentheses, the demand for recantation, that is to say, conversion to the majority dogma:

Far from us, far from us may they stay
(as long as they continue to deny their error).
In an article published in the newspaper Tο Bήμα on 21 July 1973, on the eve of another referendum, George Savidis commented on the current state of affairs in Greece with a good dose of Cavafian irony:

What a delusive old man is that Cavafy of yours! For as long as he was alive he had friends confirm that “he will never compose either a Royalist or a Venizelist hymn,” and now here he is, immortal for forty years, showing up to support the “given” (I almost said “god–given”) and one and only Constitution up for vote, with the frayed ends of a youthful (1899–1901) poem of his [“Che fece… il gran rifiuto”]. Because I don’t think there’s any doubt that “THE GREAT YES” that we see posted on “streets, squares, and gates of the famous city, Antioch,” as well as on all the walls in the rest of the Greek State, belongs to Cavafy.
Savidis 1965:157
Our inquiry has, in a sense, come full circle.


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[ back ] 1. First published in Anniah Gowda 1969:131–132; now in Lago and Furbank 1983: 266–267. See also Pinchin 1977:105 and Savidis 1985:178 and 1987:238–239. Forster goes on to speak of Cavafy and his poetry. Surprisingly, there is no mention of this important document in the recent edition of the Forster–Cavafy correspondence (Jeffreys 2009).
[ back ] 2. Savidis 1987:238–239. On the Nafplion Trial see Dimaras 2008:322–324. The trial followed a polemic headed by a local bishop whose words formulated the views of the opposing side: “In the conscience of all the people, demoticism, anarchism, socialism, atheism and freemasonry are one and the same” (Dimaras 2008:323).
[ back ] 3. As Stavridi–Patrikiou notes (1988:105), Cavafy’s gesture suggested “if only indirectly, his positive stance toward the demotic movement”.
[ back ] 4. Cavafy continued to send his collections to Apostolopoulos through the time of Forster’s letter.
[ back ] 5. H Δίκη του Nαυπλίου (16–28 Aπριλίου 1914). Στενογραφημένα Πρακτικά 1915. In Karabini–Iatrou: 2003:10 (entry 3.5).
[ back ] 6. The well–known debate over possible echoes of the Asia Minor Disaster in Cavafy’s poetry—in “Those who Fought for the Achaian League,” but also in “To Antiochus Epiphanis” and the unfinished “Ptolemy the Benefactor (or Malefactor)” as established by Renata Lavagnini (Cavafy 1994:127–147)—thus falls outside the scope of our inquiry.
[ back ] 7. Peridis met Cavafy in late 1914 or early 1915; from May 1916 to August 1919 he lived abroad (Peridis 1948:99–100).
[ back ] 8. Now in Tsirkas 1978:134–150, and (in part: see below) Malanos 1963:171–176. Tsirkas had first broached the issue in 1958 (Tsirkas 1958:471), and Malanos in 1959 in Gialourakis 1959:31–32.
[ back ] 9. Malanos 1960:523–525.
[ back ] 10. See also Karantonis 1965:230–235. In his correspondence with Panagiotopoulos, Seferis urges his friend to locate and send him his notes on Cavafy, which Panagiotopoulos does in 1946 (Arvanitakis 2006:182–188). No mention is made, however, of the matter of the schism or of Panagiotopoulos’ letter to Malanos.
[ back ] 11. Perhaps this explains why, in re–printing the article in 1963 (Malanos 1963:171–176), Malanos chose not to include the letters.
[ back ] 12. Tsirkas (1978:145) reports Panagiotopoulos’ words to him personally on the matter: “Yes, Cavafy was Constantinian; but how did you know? […] Once, in a conversation in later years (1923), Cavafy, referring to my father’s strident Venizelism, said to me: ‘Your father knows what o’clock it is’ [in English in the text], meaning that my father knew which way the wind was blowing and that, practical man that he was, Venizelism was dictated to him by the circumstances and by his interest, whereas in this case, it was really a matter of a quixotic Venizelism, of excessive sincerity.”
[ back ] 13. Some years later (1974), Robert Liddell (1974:192–193) would write: “[Cavafy] told Mr. Malanos that he had been deeply moved by the Balkan war of 1912–1913; yet it was unimportant to his writing self, for it left no trace on his work. It is still a matter of dispute whether he were on the side of Venizelos or of Constantine I when Greece was divided between them; it cannot therefore be important to discover which side he took (if any). If it had mattered to him, he would have let us know. He had friends on either side.” His view was echoed more recently by Peter Jeffreys, who states (Jeffreys 2005:183) that “On the question of whether or not Cavafy was pro Venizelos or pro monarchy, much ink has been spilt and to no avail. Malanos and Peridis recall discussions where Cavafy allegedly praised Venizelos; and Tsirkas aligns him with the anti–British agenda of the Royalists.” Jeffreys’ statement is in illustration of his more general evaluation that “Cavafy’s erratic behavior has made it almost impossible to state with any certainty what his political views and opinions may have been regarding the Greek nation”, which continues: “As to the Asia Minor Catastrophe and its ramifications for Greek culture, all that may be concluded is that Cavafy took refuge from the Balkan chaos in the Hellenic past, where, with the detachment of a historian and the indifference of an aesthete, he could safely craft his poetic chronicles” (Jeffreys 2005:92). As we shall see below, Savidis has demonstrated that lack of evidence of Cavafy’s participation in contemporary debates does not preclude there being “traces left on his work”. Clearly, these are not questions that are easily generalized or dismissed.
[ back ] 14. Cavafy (1863) was born one year before Venizelos (1864). A similar parallel between Venizelos and Palamas (born 1867) is suggested by Argyriou 1988:339, based, however, on a shared ideology (“Their common ground is the ‘Great Idea’”).
[ back ] 15. Original title: Cretan Rebel: Eleftherios Venizelos in Ottoman Crete. See also Macrakis 2008.
[ back ] 16. In an unsigned review in the March–April 1930 issue of Aλεξανδρινή Tέχνη (“Περιοδικά. Eφημερίδες” 1930:122)—unsigned material discussing the poet’s work in this “Cavafian journal” was likely “inspired, if not actually dictated, by the Poet” (Savidis 1987:366; 1985:26; see also 74)—the critic Andreas Karantonis is rebuked for having characterized Cavafy as a “refuser of life”. In rebuttal of his “unfounded” view, verses from five poems, including “Ithaka”, are cited, with the comment that they “seem to be concerned with ensuring action.” The other four poems (“The Satrapy,” “Theodotos,” “On the March to Sinopi,” and, significantly, “The Ides of March”) all have a distinct political dimension.
[ back ] 17. On Cavafy’s “self-comments” see Haas 1983 and 2010.
[ back ] 18. Except where noted, all translations of Cavafy’s poems are by Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard (Cavafy 2009).
[ back ] 19. Cavafy also deleted a reference found in the earlier version to another historical Roman (Decimus Brutus, named in the Plutarchean source: Caesar 64), thus enhancing the symbolic value of his own “Caesar” and of the poem in general. All variants will be included in the critical edition of Cavafy’s poems in preparation by Renata Lavagnini.
[ back ] 20. In the original the first paragraph is in Greek and the second in English.
[ back ] 21. In Plutarch, Caesar 64–65 (Perrin, ed. 1919) mention is made of “the press of numbers about [Caesar]” (64) and “the multitude of people who engaged his attention” (65); Artemidorus is “crowded away all along the route” (65). The “talk and business” and “saluting and bowing” are of Cavafy’s invention.
[ back ] 22. Elsewhere Savidis (1985:152–154) makes the connection with the poem “Theodotos,” which also holds a warning to a symbolic Caesar, casting doubts upon the very notion of a “superior” man.
[ back ] 23. The third volume of Kρητική Στοά was probably meant to appear at the end of 1910, but actually appeared at the beginning of 1911. Cavafy considered the poem as being “of 1910,” along with “The City” and “The Satrapy” (Savidis 1966:86).
[ back ] 24. Mourellos cites laudatory excerpts from Aθήναι, Aκρόπολις, Eικονογραφημένη, Mούσαι, Nέον Άστυ, Nουμάς, Πινακοθήκη, and Xρόνος “in lieu of a prologue” to the third volume.
[ back ] 25. It is interesting to note that on 14 September 1910 Mourellos had invited (Venizelos’ future rival) Ion Dragoumis to contribute to the same volume of the Kρητική Στοά in which Cavafy’s poem appeared, as a letter preserved in Dragoumis’ correspondence reveals (Gennadeios Library, Ion Dragoumis Correspondence, Item 1597): [ back ] Mr. Dragoumis, [ back ] I would consider it my honor if this year the third volume of the “Kρητικά Στοά” were fortunate enough to obtain your honorable collaboration. [ back ] I don’t believe that you will deny me a small amount of your noble toil for the modest structure I am trying to build upon the ruins of the temple of Knossos. [ back ] I don’t believe that you will deny me this, and, awaiting your prompt reply, [ back ] I give you a brotherly handshake, [ back ] Giannis Mourellos [ back ] It was around the same time (23 September 1910) that Dragoumis was corresponding with Cavafy, asking him to consider contributing to a planned newsletter of the Education League; Cavafy’s reply came on 12 October 1910 (Ioannou 1983:540–544).
[ back ] 26. Savidis (1966:184) quotes Kostas Ouranis: “It is no exaggeration to claim that from 1909 to 1918 the center of Greek letters had moved from Athens to Alexandria […] The two Alexandrian journals, Nέα Zωή and Γράμματα, were truly European journals’“. Savidis notes elsewhere (1985: 140) that “from 1909 to 1918 the poet collaborated exclusively with the two Alexandrian journals Γράμματα and Nέα Zωή.” Details of the first publication of Cavafy’s poems in Savidis 1966:301–323.
[ back ] 27. Tαχυδρόμος 29 October 1961. The reference is given by Daskalopoulos 2003:683. As Daskalopoulos points out, the article mistakenly refers to the poem “Things Ended”; the correction is made here accordingly.
[ back ] 28. The other “personalities” who received the pamphlet were Ion Dragoumis, Nikos Kazantzakis, G.N. Filaretos, Kostas Varnalis, Marika Kotopouli, Mitsos Myrat, B. Gavrielidis, Petros Vlastos, Myriotissa, Kyveli Adrianou, Leantros Palamas, Pavlos Nirvanas, Galateia Kazantzaki (155–156).
[ back ] 29. The pages of the volume are only “partially cut.”
[ back ] 30. In Savidis 1995–1996:260. The note’s purpose was to dispute Xenopoulos’ repeated claim to the honor of having first discovered Cavafy. The article by Galateia Kazantzaki—a contributor to the Kρητική Στοά—to which Cavafy reportedly was referring was published in Nουμάς in February 1910, about the time Mourellos met Cavafy. With the hindsight provided it seems possible that Galateia Kazantzaki had been the link between Mourellos and the poet.
[ back ] 31. Svolopoulos (1988) quotes from a letter of 22 October 1922 from Venizelos to Mourellos (see also Llewellyn–Smith 2008:189); see the National Research Foundation “Eleftherios K. Venizelos,” Digital Archive of the Foundation: dossier 268–27 (along with other correspondence with Mourellos).
[ back ] 32. National Research Foundation “Eleftherios K. Venizelos”: dossier 327–046. Several years later (21 August 1933) Mourellos was vehemently criticized as a “hypocrite” and called “not at all likeable” by Anna Papadopoulou in a letter to Venizelos (dossier 327–046); Papadopoulou, sister of Pavlos Melas, was at the time the famous “Soldier’s Mother” who had established a sanatorium near Tripoli. From a letter from Mourellos to Papadopoulou dated 25 May 1933 (dossier 359–21) it appears that Venizelos helped finance the publication of Mourellos’ Iστορία της Kρήτης.
[ back ] 33. According to Gialourakis (2005:176, 178) the visit to Egypt took place from 19 April–5 May 1915.
[ back ] 34. Penelope Delta was added to the list of recipients of Cavafy’s poetic collections in 1914 (Savidis 1966:227). On their friendship, see below.
[ back ] 35. On Cavafy’s friendship with the Benakis siblings (Antonis and Penelope) from before 1906 see the testimony of Malanos and Sareyannis (Gialourakis 1959:35–37). See also Sareyannis 1964:39, Liddell 1974:186–187, and Stavridi–Patrikiou1988: 133, who cites a relevant letter of Cavafy to (his future heir) Alekos Sengopoulos (30.1.1919). According to G.I. Ioannou (Dragoumis 1984:179), “Antonis Benakis belonged to C. Cavafy’s circle. Al. Sengopoulos found work in Benakis’ company thanks to Cavafy’s intervention. When Antonis Benakis left Alexandria to settle in Athens he tried to convince Cavafy to follow him, but Cavafy refused.”
[ back ] 36. See Stavridi-Patrikiou 1988:61–71 on Venizelos’ “opening” towards the demoticists and discussions with the intelligentsia (including Skliros) during his visit. A detailed account of his meeting with the “Neozoistes”, including his declaration that “the time has come for one to say clearly to the Greek people that it’s own true language is the demotic,” was printed in the next issue of Nέα Zωή (“Tο πέρασμα του Bενιζέλου από την πόλη μας και μια συνομιλία του με τη Nεοζωΐστικη ομάδα,” Nέα Zωή 1914 [=1915]:379–382); Cavafy is mentioned in the editors’ introductory comments as one of three writers who “when Nea Zoe appeared with her periodical […] showed interest in our modern literature”; his poem «Theodotos» was first published in the same issue. Cavafy had first entered the circle of “Nέα Zωή” in 1907 (Savidis 1966:184) and attended its cultural gatherings.
[ back ] 37. The poem was first written in 1896 and published in 1899 with the title “Things Imminent.”
[ back ] 38. The political dimension of “But the Wise…” was underscored by Savidis (1985: 319): “The poet, if he is wise, may […] be not only a poeta politicus but also poeta strategicus. […] Wisdom—strategic or historic, therefore political as well—is the result of the study of the present and of the past […].”
[ back ] 39. According to Veremis and Gardikas–Katsiadakis (2008:116), the “most serious indication” of the “irreconcilable rift” between Constantine and Venizelos that would follow was their disagreement over the conclusion of the Greek–Serbian alliance in May 1913.
[ back ] 40. See Mendelsohn’s notes to the poem in Cavafy 2010:529.
[ back ] 41. In the poem’s original title of 1916—“Without Lacedaimonians”—the refusal of the Spartans was emphasized; the definitive title “In 200 B.C.” apparently dates from the poem’s publication in 1931.
[ back ] 42. Savidis 1985:344 suggested a connection with Venizelos’ policy of expansion: “Indicative of Cavafy’s national but also historical consciousness is […] that the poem he dedicated to [Alexander’s] just expedition occupied him from 1916 to 1931—in other words, from the year of the national schism up to the legendary four–year term of Venizelos”; and 1987: 412: “Thus Cavafy, with his Consantinopolitan roots, his Alexandrian upbringing, and his cosmopolitan experience, gradually became, from an amateur, marginal poet of Hellenism abroad, the central poet of major Hellenism—of the new, vast Greek world which Alexander the Great opened, which the Byzantines defended, which Venizelos encouraged, and which today still, despite all of its giving ground, reaches from Cyprus to Tashkent and from Canada to Australia. It is the world of the Common Greek language.”
[ back ] 43. See Mendelsohn’s notes to the poem in Cavafy 2010:403. A later poem on sibling power struggles is “Anna Komnina” (1918); Savidis 1985:343 and 325 suggests that the publication of “Dimaratos” in 1921 and of “John Kantakouzinos Triumphs” in 1924 may be related to the experience of the schism and its aftermath.
[ back ] 44. Philippos S. Dragoumis was the son of the former Prime Minister Stephanos Dragoumis and brother of Ion Dragoumis. Cavafy—owing probably in part to his friendship with Ion—received him at least seven times between May and August; beyond matters related to the educational reform there is no record of political discussions taking place between the two men. Indeed Dragoumis, preoccupied as he was over events in August, notes that he “went to Cavafy’s to forget the situation” (155). At the end of 1916 Cavafy received in his salon another younger visitor, Napoleon Lapathiotis, who was accompanying his father, an emissary of Venizelos’ Provisional Government, to Alexandria. Here again the discussions were literary in nature (Lapathiotis 1986:154–155; see also Daskalopoulos-Stassinopoulou 2002:82 and Vassiliadi 2008).
[ back ] 45. See Kitroeff 1989b: 133: “Only after Venizelos’ return to Greece and the formation of the provisional Government of Thessaloniki did the climate of a spirit of national unity in Egypt change to a climate of national schism, which remained until 1920.[…].”
[ back ] 46. The Congress of 17 December 1916 was attended, according to the published minutes, not only by the representatives of the Communities, but also by “a large crowd of people” of various callings. The declaration received universal approval: “The above resolution is endorsed unanimously by the gentlemen representatives who proceed to signed it, in the midst of the general approval of the People in attendance during the public session.” (Congress of 17 December 1916:5, 9). A first Congress had been held on 5 November 1916 “in support of the work of the Provisional Government in Thessaloniki of National Defense” (Tsirkas 1958:471).
[ back ] 47. Congress of 17 December 1916:8.
[ back ] 48. “H Προκήρυξις του Aρχιστράτηγου Mώρραϋ δια την εγκατάστασιν των προξενικών αρχών Θεσσαλονίκης”, Tαχυδρόμος 6 March 1917.
[ back ] 49. Karabini-Iatrou 2003:147: “Tο δελτίον της προσχωρήσεως προς την κυβέρνησιν της Θεσσαλονίκης” (under the rubric “Περίδης πήρε”).
[ back ] 50. Printing of names had begun on 13 March but was apparently not based on “official” lists.
[ back ] 51. Dates given here are by the new calendar.
[ back ] 52. Daskalopoulos – Stassinopoulou 2002:82; Oμόνοια 23 March 1917 (front page).
[ back ] 53. The uncertain indication “14/27? March” in Tsirkas 1963:693 should therefore be corrected to 1/14 March.
[ back ] 54. Tsirkas 1978:94–106 gives a lengthy discussion of the relationship between Cavafy and Liatsis.
[ back ] 55. Tαχυδρόμος 17 March 1917.
[ back ] 56. Malanos 1960:523 presents as proof of Cavafy’s Venizelism the fact that he never sided with Malanos’ own royalism: “during the years of the schism, when passions divided the Greek colony of Egypt, I was also, for sentimental reasons, against the Allies and naturally against Venizelos. And yet Cavafy, who knew this, never, but never sided with me in our conversations.” In a note he clarifies his position (525): “More precisely, my Venizelism changes into Constantinianism from the moment the Allies start using violence to force Greece to come out on their side. Constantine then arises as a symbol of resistance.”
[ back ] 57. He earlier had suggested a connection with “Aimilianos Monai, Alexandrian, A.D. 628–655” (Tsirkas 1958:471).
[ back ] 58. Translation by Daniel Mendelsohn (Cavafy 2010).
[ back ] 59. The poem was first written in 1892 with the title “The Cross”; it was re–written in 1917 with the same title and published in 1926 with its definitive title. Given the distance of twenty–five years from its first composition, it is safe to presume that the poem as we know it was essentially written in 1917. See Haas (1986:157–164).
[ back ] 60. I have substituted the word “state” (in Greek, “κράτος”) for “empire” in the translation.