Born in Alexandria into a Greek merchant family with offices in England. After the death of his father in 1870 the family moved to Europe, residing in Liverpool from 1873 to 1877 Thereafter he lived in Alexandria except for three years ( 1882-5) in Constantinople, where he wrote many poems, some in English, and began definitively to identify himself as a homosexual. Worked for a time as a journalist and as a broker and finally took up a post as a civil servant in the Ministry of Public Works which he kept until retirement. Passed his leisure hours in reading, gambling and satisfying his sybaritic appetites. Considered his mature poetry to have been written after 1910 and resisted attempts to have his juvenilia reprinted. Printed all his poems privately in limited editions and took little interest in the fame he was beginning to acquire. Generally considered the greatest Greek poet of modern times. Not a writer who encourages or rewards attempts to scrutinize his personal life, of which little is known.
Few modern poets have equalled Cavafy's capacity, in E. M. Forster's famous phrase, for 'standing absolutely motionless at a slight angle to the universe'. Yet even this characterization seems too grandiose to describe the greatest Greek poet of modern times. ' I only speak,' Cavafy wrote in a personal note of 1902, 'but I don't think my words useless. Someone else will act. And my words -- coward that I am -- will assist his energy. They clear the ground.' Cavafy's words do indeed clear the ground, repeatedly dismantling the fragile and precarious edifices which the human heart builds as protection against