Greeks in Egypt
|1.000 (Number higher when counting those who have taken Egyptian citizenship)|
|Regions with significant populations|
|Greek · Egyptian Arabic · French|
|Greek Orthodox Church
minorities of Sunni Islam · Judaism
The Greeks of Egypt or Egyptiotes (Greek: Αιγυπτιώτες) have had a thriving presence in the country from the Hellenistic period until the aftermath of the Egyptian Revolution of 1952, when most were forced to leave. Indeed the special and unique relationship of these two ancient civilizations dates back thousands of years and continues to some capacity to this day. The cultural and academic contributions of Egyptian and Greek civilizations to each other is well documented and agreed upon by historians, academics and scholars.
- 1 Antiquity
- 2 Arab era and Ottoman Caliphate
- 3 Modern times
- 4 Notable Greeks from Egypt
- 5 See also
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Egyptian civilization is one of the earliest cultures, dating back to at least 3150 BC, and eventually Greeks made their way to living in Egypt since the 7th century BC. Herodotus visited Egypt around the 4th century BC and claimed that the Greeks were one of the first groups of foreigners that ever lived in Egypt. Diodorus Siculus claimed that Rhodian Actis, one of the Heliadae, built the city of Heliopolis before the cataclysm; likewise the Athenians built Sais. While all Greek cities were destroyed during the cataclysm -possibly referring to the memory of the events of the much older Minoan eruption-, the Egyptian cities including Heliopolis and Sais survived.
First historical colonies
In 7th century BC, after the Greek "dark ages" from 1100-750 BC, the city of Naucratis was founded in Ancient Egypt. It was located on the Canopic branch of the Nile river, 45 mi (72 km) from the open sea. It was the first and, for much of its early history, the only permanent Greek colony in Egypt; acting as a symbiotic nexus for the interchange of Greek and Egyptian art and culture.
At about the same time, the city of Heracleion, the closest to the sea, became an important port for Greek trade. It had a famous temple of Heracles. The city later sank into the sea, only to be rediscovered recently.
From the time of Psammetichus I onwards, Greek mercenary armies played an important role in some of the Egyptian wars. One of such armies was led by Mentor of Rhodes. Another such personage was Phanes of Halicarnassus.
Rule of Alexander the Great (332–323 BC)
Alexander the Great conquered Egypt at an early stage of his great journey of conquests. He respected the pharaonic religions and customs and he was declared by the priest, Pharaoh of Egypt. He established the city of Alexandria. After his death, in 323 BC, his enormous empire was divided among his generals. Egypt was given to Ptolemy I Soter, whose descendants would give Egypt her final royal dynasty - a glittering one, albeit largely Greek in flavor. Its capital was the city of Alexandria. Ptolemy added legitimacy to his rule in Egypt by acquiring Alexander's body. He intercepted the embalmed corpse on its way to burial, brought it to Egypt and placed it in a golden coffin in Alexandria. It would remain one of the famous sights of the town for many years, until probably destroyed in riots in the 3rd century AD.
The Ptolemaic dynasty (323 – 30 BC)
The initial objective of Ptolemy's reign was to establish firm and broad boundaries to his newly acquired kingdom. That led to almost continuous warfare against other leading members of Alexander's circle. At times he held Cyprus and even parts of mainland Greece. When these conflicts were over, he was firmly in control of Egypt and had strong claims (disputed by the Seleucid dynasty) to Palestine. He called himself king of Egypt from 306 BC. By the time he abdicated in 285 BC, in favour of one of his sons, the Ptolemaic dynasty was secure. Ptolemy and his descendants showed respect to Egypt's most cherished traditions - those of religion - and turned them to their own advantage. Alexandria became the centre of the Greek and Hellenistic world and the centre of international commerce, art and sciences. The Lighthouse of Alexandria was one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World while during the reign of Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the Library of Alexandria was the biggest library in the world until it was destroyed. The last Pharaoh was a Greek princess, Cleopatra VII, who took her own life in 30 BC, a year after the battle of Actium. With her defeat, the Roman Empire achieved a new completeness - encompassing the entire Mediterranean. Egypt remained under Roman control for the next six centuries.
Greco-Roman and Byzantine Egypt
Under Greco-Roman rule, Egypt hosted several Greek settlements, mostly concentrated in Alexandria, but also in a few other cities, where Greek settlers lived alongside some seven to ten million native Egyptians. Faiyum's earliest Greek inhabitants were soldier-veterans and cleruchs (elite military officials) who were settled by the Ptolemaic kings on reclaimed lands. Native Egyptians also came to settle in Faiyum from all over the country, notably the Nile Delta, Upper Egypt, Oxyrhynchus and Memphis, to undertake the labor involved in the land reclamation process, as attested by personal names, local cults and recovered papyri. It is estimated that as much as 30 percent of the population of Faiyum was Greek during the Ptolemaic period, with the rest being native Egyptians. By the Roman period, much of the "Greek" population of Faiyum was made-up of either Hellenized Egyptians or people of mixed Egyptian-Greek origins. By the time of Roman emperor Caracalla in the 2nd century CE, the only way to differentiate Alexandria's "Greeks" from "genuine" ethnic Egyptians was "by their speech."
While commonly believed to represent Greek settlers in Egypt, the Faiyum mummy portraits instead reflect the complex synthesis of the predominant Egyptian culture and that of the elite Greek minority in the city. According to Walker, the early Ptolemaic Greek colonists married local women and adopted Egyptian religious beliefs, and by Roman times, their descendants were viewed as Egyptians by the Roman rulers, despite their own self-perception of being Greek. The dental morphology of the Roman-period Faiyum mummies was also compared with that of earlier Egyptian populations, and was found to be "much more closely akin" to that of ancient Egyptians than to Greeks or other European populations. Victor J. Katz notes that "research in papyri dating from the early centuries of the common era demonstrates that a significant amount of intermarriage took place between the Greek and Egyptian communities".
Arab era and Ottoman Caliphate
||This section may stray from the topic of the article.|
Greek culture and political influence continued and perhaps reached its most influential times during the Ottoman Caliphate, which witnessed many Ottoman Sultans and Pashas from Greek ancestry rule over the Ottoman Empire in general, and Egypt in particular. Some of the more notable Greeks during Ottoman times were Mimar Sinan, the world-renowned and historically respected architect, although it must be noted that he may have been of Armenian descent. Other notable Greeks in Egypt during the Ottoman period included Damat Hasan Pasha who was the Grand Vizier to the Sultan, from Morea, Greece. Another interesting and influential Greek during this period is Misac Palaeologos Pasha, a member of the Byzantine Palaiologos dynasty and the Ottoman commander in the first Siege of Rhodes (1480). He was an Ottoman statesman and Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire from 1499-1501. One of the most noteworthy Greeks of Egypt is Raghib Pasha who served as Prime Minister of Egypt. Raghib Pasha was born in Greece to Greek parents. Although there is a long list of Greeks who were quite influential during the Ottoman Caliphate, Ibrahim Pasha perhaps is the most well known, who served as the Grand Vizier to Sultan Suleyman from 1520-1566. Many Greek Muslims fled their native Greece for Libya, Turkey, Lebanon and Egypt during the reign of Sultan Abdul Hameed II shortly before the collapse of the Caliphate out of fear of violence from the Patriarch.
In 1907 the official census showed 62,973 Greeks living in Egypt. By 1940 Greeks were numbered at about 250,000. The Greek community in Alexandria lived around the Church and monastery of Agios Savvas. In the same area there was a guest house for Greek travellers, a Greek hospital and later a Greek school. The Orthodox bishop was based in Damietta in the church of Agios Nikolaos.
In Cairo, the first organised Greek community was founded in 1856, with the community based in three main neighbourhoods: Tzouonia, Haret el Roum (Street of the Greeks), and in Hamzaoui. The patriarchate was based in Haret el Roum, near the church of Saint Marcus. The monastery of Saint George, in Old Cairo still survives. The monastery is surrounded by a huge wall and topped by a stone tower. Within its walls there is a Greek hospital, a school and housing for the elderly and poor.
In addition to the Greek communities of Alexandria and Cairo there were the organised Greek communities of El Mansurah, founded in 1860, the Port Said founded in 1870, Tanta in 1880, and the community of Zagazig in 1870. There were fifteen smaller communities across Egypt and mainly around Cairo and Alexandria. In Upper Egypt the oldest ancient Greek community is the one of Minia which was founded in 1862.
The contribution of the Greek population in the financial life of Egypt was very important. The first banks in Egypt were created by Greeks like the Bank of Alexandria, the Anglo-Egyptian bank (Sunadinos family / Συναδινός) and the General Bank of Alexandria. Also, it was the Greek agriculturists and farmers that first systematically and with scientific planning, have cultivated cotton and tobacco. They improved the quantity and quality of the production and have dominated the cotton and tobacco commerce doing large exports. Notable families that dominated the commerce of tobacco were the Salvagos (Σαλβάγκος), Benakis (Μπενάκης), Rodochanakis (Ροδοχανάκης) and Zervoudachis (Ζερβουδάκης). The tobacco breeds used for the cigarettes manufacturing was purely of Greek origin such as Kyriazi freres. A thriving commerce between Greece and Egypt was thus established. Other areas of interest for the Greeks in Egypt were, foods, wine, soap, wood crafts, printing industries.
In the food industry, the macaroni industries of Melachrinos (Μελαχροινός), Antoniadis (Αντωνιάδης) were well known. Another example was the cheese and butter production of Archyriou (Αργυρίου), Roussoglou (Ρουσσόγλου) and Paleoroutas (Παλαιορούτας). Chocolate-Biscuits and Toffee producers were: Daloghlou (Δαλόγλου), Roussos (Ρούσσος), Repapis (Ρεπάπης); Oil-soaps- vegetable fats (Salt & Soda) producers like Zerbinis (Ζερμπίνης) were based in Kafr Al-Zayat. There were many Greek theatres and cinemas. Major Greek newspapers were Ta grammata (Τα Γράμματα), "Tahidromos"(Ταχυδρόμος), and Nea Zoi (Νέα Ζωή). The Greek community in Egypt has produced numerous artists, writers, diplomats and politicians. The most famous of them was the poet Konstantinos Kavafis (Κωνσταντίνος Καβάφης), also the painter Konstantinos Parthenis (Κωνσταντίνος Παρθένης).
During the Balkan wars, the Greek communities of Egypt sent volunteers, funded hospitals, and accommodated families of the soldiers. During World War II (1940–1945), more than 7,000 Greeks fought for the Allies in the Middle East. 142 men died. Their financial contribution reached 2,500 million Egyptian pounds. After the Suez Crisis the British and French laborers left while the Greeks stayed.
Patriarchate of Alexandria
The emergence of a Greek aristocracy that consisted of rich industrialists, commercants and bankers has led to the great legacy of Greek-Egyptian philanthropism. These benefactors have donated large amounts for the building of schools, academies, hospitals and institutions in both Egypt and their mother land Greece. Mihail Tositsas has donated large amounts for the building of the Athens University, the Amalio Orphanage and the Athens Polytechnic. His wife Eleni Tositsa has donated the land for the National Archaeological Museum of Athens. George Averoff has also helped for the building of the National Technical University of Athens, the Evelpidon Military Academy and the donation of the Greek battleship Georgios Averoff to the Hellenic Navy. Emmanouél Benakis has helped for the building of the National Gallery of Athens while his son Antonis Benakis was the founder of the Benaki Museum. Other major benefactors include Nikolaos Stournaras, Theodoros Kotsikas, Nestoras Tsanaklis, Konstantinos Horemis, Stefanos Delta, Penelope Delta, Pantazis Vassanis and Vassilis Sivitanidis.
The exodus of Greeks from Egypt started during and after the revolution of 1952. With the establishment of the new sovereign regime of Gamal Abdel Nasser, rise of Pan-Arab nationalism and the subsequent nationalisation of many industries from 1957 and afterwards, thousands Greeks were forced to abandon the country. Many of them immigrated to Australia, the United States, Canada,South Africa, Western Europe, and Greece. Many Greek schools, churches, small communities and institutions subsequently closed. The Nasser regime was a major disaster for the Greek diaspora which afterwards has dwindled from many thousands to a handful. The dangerous situation in the Middle East has also deteriorated the conditions for the Greeks that stayed back in Egypt. It is estimated that between 1957 - 1962 most of the Egyptiot Greeks have left the country.
Today the Greek community numbers officially about 1,000 people although the real number is much higher since many Greeks have changed their nationality to Egyptian; In Alexandria, apart from the Patriarchate, there is a Patriarchal theology school that opened recently after 480 years being closed. Saint Nicholas church in Cairo and several other buildings in Alexandria have been recently renovated by the Greek Government and the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation. Saint George's church in Old Cairo is undergoing restoration to end in 2014. During the last decade, there has been a new interest from the Egyptian government for a diplomatic rapprochement with Greece and this has positively affected the Greek Diaspora. The Diaspora has received official visits of many Greek politicians. Economic relationships have been blossoming between Greece and Egypt. Egypt has been recently[when?] the centre of major Greek investments in banking, tourism, paper, the oil industry, & many others. In 2009, a five year cooperation-memorandum was signed among the NCSR Demokritos Institute in Agia Paraskevi, Athens and the University of Alexandria, regarding Archeometry research and contextual sectors.
Notable Greeks from Egypt
Greeks of Cyrene -area corresponding to modern eastern Libya- are also included, as during antiquity it held close relations to the Egyptian kingdoms, and at some points, also used to be a part of the Ptolemaic kingdom. The presence of an asterisk (*) next to a person's name, denotes that the person was born outside of Egypt, however the most part of this person's life or most important work occurred while in Egypt.
7th - 1st century B.C.E
|Roman and Byzantine era
1st - 7th century C.E.
|Arab Caliphate &
7th - 19th century 
20th - 21st century
|Battus I of Cyrene
Ruler, 7th century B.C.E., Cyrene
|Hero of Alexandria
Engineer, 1ος century B.C.E. or C.E., Alexandria
|Constantinos Vardalahos *
Mathematician, 1755 - 1830, Cairo
Fashion designer, 1904 - 1970, Alexandria
|Theodorus of Cyrene
Mathematician, 5th century B.C.E., Cyrene
Philosopher, 20 B.C.E - 50 C.E., Alexandria
|Mikhail Tositsas *
Businessman, 1787 - 1856, Alexandria
Author, 1904 - 1992, Cairo 
Philosopher, 435 - 356 B.C.E., Cyrene
|Chaeremon of Alexandria
Philosopher, 1st century C.E., Alexandria
|Abet brothers *
Raphael 1780 - 1866, Ananias 1790 - 1860
Art collector, 1907 - 1987, Alexandria
|Aristaeus the Elder *
Mathematician, 370 - 300 B.C.E., Alexandria
|Menelaus of Alexandria
Mathematician, 70 - 140 C.E., Alexandria
|George Averoff *
Businessman, 1815 - 1899, Alexandria
|Kimon Evan Marengo
Cartoonist, 1907 - 1988, Zifta
|Ptolemy I Soter *
Ruler, 367 - 282 B.C.E., Alexandria
Geographer, 90 - 168 C.E., Alexandria
|Emmanouil Benakis *
Politician, 1843 - 1929, Alexandria
Director, 1909 - 1970, Alexandria
|Philitas of Cos *
Poet, 340 - 285 B.C.E., Alexandria
|Sosigenes of Alexandria
Astronomer, 1st century C.E., Alexandria
|Ioannis Pesmazoglou *
Economist, 1857 - 1906, Alexandria
Actor, 1909 - 1983, Cairo
|Theodorus the Atheist
Philosopher, 340 - 250 B.C.E., Cyrene
|Thrasyllus of Mendes
Mathematician, 1st century C.E., Alexandria
|Alexandros Pesmazoglou *
Economist, 1859 - 1939, Alexandria
Author, 1911 - 1980, Cairo
Mathematician, 325 - 265 B.C.E., Alexandria
|Clement of Alexandria
Theologian, 150 - 211 C.E., Alexandria
Poet, 1863 - 1933, Alexandria
|Mary Giatra Lemou
Author, 1915 - 1989, Alexandria
|Magas of Cyrene
Ruler, 317 - 250 B.C.E., Cyrene
Theologian, 185 - 251 C.E., Alexandria
Businessman, 1873 - 1954, Alexandria
Actor, 1915 - 2001, Alexandria
|Ptolemy II Philadelphus
Ruler, 309 - 246 B.C.E., Alexandria
Philosopher, 203 - 270 C.E., Alexandria
|Dimitrios Kasdaglis *
Athlete, 1872 - 1931, Alexandria
|Aggelos S Vlahos
Author, 1915 - 2003, Alexandria
Poet, 305 - 240 B.C.E., Cyrene
Mathematician, ~210 - ~290 C.E., Alexandria
Author, 1874 - 1941, Alexandria
Actor, 1924, Cairo
Engineer, 285 - 222 B.C.E., Alexandria
|Catherine of Alexandria
Theologian, 282 - 305 C.E., Alexandria
Painter, 1878 - 1967, Alexandria
Composer, 1926 - 1970, Cairo
|Conon of Samos *
Astronomer, 280 - 220 B.C.E., Alexandria
|Pappus of Alexandria
Mathematician, 290 - 350 C.E., Alexandria
Politician, 1884 - 1970, Alexandria
Dancer, 1929 - 2003, Alexandria 
Mathematician, 276 - 194 B.C.E., Alexandria
|Theon of Alexandria
Mathematician, 335 - 405 C.E., Alexandria
Economist, 1890 - 1984, Alexandria
Artist, 1931, Cairo
|Apollonius of Rhodes
Poet, 3rd century B.C.E., Alexandria
Mathematician, 370 - 416 C.E., Alexandria
Painter, 1894 - 1957, Alexandria
Actress, 1932, Alexandria
|Sostratus of Cnidus *
Engineer, 3rd century B.C.E., Alexandria
Poet, 4th century C.E., Alexandria
Model, 1934, Alexandria
Mathematician, 190 - 120 B.C.E., Alexandria
|Isidore of Alexandria
Philosopher, 450 - 520 C.E., Alexandria
Singer, 1934 - 2013, Alexandria
|Dionysius of Cyrene
Mathematician, 2nd century B.C.E., Cyrene
|Hierocles of Alexandria
Philosopher, 5th century C.E., Alexandria
Actor, 1936 - 2012, Alexandria
|Eudorus of Alexandria
Philosopher, 1st century B.C.E., Alexandria
|Hesychius of Alexandria
Author, 5th century C.E., Alexandria
Composer, 1937 - 1982, Alexandria
|Aretaphila of Cyrene
Revolutionary, 1st century B.C.E., Cyrene
Author, 1937, Alexandria
Ruler, 69 - 30 B.C.E., Alexandria
Physicist, 1943, Cairo
Author, 1944 - 2006, Alexandria
Director, 1944, Alexandria
Singer, 1945 - 1979, Alexandria
Author, 1945, Alexandria
Singer, 1946, Alexandria
|Andreas Gerasimos Michalitsianos
Astronomer, 1947 - 1997, Alexandria
Actress, 1948, Cairo
Singer, 1954, Alexandria
Director, 1963, Cairo
- Greek Orthodox Church of Alexandria
- Demographics of Egypt
- Egyptian-Greek relations
- Fayum mummy portraits
- Kyriazi freres
- Α΄ Η διαχρονική πορεία του ελληνισμού στην Αφρική
- The Historical Library of Diodorus Siculus, Book V,57.
- History of EGYPT
- Adams, Winthrope L in Bugh, Glenn Richard. ed. "The Hellenistic Kingdoms". The Cambridge Companion to the Hellenistic World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2006, p. 39
- Stanwick, Paul Edmund. Portraits of the Ptolemies: Greek Kings as Egyptian Pharaohs. Austin: University of Texas Press. 2003, p. 23
- Adams, op cit.
- Bagnall, R.S. in Susan Walker, ed. Ancient Faces : Mummy Portraits in Roman Egypt (Metropolitan Museum of Art Publications). New York: Routledge, 2000, p. 27
- Bagnall, op cit.
- Bagnall, pp. 28-29
- qtd. in Alan K. Bowman, Egypt after the Pharaohs, 332 BC − AD 642, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1996, p. 126: "genuine Egyptians can easily be recognized among the linen-weavers by their speech."
- Egyptology Online: Fayoum mummy portraits accessed on January 16, 2007
- Encyclopædia Britannica Online - Egyptian art and architecture - Greco-Roman Egypt accessed on January 16, 2007
- Bagnall, op cit.
- Walker, Susan, op cit., p. 24
- Dentition helps archaeologists to assess biological and ethnic population traits and relationships
- Irish JD (2006). "Who were the ancient Egyptians? Dental affinities among Neolithic through postdynastic peoples.". Am J Phys Anthropol 129 (4): 529-43
- Victor J. Katz (1998). A History of Mathematics: An Introduction, p. 184. Addison Wesley, ISBN 0-321-01618-1: "But what we really want to know is to what extent the Alexandrian mathematicians of the period from the first to the fifth centuries C.E. were Greek. Certainly, all of them wrote in Greek and were part of the Greek intellectual community of Alexandria. And most modern studies conclude that the Greek community coexisted [...] So should we assume that Ptolemy and Diophantus, Pappus and Hypatia were ethnically Greek, that their ancestors had come from Greece at some point in the past but had remained effectively isolated from the Egyptians? It is, of course, impossible to answer this question definitively. But research in papyri dating from the early centuries of the common era demonstrates that a significant amount of intermarriage took place between the Greek and Egyptian communities [...] And it is known that Greek marriage contracts increasingly came to resemble Egyptian ones. In addition, even from the founding of Alexandria, small numbers of Egyptians were admitted to the privaleged classes in the city to fulfill numerous civic roles. Of course, it was essential in such cases for the Egyptians to become "Hellenized," to adopt Greek habits and the Greek language. Given that the Alexandrian mathematicians mentioned here were active several hundred years after the founding of the city, it would seem at least equally possible that they were ethnically Egyptian as that they remained ethnically Greek. In any case, it is unreasonable to portray them with purely European features when no physical descriptions exist."
- kathimerini.gr | Αιγυπτιώτης Eλληνισμός· κοιτίδα ευεργετισμού
- Noctoc: The Greeks Of Egypt-Οι Ελληνεσ Της Αιγυπτου-اليونانيون في مصر
- Η προσφορά του Ελληνισμού της Αιγύπτου στο Β΄Παγκόσμιο Πόλεμο
- Αρχαία Αίγυπτος
- Cooperation memorandum signed among NCSR D and Alexandria University, Egypt 29/1/2009, retrieved on 31/1/2009
- While creating the table entries, it was very hard to find any details for Greeks in Egypt during the Arab and later Ottoman period. This may be due to the Islamic practice where the subjects of a kingdom adopt Islamic names, thus making it hard to distinguish nationality by name. With the French and English interventions in Egypt during the 18th and 19th century, the first Greek organised communities arise, giving a lot of information about Greek Egyptians of this era.
- "BiblioNet : Μπουκουβάλα - Αναγνώστου, Ιωάννα".
- "Nelly Mazloum official website - Biography".
- The Greek community of Alexandria official website
- Egyptian Hellenism Department-Hellenic Literary and Historical Archive
- Greeks in Egypt-Greek communities Blog
- Greek Orthodox Patriarchate of Alexandria and All Africa
- Neo Fos online newspaper of the Greek community in Egypt-BROKEN LINK
- Greek presence in Egypt-in Greek