VI-The Greek Post Office
Egypt: Stamps & Postal History

History and Postal Markings 37 Stamps Used 44 Postal Rates 42 References 45 Mixed F rankings 43

History and Postal Markings

The Greek postal presence in Egypt began with the establishment of a Greek Consulate in Alexandria in November 1833. This is the earliest date of any foreign postal service in Egypt (the French, the next to be opened, began in 1837). This event followed a protracted struggle ended by the Treaty of Adrianople (4 Sept. 1829), by which the Ottoman Empire conceded the independence of Greece. Ft thereby accorded Greece the privilege of opening consulates in Ottoman territory. Such consulates were entitled to operate postal agencies. Further historical details are given by Dacos 1, by Boulad d’Humieres 2, and by Byam 3.

Consular agencies were opened where there were appreciable Greek populations such as Constantinople, Smyrna, and Alexandria. Unlike the other nations that operated post offices in the Ottoman Empire: (in later years), Greece did not have a national shipping line. Instead, it arranged with the lines of other countries for a Greek postal courier to carry the Greek mails on their ships. On August 29th 1833 an arrangement was concluded with a banker of Piraeus named Feraldi for a courier on his sailing ships which connected Alexandria with Athens (Piraeus) and other important ports via the island of Syra (Syra was a major shipping nexus in the nineteenth century). This arrangement was extended to the French packet service in May, 1838; the service was three times a month and took four days.

In the following discourse, it is necessary to keep in mind the fact that Greece used the Julian ('old style') calendar, which was twelve days earlier than the Gregorian calendar used by western Europe and Egypt. For consistency with dates found on covers, the dates quoted here will be Julian, insofar as the available information sources are unambiguous.

It is not certain when the Greek postal agency was actually opened to the public. The earliest known letters (31 March 1834) are Consular mail, franked by an impression of the seal of the Consulate. They are addressed to Nauplion which was the first capital of the newly independent country. Specific authority for use of the Consular seal to confer official franchise was given in the instructions to the first Consul 2, but no truly postal handstamps were provided. Boulad records but four examples of this consular franking which used two different seals (Fig. 1). These earliest letters may correspond more nearly to diplomatic pouch trail and the function of the consular seal would then be to frank the letters within Greece, from port of arrival to destination. Fig. 1 consular seals Used as franks

The French packets became less useful in 1844 when they stopped calling at Syra. The Austrian Lloyd ships apparently took over much of the task of carrying the Greek couriers. Postal treaties with Austria and Lloyd Austriaco were concluded in February 1834, June 1834 and July 1852.

The Consular Postal Agency is said4 to have been upgraded to a post office in 1849, which may mark the beginning of a fully public service, but nothing in the way of distinctive markings is known. This state of affairs apparently continued until the outbreak of the Crimean war on March 27th 1854.

When Greece gave its sympathies to Russia, whereas Turkey was on the opposite side, along with Britain, France, and Sardinia, the Greek Consular Agencies were closed until peace was established by the Treaty of Paris in March 1856. The consulate in Alexandria was reopened in 1857, and in 1858 the post office was physically

Fig 2 Types D-1,D-2,D-3

separated from it and given its own premises on the rue de la Poste. (In a later year it was moved to the Rue de la Gare de Ramleh, now called Boulevard Saad Zaghloul.) It was in this year that the first postal circular date-stamp was introduced, Type D-1, Inscribed AΔΣΞANΔPEIA / TOYPKIA (Fig. 2). (Although other offices in the Ottoman Empire, notably that in Constantinople, had a different style of date-stamp with a larger circle in the pre-stamp period, nothing analogous is known for Alexandria.) Boulad gave October 24th 1858 as the earliest date he knew of, but I now have an example dated September 11th (Fig. 3). Although type D-1 was replaced in 1869, it was resurrected and used again as late as 1878. No covers whatsoever have been reported between those of the 1830s bearing the consular seals and 1858, a fact that strongly suggests that no handstamped postal markings were used in that period. Consistent with this view, I have a cover from Alexandria to Syra dated in March 1853 having the date-stamp of Syra on the back, but no handstamp on the front, rated "20" in red crayon; the message is written in Greek. It was possible mailed at the Greek post office in Alexandria, for there should have been the appropriate date-stamp of the Austrian or French post office on the front had it been mailed at either of them. On the other hand, the rate 20 (lepta) is too low for carriage from Alexandria and corresponds to the local postage on letters otherwise prepaid received from ships or to the rate between Greek ports.

FIG. 3 A cover showing the earliest date type D-1

Type DI is obviously misspelled, having Σ where E: is required and it is curious that nothing was done about it over ten years. Finally, in 1869, a new date-stamp, D-2, with the correct spelling was introduced. The earliest date recorded by Boulad is November 22nd 1869. Although black is the usual color, blue and grey-blue are also known. Type D-2 was eventually replaced in 1872, but the latest recorded elate is October 25th 1876. It thus continued in use sporadically, alongside its successor, Type D-3, the earliest date recorded for which is May, 22nd 1872. The word TPYPKIA of Types D-1 and D-2 was replaced by the assigned number, 97, in Type D-3. This Type was used without further change until the final closing of the Greek post office on the last day of 1881 (presumably .Julian, corresponding to January 12th 1882, in the Gregorian calendar). I However D-3 suffered wear over the years, and the inner circle became less and less visible, finally, reaching a state in which only, fragments printed.

When stamps were supplied to the Alexandria post office in 1861, a special obliterator was provided for them, a diamond of dots with the number 97 in the center (Fig. 4). It was generally struck in black, exceptionally in blue. The earliest use of Greek stamps at Alexandria is 30 SE 61, one day, before their use was officially authorized. The date-stamp D-1 continued in use for information purposes, and was struck on the cover separately (Fig. 5).

Fig 5 A cover showing date-stamp D-1 used along with the numeral obliterator. This cover also bears the franking handstamp of the Posta Europea

As an exception, stamps used in lieu of postage clue stamps on incoming; mail were sometimes cancelled with the date-stamp (Fig. 8). With the eventual arrival of date-stamp D-3, which contained the post office number, came an order to discontinue use of the obliterator and to use the new date-stamp in its place for cancelling stamps. It was thus struck twice, a clear strike elsewhere on the cover being required (Fig. 9).

Δ Λ Ω Θ Ξ Σ Π Fig 6. the handstamps for indicating full prepayment

Fully prepaid letters were commonly, marked with a three-letter handstamp, Π.E.Δ or Δ.E.Π, struck in black, blue, or red (Fig. 6). The former was apparently put into use at the same time as date-stamp D-1. It stands for ΔIKAIΩMA EΞOTEPIKON ΠΔAIPΩΘEN meaning `foreign postage paid'. It is thus the equivalent of P.D ('Pagato sin al Destinazione') applied to such letters sent through other postal services. It was replaced by the reverse word order at a date between 1871 and 1873 (earliest date seen, April 19th 1873). Although Boulad records August 23rd 1873 as the latest date for it, I have since seen an example used on September 11th 1875 (thus after the advent of the UPU in 1875, whereupon it should no longer have been needed). The Greek postal service may also have used P.D. and P.P. on some international mail. Fig.7 handstamp for registered letters.

Postage due on unpaid and short-paid letters was indicated by the amount due written in crayon (red seen), or by handstarnped numerals (black seen). Boulad suggested the possibility that a boxed handstamp, ANEΠΔ. ANEπAPKHΣ , may have been used, for such a marking is known from some other Greek offices, but no example has yet been recorded for Alexandria.

Fig 8. Use of stamps to collect postage due, cancelled with the date-stamp

Registered letters are rare from the Greek office in Alexandria and no example: has been reported from the pre-UPU period. Two registered handstamps are known: R-1, reading CHARGÉ in Latin letters (in effect from 1874) and R-2, reading SYSTHMENON in a rectangular box (Pig. 7). The former has been reported with dates from 1878 to December 19th 1881; the latter is known with overlapping dates, 1878 to April 8th 1879. However, i have seen a cover dated in January 1871 with a strike of R-2 without a frame; the framed version is struck elsewhere on the cover and thus presumably on arrival. It is presumed that these handstamps were applied in Alexandria rather than on arrival in Greece, for otherwise there would have been no indication of the registered status. The foregoing are all of the known postal markings attributable to the Greek post office. However, letters posted aboard ships or received from them .when bearing Greek (or other) stamps were sometimes cancelled on arrival at the appropriate port. One example is the Egyptian retta (Chapters XXVI and XXXI), a diamond of 81 diamond-shaped clots, in use at Alexandria as well as throughout Egypt. Boulad also records the rare Egyptian date-stamp POSTE EGIZIANE / UFFIZIO NATANTE as having been seen on classic Greek

Fig.9 Date Stamp D-3 used as an obliterator (registered, 50-lepta rate).

stamps (Chapter XXXII). This date-stamp was used on the ships of the Khedivial Mail Line and is a rarity on covers of any sort, as well as on loose stamps other than Egyptian (it is scarce even on them).

Postal Rates 1,2,5,6

On the earliest letters, including perhaps all pre-stamp letters, rate markings appear not to have been used (although some cryptic manuscript notations found on some of them tray refer to the tariff). Consequently, the rates in force in this period are essentially of only academic interest. Boulad and Mattheos have stated that the rate was 30 lepta per 7½g in 1844 for letters carried on French packets according to the postal treaty ratified on May 20th 1838, 60 lepta (12 kreuzer) in 1845 by Austrian packet, and 40 lepta by Italian packet.

With the introduction of stamps, rates became identifiable. The earliest stamped letters were franked with 80 lepta, a rate that remained in force until 1866. The existence of letters charged 110 lepta, however, is somewhat enigmatic (e.g., a letter of 25 DE 1862 to Athens, charged 110 lepta on arrival). It is not unreasonable to suppose that the Greek port-to-port rate of 30 lepta may have been applicable for the Syros-Athens leg (80 + 30 = 110 lepta). The weight progression may have been the same as set in 1861 for Greek internal mail 6 namely first stage up to 15g, second stage 15-30g, third stage 30-60g, and fourth stage 60-1008. One should also bear in mind that fractional weight stages (e.g. 3½) were sometimes applied. Official letters and documents were charged 5 lepta. A decree: of October 23rd 1866 set the rate at 40 lepta per 15g for letters carried on Austrian steamers and 80 lepta for double-weight letters. At the same time, the postage for samples was set at 15 lepta per 15g and for periodicals, 6 lepta per 30g. An Act of February 13th 1867 ratified a postal treaty with France whereby letters carried on French ships were to be charged 45 lepta per 10g, but I have not seen this rate used on cover. The 40-lepta rate was extended to letters carried on the Khedivial Mail Line in 1872. Registration doubled the rate.

Until January, 1st 1869 it was optional whether or not to prepay postage. On that date, prepayment became obligatory for internal letters and unpaid letters were to be charged double on arrival. Letters to and from the consular offices were exempted from this requirement, except for the brief period from December 30th 1868 to March 10th 1869. Letters delivered to a Greek port prepaid by another postal service, such as Egyptian, were charged 20 lepta; this was the Greek internal rate and was also the local rate: doubled as postage due (it is not clear which rationale applied).The General Postal Union (soon to become the UPU), to which Greece was a founding adherent, came into force on July 1st 1875 (Gregorian) at which time uniform rates for international trail were established. For the Greek postal service the new rate was 30 lepta per 15g; the international (i.e., foreign) rate also applied to the Greek mails from Alexandria. This rate was slightly higher than the 25c. of the French postal service or the 2½d. of the British. It remained in effect until the closing of the office.

With entry into the UPU, registered letters were charged 20 lepta plus ordinary postage as demonstrated by several registered covers franked with 50 lepta (Fig. 9). The rate for periodicals was reduced to 2 lepta per item under the UPU.

The foregoing rates applied to letters from Alexandria to Greece and vice versa. It appears that before the UPU, letters requiring additional sea transport may have incurred additional charges. That situation would apply principally to Corfu, for the Ionian Islands were ceded to Greece in May 1864 (covers to Corfu franked with 110 lepta exist, but it is uncertain whether the rate vas a result of being overweight or being subject to a supplementary charge).

Mixed Frankings

Although the Greek post office accepted letters at Alexandria franked with Greek stamps only, letters from elsewhere in Egypt required other franking to get them to Alexandria. Before 1866 such franking was without stamps; the handstamps of the Posta Europea (or the pre-stamp Government Post from April 1865). From January 1st 1866 (Gregorian), stamps of the First Issue of Egypt and later, the Second and Third Issues (Fig. 10), were used to frank letters as far as Alexandria. Mixed franking of Egyptian stamps with Greek stamps thus became possible. Examples are quite rare (much more so than mixed frankings of Egyptian stamps with Austrian, British, French, or Italian stamps). In assessing such covers, it should not be forgotten that Egypt used the Gregorian calendar; the Creek date-starnps thus read earlier than the Egyptian, even though they were applied later.

Fig.10 mixed franking with Egypt: from Ismalia, 29 Sept. 1873 9gregorian) via Alexandria (18 Sept. 1873, Julian) franked with 2pi. In Egyptian stamps, and charged 40 lepta at destination for carriage from Alexandria to Syros. The letter was treated as double weight by the Egyptian service, which charged 1pi. Per 10g, whereas the Greek service accepted it as a single letter, for which postage was 40 lepta per 15g.

Stamps Used

The classic stamps of Greece, the large Hermes heads, comprise a complex group, with many printings differentiated by only subtle distinctions. Greek stamps are known used at Alexandria as early as September 30th 1861, a day before the official issue date. It appears that all of the printings were supplied to Alexandria (with perhaps the odd exception). All values, from 1 to 80 lepta, are known with Alexandria (or '97') cancellations. Denominations below 20 lepta are especially scarce, as are the: 30 and 60 lepta, which were issued only late in the life of the Greek Alexandria post office, when the amount of triad it handled began to decline. The 10 lepta of 1868-69 exists bisected on a pamphlet with postmark dated 25 NO 69 (Julian).

Fig.11 Use of postage due stamps to pay 60 lepta on cover from Athens to Alexandria

When postage due stamps were issued by Greece in 1875, they were put into use in Alexandria (Pig. 11). I have seen every denomination of the first issue with Alexandria '97' cancellations, except the 1, 60, and 80 lepta values. 1111 can be considered rare and covers are extremely rare. Although postage due stamps were usually cancelled with the `97' grid obliterator, the date-stamp was occasionally used. The existence of these postage due stamps used in the Creek consular offices is not well known and it is worthwhile looking for them in old collections and stocks.


1T. Dacos, Consular ... in Egypt Collectio, Athens, 1994.
2J. Boulad d'Humieres, .SBZ 1961 (9), 259-96.
3W. Byam, L'OP No. 94, 343-350 (Apr. 1956)
A.G. Argyropoulos, L’OP No. 13, 11-12 (Apr. 1932). See also A.B. Economides, ibid. No. 56, 621-5 (Oct. 1946) and G.A. Dimitriou, ibid. No. 58, 91-2 (Apr. 1947).
5A.B. Economides, L’OP No. 58, 97-8 (Apr. 1947) [this article contains some mistakes and Inconsistencies].
6C. Mattheos CCP 74 (6), 347-65 (Nov./Dec. 1995), 75 (2), 95-110 (Mar./Apr. 1996).