There are three theories on the origin of the name.
In the first theory it is taken from the bird “hawk” (“γεράκι” in greek) which flies high into the sky and can see all the world, likewise “Geraki” controls the area from above.
In the second theory, Geraki is connected to the location of Jericho and the name is a paraphrase of this location. The rare mural of Jericho’s conquest by Jesus of Naue, found in the Commanders church, serves as an evidence to this theory.
The last and the most prevailing theory is that it took its name from the ancient city of Geronthres and it was gradually paraphrased into Geraki.
Prehistoric Era - Mycenaean era
The ancient pickaxe has brought many findings to light which prove that Geraki was inhabited since the prehistoric era, that is, 6.000 years ago and is still full of life.
During Mycenaean era (1600-1100 bc) a city was created which had the name “Geronthres”. At this time, the Acropolis was fortified by a cyclopean wall made of huge stones. The wall was so strong and it helped the city to defend and push back the attacks many times until Doric invaders conquered the city and created Sparti. Many parts of the wall are saved.
Doric and Classical Period
After Doric invaders conquered the city and during the classical period, Geraki flourished into a trading and political centre. There are epigraphs and resolutions as evidence.
Furthermore, transport networks, sculptures, architectural parts and coins of the classical period were brought to light.
A work by Pausanias includes references of two temples devoted to Apollo and Ares.
During the Roman Period, the city belonged to the independent state in Laconia (“Κοινό των Ελευθερολακώνων”) along with the rest of the cities which were not under the rule of Sparti.
Since that time, epigraphs, resolutions, as well as remains of an aqueduct and public hot springs have been found.
The city prevails as a trading centre, proven by extracts of the ordinance of Diocletianus (301 bc) which included the highest amount of goods of primary needs.
During the time of Byzantium, the city flourishes even more, and according to a list made by Hierocles, there were 64 provinces and 912 cities in the Byzantine Empire of the 6th century.
Progress was achieved due to its high population and special location, since it was located within the route Mystras-Monemvasia, and could control and secure communication between Mystras and Constantinople, the centre of Byzantium.
At this time, the acropolis was fortified with new walls, parts fof which are saved.
During this period, the French baron Guy of Nivelet was given the area of Tsakonia which was initially named by the baron, but got the name of Geraki afterwards due to the castle which was built at the foothills of mountain Parnonas where the family lived.
The castle was naturally fortified, a fact that allowed control of the flatland and ensured communication with castles in Mystras and Monemvasia through fire signals.
After a battle, while it initially belonged to the Principality of Achaea, the barony passed on the control of the Despotato of Mystras in order to liberate French knights.
The castle of Geraki is also referred in the chronicle of Morea which is an important source of information about the principality.
Στο Χρονικόν του Μορέως (ανώνυμος, 14ος αι.), το οποίο αποτελεί σημαντική πηγή πληροφόρησης για την φεουδαρχική οργάνωση του πριγκιπάτου της Αχαΐας αναφέρεται το κάστρο του Γερακίου:
Ἄλλος πάλε ἀπὸ αὐτοῦ ἔγραφεν στὸ βιβλίον•
μισὶρ Γγιοῦν τὸν ἔλεγαν ντὲ Νιβηλὲ τὸ ἐπίκλην•
ἕξι φίε τοῦ ἐδόθησαν νὰ ἔχῃ εἰς τὴν Τσακωνίαν•
κάστρον ἔχτισεν ἐκεῖ, τὸ ὠνόμασεν Γεράκι.
Άλλος πάλε από αυτού έγραφεν στο βιβλίον•
μισίρ Γγιούν τον έλεγαν ντε Νιβελέ το επίκλην•
έξι φίε του εδόθησαν να έχη εις την Τσακωνίαν•
κάστρον έχτισεν εκεί, το ωνόμασεν Γεράκι.
Late years of Byzantium
The presence of Ottomans and French did not stop Geraki from maintaining its byzantine character due to the existence of many byzantine churches, some of which were built earlier than churches of Mystras.
So far, almost 30 churches are preserved, 10 of them found whole in the medieval castle.
Parts of ancient temples, buildings and pedestals were used for the reconstruction of some churches.
Κατά την ανέγερση ορισμένων εκκλησιών χρησιμοποιήθηκαν και μέρη τα οποία έχουν προέλθει από αρχαίους ναούς, οικοδομήματα και βάθρα αγαλμάτων.
All temples were decorated with murals, some of them saved until today.
Turkocracy and liberation
Byzantines regained Geraki in 1259 until 1460 when the rest of the province, apart from Monemvasia, fell to the Turks.
From 1463 until 1785 Geraki was changing leadership between the Republic of Venice and Turkey until the liberation.
Kolokotronis made a plea from Geraki to the Spartans to fight against the Turks, while in 1825, many battles occurred in order to save women and children in the area, as a goal to reach Leonodio and disembark in Hydra and Spetses.
The years after liberation
After the liberation from the Turks, inhabitants were occupied with farming, livestock farming and the cultivation of the land, thus covering their needs with the production of pulses, potatoes, vegetables, honey etc., along with greater quantities of wheat, wine, olives and olive oil.
A great amount of land was awarded to veterans for their struggle for the freedom of Greece from the Turks since the beginning of the Ottoman Empire.
Since 1867, the olive grove of Tsilia was officially recorded as a national olive grove of the Greek nation.
Though citrus fruit and other fruit trees are cultivated in the wider area, the majority of the inhabitants of Geraki are involved with the cultivation of olives and produce edible olives and extra virgin olive oil.
It is widely known that Laconia’s olive oil is extremely good. The land, along with the mild climate and the variety of olives are of great importance for the excellent results.
Evrotas is the second longest river in the Peloponnese which originates from the plateau of Megalopolis. It borders with Laconia, it crosses the valley between mount Parnonas and mound Taygetus, and is enriched by the streams of the two mountains. It flows into the bay of Laconia, forming a delta which is a valuable ecosystem for both humans and nature.
The delta is one of the 113 “Important areas for birds of Greece” since it hosts a large number of birds (more than 240 species), many of which are rare and endangered, while the rest of the areas are natural reserves for reproduction of Caretta-Caretta.
Furthermore, some indigenous fish (Pelasgus laconicus, Squalius keadicus and Tropidophoxinellus spartiaticus) live there, while a unique plant (Linum phitosianum) grows in the area.
The wider area, with a span of 10,632.81 hectares (with a code name: ekvoles evrota and sitecode: GR2540003) is integrated in the European Ecological Network NATURA 2000, a network which protects nature and ensures the long-term preservation of valuable and endangered species at a satisfying level.