A few words on the Geroskipou of Yesterday and Today
“at a little distance from the sea is Hierocepia”
(Strabo, Geographica, 14.6.3)
Geroskipou is situated to the east of Pafos and extends for 10 square kilometres, and has a population of 8000 inhabitants. The Municipality of Geroskipou was founded in 1994 and today includes within its administrative boundaries the small village of Koloni (together with the Municipality covering an area of 15 square kilometres). Two rocky plateaus surround Geroskipou, giving it a characteristic appearance, while to the south there is a fertile valley with plentiful water.
The beauty of the landscape and its rich history make Geroskipou an attractive destination for every visitor. Without changing its picturesque character, Geroskipou has begun to develop rapidly in the last few years and turn into a modern, functioning town. Everyone who visits Geroskipou can enjoy the tranquillity of a small, traditional community without, however, worrying about the lack of modern services that a present-day town has to offer. The historic centre of this market town is located three kilometres to the east of Pafos town. Geroskipou has excellent road connections, including the motorway on the northern boundary that connects Pafos with the other cities of Cyprus, while Pafos International Airport lies twelve kilometres away. On the coastal strip, which is almost four kilometres in length, are well-developed tourist facilities with modern infrastructures for hotels, restaurants and entertainment.
The area around Geroskipou, despite having a significant number of archaeological sites and monuments, has not yet been the subject of systematic research or study. Our knowledge of the ancient past is thus still incomplete. So far the archaeological evidence indicates that Geroskipou was inhabited without a break from at least the Late Neolithic period (4500-3900 B.C.). The first substantial remains date to the Late Bronze Age period (1600-1050 B.C.) and reflect a rich, well-developed settlement.
In antiquity the area of Geroskipou was bound to the worship of Afrodite, goddess of vegetation and fertility. To the south, towards the sea, lie the famed “Sacred Gardens” of Afrodite, a name still retained in the name Geroskipou (a corruption of the ancient name of the town, Hierokepia, formed by combining the Greek words “hieros” (sacred) and “kepos” (garden). According to Strabo, the ancient Greek geographer, the procession of the faithful passed through these gardens and ended at the Sanctuary of Afrodite at Palaipafos on the occasion of the performance of the “Afrodisia”, the annual festival held in honour of the goddess. The discovery of a bothros in the mid-20th century at the locality “Monagri”, which contained hundreds of terracotta figurines, bears witness to the existence of a sanctuary dedicated to Afrodite, at least in the Archaic period. In addition, ancient Gerokipia, with its plentiful water supply, caves, underground tunnels and the dense, wild vegetation, had all the morphological characteristics of a place of worship of the goddess in the Greek world.
At the end of the Late Classical period an underground sanctuary was created at “Alonia tou Piskopou” dedicated to Apollo Hylates (i.e. Apollo of the woodland). According to superficial investigations carried out at the sanctuary, there was a temenos to the god here, with a sacred grove that extended on consecutive levels cut into the rock. The sanctuary structure lies inside the temenos area and comprises two underground rock-cut chambers that are still preserved today.
In the Late Christian and Early Byzantine periods a flourishing monastic life is evidenced by locations with saints’ names, rock-cut hermitages and chapels to the southwest of the town (“Efta Ai Giorkides”, “Katarameni”) and to the north on the rocky outcrop (“Palioziellaron”, “Agioi Pente” ). Near the cave of “Agioi Pente” (Saints Five), a fine basilica was recently uncovered dating to the Early Christian period. Its destruction (probably during the Arab raids) is the likely reason for the construction in the 9th century of the church dedicated to the Holy Cross, later known as the church of Agia Paraskevi.
During the Frankish period the village would have been of great economic importance. Due to the fertile plains of the area, Geroskipou was one of the royal estates bestowed by King James II in the period 1464-1468 on the eminent feudal lord Petro D’Avila, a powerful political figure.
The establishment of a British Vice-consulate in the village in the Ottoman period (1800-1864) was important for Geroskipou and elevated the role the town played in the region. Andreas Zymboulakis, originally from the Ionian Islands but resident in Geroskipou and who had formed a close friendship with the English Admiral, Sir Sidney Smith, was appointed Consular agent of Britain and was mainly responsible for replenishing the supplies of the British fleet. Andreas Zymboulakis was succeeded in 1826 by his son, Smith or Hadjismith Zymboulakis.