Gaonim(gāō`nĭm) [Heb.,=excellencies], title given to the heads of the Jewish academies at Sura and Pumbedita in Babylonia immediately following the period of the SaboraimSaboraim
[Heb.,=expositors], in Judaism, title given to the Jewish scholars of the Babylonian academies in the period (6th–7th cent. A.D.) immediately following the Amoraim and preceding that of the Gaonim. Little is known about them.
..... Click the link for more information. until the middle of the 11th cent. Thereafter the title was adopted by the heads of the Palestinian academies; later it was used as an honorific title to indicate a great scholar. The Gaonim asserted the primacy of the Babylonian Talmud over the Palestinian Talmud and contributed to the standardization of Jewish law and liturgy. The greatest Gaon at Sura was Saadia ben Joseph al-FayumiSaadia ben Joseph al-Fayumi
, 882–942, Jewish scholar, b. Egypt. He was known as Saadia Gaon. He was the head of the great Jewish Academy at Sura, Babylonia, which under his leadership became the highest seat of Jewish learning, and a vigorous opponent of the Karaites.
..... Click the link for more information. . Of those who held office at Pumbedita, Sherira Gaon (968–98) and his son Hai Gaon (998–1038) are most notable. Under Sherira the waning prestige of the Babylonian academies was restored, and it was maintained by Hai until his death. Thereafter European Jewry came to play an ever more dominant role in Jewish life.
See J. Neusner, There We Sat Down (1972).