Archaeological Site of Mantinia
Mantinia, ancient Greek city of Arcadia, situated about eight miles north of modern Trípolis between Mt. Maínalon and Mt. Artemísion, mentioned as a source of soldiers in the catalog of ships in Book II of Homer’s Iliad. It was the site of three ancient battles. Until the early 5th century BC, it had been a cluster of five villages, but, at the suggestion of Argos, the villages were merged into one city.
Mantinia generally sided with Sparta, especially during the revolt of the Messenian helots (464 BC). But in 420 it formed an alliance with Elis, Argos, and Athens against Sparta, only to be defeated at the first Battle of Mantinia in 418 by the Spartan forces of King Agis. In 362 the city was again prominent when the Theban army, cleverly outmanoeuvring the Spartan troops, won the battle and lost their commander, Epaminondas, in an encounter on the Mantinian Plain.
The last notable event at the site occurred in 207 BC, when Philopoemen, commanding the forces of the Achaean League, routed Machanidas, tyrant of Sparta, there. By the later Roman Empire, Mantinia had dwindled to a mere village, and from the 6th century AD until it disappeared under Ottoman rule it bore the Slavic name Goritza.
1. Τhe Temple of Hera
At the Agora of ancient Mantinia, not far from the south parodos (public entrance, passageway) of the theatre, namely to the east of the parodos, survive the remains of an ancient temple identified as place of adoration of the goddess Hera. The temple was situated in proximity to the theatre, within the Agora, which was the centre of public life in ancient Mantinia, sumptuously decorated with temples, sanctuaries, heroa (hero memorials) and works of art, all making an impression upon Pausanias. Earlier excavations in that area did not succeed to enlighten us sufficiently as to the deity worshipped in that particular temple; however, the older hypothesis of identification with the Heraion of Mantinia remains an attractive supposition, until the archaeological investigations can bring more light into the matter of identity of the deity that temple was sacred to. Despite that, the monument is of particular importance in relation to the historical development of the Agora: it appears that the first phase of construction is anterior to the reconstruction of the city during the fourth century BC, even though interventions possibly took place at a later stage.
This is a temple of simple architectural form, measuring 16.2 x 9m. It is prostyle (bearing a frontal colonnade) and distyle in antis, i.e. has two columns between the pilasters of the facade, lining the east narrow side. The building had no opisthodomos (back room), which speaks in favour of its early dating. According to the description furnished by Pausanias, the Heraio within the Agora of ancient Mantinia hosted the ceremonial statue of the goddess, depicting her on a throne flanked by her daughter Hebe and by Athena. The restricted diffusion of the cult of Hera in the region of Arcadia is located in certain areas near the west and east borders of the Arcadian territory, which were more influenced by the large centres of adoration of the goddess in the regions of Olympia and Argolis. The presence of Hebe, in particular, which is a unique testimony as to the region of Arcadia, since it is found only in the Heraion of Mantinia, brings in mind the city of Argos, where mother and daughter are worshipped together. The appearance of the goddess Athena in the composition attributed to Praxitelis underlines the close relation of the goddess to the Arcadian grounds. The monument was excavated in the nineteenth century by the French, who also suggested its identification with the temple dedicated to Hera
2. The Ancient Theatre
The Mantinia theatre is situated at the agora, i.e. the place gathering all political, religious, cultural and social activity of the ancient city. Indeed, the theatre defines the west end of the agora; the remains of the temple dedicated to Hera are visible at its south-west corner and further to the south are the remains of a second temple, perhaps dedicated to Zeus Saviour ("Dias Sotir"). Our knowledge about the monument is based on French excavations of the nineteenth century, which brought to light the scene, the orchestra and several lower tiers of the cavea. It is still impossible to date it safely due to lack of systematic research and insufficient study. According to indications, however, the first building phase of the monument correlates with the reconstruction of the city after 370 BC, and it acquired its final form during the Imperial period.
This is a relatively small theatre, with an estimated capacity of 6,200 seats. The cavea is raised upon an artificial fill on flat ground, retained by a sturdy semi-circular wall, 66.3m in diameter, built externally of blocks according to the polygonal system; this technical element allows the temporary dating of erection in the fourth century BC at the earliest. The support of the cavea was accessible from the outside, as proved by the preserved staircases giving spectators direct access to the upper section. According to estimates, the cavea in its final form comprised 32 rows of seats. Today, the lower benches preserved are divided into eight cunei by eight staircases. The material used for spectator seats was local limestone, alternating with white marble. The acting area of the orchestra is inscribed within a circle with a 10.85m diameter. Architectural remains of the scene came to light behind the orchestra, on the east side of the cavea.
3. The Ancient Temple at Gortsouli
On the western slope of Gortsouli hill, in the area of ancient Mantinia, survives a temple built during the archaic period. Since it was uncovered, the temple enlightens us considerably about the history of Mantinia before the fifth century BC. The Gortsouli hill is being identified by modern researchers as the prehistoric acropolis of Mantinia, called Ptolis, which was mentioned in the works of the traveller and geographer Pausanias. During the Archaic years, Ptolis distinguished itself as the central sacred location for the people of Mantinia, who were still dwelling in large villages in the plain that surrounded the hill. The portable findings discovered during excavations and investigations on the hill indicate that the place was already inhabited at the Prehistoric era, though no traces of edifices have been located up to date. The systematic investigation of the temple showed that the place was used for open-air adoration, without any interruption, from the late eighth century BC to the sixth century BC. It is likely that any attempts to found the first ceremonial building at the area began in the second half of the seventh century, but construction works were interrupted following the sliding and collapse of the western foundations due to the abrupt bent at that particular location. The posterior temple was founded during the third quarter of the sixth century BC, near the original one, at a distance about 0.70m to the east, and remained in use until the third century BC.
In general, the two buildings present many similarities: they both belong to the category of archaic "residences" and are distinguished by the significant prolongation of the axis oriented from north to south. In both cases, the entrances are located at the south side, which is a narrow one. The earlier temple is divided, as well as the later temple, into a prodomos (anteroom), a cella building (in Greek sekos) and an adyton (enclosed sanctuary, not accessible to all), with internal dimensions of 14.60 x 4.65m. The foundations of the earlier temple were used to erect the posterior temple, with internal dimensions of 14.25 x 4.70m. The inferior parts of both buildings were made with layers of unrefined local lime slabs without any conjunctive material, while the superstructure was probably earthen. Some parts of the walls of the posterior temple are preserved up to 0.80m of height.
On the interior of the temple were discovered votive offerings of significance. The most precious group of offerings includes earthen figurines representing exclusively feminine figures, in an impressive variety of types. They are dated between the seventh and the early fifth century BC and point to the cult of the goddess Artemis in that location, in her quality of protector of vegetation and breeder of sheep herds. Among the figurines one distinguishes imposing veil-bearers of significant height; it is the first time that such a type of figurines occurs in the sanctuary lying on the western slope. Also noteworthy among the excavation findings is an ensemble of iron pins, unparalleled in volume and state of preservation, recalling as to the typology the bronze pins that were also found in abundance within the temple. Several characteristic examples of the aforementioned votive offerings are today exposed in the Archaeological Museum of Tripolis. The temple was uncovered during a rescue excavation, conducted in 1962.
4. The Εnclosure
The walls, built during the 4th centuryBC,may have been built by the same Theban architects that built contemporary Messene. The circuit is elliptical and amost complete to this day, with a perimeter of amost 4km. Encircled by the diverted Ophis river, they were constructed of large square of polygonal blocks, with four courses still standing. The wall was 4meters/13.12feet thick and there were over 120 square towers placed about 26meters apart, with ten gates.