Mantinea was established between 550-450 B.C.E. within a fertile valley of northeastern Arcadia. The literary and archaeological evidence do not permit a more conclusive foundation date. Mantinea was twice destroyed and rebuilt. First by a Spartan invasion in 385 B.C.E. and later by the Macedonians in 222 B.C.E. The Spartan destruction instigated a forced depopulation of Mantinea and relocation of its citizens to surrounding villages. According to Xenophon, the fortification walls and many of the buildings were deliberately demolished. Mantinea was reestablished in a synoicism fifteen years later after the Battle of Leuctra. Afterwards, the city was a member of the Arcadian League and played a long and active role in the region’s politics well into the Roman period. The Roman emperor Hadrian was particularly fond of Mantinea, since it was reputed to be the mother-city of Bithynia, the hometown of Hadrian’s favorite Antinoos. The latter history of the city is poorly documented. A scattering of Byzantine and perhaps Ottoman structures attest to some post-Roman occupation.

The only extensive archaeological investigations at Mantinea were conducted by the French School at Athens from 1887-89. Excavations were frequently stalled and eventually abandoned by outbreaks of malaria. The extreme flatness of the site in combination with Arcadia’s wet climate produces seasonal streams and ponds that characterize a marshy landscape even today. The French focused on the agora and its public monuments, including a theater. They discovered civic and religious buildings and porticos arranged around a rectangular square with phases spanning the Classical to Roman periods. Many of these buildings have since been reburied by seasonal flooding. Beyond the agora, the most significant architectural feature at Mantinea is the elliptical fortification walls, approximately 4 km in circumference. Today, the walls and gates, which number up to ten, are in a remarkable state of preservation. They constitute an exceptional illustration of a near complete Greek defensive circuit. As a result, the urban boundaries of Mantinea are well defined and comprise an area of ~119 ha. Little else of the remaining settlement has been studied and today the site is predominantly cultivated for wheat and vegetables. Intermittent excavations from the 1960s onward uncovered some evidence for domestic structures and roads south of the agora. A geophysical survey through the use of soil resistivity and magnetic methods was conducted by the University of Patras (Greece) from 1988-91 northwest of the theater.


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