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The Princeton Encyclopedia of Classical Sites


  Located in the plain N of modern Tripolis and off the road to Olympia. Mentioned as lovely by Homer (Il. 2.607), it was formed by the synoecism of five villages at some unknown date (Strab. 8.3.2). As an ally of Sparta, Mantinea took part with 500 hoplites in the battle of Thermopylai (Hdt. 7.202), but came too late for Plataia (Hdt. 9.77). Mantinea split with Sparta in 420 (Thuc. 5.29) when interests collided, and was disbanded by Sparta in 385. After the battle of Leuktra in 371 the city was reconstituted, and was a member of the Arkadian League until 362 (Xen. Hell. 7.5), at which time it returned to friendship with Sparta. In 223 Antigonos Doson destroyed the city which was then refounded under the name of Antigoneia, a name which it retained until Hadrian's time. Numerous battles took place in the vicinity (418: Thuc. 5.64-81; 362: Xen. Hell. 7.5; 207: Polyb. 11.11-19). Pausanias describes the city (8.8.3-8.12), thus disproving Strabo (8.8.2), who included it among states no longer extant.
  The 4th c. city--the most ancient site was at Ptolis, securely identified with the hill Gourtsouli--is located nearly in the middle of the plain, and was originally bisected by the Ophis river. Later, after Agesipolis had taken the city in 385 (Xen. Hell. 5.2.4-7) by damming the river and thus causing the sun-dried bricks of the walls to collapse, the river was diverted so as to flow around the city. The circuit of the walls, 3942 m long and roughly oval in shape, is preserved for nearly its entire extent. Originally built up in mudbrick, only the socle of the inner and outer curtain remains, at a height varying between 1-1.8 m with a width of 4.2-4.7 m. Over 100 towers (estimates vary as to the original number) are built out from the wall, and there are at least nine, and possibly ten, gates. Most of the gates are so constructed that one is forced to approach through towers into a passage between sections of the wall. Excavators have cleared the agora (85 x 150 m) with colonnades around it, and the remains of a 4th c. theater at its W end. Though rebuilt and remodeled at various times, it may well be one of the earlier Greek theaters.

W. F. Wyatt, Jr., ed.
This text is from: The Princeton encyclopedia of classical sites, Princeton University Press 1976. Cited Nov 2002 from Perseus Project URL below, which contains bibliography & interesting hyperlinks.

Greek & Roman Geography (ed. William Smith)


(Mantineia: Eth. Mantineus, Mantinensis: Paleopoli), one of the most ancient and powerful towns in Arcadia, situated on the borders of Argolis, S. of Orchomenus, and N. of Tegea. Its territory was called Mantinice (Mantinike). The city is mentioned in the Homeric catalogue as Mantinee erateine, and, according to tradition, it derived its name from Mantineus, a son of Lycaon. (Hom. Il. ii. 607; Pol. ii. 56; Paus. viii. 8. § 4.) Mantineia originally consisted of four or five distinct villages, the inhabitants of which were collected into one city. (Xen. Hell. v. 2. 6, seq.; Strab. viii. p. 337; Diod. xv. 5.) If Strabo is correct in stating that this incorporation was brought about by the Argives, we may conjecture, with Mr. Grote, that the latter adopted this proceeding as a means of providing some check upon their powerful neighbours of Tegea. The political constitution of Mantineia is mentioned by Polybius as one of the best in antiquity; and the city had acquired so great a reputation at an early period, that the Cyrenaeans, in the reign of Battus III. (B.C. 550--530), when weakened by internal seditions, were recommended to apply to the Mantineians, who sent to them Demonax to settle their constitution. (Pol. vi. 43; Herod. iv. 161.) Some time before the Persian wars, Mantineia, like the other Arcadian towns, had acknowledged the Spartan supremacy; and accordingly the Mantineians fought against the Persians as the allies of Sparta. Five hundred of their citizens fought at Thermopylae, but their contingent arrived on the field of Plataea immediately after the battle. (Herod. vii. 202, ix. 77.) In the Peloponnesian War, Mantineia was at first a member of the Peloponnesian confederacy; but several causes tended to estrange her from the Spartan alliance. Mantineia and Tegea were, at this time, the two most important Arcadian states, and were frequently engaged in hostilities. In B.C. 423, they fought a bloody and indecisive battle, which is mentioned by Thucydides (iv. 134). Tegea, being oligarchically governed, was firmly attached to Sparta; whereas Mantineia, from her possessing a democratical constitution, as well as from her hatred to Tegea, was disposed to desert Sparta on the first favourable opportunity. In addition to this, the Mantineians had recently extended their dominion over the Parrhasians and had garrisoned a fortress at Cypsela, near the site where Megalopolis was afterwards built. Well aware that the Lacedaemonians would not allow them to retain their recent acquisitions, as it was the policy of Sparta to prevent the increase of any political power in the Peloponnesus, the Mantineians formed an alliance with Argos, Elis, and Athens, in B.C. 421, and thus became involved in war with Sparta. (Thuc. v. 29, 33, 47.) This war was brought to a close by the decisive battle fought near Mantineia, in June, 418, in which the Argives, Mantineians, and Athenians were defeated by the Lacedaemonians under Agis. This battle was fought to the S. of Mantineia, between the city and the frontiers of Tegea, and is the first of the five great battles bearing the name of Mantineia. The Mantineians now concluded a peace with Sparta, renouncing their dominion over the districts in Arcadia, which they had conquered. (Thuc. v. 65, seq., 81.)
  Mantineia continued an unwilling ally of Sparta for the next 33 years; but in the second year after the peace of Antalcidas, which had restored to the Spartans a great part of their former power, they resolved to crush for ever this obnoxious city. Accordingly, they required the Mantineians to raze their walls; and upon the refusal of the latter, they marched against the city with an army under the command of their king Agesipolis (B.C. 385), alleging that the truce for 30 years had expired, which had been concluded between the two states after the battle of 418. The Mantineians were defeated in battle, and took refuge in their city, prepared to withstand a siege; but Agesipolis having raised an embankment across the river Ophis, which flowed through Mantineia, forced back the waters of the river, and thus caused an inundation around the walls of the city. These walls, being built of unbaked bricks, soon began to give way; and the Mantineians, fearing that the city would be taken by assault, were obliged to yield to the terms of the Spartans, who required that the inhabitants should quit the city, and be dispersed among the villages, from the coalescence of which the city had been originally formed. (Xen. Hell. v. 2. 6, 7; Diod. xv. 5; Ephorus, ap. Harpocrat. s. v. Mantineon dioikismos; Pol. iv. 27; Paus. viii. 8. § 7, seq.) Of the forces of Mantineia shortly before this time we have an account from the orator Lysias, who says that the military population or citizens of Mantineia were not less than 3000, which will give 13,000 for the free population of the Mantineian territory. (Lysias, ap. Dionys. p. 531; Clinton, F. H. vol. ii. p. 416.)
  The Mantineians did not long remain in this dispersed condition. When the Spartan supremacy was overthrown by the battle of Leuctra in 371, they again assembled together, and rebuilt their city. They took care to exclude the river from the new city, and to make the stone substructions of the walls higher than they had been previously. (Xen. Hell. vi. 5. 3; Paus. viii. 8. § 10; Leake, Morea, vol. iii. p. 73.) The Mantineians took an active part in the formation of the Arcadian confederacy, and in the foundation of Megalopolis, which followed immediately after the restoration of their own city; and one of their own citizens, Lycomedes, was the chief promoter of the scheme. But a few years afterwards the Mantineians, for reasons which are not distinctly mentioned, quarrelled with the supreme Arcadian government, and formed an alliance with their inveterate enemies the Spartans. In order to put down this new coalition, Epaminondas marched into the Peloponnesus; and Mantineia was again the scene of another great battle (the second of the five alluded to above), in which the Spartans were defeated, but which was rendered still more memorable by the death of Epaminondas. (Xen. Hell. vii. 5; Diod. xv. 84.) The site of this battle is described below. The third and fourth battles of Mantineia are only incidentally mentioned by the ancient writers: the third was fought in 295, when Demetrius Poliorcetes defeated Archidamus and the Spartans (Plut. Demetr. 35) ; the fourth in 242, when Aratus and the Achaeans defeated the Spartans under Agis, the latter falling in the battle. (Paus. viii. 10. § 5, seq.)
  Mantineia continued to be one of the most powerful towns of Arcadia down to the time of the Achaean League. It at first joined this league; but it subsequently deserted it, and, together with Orchomenus and Tegea, became a member of the Aetolian confederacy. These three cities at a later time renounced their alliance with the Aetolians, and entered into a close union with Sparta, about B.C. 228. This step was the immediate cause of the war between the Achaeans and the Spartans, usually called the Cleomenic War. In 226, Aratus surprised Mantineia, and compelled the city to receive an Achaean garrison. The Mantineians soon afterwards expelled the Achaeans, and again joined the Spartans ; but the city was taken a second time, in 222, by Antigonus Doson, whom the Achaeans had invited to their assistance. It was now treated with great severity. It was abandoned to plunder, its citizens were sold as slaves, and its name changed to Antigoneia (Antigoneia), in compliment to the Macedonian monarch (Pol. ii. 57, seq.; Plut. Arat. 45; Paus. viii. 8. § 11). In 207, the plain of Mantineia was the scene of a fifth great battle, between the Achaean forces, commanded by Philopoemen, and the Lacedaemonians, under the tyrant Machanidas, in which the latter was defeated and slain. An account of this battle is given by Polybius, from whom we learn that the Achaean army occupied the entire breadth of the plain S. of the city, and that their light-armed troops occupied the hill to the E. of the city called Alesium by Pausanias. The Lacedaemonians were drawn up opposite to the Achaeans ; and the two armies thus occupied the same position as in the first battle of Mantineia, fought in the Peloponnesian War. (Pol. xi. 11.)
  The Mantineians were the only Arcadian people who fought on the side of Augustus at the battle of Actium. (Paus. viii. 8. § 12.) The city continued to bear the name of Antigoneia till the time of Hadrian, who restored to it its ancient appellation, and conferred upon it other marks of his favour, in honour of his favourite, Antinous, because the Bithynians, to whom Antinous belonged, claimed descent from the Mantineians. (Paus. viii. 8. § 12, viii. 9. § 7.)
The territory of Mantineia was bounded on the W. by Mt. Maenalus, and on the E. by Mt. Artemisium, which separated it from Argolis. Its northern frontier was a low narrow ridge, separating it from Orchomenia ; its southern frontier, which divided it from Tegeatis, was formed by a narrow part of the valley, hemmed in by a projecting ridge from Mt. Maenalus on the one side, and by a similar ridge from Mt. Artemisius on the other. The territory of Mantineia forms part of the plain now called the plain of Tripolitza, from the modern town of this name, lying between the ancient Mantineia and Tegea, and which is the principal place in the district. This plain is about 25 English miles in length, with a breadth varying from 1 to 8, and includes, besides the territory of Mantineia, that of Orchomenus and Caphyae on the N., and that of Tegea and Pallantium on the S. The distance between Mantineia and Tegea is about 10 English miles in a direct line. The height of the plain where Mantineia stood is 2067 feet above the level of the sea. Owing to its situation, Mantineia was a place of great military importance, and its territory was the scene of many important battles, as has been already related. It stood upon the river Ophis, nearly in the centre of the plain of Tripolitza as to length, and in one of the narrowest parts as to breadth. It was enclosed between two ranges of hills, on the E. and the W., running parallel to Mts. Artemisium and Maenalus respectively. The eastern hill was called Alesium (Alesion, Paus. viii. 10. § 1), and between it and Artemisium lay the plain called by Pausanias (viii. 7. § 1) to argon pedion, or the Uncultivated Plain. (viii. 8. § 1.) The range of hills on the W. had no distinct name: between them and Mt. Maenalus there was also a plain called Alcimedon (Alkimedon, Paus. viii. 12. § 2.)
  Mantineia was not only situated entirely in the plain, but nearly in its lowest part, as appears by the course of the waters. In the regularity of its fortifications it differs from almost all other Greek cities of which there are remains, since very few other Greek cities stood so completely in a plain. It is now called Paleopoli. The circuit of the walls is entire, with the exception of a small space on the N. and W. sides. In no place are there more than three courses of masonry existing above ground, and the height is so uniform that we may conclude that the remainder of the walls was constructed of unbaked bricks. The city had 9 or 10 gates, the approach to which was carefully defended. Along the walls there were towers at regular distances. Leake reckoned 118 towers, and says that the city was about 21 miles in circumference ; but Ross makes the city considerably larger, giving 129 or 130 as the number of the towers, and from 28 to 30 stadia, or about 3 1/2 English miles, as the circuit of the city. The walls of the city are surrounded by a ditch, through which the river Ophis flows. This stream is composed of several rivulets, of which the most important rises on Mt. Alesium, on the E. side of the city: the different rivulets unite on the NW. side of the town, and flow westward into a katavothra. Before the capture of Mantineia by Agesipolis, the Ophis was made to flow through the city and it is probable that all the water-courses of the surrounding plain were then collected into one channel above the city. Of the buildings in the interior of the city, described by Pausanias, few remains are left. Nearly in the centre of the city are the ruins of the theatre, of which the diameter was about 2440 feet; and west of the theatre, Ross observed the foundations of the temple of Aphrodite Symmachia, which the Mantineians erected to commemorate the share they had taken in the battle of Actium. (Paus. viii. 9. § 6.)
  The territory of Mantineia is frequently described by the ancient writers, from its having been so often the seat of war; but it is difficult, and almost impossible, to identify any of the localities of which we find mention, from the disappearance of the sanctuaries and monuments by which spots are indicated, and also from the nature of the plain, the topography of which must have been frequently altered by the change of the water-courses. On the latter subject a few words are necessary. The plain of Tripolitza, of which Mantinice formed part, is one of those valleys in Arcadia, which is so completely shut in by mountains, that the streams which flow into it have no outlet except through the chasms in the mountains, called katavothra. The part of the plain, which formed the territory of Mantineia, is so complete a level, that there is not, in some parts, a sufficient slope to carry off the waters ; and the land would be overflowed, unless trenches were made to assist the course of the waters towards some one or other of the katavothra which nature has provided for their discharge. (Pol. xi. 11.) Not only must the direction of these trenches have been sometimes changed, but even the course of the streams was sometimes altered, of which we have an interesting example in the history of the campaign of 418. It appears that the regulation of the mountain torrent on the frontiers of Mantinice and Tegeatis was a frequent subject of dispute and even of war between the two states; and the one frequently inundated the territory of the other, as a means of annoyance. This was done in 418 by Agis, who let the waters over the plain of Mantineia (Thuc. v. 65). This river can only be the one called Ophis by the Geographers of the French Commission. It rises a little N. of Tegea, and after flowing through Tegeatis falls now into a katavothra north of the hill Scope. In general the whole plain of Mantineia bears a very different aspect from what it presented in antiquity; instead of the wood of oaks and cork-trees, described by Pausanias, there is now not a single tree to be found; and no poet would now think of giving the epithet of lovely (erateine) to the naked plain, covered to a great extent with stagnant water, and shut in by gray treeless rocks. (Ross, Reisen im Peloponnes, p. 128.)
  About a mile N. of the ruins of Mantineia is an isolated hill called Gurtzuli; north of which again, also at the distance of about a mile, is another hill. The latter was probably the site of the ancient Mantineia, arid was therefore called Ptolis in the time of Pausanias (viii. 12. § 7). This appears to have been one of the five villages from the inhabitants of which the city on the plain was peopled.
  There were several roads leading from Mantineia. Two of these roads led north of the city to Orchomenus: the more easterly of the two passed by Ptolis, just mentioned, the fountain of Alalcomeneia, and a deserted village named Maera (Maira), 30 stadia from Ptolis ; the road on the west passed over Mt. Anchisia, on the northern slope of which was the temple of Artemis Hymnia, which formed the boundary between Mantinice and Orchomenia. (Paus. viii. 12. §§ 5--9, comp. viii. 5. § 11.)
  A road led from Mantineia on the W. to Methydrium. It passed through the plain Alcimedon, which was 30 stadia from the city, above which was Mount Ostracina; then by the fountain Cissa, and, at the distance of 40 stadia from the fountain, by the small place Petrosaka, which was on the confines of the Mantineian and Megalopolitan territories. (Paus. viii. 12. §§ 2--4.)
  Two roads led from Mantineia southwards,--the one SE. to Tegea, and the other SW. to Pallantium. On the left of the road to Tegea, called Xenis by Polybius (xi. 11, § 5), just outside the gates of Mantineia, was the hippodrome, and a little further on the stadium, above which rose Mount Alesium: at the spot where the mountain ceased was the temple of Poseidon Hippius, which was 7 stadia from the city, as we learn from Polybius (xi. 11. § 4, compared with xi. 14. § 1). Here commenced the ditch, which is said by Polybius to have led across the Mantineian plain to the mountains bordering upon the district of the Elisphasii (he ton Elisphasion Chora Pol. xi. 11. § 6, comp. 15. § 7, xvii. 6). Beyond the temple of Poseidon was a forest of oaks, called Pelagus (Pelagos), through which ran the road to Tegea. On turning out of the road to the left, at the temple of Poseidon, one found at the distance of 5 stadia the tombs of the daughters of Pelias. Twenty stadia further on was a place called Phoezon (Phoizon). This was the narrowest part of the plain between Tegea and Mantineia, the road being shortened by the hill Scope on the W. and a similar projecting rock on the E. Here was the tomb of Areithous, who was said to have been slain in a narrow pass by Lycurgus (steinopoi en hodoi, Hom. Il. vii. 143). 2 This narrow valley, shut in by the two projecting ridges already mentioned, formed the natural frontier between the territories of Mantineia and Tegea. The boundary between the two states was marked by a round altar on the road, which was about four miles distant from Mantineia, and about six miles from Tegea. It was here that the Lacedaemonian army was posted, over which Epaminondas gained his memorable victory. He had marched from Tegea in a north-westerly direction, probably passing near the site of the modern Tripolitza, and then keeping along the side of Mt. Maenalus. He attacked the enemy on their right flank, near the projecting ridge of Mt. Maenalus, already described. It was called Scope (Skope, now Myrtikas), because Epaminondas, after receiving his mortal wound, was carried to this height to view the battle. Here he expired, and his tomb, which Pausanias saw, was erected on the spot. (Paus. viii. 11. §§ 6, 7)
  The road from Mantineia to Pallantium ran almost parallel to the road to Tegea till it reached the frontiers of Tegeatis. At the distance of one stadium was the temple of Zeus Charmon. (Paus. viii. 10, 11, 12. § 1.)
Two roads led from Mantineia eastwards to Argos, called Prinus (Prinos) and Climax (Klimaxi), or the Ladder, respectively. (Paus. viii. 6. § 4.) The latter was so called from the steps cut out of the rock in a part of the road; and the Prinus probably derived its name from passing by a large holm-oak (prinos), or a small wood of holm-oaks; but the roads do not appear to have borne these names till they entered Mantinice. There are only two passes through the mountains, which separate the Argive plain from Mantinice, of which the southern and the shorter one is along the course of the river Charadrus, the northern and the longer one along the valley of the Inachus. Both Ross and Leake agree in making the Prinus the southern and the Climax the northern of these two roads, contrary to the conclusions of the French surveyors. Both roads quitted Argos at the same gate, at the hill called Deiras, but then immediately parted in different directions. The Prinus after crossing the Charadrus, passed by Oenoe, and then ascended Mount Artemisium (Malevos), on the summit of which, by the road-side, stood the temple of Artemis, and near it were the sources of the Inachus. Here were the boundaries of Mantinice and Argolis. (Paus. ii. 25. §§ 1--3.) On descending this mountain the road entered Mantinice, first crossing through the lowest and most marshy part of the Argon, or Uncultivated Plain, so called because the waters from the mountains collect in the plain and render it unfit for cultivation, although there is a katavothra to carry them off. On the left of the plain were the remains of the camp of Philip, son of Amyntas, and a village called Nestane, probably now the modern village of Tzipiana. Near this spot the waters of the plain entered the katavothra, and are said not to have made their exit till they reached the sea off the coast of the Argeia. Below Nestane was the Dancing-place of Maera (Choros Mairas), which was only the southern arm of the Argon Plain, by means of which the latter was connected with the great Mantineian plain. The road then crossed over the foot of Mount Alesium, and entered the great Mantineian plain near the fountain Arne at the distance of 12 stadia from the city. From thence it passed into the city by the south-eastern or Tegeatan gate. (Paus. viii. 6. § 6--viii. 8. § 4.)
  The other road, called Climax ran from Argos in a north-westerly direction along the course of the Inachus, first 60 stadia to Lyrceia, and again 60 stadia to Orneae, on the frontiers of Sicyonia and Phliasia. (Paus. ii.25. §§ 4--6.) It then crossed the mountain, on the descent of which into Mantinice were the steps cut out of the rock. The road entered Mantinice at the upper or northern corner of the Argon Plain, near the modern village of Sanga. It then ran in a south-westerly direction, along the western side of Mount Alesium, to a place called Melangeia (ta Melangeia), from which drinking-water was conducted by an aqueduct to Mantineia, of which remains were observed by Ross. It corresponds to the modern village of Pikerni, which is said to signify in the Albanian language abounding in springs. The road next passed by the fountain of the Meliastae (Meliastai), where were temples of Dionysus and of Aphrodite Melaenis: this fountain was 7 stadia from the city, opposite Ptolis or Old Mantineia. (Paus. viii. 6. §§ 4, 5.)

This extract is from: Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography (1854) (ed. William Smith, LLD). Cited June 2004 from The Perseus Project URL below, which contains interesting hyperlinks

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