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Observing the land and surroundings in which we live

The elliptical city of Mantineia

Translated Jeff Matthews

Mantineia, the ancient city in eastern Arcadia, grew out of an amalgamation of five separate sites between the 6th and 5th centuries BC. At first, the city was an ally of Sparta and then an enemy, as a result of which it suffered a disastrous defeat in 418 BC, being then forced to knock down its own walls. They had been built earlier after the battle of Leuttra in 371 BC. Mantineia then went through a period of further destruction and rebuilding before finding a certain reprieve and stability under Roman domination and emperor Hadrian.

The urban perimeter, as seen in satellite images, is elliptical with dimensions of 1347 x 842 meters, measured from wall trace to wall trace across the center, excluding the trench (or ditch).

A summation of the ruins has been passed down to us: “In as far as walls of a certain height still exist in very good condition, apart from a few ruined sections, eight gates once crowned her walls and can be definitely made out. They are described thusly by various authors—

I at the SE, leading to Tegea, with two round towers.

II at the E, to Alesion, with two square towers.

III at the NE, to Melangeia,with two round towers.

IV at the N, to Ptolis, with two square towers.

V at the NNW, to Orchomenos, with two round towers.

VI verso NW, to swamps, with one round tower.

VII at the W, to Methydrion, with two square towers.

VIII at the S, to Pallantion, with two square towers.

(…) The Ophis river is near the Tegea gate and is channeled into the city and divided into two branches that then circle the city to be joined again and leave the city in the direction of the swamps named above.» (“Annali dell’Instituto di corrispondenza archeologica, Rapporto d’un viaggio fatto nella Grecia nel 1860”: A. Corize, A. Michaelis, pp. 1-90, Annals, Volume XXXIII, Tiberina printers, Rome 1861, p. 28).

There follows a precise list and description of the many reenforced towers along the wall, not all of which have survived, stating that “The total, excluding the fifteen towers at the gates, gives 93 towers that still exist, 5 that are almost certain, and 9 presumed, based on spacings, one of which was most likely a gate,” (ibidem, p. 29).

Within the walls there remain vestiges of the agorà, the theater and the bouleuterion, the meeting place of the town council of the pòlis

You can see Mantineia from above, for example, on Google Maps. Coordinates: 37°37’04.1” N – 22°23’33.2” E (Google Maps: 37.617804, 22.392559).

Good viewing!

Gianluca Padovan (Ass.ne S.C.A.M. – F.N.C.A.)

Click on image to enlarge


Details of the decoration on an Greek vase

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