At the Agora of ancient Mantineia, 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 identification of the temple was based upon the brief testimony by the traveller and geographer Pausanias (8, 9, 3), informing that the temple was situated in proximity to the theatre, within the Agora, which was the centre of public life in ancient Mantineia, 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 Mantineia 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 fa?ade, 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 Mantineia hosted the ceremonial statue of the goddess, depicting her on a throne flanked by her daughter Hebe and by Athena. Pausanias refers to Praxitelis as the creator of this composition, i.e. to the most important sculptor of the fourth century BC. 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 Mantineia, 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.