The Mantineia theatre is situated at the agora, i.e. the place gathering all political, religious, cultural and social activity of the ancient city. Pausanias, the traveller and geographer, makes an implicit reference (8, 9, 2), when he writes: "I've also seen a temple of Hera near the theatre". [gr.: «Είδα και της Ήρας ναό κοντά στο θέατρο»]. 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.
The theatre was uncovered during the Mantineia excavations undertaken by the French Archaeological School in the nineteenth century. Systematic research and study will provide satisfactory information as to the date of erection, the monument's evolution through the centuries, its exact architectural form and use in relation to the historical development of ancient Mantineia.