Nothing about Xenophon's Hellenica is more outrageous than his treatment of the relations of Persia and the Greeks. It was orthodoxy in the circle of Agesilaus that Theban medizing, barbarismos, had sabotaged the plans for a glorious anabasis (IV. ii. 3, V. ii. 35, III. v. 1 f.) and recalled him to the defence of his city (by the very route, ironically, taken by King Xerxes in 480 — IV. ii. 8 — the would-be avenger in the footsteps of the would-be enslaver). Not until the Thebans woo and win the fickle favour of the King (VII. i. 33 ff.), does anything like detail emerge. In the regrettable interlude, the less said the better. If the third speech of Andocides had not survived, there would have been some tangled theorizing about a note in Didymus (FGrH 328f 149), especially as regards ‘the ambassadors who in Sparta consented’, but sober historical judgement would never have transgressed so far from the text of Xenophon as to postulate a Peace Congress in Sparta as well as in Sardis in 392. Likewise, the merest chance of epigraphic survival assures us that the oaths, which the ‘Athenians and the Spartans and the other Greeks’ swore in 387/6, ‘the King swore’ (G.H.I. 118 lines 10 f.) — and so on. If we did not have the reflection of Ephorus in Diodorus, albeit a mirror cracked and blemished, we would be sadly astray in 375 and 371. When, however, the despicable Thebans become the King's favoured power, disgraceful scenes unfold. ‘Pelopidas very much had things his own way with the Persian; he could say that the Thebans alone of the Greeks had fought on the King's side at Plataea, that they had never afterwards campaigned against him, that the Spartans were at war with them because they would not join Agesilaus…etc.’ (VII. i. 34). A Persian is found at Thebes reading out the contents of a Royal Rescript, after displaying the Royal seal (ibid. §39); at Sparta twenty years before, such details had been left to the imagination.
The cause of Xenophon's method in this matter is not for the moment under discussion, but rather the consequence, viz. our uncertainty about what precisely the King's Peace said. There was a document, inscribed on stone pillars and displayed in the national shrines (Isoc. IV. 180, XII. 107). If ever a copy turns up, what can we expect to find? The measure of our uncertainty was provided by Wilcken, who produced a curious hypothesis which found little sympathy; that he could do so shows the state of the evidence. Some effort of the imagination is needed, and those who gravely disapprove of conjectures of what might have been the case need read no further. At the end one can be sure of very little. Conjectures, however, have been uttered, en passant, elsewhere. What may prove to be a chorus of disdain has begun. A formal confession may be welcome.