The authenticity of the speech which follows has been doubted more than once. As long ago as the first century b.c. Dionysius of Halicarnassus gave it as his considered opinion that it was not the work of Andocides; and in modern times his verdict has been upheld by more than one critic. Thus Eduard Meyer regarded the De Pace as a party-pamphlet issued in vindication of Andocides and others who had advocated peace with Sparta in 391 b.c. and suffered exile in consequence. The opposite view, however, has also received strong support, and at the present time it is held generally that the speech was delivered by Andocides himself on the occasion in question. The problem is one that can be better appreciated after a brief survey of the political situation at the end of the first decade of the fourth century.
After the final collapse of Athens in 404 b.c. Sparta was the foremost power in the Greek world. To all appearances she could easily step into the place vacated by Athens, establish a Spartan empire on the lines of the Delian League, and enjoy the material prosperity of her old rival. In fact, however, this was not to be, largely for three reasons: (1) Sparta had no naval tradition and would never make a first-class sea-power: (2) she had made an unfortunate agreement with Persia under the terms of which the
Greek cities of Asia Minor were to be surrendered to Artaxerxes in return for Persian support in the war with Athens: (3) the Greek allies, notably Thebes and Corinth, who had helped her to victory were demanding, perfectly justly, a share in the spoils.
Of (1) nothing further need be said. As a result of (2) Sparta found herself in a dilemma; if she kept her promise, she was not only depriving herself of the. material of empire, but was also turning traitor to her countrymen across the Aegean; if, on the other hand, she dishonoured the agreement, she made a foe of Persia, and she lost her name for honest dealing at the same time. In consequence she failed to follow either the one course or the other and ended by losing both the goodwill of Persia and the control of the Asiatic seaboard. She started by conceding Ionia to Cyrus; but when his successor, Tissaphernes, attempted the forcible recovery of the other cities claimed by Persia (400 b.c.), she sent Thibron to oppose him. In 398 Thibron was superseded by Dercyllidas; and during the years 396–395 Agesilaus himself conducted a series of brilliant predatory raids into Persian territory. In 394, however, he was recalled owing to the serious turn taken by home affairs; and just after he left for Greece the Spartan fleet commanded by his brother-in-law was annihilated off Cnidus by the Persians, who had engaged the services of the Athenian Conon. By 393 Sparta had lost her footing and her prestige in the eastern Aegean and Asia Minor. An abrupt change of policy followed. Proposals of peace were made to Persia, Sparta offering to recognize her right to the Greek seaboard in exchange for an undertaking that Persia