neilgodfrey wrote:We don't use that method directly but indirectly it does factor in...
I think this is discussing a different issue. The point being made, to which I responded, is that we must use contemporary and archaeological evidence as our criterion of whether people exist. This is mistaken. It doesn't advance that claim to point out that, if we have contemporary and archaeological evidence, we use it. Of course we do. But the appeal was to that as more or less exclusive, and to its absence as an argument.
We don't have any primary evidence for Publius Vinicius the Stammerer, ...
By "primary" we usually mean "ancient". I'm afraid I don't know who Publius Vinicius the Stammerer was - mentioned somewhere in Seneca? But if he was, as I think, perhaps someone otherwise unknown, then your point is that we accept the existence of people mentioned in "reliable" sources. Which sounds reasonable.
But ... I am rather wary of where this is going. Because ...
But when we see that that literary evidence is in the form of a genre that we know generally indicates an intent to report something "factual" however much else it also reports and however the facts are coloured. We assess the reliability of the literary evidence according to the extent its contents can be verified. So the writings of Cicero, Caesar, Tactitus, Suetonius, despite their vagaries, count far more than the Historia Augusta.
Although the only two writers in that group who are writing in the same genre are Suetonius and the Historia Augusta, tho.
And I sense the idea that "no testimony need be considered unless present in more than one source", which of course won't do.
While genre must be taken into account, appeals to genre are dangerous because they privilege a modern classification over ancient evidence. (The same applies to whether we consider an author "reliable" or not. If we are not careful, this allows us to ignore testimony by arbitarily marking it as "unreliable"; which is why much 19th century criticism is worthless). We would need to start with ancient testimony about forms of literature, and go from there. Thus we know that it was acceptable for dialogues to be written using the names of others in the recent past, because Cicero tells us so in his letters discussing the construction of his Tusculan Disputations. We know that it was acceptable to compose speeches in the body of histories, because the epitome of Pompeius Trogus preserved by Justinus tells us that Livy overdid it. That sounds objective to me, in a way that no modern opinions about the subject can be.
Unless, of course, someone finds it convenient to assert that that letter of Cicero was forged, and that Justinus is a later composition; in which case .... does that affect our argument? (Not to me it doesn't, since I privilege ancient data over theory; but consider whether it would affect it for you).
All the best,