Glen, more and more I become convinced that our loss of learning in the Greek and Roman classics has created this vacuum into which the modern world has lurched. It is one of the reasons I am redoubling my efforts to learn more about them.
I wonder what one can actually learn sometimes TB. How accurate are the historical accounts? And who narrates them? Consider what future historians will read about Donald Trump... consider how many enemies Ceasar made. What do we ever know for sure...?
Glen, we do the best we can given the sources. Sometimes by the very way they are written - panegyric, for example - we can assess how "true" the source might actually be. We can match it up with other sources and even archaeology. That said, to be fair many of the speeches that people such as Thucydides and Procopius use are likely not the actual speeches, but what they think the person should have said or based on the gist of what was recorded. These are not word for word - obviously the InterWeb did not exist at that time - but that does not mean there is not truth and wisdom in them.
Historians, I'm told, read all they can about the subject and gather archeological evidence, and then they take their best guess.I'm an amateur aficionado of the Old West, and I'm given to understand that the famous Buntline Special never existed. Four were made; none remain. Bat Masterson was said to have received one such pistol and immediately had the barrel cut down to a manageable length. Years later he denied ever having had such a pistol, but had remarked that the barrel was a bit long for casual use.I have on my bookshelf a book written by a mountain man, a real deal, who wrote it because the books he'd been reading about people like him were wildly inaccurate, and so he wrote about how things really were. And they could get pretty lively, with long days of peace in between.As for the great philosophers and historians, we're repeating many of the same mistakes over and over.