Person misses census
On Sunday night I had two tasks, the first to send off my census form - after struggling through pages for Person 1 and Person 3, how they are related and how many bedrooms they have - and the second to finish a short piece on Cicero's speech, Pro Archia.
Poor old Archias, a Syrian immigrant and Cicero's former poetry teacher, was in deep trouble in 62 BC. Was he legal or not? Was he a citizen or not? He had got himself stuck in a row between two big beasts of the Roman jungle, Lucullus and Pompey. He was a flatterer by trade but it wasn't easy even for the smartest foreign poet to please everyone all the time.
Archias lacked the proper paperwork. His citizenship records had been destroyed by war - an early version of the 'cat ate my homework' defense. But worse than that, he had then missed the census. He had been abroad with Lucullus at the time. How was he going to get out of that?
Not even Cicero could pretend that a man had filled in his census form when he had not. So he had to deliver a brilliant passage of distraction (Confirmatio B, as the scholars call it), describing all the virtues of poets and poetry for a civilised state, once a key text for the Renaissance and the only part of the speech that anyone now remembers.
The best possible justification for a Person missing the census.