On Midsummer's Day (June 21), the sun reaches its zenith at the tropic of Cancer. (The tropic of Cancer is the parallel of latitude 23 degrees and 27 minutes north of the equator. It is the northern boundary of the Torrid Zone and the most northerly latitude at which the sun reaches an altitude of 90 degrees. At that point the sun appears to turn back toward the earth again.) It marks the official beginning of summer. The Romans do not seem to have paid particular attention to the event, although attempts have been made to find a connection in the festival of Fors Fortuna (June 24). The festival was a rowdy affair. While some people made the pilgrimage on foot, Ovid describes flower-bedecked boats on the Tiber carrying youthful revelers and tipplers to the festival about five miles outside of Rome.

Summer Solstice

Apogee-Perigee
Sol at its zenith is
Commonly said to be
Midsummer's Day;
Romans, oblivious,
Solar-neglectfully
Turned their attention to
Fortune and play.


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