The Cloaca Maxima



For Pliny the Cloaca Maxima was the stuff of legends and he was proud of the Roman sewers for their scale and durability. By the sixth century AD the Roman politician and author Cassiodrus remarked on the ‘splendid sewers’ that bore witness to the greatness of Rome. Clearly the Cloaca Maxima was as much a powerful expression of urban development as it was a practical waste management solution.

However, the sewers also had strong religious connection, with a shrine dedicated to the Venus Cloacina, ‘Venus of the Sewers’, and man-hole covers (shown left, image provided by M. Bradley) depicting a river god swallowing away waste – known today as the Bocca della Verita, ‘Mouth of Truth’

The above image sourced with permission from Mark Bradley (2006)