In the late 500's B.C.E., Rome's network of sewers, also known as the Cloaca Maxima, were built. Even though the Romans were engineering geniuses, they still needed some extra luck when it came to the sewer system. For fear of sewer back up, the Romans nurtured the goddess who would make sure that the streets were clean of human waste. The goddess: Cloacina. Not only was Cloacina seen as the goddess of sewers, but she was also seen as the goddess of purity, as she was in charge of cleaning out all of the sewers. Cloacina originally came from Etruscan mythology, and her name is possibly derived from either the Latin verb “cloare or cluere” (to wash, to purify or to clean) or, from the Latin word cloaca, meaning “sewer.”
Besides the posters hanging in water reclamation offices, Cloacina is remembered by a shrine built in her honor in front of the Basilica Aemilia in Rome, directly above the Cloaca Maxima Sewer. According to www.sewerhistory.org, "it is believed that an entranceway (i.e., a “manhole”) to the sewer was once present within the physical confines of the shrine. Only the foundations of the original shrine remain evident today." Cloacina was also stamped onto a coin, which can now be purchased and added to your ancient currency collection for just over $1,000.
The next time you flush the toilet, take a moment to send some thanks to Cloacina!
Happy Women's History Month!