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The ‘Greatest Sewer’ of Ancient Rome

When the Romans built the Cloaca Maxima in the 6th century BC, they were very pleased with themselves for coming up with such an effective water drainage system. They were so pleased, they named it the “Greatest Sewer,” which is what Cloaca Maxima translates to. It is one of the oldest monuments in Rome, albeit lacking the glamor of the Colosseum or the Pantheon.

The sewer was constructed as an open drainage system during the reign of Tarquinius Priscus, and was originally used to empty the marshlands and carry stormwater from the central Forum section of the city to the river Tiber. Much later, around the 3rd century BC, the open drain was covered, and waste from latrines and public baths were directed through the system.

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