Talk:Cloaca Maxima

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The Path of the Cloaca Maxima

The main page says:

As Quarry Lane is in the rimwards-by-widdershins part of the city (to those thinking in Roundworld terms, the south-east), and they eventually :resurface, after following the length of the Cloaca, in the University Library, at the other end of the City(turn-by-hubwise, or a long way north-west), then two things may be deduced.
That the Cloaca runs the full diameter of the city, from bottom-right to top-left;
That it is at such a depth that it runs underneath the River, as a direct line taken between Quarry Lane and the University crosses the River twice at the Isle of Gods. This would explain why it is only accessible in high summer or at time of drought: based on what we know on Roundworld about ancient drainage systems, this would have been deliberate, so that the River could be harnessed to flushing the Great Drain through. It is assumed that the Cloaca carries on past Quarry Lane and the city limits, to a point where it flushes directly into the Circle Sea. The text of Men at Arms confirms this:-
A very large tunnel, almost blocked with debris and silt, led off in what Cuddy thought was the direction of the estuary (p227, Corgi PB)
The assumption is also that lesser tributary sewers originating in other areas of the city periodically feed into the Cloaca, thus in theory at least, providing the main arteries of a sewerage network capable of serving the whole city's needs. Again, the text of Men at Arms confirms that the Cloaca is so arranged: Cuddy and Detritus initially land in such a tributary sewer, and follow it downwards into the main Cloaca. The body of someone that looked for all the world like Beano the clown is discovered concealed in one of many such lesser sewers, which all feed into the main drain.

I couldn't help but start mentally questioning this when I read it, partly because the way I see t, it doesn't have to run the full diameter of the city. Perhaps I'm reading the page wrong, but both Quarry Lane and the UU Library are in Morpork, thus it doesn't technically have to pass under the river Ankh. Also, while it's true the University is more turnwise than Quarry Lane, the image presented by "bottom-right to top-left" seems to exaggerate this view more than may be the case.

For some reason I linked through Cloacina to Wikipedia, and from there to the page about the Roman Cloaca Maxima. I don't remember why, but I ended up looking at the image they have on that page - a map showing the course of the Roman Cloaca Maxima - and thinking "That could fit into Ankh-Morpork". So I downloaded it, loaded up photoshop and overlayed it onto the "Streets of Ankh-Morpork Map". It's not a perfect fit, but I still think it's pretty close:

The Roman Cloaca Maxima superimposed onto Morpork.png

Given Ankh-Morpork's not Rome we might make some mental adjustments, deepening the curves near UU and around the Ankh. It also doesn't reach Quarry Lane, but comes close by reaching Five Ways. What I found a funny coincidence was that it passes beneath both the Alchemist's Guild and Plumber's Guild buildings - it seems very apt for the Plumber's to be above it given their occupation, and I wonder if the Alchemist's had ever come across it (either as a blast shelter or to "safely dispose" of failed experiments). Were the path something like this, it might also be said that it had been designed to be "flushed" through by siphoning water from the River Ankh. In theory, it might also be possible to stratigraphically date the building of the sewer and/or old city walls, as if it took this course it looks like it might pass through or beneath the historic wall lines along Goosegate and Treacle Mine Road - perhaps the idea being the sewage was taken outside the city limits - which would make sense with regards to the position of Quarry Lane (lately I've been trying to sketch out a possible layout of historic Ankh-Morpork so this really caught my eye). If historic Morporkians had anything of the ingenuity and understanding of Roundworld Romans, I expect they were quite aware of the importance of draining marshes and proper sewage systems to take things some distance from them to prevent contamination. It also looks as if it starts within the bounds of the old city walls.

I would, however, agree some part of it could go beneath the River Ankh.

The sewers (unnamed, so possibly in general, though given how the sewers of Ankh-Morpork seem unknown to most this could still be the Cloaca Maxima) are featured in Discworld Noir (I haven't played it, but I'm sad enough to have watched the walkthrough. Multiple times.). on the "map view" in the game, it looks like the cursor is hovering around Holofernes Street, and Lewton describes them thus:

"A shallow sewer, running from the Brass Bridge and then around the Rimward edge of the Patrician's Palace."

Nobby, probably following Men At Arms, admits he's heard of the sewers under Ankh-Morpork, saying they're underwater except during drought. Malaclypse claims "albino alligators" (and according to a palace guard, rats and deadly vegetation) live in the sewers and that the sewers themselves are below the water table. Plans for an "intricate sewer system" were found in the Von Uberwald library (what they're doing there one can only imagine - unless it has something to do with Carlotta...), which Lewton thinks must be thousands of years old and under the water line if there wasn't a drought on. Throughout the game it's raining, and Lewton notes that "given the rains that we'd had recently, I could only find one section of sewer that might be above the water. There was a shallow sewer running from the Maudlin Bridge around the Rimwards side of the Royal Winter Palace of the Kings of Ankh, now the home of the Patrician. I guess the designers weren't allowed to put sewers under the Palace grounds, which might have been why the Royal Summer Palace of the Kings of Ankh was a long way from Ankh-Morpork. That and the stench of the river Ankh anyway". [Again, this little fact about it not going through the palace might help dating via stratigraphy: there was something significant there that made them not want to build through that spot. Presumably the Palace was there, but it's gone through some changes since it was built given the -by Roundworld standards- post 16th cent architecture. Working out the historic layout of Ankh-Morpork is no easy task, but I wouldn't have said the Palace was there during AM's main middle ages, so it seems the sewers were built after that time too - which makes sense with the dates of Cirone IV being post 1500 and the time of kings ending with the late 17th cent. This seems a bit confusing given the conversation between Detritus and Cuddy in Men at Arms:

' "Cirone IV me fabricat",' he read aloud. 'He was one of the early kings, wasn't he? Hey . . . do you know what that means?'
'No-one's been down here since yesterday,' said Detritus.
'No! This place . . . this place is more than two thousand years old.'

Early? 2000 Years Old? That's about the same age as UU, isn't it? But Cirone II (1511/2)surely came before Cirone IV, and I don't think the the Palace was there 2000 years ago... Part of me wonders if there was just some very hard rock there they didn't want to mine through, and whether the avoidance of the palace is pure coincidence. Head aching. Perhaps I'm tying myself up in knots, but I'm sure I'm onto something. Moving on...]

"The ancient civic plans from the Library led me straight to the sewers entrance, not far from the Maudlin Bridge. A relatively small tunnel was concealed beneath a pile of debris that must have accumulated over the centuries. It looked as if most of the tunnels here were actually still above the water line: the sludge to be more honest about it. "

(Just a little side note: The sewer water looks green in the images and Lewton - a werewolf by this point -says he isn't certain it really was "water". Perhaps that backs up my thought on the Alchemists "waste disposal". Also, given nature of how initial exploration of the tunnels often leads Lewton in circles, a little bit of me has started wondering if they're close to the University and influenced by it's unusual moving structure.) At one point Lewton looks up one of the pipes through a grill and can see the Temple of Small Gods above. (Now there's a thought: what if the University's unseen structure is able to vary with relation to other structures, not just within it's own walls? I.e. you look out of one window and you're right next to the university, but look out another and you're next to, say, the Disk, or Treacle Mine Road, or Scoone Avenue... or Empirical Crescent maybe... I'm quickly coming to the conclusion the University must be a TARDIS.)

I also have vague recollections of the sewers being featured in ... I think it was the first Discworld Game, and I think Rincewind used them to get to the Pork Futures Wearhouse... though perhaps I'm mistaken. I'll have to watch that walkthrough again soon to check.

--Verity (talk) 01:20, 30 April 2015 (UTC)