The shrine was dedicated to Venus as the deity of Cloaca Maxima, the main sewer of ancient Rome. Venus was identified with the goddess of Cloacina who had Etruscan origins. The shrine was also the entrance of the sewage system.
The origin of the shrine of Venus Cloacina dates back to the founding of Rome and the rape of the Sabine women. According to Pliny the Elder, when the Romans and the Sabines decided to make peace both the Romans and the Sabines laid down their weapons at the location of the shrine and purified themselves with sprigs of myrtle.
Cloacina was worshipped by the Romans as the goddess of the Cloaca Maxima (the main sewage drain) and of the entire sewer system. The Romans believed that a good sewage system was important for the future success of Rome, as a good sewer system was necessary for the physical health of Roman citizens. Additionally, Romans worshipped Cloacina as the goddess of purity and the goddess of filth. Cloacina’s name is probably derived the Latin verb “cloare” meaning “to purify” or “to clean,” or it is derived the Latin word “cloaca”, meaning “sewer.” The origins of the title Venus that were later added are unknown.
The shrine was built on the Via Sacra near the area of the Tabernae Novae, which was later removed to make room for the Basilica Aemilia. The shrine was believed to be an entrance way to the Cloaca Maxima, but only the foundations of the original shrine currently remain. Historians have a basic idea what the shrine looked like because coins were minted during the second triumvirate with an image of the Shrine of Venus Cloacina on one side. The coins show a small round structure with a metal balustrade.