London has many landmarks which are recognised around the world. They include Trafalgar Square, Tower Bridge and Buckingham Palace to name but a few. Another iconic feature is the statue of Eros in the middle of Piccadilly Circus. But hold on a minute. Eros is not at all what it seems.
For a start, the statue is not Eros, the Roman God of Love and it never was. It is really a depiction of the Angel of Charity and was created by Alfred Gilbert in honour of the many charitable works of the Earl of Shaftsbury.
The original plan was to build a fountain at the end of Shaftsbury Avenue which was also named after the Earl. But when it was completed, it was decided to put a statue on top of it. And so Eros was born. The reason for the confusion is the bow he is holding. People thought it must represent Eros firing his arrows to create love between couples; a Cupid complex if you like.
But that’s not the only problem. The statue has been constructed in aluminium which is not the best material to battle the vagaries of London’s weather. And the bow was supposed to be aimed up Shaftsbury Avenue. Over the years it has been repositioned a number of times, but never has it been pointed in the right direction.
So in hindsight, would it have been better if it had been left as a fountain. Well, not really. When the fountain was first turned on in 1893, the pressure of water was too great for the mechanism of the fountain, with the result that anyone getting too close got a good soaking. Today the fountain element had been replaced by the steps leading up to the statue. But for all its faults, it is still one of London’s favourite landmarks.