Visitors to Piccadilly Circus may be surprised to learn of the history of its famous centrepiece – the statue of Eros atop his fountain – and one fact about it, in particular. Namely that the winged chap that delicately stands there, balanced on one foot, as he shoots his arrow in the direction of the Houses of Parliament in Westminster, isn’t Eros at all. It’s, in fact, Eros’s brother – Anteros.
Granted, there’s no great controversy about this. Eros – commonly recognised as one of Greek mythology’s chief gods of love throughout Western culture – is simply better known than Anteros (who is, technically speaking, the Greek god of requited love). And it isn’t particularly odd that Anteros should have been chosen as a subject for a major statue over the more famous Eros; Greek mythological figures were perhaps better known back in the Victorian era when the statue was erected.
However, the thing wasn’t actually seen as that major a statue to start with. Cast in aluminium (the first statue in the world, in fact) by sculptor Sir Alfred Gilbert and positioned in 1893, the Eros statue in Piccadilly Circus was received by the era’s UK-based Magazine of Art as “a work … [to] … beautify … one of our hitherto desolate open spaces”. Which just shows how much things have changed more than a hundred years on – imagine considering Piccadilly Circus as a desolate, empty and dull open space of London today! One walk through the space while staying at the best hotels near Piccadilly Circus and you’ll surely struggle to come to that conclusion!
Also, back in the day, the Anteros/ Eros statue wasn’t meant to take on the life of its own that down through the decades it has (mostly as the meeting place-of-choice of millions of millions of London visitors). For, the statue itself is actually part of an overall monument that includes the bronze fountain on which it stands. Together these make up what’s officially referred to as the Shaftesbury Monument. It was commissioned and erected to commemorate the life of the Victorian politician and major social reformer, the 7th Earl of Shaftesbury, whom (concerning himself with making conditions better for miners, factory workers, asylum patients and trying to eradicate child chimney sweeps) was the Bill Gates of his time.
The times then, Piccadilly Circus and even the way the ‘Eros statue’ is seen have changed quite dramatically over the decades – but it seems, reassuringly, the statue itself never has. However, this also isn’t actually true. Originally the monument (statue and fountain) was erected dead-centre in the Circus as opposed its relatively southerly position today. Moreover, following Eros’s bowstring being broken by a loutish tourist, a replacement was fitted in 2012 and, even less well known is that fact that, owing to damage in the early 1980s, it vacated the space entirely until it was repaired and re-spotted in 1985 – and the same happened again in the mid-1990s! Make the most of the trip to London by booking your stay at The Piccadilly Westend by choosing the best rooms and other features & hospitality available here.