The legend being invoked is that Gog and Magog were giants defeated by the invading Trojans and made to guard a palace that stood where the Guildhall now stands. This itself then invoking Biblical references. But they are such great names that the legend wanders off in all sorts of directions.
The invention of a history to connect one’s lineage or territory to a heroic past is a regular feature of human history. The Aeneid, for example, connected Rome’s origins to the Trojans.
The medieval period was rife with it. Geoffrey of Monmouth, whose Historia Regnum Britanniae (History of the Kings of Britain) was accepted as accurate history until the C16th, is a fabulous concoction. The contemporary description of medieval Arthurian stories as “medieval fanfic” is about right.
But, of course, the invention of the past is a habit that has never died. Think of horns on Viking helmets, the invention of a C19th illustrator, or perhaps from costume designs for Wagnerian opera, but which has become firmly implanted as the iconic image of Vikings. The trouble is, the invented past often makes a great story precisely because it is about what appeals, not what is correct.
And putting statues invoking London invoking a Homeric and Biblical past in a city which had been declared one only in 1847, so was not yet half a century old yet was, when the statues were erected, probably the richest city in the world, was a way for a brash new city to connect itself to a grand history.
This is also the Saturday chit-chat post.