Hermes' Favour

In ancient Greek sport, you always needed the gods on your side!

This animation was based on the same vase fragment from the Ure Museum that's used in The Cheat and The Runners.

about the animation

Athletics, including running, was an important part of ancient Greek culture.  Training was a way to keep fit, fast, and strong.  Gymnasiums, where men and boys trained, were places to socialise and learn in.  Athletics competitions were performed as offerings to gods and provided a chance to see who was the best.  In the classical period, running competitions included: the stadion (one length of the track), the diaulos (down the track and back), the dolichos (12 lengths of the track), and the hoplitodromos (two lengths of the stadion whilst wearing armour).

The ancient Greek poet Pindar was often hired to celebrate athletes' victories.  In Olympian Ode 8, he praises two brothers, Timosthenes and Alkimedon, who have won competitions at Nemea and Olympia.  Pindar says that they must be special to Zeus:

Timosthenes, destiny has assigned you and your brother

to Zeus Genethlios. He gave you glory at Nemea;

Alkimedon beside the Kronian hill

he made Olympic champion.

Splendid he was to behold, and, in action not shaming his beauty,

he won at wrestling to herald his homeland,

Aigina of the sweeping oar.


Pindar, Olympian Ode 8

The gods didn’t usually give athletes help as direct as that in Hermes’ Favour, but the Greeks had plenty of myths set in the past in which gods helped heroes by giving them special things.  In the Odyssey, the god Hermes helps Odysseus by giving him a special plant that protects him from the magic potions of Circe the witch:

As he spoke he pulled the herb out of the ground and showed me what it was like. The root was black, while the flower was as white as milk; the gods call it Moly, and mortal men cannot uproot it, but the gods can do whatever they like.


Odyssey 10.6

Hermes, god of thieves as well as the messenger god, is known as a bit of a rule breaker.  An ancient hymn dedicated to him tells a story of how he stole Apollo’s cattle on the very day he was born. Just the god to help a favourite athlete win!

Hermes’ Favour is a reworking of an earlier Panoply animation called Wings.





Wings was altered to de-commercialise it.


This is the storyboard that was created for the earlier animation, Wings.  The details were tweaked to create Hermes’ Favour.

vase details

Fragment of an Attic, black figure cup, a kylix.

High Archaic, c.550BCE.

Ure Museum,

(Accession Number: 51.4.6)


The music is from

follow-up activities


1) Ask your students to discuss why Hermes might have been chosen for the title of this animation.


2) Challenge your students to create their own story of a god helping a mortal using this downloadable activity sheet.

Which god will help? Who will they help? How and why?


3) View Olympia online.

follow-up viewing


1) The Cheat another race animation made from the same vase fragment.


2) The gods intervening:  The Procession and Bad Karma


3) An athlete boasts:  The Love of Honour

further reading

W.E. Sweet (ed.), Sport and Recreation in Ancient Greece: A Sourcebook with Translations, (OUP, 1987)

D.G. Kyle, Sport and Spectacle in the Ancient World, (Wiley-Blackwell, 2006)

D. Phillips and D. Pritchard, Sport and Festival in the Ancient Greek World, (I.B. Tauris, 2011)

N.J. Spivey, The Ancient Olympics, (OUP, 2012)

Open University open access study unit: The Ancient Olympics: Bridging Past and Present

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