Menelaus, son of Atreus, was a Greek hero and king of Sparta. When his wife Helen ran off with the Trojan prince Paris, Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon raised an army and sailed to Troy to get her back. This marked the beginning of the Trojan War.
Menelaus was a prominent leader during the Trojan War, though he was not typically described as one of the greatest of the Greek warriors. When the Greeks finally sacked Troy, Menelaus was on the verge of killing Helen for her treachery, but he ultimately spared her.
After sailing back home to Sparta, Menelaus and Helen resumed their married life. According to some traditions, they were even rewarded with a blissful afterlife in Elysium. The two were worshipped as heroes, especially at their tomb in Therapnae, near Sparta.
Who were Menelaus’ parents?
Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon were usually said to be the sons of Atreus. Their mother was Aerope, Atreus’ wife.
According to an alternative genealogy, however, their father was Pleisthenes, who was himself a son of Atreus (thus making Menelaus and Agamemnon the grandsons, rather than the sons, of Atreus).
Whom did Menelaus marry?
Menelaus married Helen, the beautiful daughter of Zeus and the Spartan queen Leda. All the most powerful men in Greece tried to woo her, but it was Menelaus who ultimately prevailed.
Menelaus and Helen were married for a few years and had several children together, including a daughter named Hermione. But when the Trojan prince Paris came to Sparta on a diplomatic mission, Helen fell in love with him and ran away with him to Troy (or was abducted, depending on the version).
Menelaus promptly started the Trojan War to get Helen back. Once Troy had been destroyed, he and Helen returned to Sparta to recommence their married life.
What city did Menelaus rule?
In most traditions, Menelaus was the king of Sparta in southern Greece. He received the throne from Tyndareus, the foster father of his wife Helen; after Menelaus and Helen were married, Tyndareus abdicated and made Menelaus king.
According to some literary sources, though, Tyndareus did not abdicate, and Menelaus was his heir for many years before finally taking the throne. In Aeschylus’ play Agamemnon, Menelaus does not even live in Sparta but instead shares his brother Agamemnon’s palace in Argos.
Menelaus Reunites with Helen
When the Greeks finally sacked Troy after a war that had dragged on for ten years, Menelaus scoured the city in search of his errant wife Helen. He found her after storming the home of her newest husband Deiphobus (Paris had died in battle some time before).
Menelaus initially wanted to kill Helen for her betrayal, and many literary and artistic sources represent him on the verge of doing so, drawn sword in hand. But one glimpse of Helen’s infamous beauty was enough to weaken his resolve. Menelaus dropped his sword and returned to Greece with Helen as his wife.