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Bust of Menelaus, Vatican Museums

Menelaus ( Greek  Μενέλαος and Μενέλεως “people's leader”, Latin Menelaus ; sometimes Greek  epithet ξανθός xanthós “the blonde”) is king of Sparta , son of Aërope and Atreus of Mycenae (hence called Atride ) in the Greek myth . After the murder of his father by Aigisthus , he fled with his older brother Agamemnon from Mycenae to Sparta, where he married Tyndareos ' daughter Helena and through her became heir to this state.

Escape from Mycenae

Menelaus was the son of Atreus and Aërope. According to other sources, his father was Pleisthenes , who was either the brother or the son of Atreus. After Pleisthenes' early death, Atreus is said to have taken care of Menelaus and Agamemnon. Thyestes and his son Aigisthus killed Atreus and took control of Mycenae. The nurse brought Menelaus and Agamemnon to Polypheides , king of Sicyon , and thus saved them. He sent them to Oineus in Aetolia . At last they found refuge with Tyndareus in Sparta. Tyndareus went to the field against Mycenae, conquered it and banished Thyestes. Agamemnon and Menelaus were able to return to their homeland.

Wedding with Helena

Helena between Menelaus and Aphrodite . Detail of an Attic red-figure vase by the Menelaus painter , approx. 450–440 BC Chr.

Tyndareos' daughter Helena was very beautiful and was therefore courted by many suitors. Theseus had once kidnapped her. So Tyndareos was very worried. Odysseus advised him to invite all suitors and to take an oath from them before choosing the bridegroom. The suitors swore to accept the couple and protect them from rivals. Now Helena could choose her future husband and chose Menelaus. They had a daughter, Hermione . Some sources name another son Nikostratus . Others refer to Nikostratos and Megapenthes as the son of Menelaus with Pieris or Tereis. Another son with the nymph Knossia is named Xenodamos. After Tyndareos' sons, the Dioscuri , died, Menelaus became king of Sparta.

Abduction of Helena

There are two different versions of how Helena was abducted. The first says that Paris from Troy stayed with Menelaus for nine days. When the news of the death of his grandfather Katreus arrived, Menelaus immediately went to Crete for his funeral. Paris persuaded Helena to come with him, and so they left Sparta. Her nine-year-old daughter Hermione left Helena behind.

The second variant tells that Paris was on the way to the Dioscuri on behalf of his father to bring back Priam 's sister Hesione . At the same time Menelaus went to Nestor in Pylos. At Kythera the two fleets met and passed each other. Paris landed on Kythera. When Helena heard that the handsome Paris was staying there, she went to Helaia (possibly identical to Halieis ). Paris, too, wanted to see her and came there. Now he decided to kidnap her and had the ship ready. That night he abducted Helena to Troy.

The Trojan War

When Menelaus found out about the kidnapping, he immediately went home. Together with Palamedes and Odysseus he went to Troy and asked for his wife back. Paris, caught in a thunderstorm, had not yet returned and got first to Cyprus and then to Phenicia . Menelaus returned without having achieved anything. Now he reminded all Greeks of their oath, gathered a large army and went to Troy. Menelaus led a total of 60 ships from Laconia .

Menelaus turned out to be a brave fighter. During the duel with Paris, he gained the upper hand. When he was chasing him, Pandaros , instigated by Athene on the orders of Zeus , tried to shoot Menelaus, but his armor kept the arrow off. At this point Menelaus is addressed directly by Homer, which shows his prominent position. Despite a slight wound, Menelaus pursued Paris after receiving medical attention. The fight did not end fatally for Paris, because Aphrodite wrapped him in a cloud and carried him away into Helena's room. In the further fight Menelaus killed Skamandrios , the son of Strophios , and Pylaimenes with the spear. When Adrastus , the son of Merops Perkosios , fell from the chariot and begged for mercy, he wanted to spare him, but Agamemnon came up and killed him.

After Helenos had killed Deipyros , Menelaus faced him. Helenos shot him with the bow, but missed him. Menelaus hit him in the hand with the spear, whereupon he fled. In a duel with Peisandros , son of Antimachos , Menelaus' spear missed its target and Peisandros hit the shield. Now it came to hand-to-hand combat. Peisandros' ax only hit the crest of his helmet, while Menelaus fatally wounded his opponent's head with his sword. While he was stealing his armor, Harpalion , the son of Pylaimenes , rushed up, hit Menelaus' shield and backed away . But Meriones was able to shoot the fleeing man. Furthermore, Menelaus killed Dolops , the son of Lampos , when he was fighting Meges , and the Trojan Thoas (16, 311; not the Aitolier king of the same name ).

The corpse of Patroclus is recovered by Menelaus. Roman sculpture group, Florence, Loggia dei Lanzi

After Patroclus fell, Menelaus guarded the body to protect it from pillage. So he killed Euphorbos , the son of the Panthoos . But then a large Trojans came and he had to back away. Hector captured Patroclus' weapons before the Greeks drove back the Trojans. Menelaus also killed Podes, Eetion's son and Hector's friend.

At the games of the dead in honor of Patroclus, Menelaus took part in the chariot race and the javelin throw (which he won).

Troilos , Priam's youngest son, had injured Menelaus in battle. Since Achilles had fallen, they needed a new general for the Myrmidons . Therefore Menelaus was chosen to go to Lykomedes in Skyros . He won Neoptolemus , the son of Achilles, as the new military leader and offered him the prospect of marrying his daughter. In the final battle Menelaus killed Archelochus .

The conquest of Troy

He was one of the Greeks who hid in the Trojan Horse . During the sack of Troy, in search of Helena, with the decision to kill her, he went to the house of Deiphobos , who had claimed Helena for himself after Paris's death, and killed her. However, according to Euripides , Menelaus dropped his sword at the sight of Helena's beauty and took her with him to Sparta.


On the way home , Menelaus' best helmsman died at Cape Sounion Phrontes , whom he buried there. In Cape Malea they came in a storm and were to Libya devious. They lost all but five ships on the south coast of Crete. Then they came to Phenicia , Cyprus , Sidon and finally to Egypt . Menelaus found Helena with the seer Proteus . It turned out that the woman he had with him was just a cloud picture of Helena.

In Egypt in Canopus the helmsman Kanobos died and was buried there. Since Menelaus did not know how to return home, Idothea, the daughter of Proteus, told him that they had to tie the seer in order to find out the way. He revealed to them that the gods were angry about the fall of Troy and could only be appeased by a hecatomb , the sacrifice of a hundred cattle. Then they could start their return journey.


Eight years after the fall of Troy, Menelaus returned home, where his sister-in-law Clytemnestra, who had been slain by her son Orestes , was buried with her lover Aigisthus .

Orestes should marry Hermione. When Neoptolemus heard this, he demanded Hermione as a woman, as promised. Menelaus kept his word and gave them into his hands. When Telemachus visited him to investigate the fate of Odysseus, he was just wedging his daughter Hermione to Neoptolemus and his son Megapenthes to Iphiloche , the daughter of Alector . Orestes later killed Neoptolemus and married Hermione.

Menelaus donated the shield of Euphorbo to Heraion of Argos .

Menelaus' death

After Menelaus 'death Orestes was his successor, since Menelaus' sons were not considered worthy by his concubines. Menelaus, who had obtained immortality from Hera , rose to the Elysian realms . His body was buried in Therapne in the Menelaion .

Ancient copies of a marble group from the Greek period depicting Menelaus and the dead Patroclus can be found in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence and in the Vatican in Rome (see also Pasquino ).


  • Library of Apollodorus , 3, 131-137; 5, 15-16; 6, 3-28; 7, 1; 8, 21-22; 9, 1; 9, 29.
  • Dares Phrygius , The Fall of Troy , 9; 10; 13; 14; 20; 21; 23; 30; 31; 35-37; 43.
  • Dictys cretensis , Ephemeris belli Troiani , 1, 1; 1, 3; 2, 20; 4, 22; 5 - 6 (complete).
  • Hesiod , Eoien , 136, 9; 175, 1; 176, 7; 194; 195, e; 197.5; 198, 5; 204, 1; 204, 48-55.
  • Homer , Iliad .
  • Homer, Odyssey , 1, 280; 3, 141; 3, 313; 4, 1; 4, 49; 4.76; 4, 219; 8, 499.
  • Hyginus Mythographus , Fabulae , 78; 108; 114; 116; 118; 122; 123; 273.
  • Pausanias , travels in Greece , 1, 33, 8; 2, 13, 3; 2, 17, 3; 2, 18, 6; 2, 22, 6; 3, 1, 5; 3, 12, 6; 3, 14, 6; 3, 18, 13; 3, 18, 16; 3, 19, 9; 3, 22, 2; 3, 22, 10; 4, 1, 4; 5, 8, 3; 5, 18, 3; 5, 22, 2; 6, 25, 3; 7, 21, 8; 8, 23, 4; 8, 53, 5; 10, 16, 4; 10, 25, 2-3; 10, 26, 3-8; 10, 33, 2.
  • Quintus of Smyrna , Posthomerica , 4, 563; 4, 601; 5, 478; 6, 1; 6, 35; 6,497; 7, 200; 10, 126; 11.96; 12, 337; 13, 322; 13, 391; 13, 423; 14, 17; 14, 160; 14, 165; 14, 178.

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Velleius Paterculus , Historia Romana 1, 1, 3.
  2. Euripides Andromache 629-631.
  3. Homer: Odyssey in the Gutenberg-DE project

See also

Web links

Commons : Menelaos  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
predecessor Office successor
Tyndareos King of Sparta
12th century BC Chr.
(Fictional chronology)