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Menelaus was the son of the King Atreus of Mycenae and the Cretan Aerope. His brother was Agamemnon. He married Helen, daughter of Tyndareus. Menelaus and Helen had a daughter, Hermione, and some variations of the myth Giacomo Brogi. Menelaus, marble bust. Before 1881. Rome (Vatican Museums).

suggest they had a son Nicostrato also. Following Tyndareus's death, Menelaus became king of Sparta because the only male heirs, Castor and Polydeuces had died and ascended to Mount Olympus. Bust of Helen of Troy by Antonio Canova at Victoria and Albert Museum.


Menelaus and Helen lived quietly in Sparta, but their happiness was destroyed on the arrival of Paris, a Trojan prince. At that time, Menelaus was in Crete to attend the funeral of his uncle. Herodotus states that during the absence of the king,

The Rape of Helen by Tintoretto. Helen languishes in the corner of a land-sea battle scene. C. 1578–1579.Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Helen was abducted. Other versions relate how Helen fell in love with Paris. Sappho argues that Helen willingly left behind Menelaus and Hermione, her nine-year-old daughter, to be with Paris. Either way is that both escaped and sailed to Troy. Menelaus was warned by Iris of this disgrace and he returned to Sparta, where he summoned all the kings who had taken the oath of Tyndareus.


He asked his brother Agamemnon to help him to get Helen back from Troy. Agamemnon then sent several emissaries to the Achaean kings and princes to help retrieve Helen. Thus began the Trojan War. Virtually all of Iris, by Luca Giordano, 1684-1686.

Greece took part in

attacking Troy with Menelaus.

Then Menelaus and Ulysses went to Delphi to consult the oracle on expedition against Troy. The rock from which the Erythraean Sibyl or Herophile foretold the future.


Menelaus took part in the expedition with sixty ships. Menelaus fought bravely at Troy, although he did not occupy as important a position as his brother Agamemnon, who was the commander-in-chief of the Greek forces. From left to right, Agamemnon, Talthybios and Epeios, identified by inscriptions in Ionian script ("Agamemnon" is written in retrograde script). Fragment of a relief, maybe the armrest from the throne of a cult statue. May represent Agamemnon's initiation to the Samothracean mystery cult. Marble, Greek archaic artwork, ca. 560 BC. From Samothrace.

Immediately after the landing of the Greek, Menelaus and Ulysses went as ambassadors to the

City of Troy to reclaim Helen and the treasures that Paris had taken.

Portion of the legendary walls of Troy (VII), identified as the site of the Trojan War (ca. 1200 BC)


But the Trojans rejected every offer of compromise, providing a casus belli for the Trojan War.

Scene of the Trojan War, Metropolitan Museum of Art, NYC.

In the third book of Iliad, Menelaus challenges Paris to a duel for Helen's return and Helen would be for the winner. Menelaus beated Paris, but before he could kill him and claim victory Aphrodite hid him under a cloud and took him inside the walls of Troy.

Tabula iliaca representing the fight of Menelaus and Paris for Helen: Menelaus (hand on the left) grabs Paris (with Phrygian cap and round shield) by the helmet to drag him to the Greek camp. Marble, 1st century BC. From Rome? Stored in the Staatliche Museeen of Berlin, Antikensammlung.


Kalliades as potter (signed), Douris as painter (signed). Menelaus (centre-left) pursues Paris (centre-right) as Aphrodite (left) and Artemis (right) watch on. Side A from an Attic redfigure kylix, ca. 490–480 BC. From Capua.

Antalya Archaeological Museum. Ancient Roman sarcophagus of Aurelia Botania Demetria ( 2nd century AD ): Aphrodite is concealing Paris who is defeated by Menelaos. Odysseus is looking at the szene.


In the fourth book Zeus sent Athena to break the truce; Athena inspired the Trojan Pandarus to kill Menelaus. Pandarus sent an arrow and wounded him slightly in the abdomen. From that moment the battle resumed between both sides. Menelaus killed Scamandrius, son of Strophius. Although he fought with Aeneas, did not accomplish anything. In the evening, Hector challenged some

Menelaos and Hector fighting over the body of Euphorbos. Plate, Middle Wild Goat style, made in Rhodes ca. 600 BC. From Kameiros.

of the Greeks to fight against him, Menelaus accepted the challenge, but Agamemnon and the other kings disuaded him. During the fighting around the ships, Menelaus wounded Helenus and then killed Pisandro, Hyperenor, Dolops and finally Thoas. 8

In the seventeenth book Homer described Menelaus with an enormous aristeia, as the hero retrieved the corpse of Patroclus from the battlefield. He slayed Podes and Euphorbus

Menelaus and Meriones lifting Patroclus' corpse on a cart while Odysseus (on the right, wearing the pilos hat and a shield) looks on. Alabaster urn, Etruscan artwork, 2nd century BC. From Volterra. Stored in the Museo Nazionale Archeologico Nazionale in Florence.

there. In the twentythird book of the Iliad he bravely competed in the funeral games of Patroclus. In the events after the Iliad when Paris was killed by an arrow, Menelaus insulted the corpse. He was among the warriors who were hidden in the wooden horse.

Depiction of the story of the Trojan horse in the art of Gandhara. British Museum.


Helen on the Ramparts of Troy by Gustave Moreau, depict an expressionless Helen; a blank or anguished face. Late 19th century

Finally Menelaus killed Deiphobus, who had married Helen after the death of Paris. He also intended to kill Helen. Menelaus took Helen by the hair and dragged her to the boats. But struck by Menelaus Painter. Menelaus intends to strike Helen; struck by her beauty, he drops his swords. A flying Eros and Aphrodite (on the left) watch the scene. Detail of an Attic red-figure crater, ca. 450–440 BC, found in Gnathia (now Egnazia, Italy).

her beauty he forgave her and Helen was saved. 10

After the victory, Menelaus started on his journey back to Sparta, while his brother stayed in Troy. When he arrived at Cape Malea, a storm dragged him to Crete, where several of their boats capsized. From Crete he went to Egypt where he spent five years and he got a lot of richess. Another version said that Hermes carried the real Helen to Egypt, giving her to King Proteus. She spent the ten years of the Trojan War there, while her phantom went to Troy. When Menelaus arrived to Egypt, he was reunited with Helen.

Der hรถllische Proteus. Erasmus Francisi (1627-1694) was the author of the book. 1695.

In order to discover what he had to do to obtain fair winds for the journey, Menelaus had to catch Proteus, a shapeshifting sea god. He described the sacrifices necessary to appease the gods and gain safe passage across the sea.


While Menelaus' ships were becalmed on the island of Pharos; Menelaus eventually returned safely to Lacedaemon, where he and

Helen settled

back into

married life.

Telemachus visited Menelaos, ca. 1886.

At the end of his life Menelaus was transported to Elysium. According to Euripides' Helen, after Menelaus died, he was reunited with Helen on the Isle of the Blessed.

"Elisium" by LĂŠon Bakst (1866-1924) from 1906. 12

Ruins of Menelaion in Sparta.

In the time of Pausanias it was possible to see the house where Menelaus had lived.



Third Classical Culture from IES de POIO. Course 2010-11.



Students of third Classical Culture present their work on the Spartan King Menelaus.


Students of third Classical Culture present their work on the Spartan King Menelaus.