In Greek mythology, Menelaus (; , ''Menelaos'', from < μένος· vigor, rage, power + λαός· people, "''wrath of the people''") was a king of Mycenaean (pre-Dorian) Sparta, the husband of Helen of Troy, and a central figure in the Trojan War. He was the son of Atreus and Aerope, brother of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae and, according to the ''Iliad'', leader of the Spartan contingent of the Greek army during the War. Prominent in both the ''Iliad'' and ''Odyssey'', Menelaus was also popular in Greek vase painting and Greek tragedy, the latter more as a hero of the Trojan War than as a member of the doomed House of Atreus.
==Ascension and reign==
Although early authors such as Aeschylus refer in passing to Menelaus’ early life, detailed sources are quite late, post-dating 5th-century BC Greek tragedy.〔The chief sources for Menelaus' life before the Trojan War are Hyginus' ''Fabulae'' and the Epitome of the ''Bibliotheca''.〕 According to these sources, Menelaus' father, Atreus, had been feuding with his brother Thyestes over the throne of Mycenae. After a back-and-forth struggle that featured adultery, incest and cannibalism, Thyestes gained the throne after his son Aegisthus murdered Atreus. As a result, Atreus’ sons, Menelaus and Agamemnon, went into exile. They first stayed with King Polyphides of Sicyon, and later with King Oeneus of Calydon. But when they thought the time was ripe to dethrone Mycenae’s hostile ruler, they returned. Assisted by King Tyndareus of Sparta, they drove Thyestes away, and Agamemnon took the throne for himself.
When it was time for Tyndareus’ step-daughter Helen to marry, many kings and princes came to seek her hand. Among the contenders were Odysseus, Menestheus, Ajax the Great, Patroclus, and Idomeneus. Most offered opulent gifts. Tyndareus would accept none of the gifts, nor would he send any of the suitors away for fear of offending them and giving grounds for a quarrel. Odysseus promised to solve the problem in a satisfactory manner if Tyndareus would support him in his courting of Tyndareus’s niece Penelope, the daughter of Icarius. Tyndareus readily agreed, and Odysseus proposed that, before the decision was made, all the suitors should swear a most solemn oath to defend the chosen husband in any quarrel. Then it was decreed that straws were to be drawn for Helen’s hand. The suitor who won was Menelaus (Tyndareus, not to displease the powerful Agamemnon offered him another of his daughters, Clytaemnestra).〔()〕 The rest of the suitors swore their oaths, and Helen and Menelaus were married, Menelaus becoming a ruler of Sparta with Helen after Tyndareus and Leda abdicated the thrones. Menelaus and Helen had a daughter Hermione as supported, for example, by Sappho,〔Sappho, fr. 16. See an analysis of the poem by Gumpert, Grafting Helen, 92〕 whilst some variations of the myth suggest they had three sons as well: Aithiolas, Maraphius, and Pleisthenes.
Their palace (ἀνάκτορον) has been discovered (the excavations started in 1926 and continued until 1995) in Pellana, Laconia, to the north-west of modern (and classical) Sparta.〔(Palace of Helen )〕 Other archaeologists consider that Pellana is too far away from other Mycenaean centres to have been the "capital of Menelaus".〔Mee & Spawforth (2001), page 229〕
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