In Greek mythology, Menelaus, king of Sparta*, was the son of King Atreus of Mycenae and the brother of the great warrior Agamemnon*. Menelaus's beautiful wife, Helen, the daughter of Zeus* and a woman called Leda, was at the center of the events that led to the Trojan War.
Before her marriage to Menelaus, Helen lived with Leda and Leda's husband, King Tyndareus of Sparta. When the time came for Helen to marry, she had many suitors. To prevent any violence against her future husband, the Greek warrior Odysseus made his countrymen swear to protect the man she agreed to wed. Helen chose Menelaus, who later became king of Sparta.
The conflict with the Trojans was set in motion when Aphrodite, the goddess of love, took steps to win a beauty contest judged by Paris, a prince of Troy. If declared the most beautiful goddess, Aphrodite promised to give Paris the most beautiful woman in the world—Helen. Aphrodite won the contest; Paris went to Sparta and took Helen away with him to Troy. The Trojans refused to send her back. Agamemnon raised an army of Greek warriors to retrieve Helen, reminding them of their oath to her husband. The story of the war between Greece and Troy appears in Homer's* epic the Iliad.
During the war, Menelaus played a minor role in the fighting, but he did face Paris in single combat. Although Menelaus came close to killing Paris, Aphrodite intervened and saved Paris, her personal favorite.
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After the Greeks defeated Troy, Menelaus returned to Sparta with Helen. However, the journey home was very difficult because he had neglected to offer sacrifices to the Trojan gods. The story of the voyage is told in Homer's Odyssey]. When Menelaus died, he became immortal because he had married a daughter of Zeus. He joined Helen in Elysium, a place of ideal happiness in the afterlife.