Menelaus was the son of Atreus and the brother of Agamemnon. He was married to Helen, and became the ruler of Helen's homeland, Lacedaemon; the couple had a daughter, Hermione. Helen's abduction by Paris, the son of King Priam of Troy, was the cause of the Trojan War.
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. At one point he agreed to settle the conflict by single combat with Paris, but Aphrodite interfered to prevent the duel from being decisive, and Athene prompted a resumption of hostilities.
During his return from Troy, Menelaus' ships were becalmed on the island of Pharos, near Egypt. In order to discover what he should do to obtain fair winds for the journey, Menelaus had to consult Proteus, the old man of the sea. He waited until Proteus had gone to sleep among his herd of seals and then seized him tightly. Proteus changed into many shapes in an attempt to escape, but Menelaus perservered, refusing to let go. Finally Proteus, unable to get free, agreed to answer Menelaus' questions truthfully. He described the sacrifices necessary to appease the gods and gain safe passage across the sea, as well as revealing that the gods would transport Menelaus to Elysium at the end of his mortal life.
Menelaus eventually returned safely to Lacedaemon, where he and Helen apparently settled back into happily married life.