Study Guide

Menelaos in The Iliad

By Homer


On the one hand, Menelaos is an important character in setting up the backstory of the Iliad. After all, it was his wife, Helen, who ran off with Paris and thus kicked off the Trojan War. On the other hand, the guy's kind of a doofus.

By now, the war is mostly Agamemnon's show, though even he has limited power when his warriors want to press their own agendas. When we see Menelaos in the Iliad, he is usually either getting duped—as when Aphrodite spoils his attempt to kill Paris in single combat—or giving in to peer pressure when Agamemnon tells him to execute a surrendering Trojan. Menelaos even gets shot with an arrow when Athene wants to end the truce between Trojans and Achaians. The guy can't catch a break.

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