Menelaus is the son of Atreus and Aerope. His twin brother is the powerful Agamemnon, the king of Mycenae.
After his father Atreus was killed by Aegisthus, his uncle Thyestes usurped the throne of Mycenae. After a period of exile, Agamemnon and Menelaus return, forcing Thyestes and Aegisthus into exile themselves. Agamemnon made his seat Mycenae, and Menelaus took Sparta as his kingdom.
When Tyndareus was looking for a husband for his beautiful daughter Helen, she had very many suitors. Agamemnon, Tyndareus' son-in-law, used his family connection and his power to influence Helen to choose his brother Menelaus as her husband. Helen bore Menelaus a daughter, Hermione.
When Paris steals Helen and much of the Spartan gold and takes them back to Troy, Menelaus goes to his brother Agamemnon for help. The two brothers gather their own forces, and then they sail to every major Greek city, gathering a huge army of 1,000 ships.
When they arrive at Troy, Menelaus and Odysseus go as ambassadors to the city and demand the return of Helen and the gold. The Trojans refuse.
During the war, Menelaus, just like his brother Agamemnon, fights well, but is not particularly distinguished. In the tenth year, Menelaus duels Paris one on one, in an attempt to end the war without any further loss of life. Menelaus was winning, but Aphrodite spirits him back behind the city's walls.
When Troy finally falls, Menelaus finds Helen, still beautiful after ten long years. He does not kill her, as he had intended, but disgracefully takes her back home with him as his wife. After a long voyage, they arrive back in Sparta and the two seem to have lived out their years peacefully. During this time, they were visited by Telemachus, who was searching for new on his father Odysseus.