Menelaus

Name: Menelaus
Title: Atrides
Position: King of Sparta
Location: some tent outside troy at the moment
City of residence: Sparta


Menelaus was the king of Sparta and the spurned husband of Helen, the world's most beautiful woman. Known to the world as Helen of Troy, she was originally his wife, Helen of Sparta. Of course all that changed when a handsome visitor from Troy named Paris came along... As for Menelaus, he was a portly and middle-aged fellow. How do I know this?

1. Women were married off at a fairly young age. For Helen, who was kidnapped by the famous Theseus (killer of the Minotaur, portrayed in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream as foppish,) this would have been at about sixteen or seventeen years of age, allowing time for the ignominy of her abduction to fade out of memory. Since we also know that both Helen and Paris were born at approximately the same time as Achilles because they all grew to 18 or so during the Golden Apple dispute, we can estimate Menelaus's age to be anywhere from forty upwards.

Why? He certainly couldn't have been Helen's age. Achilles, who was the same age as Helen, was forbidden from the competition as to whom should marry her because of his "extreme youth." So, Menelaus, brother or Agamemnon, who was advanced enough in age to be selected commander of the Greek forces during the Trojan War, had to be somewhere around fifty. He had had children before, and, at the time of the Trojan War, his brother had a female child of marriageable age-- so Menelaus must have been in his fifties. His brother had most likely been around thirty-five (men married later in life than did women) when his daughter (Iphigenia) was born, and by the time she was marriageable, he would have been fifty-three to fifty-five, putting Menelaus around fifty. Men of fifty or older, unless they practice an unusually stringent regime of physical fitness, tend to become paunchy. Menelaus, while a resident of a warrior state, was its king and was entitled to a life of more luxury than the common warrior. Thus, he was fat.

2. Helen found him repulsive. Helen was a mother of a baby when she left Menelaus. Very few earthly powers can persaude a mother to leave her infant unless she is filled with loathing for the infant's father. Why loathe Menelaus?

A. He was hideously ugly.

B. He was fat. Being the son of Atreus and brother of Agamemnon, who seemed to have no trouble attracting women, ugliness is less likely. Thus, it must have been his weight.

Other than his larger-than-normal paunch, Menelaus was a justified angry husband. When Paris ran off with his wife, he wanted revenge. This began the Trojan War.

In the interest of balance, I inquired of Tamora Pierce, famous author of many fantasy books, including the (great) Alanna series and a mythology expert, whether she thought Menelaus was fat. I print her response in its unedited entirety:
I always thought of him as burly & beefy, solid with muscle, not fat. (Heavier than Agamemnon, though.)

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