And I have never seen a more under underdog than Menelaus.
|Helen and Paris, Howard David Johnson|
|The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (detail of Menelaus), Roman|
copy of the painting by Timanthes
But that's not enough. This humiliation conga's just beginning. Menelaus is very clearly subordinate to his brother for the entirety of the war, despite having the most at stake. Hera and Athena are nominally on his side, but they have to remind themselves to help him out, while Aphrodite springs into action when Paris is in danger. And in every adaptation of the story since Homer, he's recharacterized as unsavory: neglectful, abusive, careless, vengeful, anything to make him seem unworthy of the prize that is Helen.
So why do I cheer for him? Because he's awesome, that's why.
|Helen and Menelaus, 6th century Greek relief|
But Menelaus isn't just all heart. He plans nighttime initiatives with Agamemnon. His most-used epithet is "master of the war-cry." Helen sings his praises as a fighter, and his battle with Paris more than proves her right. He never oversteps his boundaries as second-in-command, but when he needs to act, he brings it. He's a king you could be proud to follow, which in the Iliad is rare indeed.
|Menelaus Supporting the Body of Patroclus, Roman copy|
of Greek statue
This. Guy. Rocks.
I dare you to find a more well-rounded man in all of Greek mythology. Menelaus has it all. Plus he wins. Plus Helen is happy to be reunited with him and their daughter. (Hey, they had a daughter? That means they must have slept together! Crazy times!)
And he never brags about how awesome he is. He just is. And it's a crying shame that he's constantly belittled in favor of a spoiled manwhore who hasn't a fraction of Menelaus's qualities, or the grace with which he carries them.