Menelaus was a son of Atreus, King of Mycenae and his wife Aerope of Crete. His early life was dominated by the constant conflicts between Atreus (his father) and Thyestes (his paternal uncle). Menelaus and his brother Agamemnon reportedly spend a few years in exile, first at Sicyon, then at Calydon. Eventually the two brothers managed to gain the alliance of Tyndareus, King of Sparta and campaigned to get the throne of Mycenae. It was Agamemnon who rose to the throne. Marrying Clytaemnestra, elder daughter of Tyndareus. to secure his position.
Menelaus became one of many suitors of Helen, younger daughter of Tyndareus. He won her hand in marriage and in time the throne of Sparta. Tyndareus had two famous sons: Castor and Polydeuces (Pollux) but they died young. Leaving Menelaus as heir to his father-in-law. The couple soon had a daughter: Hermione. Menelaus seems to have led an uneventful life for a few years. Then Paris of Troy visited Sparta.
Menelaus soon had to leave Sparta. His maternal grandfather Catreus had just died and Menelaus needed to attend the funeral. He entrusted the welfare of the visitor to Helen. Not long after, Paris leftb Sparta and took Helen with him. With his authority seriously undermined, Menelaus asked Agamemnon to help retrieve her. The result of their efforts was the Trojan War, lasting at least a decade. Menelaus distinguished himself in the conflict and once won a duel with Paris. At the end of the War, Menelaus regained possession of Helen.
Following the War, Menelaus and Helen wandered the Meditteranean with their ships, supposedly trying to locate Sparta. In the process, the two visited Attica, Crete, Libya, Phoenicia, Cyprus and Egypt. They arrived at Sparta eight years following the end of the Trojan War. They found out that many of their allies, including Agamemnon, were long dead and others still wandered the seas. Menelaus got to work re-establishing his position. Hen had Hermione married to Neoptolemus, King of Pthia. a son of Achilles.
Menelaus seems to have lived out his last years in piece. He died of old age, unlike most of the protagonists of the War. Orestes, King of Mycenae (son of Agamemnon) had by that time killed Neoptolemus and claimed Hermione as his own wife. Orestes was able to claim the throne of Sparta as well.