I don't remember where I read this, but I've got the feeling that Agamemnon, somehow won Helen for his little brother Menelaus. If so, how did he do it?

If not, then how was Helen's suitor chosen?

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    Following the link in Andrew Johnson's response, Helen made her choice by putting a wreath on Menelaus's head. So he was there when the choice was made, and that undermines the idea that he needed Agamemnon to represent him.
    – Spencer
    Mar 5, 2018 at 11:25
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    @Spencer It's not uncommon to have several conflicting accounts in Greek and Roman mythology, because the same material was reworked by successive generations, and no writer wants to rehash the same material without innovations. As I recall, the wreath is only one version of the story. Even the number of suitors for Helen varies depending on the account
    – DukeZhou
    Mar 5, 2018 at 21:37
  • This is true. If you go down on my link, you will see three sources with only a few across the board. Mar 8, 2018 at 3:47

2 Answers 2


Very astute question! In the relationship of the brothers Atreides, there is no question Agamemnon was calling the shots, and the marriage of his brother to Helen was a shrewd maneuver to consolidate power over the Achaeans.

I found a reference to this version in Hesiod's Catalogues of Women:

...and as many women skilled in blameless arts, each holding a golden bowl in her hands. And truly Castor and strong Polydeuces would have made him their brother perforce, but Agamemnon, being son-in-law to Tyndareus, wooed her for his brother Menelaus.
SOURCE: Berlin Papyri, No. 9739 (ll. 11-15)

The inference is that Agamemnon, as husband of Helen's sister, and a rising power in the land, had extra sway with his father-in-law. (One has only to look at current events to see this relationship still carries weight.)

In terms of the machinations of Agamemnon, that may be a more convoluted subject. From another fragment, we know that Menelaus was something of a foregone conclusion:

And from Ithaca the sacred might of Odysseus, Laertes son, who knew many-fashioned wiles, sought her to wife. He never sent gifts for the sake of the neat-ankled maid, for he knew in his heart that golden-haired Menelaus would win, since he was greatest of the Achaeans in possessions and was ever sending messages40 to horse-taming Castor and prize-winning Polydeuces.
SOURCE: Berlin Papyri, No. 9739 (ll. 21-27)

Another source mentions that Tyndareus felt he had to select Menelaus else Agamemnon might divorce his other daughter Clytmnestra.

The Apollodorus accounts are worth looking at. Perseus has the text in Greek and English, with notes: Bibliotheca 3.10.7 ff. One passage from his Epitome I find elucidating is:

And Agamemnon reigned over the Mycenaeans and married Clytaemnestra, daughter of Tyndareus, after slaying her former husband Tantalus, son of Thyestes, with his child. And there were born to Agamemnon a son Orestes, and daughters, Chrysothemis, Electra, and Iphigenia. And Menelaus married Helen and reigned over Sparta, Tyndareus having ceded the kingdom to him.
SOURCE: Apollodorus Epitome 2.16

If one wanted to get deconstructive in the spirit of Euripides, one might note that the abdication of Tyndareus, after the death of his sons Castor & Pollux, indicates Tyndareus may not have had much of a choice in the matter. It only the approach of the Dioskouri that initially drove Agamemnon as a supplicant to Tyndareus to get his blessing for Agamemnon's seizure of Clytmnestra from her former husband. The death of the Dioskouri might be said to have created a power vacuum in the Peloponnese which the wealthy Atreides were more than happy to fill.

Note: This answer may evolve as I track down additional sources. Hyginus also wrote on this subject, but those fragments are currently difficult to find online.

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    Many thanks for your answer Duke. I'll wait for 1 or 2 days more. If no better answer appears, I'll gladly accept yours. Mar 5, 2018 at 23:34
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    Thanks for a great question. I researched this subject for ~10 years to while writing a play about Cassandra and Agamemnon and it's nice to be able to discuss some of the nuances.
    – DukeZhou
    Mar 6, 2018 at 17:11

You are mistaken. It was not he Agamemnon who was chosen by Helen, for he was married and did not wish to be bound to the Oath of Tyndareus. Though, if was feared that he would be claimed by the Oath, if only he divorced his wife/daughter.

You ask how Helen's suitor was chosen. Tyndareus sent word out that Helen was to be married off. Many suitor came from the lands, including Odysseus himself. Tynareus say the surplus number of suitor and feared a war. Odysseus then offered a solution to his plight, if only he could be granted the hand of Penelope. The King agreed and Odysseus told him so(in my own words, but of course), "You must give sacrifice to the gods, and have the men give oath to protect and defend he who is chosen of any wrong doing in regard to his marriage whatsoever that may be."

After King Tyndareus had all the suitors give oath at The Tomb of the Horse, the animal(a horse of course) was buried in the same self spot. When it was time to chose a husband, the suitors were presented. Helen was given a wreath to put upon the head of her choosing. And who's head shall it be?

Not Agamemnon, for he wasn't a suitor. Not Odysseus, but still bound by the Oath of Tyndareus. There was none other then Menelaus, until Paris when we see the Oath invoked.


  • Basically, it was all up to Helen. Though, this is the only sight I found saying how he was chosen. Every other sight says, "The oath was made and Menelaus was chosen." Mar 5, 2018 at 0:06
  • Andrew, thanks for the answer. However, I've read, including in wikipedia, that at the time of choosing, Agamemnon was representing Menelaus. Mar 5, 2018 at 7:40
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    @Anoldmaninthesea. Yeah, it's annoying. I went to Wiki to find the source of Agamemnon representing Menelaius, and, unsurprisingly, there's no citation. I'm going to run that down and I'll post when I have it.
    – DukeZhou
    Mar 5, 2018 at 21:13

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