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Menestheus /mɪˈnɛsˌθ(j)s/ (Greek: Μενεσθεύς) was a legendary king of Athens during the Trojan War, son of Peteus, grandson of Orneus, and great-grandson of Erechtheus, one of the early kings of Athens. He was set up as king by the twins Castor and Polydeuces when Theseus travelled to the Underworld after abducting their sister, Helen, and exiled Theseus from the city after his return.[1][2][3]

Menestheus was one of the suitors of Helen of Troy,[4] and when the Trojan War started he brought "fifty black ships" to Troy.[5][6] In the Iliad it is noted that no one could arrange chariots and shield-bearing warriors in battle orders better than Menestheus, and that only Nestor could vie with him in that respect.[7] In Herodotus, he is referred to as 'the best man to go to Troy and to draw up and marshal the troops' (7.161.3) by the Athenian sent to request aid from Gelon, the dictator of Syracuse.

Yet, further he is characterised as not valiant. When Agamemnon was reviewing his troops he found Menestheus in the back rows seemingly avoiding action.[8] Later when Sarpedon attacked the portion of the Greek wall that he was in charge of, Menestheus shivered and had to call on Telamonian Ajax and Teucer for aid.[9] Menestheus was one of the warriors in the Trojan Horse.[10][11] After Troy was sacked, he sailed to Mimas, then to Melos where he became king.[12]

When Menestheus died, Athens passed back to the family of Theseus, Theseus' youngest son Demophon ascending to the throne.[13]

The name Menestheus may also refer to:

  1. Menestheus, son of Clytius and grandson of Aeolus, a companion of Aeneas[14]
  2. Menestheus, an Athenian youth who was sacrificed to the Minotaur
  3. Menestheus, a warrior in the army of the Seven Against Thebes, participant of the disk-trowing competition at the funeral games of Opheltes[15]
  4. Iphicrates has named his son Menestheus, after the legendary King of Athens during the Trojan War.[16]



  1. ^ Plutarch, Theseus, 32. 1 ff
  2. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1. 17. 5
  3. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, Epitome of Book 4, 1. 23
  4. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 10. 8
  5. ^ Homer, Iliad (Book 2, ln 557)
  6. ^ Hyginus, Fabulae, 97
  7. ^ Iliad (Book 2, ln. 552)
  8. ^ Il. 4. 327
  9. ^ Il. 12. 331 ff
  10. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 1. 23. 8
  11. ^ Quintus Smyrnaeus, Fall of Troy, 12. 314
  12. ^ Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca, Epitome of Book 4, 6. 15b = Tzetzes on Lycophron, 911
  13. ^ Plutarch, Theseus, 35. 5
  14. ^ Virgil, Aeneid, 10. 129
  15. ^ Statius, Thebaid, 6. 661
  16. ^ Sears, Matthew A. (March 2013). Athens, Thrace, and the Shaping of Athenian Leadership. Cambridge University Press. p. 65. ISBN 978-1107030534.
Regnal titles
Preceded by
King of Athens Succeeded by