Halicarnassus, originally called Zephyria, was a Greek city of Caria in Asia Minor, situated on the Ceramic Gulf. It was founded by Dorian colonists from Troezen, and defended by several citadels, one of which, Salmacis, was deemed impregnable.
Early in its history Halicarnussus became one of the cities of the so-called Dorian Hexapolis, from which confederacy, however, it was eventually excluded. When the Persian power spread westward, Halicarnussus readily submitted to the dominion of the conquerors. During this period, however, about 500 BC, a domestic tyrant, Lygdamis, rose to supreme power as a vassal of Persia; and his descendants, without forfeiting the Greek character, or ceasing to cultivate the Greek literature and arts, gradually extended their sway over all Caria. Amongst them was Mausolus, whose wife and sister Artemisia, to commemorate him after his death (353), erected the magnificent Mausoleum which was accounted one of the seven wonders of the world. It was under this king that the city achieved its greatest splendor and prosperity. About 20 years later Alexander the Great destroyed the city by fire; but the inhabitants took refuge in the citadel, which successfully resisted his arms. The city was afterwards rebuilt, but it never recovered its ancient importance or prosperity. In the days of the Roman Empire it had sunk into comparative insignificance.
Halicarnassus was the birthplace of the Greek historians Herodotus and Dionysius. The site of the city is occupied by the modern Budrun.