Bodrum’un antik çağdaki adı ‘Halikarnassos’dur. Türkçe ‘Halikarnas’ olarak okunmuştur. Aziz Petrus Kalesi (Castle of St. Peter) adı verilen kale ile birlikte şehrin Aziz Petrus’a adanmasıyla şehre ‘Petrium’ adı verilmiştir. Bu isim zaman içerisinde önce ‘petrum’ sonra ‘potrum’ ve en sonunda ‘Bodrum’ olarak söylenir olmuştur.
Bodrum was a quiet town of fishermen and sponge divers until the mid-20th century; although, as Mansur points out, the presence of a large community of bilingual Cretan Turks, coupled with the conditions of free trade and access with the islands of the Southern Dodecanese until 1935, made it less provincial. The fact that traditional agriculture was not a very rewarding activity in the rather dry peninsula also prevented the formation of a class of large landowners. Bodrum has no notable history of political or religious extremism either. A first nucleus of intellectuals started to form after the 1950s around the writer Cevat Şakir Kabaağaçlı, who had first come here in exile two decades before and was charmed by the town to the point of adopting the pen name Halikarnas Balıkçısı (‘The Fisherman of Halicarnassus’).