- See Hecataeus of Miletus for the earlier historian.
Diogenes Laërtius (ix.61) relates that he was a student of Pyrrho, along with Timon of Phlius and Nausiphanes of Teos, and includes him among the Pyrrhoneans. Diodorus Siculus (i.46.8) tells us that Hecataeus visited Thebes in the times of Ptolemy I Soter, and composed a history of Egypt. Diodorus supplies the comment that many additional Greeks went to and wrote about Egypt in the same period. The Suda gives him the nickname, 'critic grammarian' and says that he lived in the time of the successors to Alexander.
No complete works of Hecataeus have survived, and our knowledge of his writing exists only in fragments located in various ancient Greek and Latin authors' works. Fourteen fragments survive, most of which concern religion. Eight fragments are from his book about the Hyperboreans, the fabulous people of the far north who reflect the Indian traditions about Uttarakuru. Six fragments survive from his Aegyptiaca and regard Egyptian philosophy, priests, gods, sanctuaries, Moses, wine, and which makes mention of Clearchus and the gymnosophists.
Diodorus Siculus, whose ethnography of Egypt (Bibliotheca historica, Book I) represents by far the largest number of fragments. Diodorus mostly paraphrases Hecataeus, thus it is difficult to extract Hecataeus' actual writings. (as in Karl Wilhelm Ludwig Müller's Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum).
Hecataeus wrote the work Aegyptiaca or On the Egyptians (the same title of Manetho's later work), both suggestions are based on known titles of other ethnographic works, an account of Egypt’s customs, beliefs and geography, and the single largest fragment from this lost work is held to be Diodorus' account of the Ramesseum, tomb of Osymandyas (i.47-50).
His digression on the Jews in Aegyptiaca was the first mention of them in Greek literature. It was subsequently paraphrased in Diodorus Siculus 40.3.8. A work attributed to him by Josephus On the Jews has been considered spurious by some. However Pucci Ben Zeev, in surveying scholarship on this matter, finds reasons to grant core elements of authenticity in the absence of clear evidence to the contrary.
- Klaus Meister "Hecataeus" (2) of Abdera in Oxford Classical Dictionary 3rd. ed. Oxford; Oxford University Press 1999 p.671
- Stoneman, Richard. The Greek Experience of India: From Alexander to the Indo-Greeks, Princeton University Press, 2019, p 142
- Wachsmuth (1895), Trüdinger (1918), Burton (1972)
- Jacoby (1943), Murray (1970), Fraser (1972)
- Bezalel Bar-Kochva (1997), "The Structure of an Ethnographical Work", Pseudo-Hecataeus: On the Jews
- Suda online
- OCD3 p.671
- Miriam Pucci Ben Zeev "The Reliability of Josephus Flavius: The Case of Hecateus' and Manentho's Accounts of Jews and Judaism: Fifteen years of contemporary research (1974-1990) Journal for the Studies of Judaism 24 no2. December 1993
- Smith, William, ed. (1890), "Hecataeus", Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities.
- Walton, Francis R. (October 1955), "The Messenger of God in Hecataeus of Abdera", Harvard Theological Review, 48, pp. 255–257.