Did Herodotus' Histories achieve wide popularity immediately after it was published? Modem scholarship routinely assumes that it was an " instant success"· or that its audience was comparable to the audience for Homer and the tragedians ,? Evidence for widespread literacy in the late fifth century seems to indicate a large public eager to acquire and read books . Since reading aloud before an audience was the ancient norm, Herodotus ' work could presumably have reached illiterates as well. Both ancient anecdotes about Herodotus' life and adaptations and parodies of his work by his contemporaries appear to show how popular the Histories was. The light tone of the book itself and its many anecdotes also contribute to the picture of an author anxious to please a large public and confident that he could do so. One critic says, for example, of a certain Herodotean passage: "The object was, as it were, to get people laughing while you sent the hat around. "3