Crete and a number of surrounding islands and islets constitute the region of Crete (Greek: Περιφέρεια Κρήτης), the southernmost of the 13 top-level administrative units of Greece; the region is the fifth most populous region of Greece. Its capital and largest city is Heraklion, located on the northern shore of the island. As of 2011, the region had a population of 623,065. The Dodecanese are located to the northeast of Crete, while the Cyclades are situated to the north, separated by the Sea of Crete. The Peloponnese is to the region's northwest.
Humans have inhabited the island before 130,000 years ago, during the Paleolithic age. Crete was the centre of Europe's first advanced civilization, the Minoans, from 2700 to 1420 BC; the Minoan civilization was overrun by the Mycenaean civilization from mainland Greece. Later, Crete fell under Roman rule, and afterwards the Byzantine Empire, AndalusianArabs, the Venetian Republic, and the Ottoman Empire successively ruled Crete. The Cretan people, who maintained a desire to join the Greek state, achieved independence from the Ottomans in 1898 as the Cretan State and became part of Greece in December 1913.
The island is mountainous, and its character is defined by a high mountain range crossing from west to east; the range of Lefka Ori contains Crete's highest point, Mount Ida. Crete forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece, while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own poetry and music). The Nikos Kazantzakis at Heraklion and the Daskalogiannis airport at Chania serve international travellers. The palace of Knossos, a Bronze Age settlement and ancient Minoan city, lies in Heraklion in Crete.
The island is first referred to as Kaptara in texts from the Syrian city of Mari dating from the 18th century BC, repeated later in Neo-Assyrian records and the Bible (Caphtor). It was also known in ancient Egyptian as Keftiu, strongly suggesting a similar Minoan name for the island.
The current name of Crete is thought to be first attested in Mycenaean Greek texts written in Linear B, through the words ke-re-te (*Krētes; later Greek: Κρῆτες, plural of Κρής),ke-re-si-jo (*Krēsijos; later Greek: Κρήσιος), "Cretan". In Ancient Greek, the name Crete (Κρήτη) first appears in Homer's Odyssey. Its etymology is unknown. In Latin, it became Creta.
The original Arabic name of Crete was Iqrīṭiš (Arabic: اقريطش < (της) Κρήτης), but after the Emirate of Crete's establishment of its new capital at ربض الخندقRabḍ al-Ḫandaq (modern Iraklion), both the city and the island became known as Χάνδαξ (Chandax) or Χάνδακας (Chandakas), which gave Latin, Italian and Venetian Candia, from which were derived French Candie and English Candy or Candia. Under Ottoman rule, in Ottoman Turkish, Crete was called Girit (كريت).