Crete (Greek: Κρήτη, Kríti [‘kriti]; Ancient Greek: Κρήτη, Krḗtē) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands, and the fifth-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, after Sicily, Sardinia, Cyprus, and Corsica. Crete and a number of surrounding islands and islets constitute the region of Crete (Greek: Περιφέρεια Κρήτης), one of the 13 top-level administrative units of Greece. The capital and the largest city is Heraklion. As of 2011, the region had a population of 623,065.
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). It was once the centre of the Minoan civilization (c. 2700–1420 BC), which is currently regarded as the earliest recorded civilization in Europe.
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), and , 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. One proposal derives it from a hypothetical Luvian word *kursatta (cf. kursawar “island”, kursattar “cutting, sliver”). 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 (Khandhax) or Χάνδακας (Khandhakas), which gave Latin 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).
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