Crete (Greek: Κρήτη [kriti]) is the largest and most populous of the Greek islands and the fifth largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. It forms a significant part of the economy and cultural heritage of Greece while retaining its own local cultural traits (such as its own dialect, poetry, and music). Crete was the centre of the Minoan civilization (c. 2700–1420 BC), the earliest "high culture" civilization in Europe, which built the first palaces in Europe.
Other names for the island
The island is first referred to as Kaptara in texts from the Syrian city of Mari dating from the 18th century B.C., repeated later in Neo-Assyrian records and the Bible (Caphtor). It is also known in ancient Egyptian as Keftiu, strongly suggesting some form similar to both was the Minoan name for the island. The ancient Greek name for the island was Krete, which gave Latin Creta. During the Arab conquest of Crete, they called the island AqrīTish or IqrīTish (Arabic: اقريطش), borrowed from Byzantine Greek Kríti. Under Venetian rule, it was known as the Kingdom of Candia (sometimes anglicized as Candy), a Venetian adaptation of the earlier Greek name Chandax (Greek: Χάνδαξ, "moat") or Chandakas (Greek: Χάνδακας), derived from the Arabic ربض الخندق rabḍ al-ḫandaq 'castle of the moat' (the Arabic name for the capital city, Heraklion). Under Ottoman rule, in Turkish, Crete was called Girit (Ottoman Turkish: كريت, as recorded by Piri Reis).
Crete is the largest island in Greece and the second largest in the eastern Mediterranean Sea (after Cyprus). It is located in the southern part of the Aegean Sea separating the Aegean from the Libyan Sea.
The island has an elongated shape: it spans 260 km (160 mi) from east to west, is 60 km (37 mi) at its widest point, and narrows to as little as 12 km (7.5 mi) (close to Ierapetra). Crete covers an area of 8,336 km2 (3,219 sq mi), with a coastline of 1,046 km (650 mi); to the north, it broaches the Sea of Crete (Greek: Κρητικό Πέλαγος); to the south, the Libyan Sea (Greek: Λιβυκό Πέλαγος); in the west, the Myrtoan Sea, and toward the east the Karpathion Sea. It lies approximately 160 km (99 mi) south of the Greek mainland.