Dodecanese (Greek--Dodecanisa) is an island group in southeastern Greece in the Aegean Sea, located between the southwester coast of Asia Minor and the island of Crete. Despite its name meaning 12 islands, the group consists of about 50 islands and islets. Only 14 of these islands are permanently inhabited. Of these the most important are Rhodes, Kos , and Karpathos. Rhodes, on which Rhodes, or Rodos, capital of the group is located, has the largest area and population of all the islands. The other inhabited islands are Kalimnos, Leros, Nisiros, Patmos, Kastelorizon, Astipalea, Kasos, Khalki, and Lipsos. The total area and population of all the islands is 145,071 inhabitants and 2,663 square kilometers (1,028 square miles).

Agriculture is the chief occupation of the Dodecanese, the leading crops being tobacco, olives, grapes, oranges, and other fruits and vegetables. Sponge fishing is locally important, but of major economic significance to the island is tourism, which flourishes during the Summer months.

Several islands of the Dodecanese, especially Rhodes, were settled by the ancient Greeks and figured prominently in Hellenic civilization for many centuries. The islands subsequently became Roman dominions. Following the division of the Roman Empire, the belonged to the Byzantine Empire. In 1522 the Dodecanese were seized by the Ottoman Turks, who retained control until the successful invasion of Rhodes in 1912 by Italian armed forces. During World War II, in 1943, German troops occupied the Dodecanese, and in May of 1945, the island were relinquished to British forces. The Dodecanese was formally ceded to Greece in 1947.

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