Dalmatia is a narrow belt of the east shore of the Adriatic Sea, stretching from island of Rab in the north to the Bay of Kotor in the south. The hinterland (Dalmatian Zagora) ranges in width from fifty kilometres in the north, to just a few kilometres in the south; it is mostly covered by the rugged Dinaric Mountains. 79 islands (and about 500 islets) run parallel to the coast, the largest (in Dalmatia) being Brač, Pag and Hvar. The largest city is Split, followed by Zadar, Dubrovnik, and Šibenik.
The name of the region stems from an Illyrian tribe called the Dalmatae, who lived in the area in classical antiquity. Later it became a Roman province, and as result a Romance culture emerged, along with the now-extinct Dalmatian language, later largely replaced with related Venetian. With the arrival of Croats to the area in the 8th century, who occupied most of the hinterland, Croatian and Romance elements began to intermix in language and the culture. During the Middle Ages, its cities were often conquered by, or switched allegiance to, the kingdoms of the region. The longest-lasting rule was the one of the Republic of Venice, which controlled most of Dalmatia between 1420 and 1797, with the exception of the small but stable Republic of Ragusa (1358–1808) in the south. Between 1815 and 1918, it was as a province of Austrian Empire known as the Kingdom of Dalmatia. After the Austro-Hungarian defeat in World War I, Dalmatia was split between the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes which controlled most of it, and the Kingdom of Italy which held several smaller parts, and after World War II, SFR Yugoslavia took control over the complete area