While being part of Metropolitan France, Corsica is also designated as a territorial collectivity (collectivité territoriale) by law. As a territorial collectivity, Corsica enjoys a greater degree of autonomy than other French regions; for example, the Corsican Assembly is able to exercise limited executive powers.
The island formed a single department until it was split in 1975 into two historical departments: Haute-Corse (Upper Corsica) and Corse-du-Sud (Southern Corsica), with its regional capital in Ajaccio, the prefecture city of Corse-du-Sud. Bastia, the prefecture city of Haute-Corse, is the second largest settlement in Corsica.
After being ruled by the Republic of Genoa since 1284, Corsica was briefly an independent Corsican Republic from 1755 until it was officially ceded by the Republic of Genoa to Louis XV as part of a pledge for debts in 1768. Due to Corsica's historical ties with the Italian peninsula, the island retains to this day many Italian cultural elements: the native tongue is recognised as a regional language by the French government. Corsica was ruled by various powers over the course of its history, but had several brief periods of self-government.
The origin of the name Corsica is subject to much debate and remains a mystery. To the Ancient Greeks it was known as Kalliste, Corsis, Cyrnos, Cernealis, or Cirné. Of these Cyrnos, Cernealis, or Cirné derive from the most ancient Greek name of the island, "Σειρηνούσσαι" ("Seirinoussai", meaning of the Sirens), the very same Sirens mentioned in Homer's Odyssey.