The late Roman empire had not simply been a Greek state, but rather a multi-ethnic Near Eastern empire. Forced on to the defensive in a desperate battle to survive, its Byzantine successor was very much more of an inward-looking institution preoccupied with preserving its orthodox purity. Yet Byzantium could not ignore the other non-Muslim peoples of the Near East. Transcaucasia and the Balkans both represented sources of military manpower to offset the huge resources of the caliphate, and if Byzantium were to hope to break out of its narrow limits as merely the empire of Constantinople then these were both areas that had to be brought within the Byzantine political and cultural orbit. Equally important was the Byzantine relationship with the steppe world which was the only Near Eastern society with a military potential that might approach that of the caliphate. Nomad allies had played a vital role in Herakleios’ victories of the late 620s, and as long as the Arabs posed any threat to Constantinople it had to be an essential part of Byzantine diplomacy to keep good relations with whoever dominated the steppes north of the Caucasus.
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