Taking any modern map of the Near East and its neighbours large enough to show the whole region from the steppes of the Ukraine and southern Russia in the north to the deserts of Arabia in the south, and from the Balkans and Egypt in the west to the borders of Afghanistan in the east, six major geographical blocs will stand out: the Balkan peninsula, the steppes, the Fertile Crescent, the desert, and the plateaux of Anatolia and Iran. To understand the history of the Byzantine state and its place in the Near East it is essential to have a basic knowledge of the geography of these blocs and how they relate to each other. With so few written sources available geography becomes even more important than usual in setting the parameters to a convincing interpretation of the past.
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