A dazzling short history of the Balkans from the Romans to the present, which provides vital historical and cultural background to contemporary Balkan politics. At the end of the twentieth century people spoke as if the Balkans had plagued Europe for ever. But two hundred years earlier, the Balkans did not exist. It was not the Balkans but the 'Rumeli' that the Ottomans ruled, the formerly Roman lands they had conquered from Byzantium, together with their Christian inhabitants. In this original account of the region Mark Mazower dispels current Western cliches and replaces stereotypes with a vivid account of how mountains, empires and religions have shaped its inhabitants' lives. As a bridge between Europe and Asia it has been exposed to a constant incursion of nomadic peoples across the centuries. Mazower's narrative ranges broadly both in time and in space, treating the former Turkish domains in Europe as part of a common if complex historical inheritance.