Of the great international problems which were prominent during the first part of the nineteenth century, the Near Eastern Question was one of the few which had not found its settlement by 1871. We have already had occasion to refer to it at various times, and its importance in affecting the policy of the Powers is obvious. The irreconcilable interests of Russia and Austria in the Balkans were largely accountable for Bismarck's failure to realize his dream of transforming the League of the Three Emperors into a definite alliance. The Balkan crisis of 1887 furnished impetus to the movement for the bringing together of France and Russia into the Dual Alliance. And it was the clash of Russian and Austrian interests in the Near East that produced the international crisis of 1908-1909, which was so skillfully utilized by Germany. For a generation after 1871 European policy was "dominated by the Balkans," and it is not surprising that when the longfeared conflict broke forth, its occasion was to be found in a phase of this ever vexatious problem.
Historians have frequently pointed out that the Near Eastern Question is as old as history or legend. Achilles and Hector fighting on the Trojan plain, Spartans at Thermopylæ, Athenians at Salamis, Octavius' victory over the fleet of Cleopatra at