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The Balkan region according to Prof R. J. Crampton
The Balkan states according to Encyclopædia Britannica
     The Balkan Peninsula by the DanubeSavaSoča border.
     Political communities that are usually included in the Balkans.
     Political communities that are usually not included in the Balkans.
Location Eastern-Southeastern Europe
Area 666,700 km2 (257,400 sq mi)
Highest elevation 2,925 m (9,596 ft)
Highest point Musala (Bulgaria)
Demonym Balkan

The Balkan Peninsula, or the Balkans, is a peninsula and a cultural area in Eastern and Southeastern Europe with various and disputed borders. The region takes its name from the Balkan Mountains that stretch from the Serbia-Bulgaria border to the Black Sea.

The Balkans are bordered by the Adriatic Sea on the northwest, the Ionian Sea on the southwest, the Mediterranean and Aegean Sea on the south and southeast, and the Black Sea on the east and northeast. The highest point of the Balkans is Mount Musala 2,925 metres (9,596 ft) in the Rila mountain range.

In Turkish Balkan means "a chain of wooded mountains" (balkan). Another possibility to its etymology is related to Persian bālk meaning "mud", and the Turkish suffix an, i.e. swampy forest. The name is still preserved in Central Asia with the Balkan Daglary (Balkan Mountains) and the Balkan Province of Turkmenistan. A less popular hypothesis regarding its etymology is that it derived from the Persian Balā-Khāna meaning big, high, house.

From Antiquity through the Middle Ages, the Balkan Mountains had been called by the local Thracian name Haemus. According to Greek mythology, the Thracian king Haemus was turned into a mountain by Zeus as a punishment and the mountain has remained with his name. A reverse name scheme has also been suggested. D. Dechev considers that Haemus (Αἷμος) is derived from a Thracian word *saimon, 'mountain ridge'. A third possibility is that "Haemus" (Αἵμος) derives from the Greek word "haema" (αἵμα) meaning 'blood'. The myth relates to a fight between Zeus and the monster/titan Typhon. Zeus injured Typhon with a thunder bolt and Typhon's blood fell on the mountains from which they got their name.