This chapter explains the purpose of the book, namely to explore the evolution of eight cities in the Near East from the time of Alexander the Great to the successors of Muhammad. These cities are Antioch, Apamea, Scythopolis, Gerasa, Jerusalem, Caesarea, Petra, and Palmyra. This chapter begins with a discussion of the history of cities in the Near East beginning with the conquests of Alexander. Then it examines the geography of the Near East. The chapter ends with a discussion of three debates concerning cities in the Near East under Greek, Roman, and early Islamic control: to what extent was the culture there “Greco-Roman” or indigenous, how did ruling powers use cities from Alexander to the early Muslims rulers, and what happened to the Greco-Roman cities during the period of late antiquity (roughly 300–750 CE).