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How did the expansion of the Roman Empire contribute to its demise?

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While there are many reasons for the demise of the Roman Empire, its vast size played a significant part. For centuries, Rome had been expanding its borders. By the 3rd Century CE, it encompassed the entire Mediterranean and most of Europe and the Middle East. While it may seem that being so expansive would make a empire stronger, it eventually became a liability for Rome.

For one thing, defending such large and far-flung borders is no easy task. By the 3rd century, Rome did not have enough Romans to man its large army. Consequently, it became reliant on barbarian mercenaries to fill its ranks. Maintaining this large military was also extremely expensive. Vast funds were spent paying for the military. Military expenditures usurped the previous focus of maintaining infrastructure and social services. By the early 5th century, more barbarians than Romans composed the army in most areas. These barbarians were usually looked down on and poorly treated by Roman authorities. Consequently, when other barbarians invaded in the 5th century, these mercenaries found their allegiances were with the invaders. In fact, many of the barbarians who sacked the city of Rome had once served in the Roman army.

Furthermore, governing such an expansive territory in an efficient manner was impossible. The logistics involved in maintaining communication, collecting taxes, and making sure provincial governors were doing their job correctly were overly complex and ineffective. Simply put, the government in Rome could not effectively manage the affairs of its distant provinces.

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