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What is the major cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire according to this quote made by author Edward Gibbon? "The decline of Rome was the natural and inevitable effect of immoderate greatness. Prosperity ripened the principle of decay; the causes of destruction multiplied with the extent of conquest; and, as soon as time or accident had removed the artificial supports, the stupendous fabric yielded to the pressure of its own weight. The story of its ruin is simple and obvious; and instead of inquiring why the Roman Empire was destroyed, we should rather be surprised that it had subsided so long."

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Rome's long slide into collapse was, as Gibbon contended in this quote, fueled by its unprecedented success expanding its borders over most of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. We can see this in a number of ways.

1) Imperial Overstretch: The larger empire became, the longer the borders it had to defend and the more numerous and powerful its enemies became. The border with Germania along the Rhine became a continual zone of conflict, for example. The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in 9 AD, when three Roman legions were ambushed and slaughtered, was a major flashpoint in this conflict. Though the Romans responded with punitive expeditions, Germania was never subdued and became a wound that never healed.

A century after Teutoburg, the Emperor Hadrian became the first Emperor to recognize that Rome could not expand indefinitely. He abandoned Trajan's conquests in the Middle East and pulled back the border of Dacia. His foresight probably bought Rome centuries. Choosing and fortifying...

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