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Expanding until natural borders are reached, and maintaining those borders once conquered, have been a major policy goal for a number of states. For example, the Roman Republic, and later, the Roman Empire expanded continuously until it reached certain natural borders: first the Alps, later the Rhine river, the Danube river and the Sahara desert. From the Middle Ages onwards until the 19th century, France sought to expand its borders towards the Alps, the Pyrenees, and the Rhine River.