France, officially the French Republic (French: République française) is a unitary sovereign state comprising territory in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. Metropolitan France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean; France covers 640,679 square kilometers (247,368 sq mi) and has a population of 66.6 million. It is a semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the nation's largest city and the main cultural and commercial center. The Constitution of France establishes the country as secular and democratic, with its sovereignty derived from the people.
During the Iron Age, what is now France was inhabited by the Gauls, a Celtic people? The Gauls were conquered by the Roman Empire in 51 BC, which held Gaul until 486. The Gallo-Romans faced raids and migration from the Germanic Franks, who dominated the region for hundreds of years, eventually creating the medieval Kingdom of France. France has been a major power in Europe since the Late Middle Ages, with its victory in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453) strengthening French state-building and paving the way for a future centralized absolute monarchy. During the Renaissance, France experienced a vast cultural development and established the first steps of a worldwide colonial empire. The 16th century was dominated by Religious Civil Wars primarily fought between Catholics and Protestants (Huguenots).