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The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean.
The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans.
In the 19th century Napoleon took power and established the First French Empire, whose subsequent Napoleonic Wars shaped the course of continental Europe.
Following the collapse of the Empire, France endured a tumultuous succession of governments culminating with the establishment of the French Third Republic in 1870.
France has long been a global centre of art, science, and philosophy.
It hosts Europe's third-largest number of cultural UNESCO World Heritage Sites and receives around 83 million foreign tourists annually, the most of any country in the world.
Around 390 BC the Gallic chieftain Brennus and his troops made their way to Italy through the Alps, defeated the Romans in the Battle of the Allia, and besieged and ransomed Rome.
France emerged as a major European power in the Late Middle Ages following its victory in the Hundred Years' War (1337 to 1453).But the Romans and the Gauls would remain adversaries for the next several centuries, and the Gauls would continue to be a threat in Italia.Around 125 BC, the south of Gaul was conquered by the Romans, who called this region Provincia Nostra ("Our Province"), which over time evolved into the name Provence in French.The Roman polytheism merged with the Gallic paganism into the same syncretism.From the 250s to the 280s AD, Roman Gaul suffered a serious crisis with its fortified borders being attacked on several occasions by barbarians.