A country of southeast Africa. Inhabited by Bantu peoples from the 1st century ad , the coast was settled by Arab traders beginning in the 8th century. The Portuguese colonized the area in the early 16th century and governed it as part of their India holdings until 1752, when a separate administrative unit was formed. It became an overseas province in 1951 and, after a decade of civil war, gained its independence in 1975. Maputo is the capital and the largest city.