A country of northern Africa bordering on the Mediterranean Sea. Settled in ancient times by the Phoenicians and dominated after the 6th century bc by the Carthaginians, the area later fell to the Romans (2nd century bc ), Vandals (5th century ad ), and Byzantines (6th century) before being conquered by the Arabs in the 7th century. Tunisia was taken over by the Ottoman Turks in the late 16th century and, as one of the Barbary States, was used as a base by pirates raiding ships in the Mediterranean. It became a French protectorate in 1881 and achieved full independence in 1956. Tunis is the capital and the largest city.