Sfax is a city in Tunisia, located 270 km (170 mi) southeast of Tunis. The city, founded in AD 849 on the ruins of Taparura and Thaenae, is the capital of the Sfax Governorate (about 860,000 inhabitants in 2005), and a Mediterranean port. Sfax has population of 340,000 (2005 estimate). The economic activities of Sfax are industries (industrial center for processing phosphates), agriculture (Olive and Olive Oil transformation, nuts), fishing (first fishing port in Tunisia and trade (import-export activities). The city is often described as Tunisia's "second city", Tunis being the capital and having more inhabitants. Sfax was considered as the economic capital of Tunisia during the 1980s but no longer.
By the end of the 10th century Sfax had become an independent city-state. The city was conquered by Roger II of Sicily in 1148 and occupied until it was liberated in 1156 by local forces, and was briefly occupied by European forces again, this time by the Spanish, in the 16th century. Sfax became an integral base of the Barbary piracy, prompting an unsuccessful invasion by Venice in 1785. In the late 19th century Sfax and the rest of Tunisia were conquered by France and incorporated into the French empire. During World War II, the Axis powers used the city as a major base until they were defeated by British forces. After World War II, Tunisia was returned to France, but gained its independence in 1956.