Toulouse (; locally: ;) is the capital city of the southwestern French department of Haute-Garonne, as well as of the Midi-Pyrénées region. It lies on the banks of the River Garonne, from the Mediterranean Sea, from the Atlantic Ocean, and from Paris. With 1,250,251 inhabitants at the January 2011 census, the Toulouse metropolitan area is the fourth-largest in France, after Paris (12.3 million), Lyon (2.2 million), and Marseille (1.7 million).
Toulouse is the centre of the European aerospace industry, with the headquarters of Airbus, the Galileo positioning system, the SPOT satellite system, the Airbus Group (former EADS), ATR and the Aerospace Valley.
The city also hosts the European headquarters of Intel and CNES's Toulouse Space Centre (CST), the largest space centre in Europe. Thales Alenia Space, and Astrium Satellites, Airbus Group's satellite system subsidiary, also have a significant presence in Toulouse. Its world renowned university is one of the oldest in Europe (founded in 1229) and, with more than 119,000 students, is the third-largest university campus of France after Paris and Lyon.
Toulouse was the capital of the Visigothic Kingdom in the 5th century and the capital of the province of Languedoc in the late Middle Ages and early modern period (provinces were abolished during the French Revolution), making it the unofficial capital of the cultural region of Occitania (Southern France). It is now the capital of the Midi-Pyrénées region, the largest region in metropolitan France.
A city with unique architecture made of pinkish terracotta bricks, which earned it the nickname la Ville Rose ("the Pink City"), Toulouse counts two UNESCO World Heritage sites, the Canal du Midi (designated in 1996 and shared with other cities), and the Basilica of St. Sernin, designated in 1998 because of its significance to the Santiago de Compostela pilgrimage route.
The Garonne Valley was a focal point for trade between the Pyrenees, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic since at least the Iron Age. The historical name of the city, Tolosa (Τώλοσσα in Greek, and of its inhabitants, the Tolosates, first recorded in the 2nd century BC), it is of unknown meaning or origin, possibly from Aquitanian, or from Iberian, but has also been connected to the name of the Gaulish Volcae Tectosages.
Tolosa enters the historical period in the 2nd century BC, when it became a Roman military outpost. After the conquest of Gaul, it was developed as a Roman city of Gallia Narbonensis. In the 5th century, Tolosa fell to the Visigothic kingdom and became one of its major cities, in the early 6th century even serving as its capital, before it fell to the Franks under Clovis in 507 (Battle of Vouillé). From this time, Toulouse was the capital of Aquitaine within the Frankish realm.
In 721, Duke Odo of Aquitaine defeated an invading Umayyad Muslim army at the Battle of Toulouse. Odo's victory was a small obstacle to Muslim expansion into Christian Europe, and Muslims finally occupied a large territory including Poitiers. Charles Martel, a decade later, won the renowned Battle of Tours, also called the Battle of Poitiers.