Believing to have begun as a northern tribe of hunters and gatherers whose name came from their homeland, this ethnic tribe was known as the Aztecs. During this time, the Aztecs were also known as Tenochca: a very unique name originating from their capital city, Tenochtitlan (ENCYCLOPDIA BRITANNICA).
The Aztecs emerged as the dominant force in central Mexico, developing an intricate social, political, religious and commercial organization that brought many of the region’s city-states under their control by the 15th century. (History).
In the early 13th century, the Aztecs first appeared in Mesopotamia. Their migration southward helped to encourage the disappearance of the previously assertive Mesoamerican civilization, the Toltecs (ENCYCLOPDIA BRITANNICA). Building their civilization in 1325 A.D., the Aztecs drained all of the swamps and built artificial islands to withstand the effects of gardens and their capital city. Typical crops in the Aztecs gardens would include:
maize (corn), along with beans, squashes, potatoes, tomatoes and avocados; they also supported themselves through fishing and hunting local animals such as rabbits, armadillos, snakes, coyotes and wild turkey (History).
Having a very mature system of agriculture during this time would be very important. Supporting families and also acquiring an extremely powerful military tradition, helped the Aztecs to create a successful civilization which would later become an empire.
In 1428, the Aztecs formed a new three-way alliance with the Texcocans under their leader Itzcoatl. This then led to the defeat of their most powerful rivals and the conquer of the capital Azcapotzalco. Montezuma who was Itzcoatl’s successor, took power in 1440 and was remembered as a the great father of the Aztec Empire. Continuing the civilization, in the early 16th century, the Aztecs ruled up to 500 small states and five to six million people. At Tenochtitlan’s high point, this city had over 140,000 citizens and was recorded as the most severely populated empire in Mesoamerica history (History).
Not starting out as powerful people, the Aztecs held greatly populated market days which drove the Aztec economy (History on The NET)(History). Personally believing that currency”or money as one may call it today”is very important. Not only was this civilization extremely advanced in their economic ways, but was also highly developed socially, intellectually and artistically. Socially, this empire was vastly strict with their caste system. Having the empires or nobles as the top rank, and the serfs or slaves as the bottom rank (History). Believing that being part of this type of social structure would be challenging, and being treated differently would be hard to except. The Aztecs also shared many aspects with other Mesoamerican religions, like that of the Maya, notably including the rite of human sacrifice (History).
Deep in the cities of the Aztecs, great statues and sculptures were displayed. Showing respect to their many gods is a vast variety of ways, Huitzilopochtli (god of war and of the sun) and Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent) were their main influences (History.) Also playing a big role in the Aztecs history and religious beliefs was their 365 day calendar. Wondering where the commonly used calendar in the United States today came from? Look no further than the Aztecs playing a major part in creating this very valuable tool.
Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba was the first European to visit Mexico during the early 1517s. Bringing with him 100 men and arriving in Yucatan from Cuba. Then,
Cordobars reports on his return to Cuba prompted the Spanish governor there, Diego Velasquez, to send a larger force back to Mexico under the command of Hernan Cortes (History).
Cortes landed at the town of Tabasco where he learned valuable information from the ancient Aztec natives (History).
Defying the authority of Velasquez, Cortes founded the city of Veracruz on the southeastern Mexican coast, where he trained his army into a disciplined fighting force. Needing troops to fight, Cortes and 400 soldiers charged into Mexico, with the help of a native woman named Malinche, working as a translator. (History). Not only was the man power extremely important during these times, but also were the weapons. These could include an atlatl, war bow and arrows, slings, blowguns, clubs, and specially made armor. Being an Aztec warrior during these times was a huge honor. Both commoners and nobles who captured enemy warriors moved up in military rank or became members of military orders (History on The NET).
The Aztec empire was extremely unstable during this time; resulting in Cortes being able to form an alliance with other native groups such as the Tlascalans who were at war with Montezuma (History). Then, in November of 1519,
Cortes and his men arrived in Tenochtitlan, where Montezuma and his people greeted them as honored guests according to Aztec custom (partially due to Cortes’ physical resemblance to the light-skinned Quetzalcoatl, whose return was prophesied in Aztec legend) (History). Although the Aztecs cared greatly about their weapons, they were not strong enough to fight off Cortes. Resulting in him easily taking over Montezuma and gaining power over Tenochtitlan. Murdering thousands of Aztec nobles during a ritual dance ceremony, Montezuma died under uncertain circumstances while in custody (History).
Due to Cortes’s passing, his young nephew took over as emperor once the Aztecs drove away the Spaniards from the empire. With the help of the Aztecs’ native rivals, Cortes mounted an offensive against Tenochtitlan, finally defeating Cuauhtemoc’s resistance on August 13, 1521 (History). His successors, Cuitl?- huac and Cuauhtemoc, were then unable to hold off Cortes’s past forces, and, with the Spanish capture of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec empire came to an end (ENCYCLOPDIA BRITANNICA). After this awful victory, Cortes’s men built Mexico City on the ruins of Tenochtitlan. Quickly becoming the premier European center in the New World (History).
In the end, the Aztec civilizations were truly astonishing. To this day, their heritage continues to proceed in multiple different ways: through social, political, and religious ideas. Including things such as their help with the 365 day calendar, the Aztec legacy will continue to live on all across the world. Through a great number of generations, Hernan Cortes provided powerful leadership skills (World History 186). The constant battles that the Aztec civilization had to continuously had to face caused many problems within their empire. Battling and overcoming all of these issues formed this tribe to who they ended up to be. Being strong, loyal and faithful throughout the course of history during this time was extremely important. As a result, still to this day, the Aztec civilization is recorded as one of the most intelligent and well developed empire.
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