According to their own history, the Aztecs, who called themselves
the Tenochca
or Mexica, started as a small nomadic tribe originating from
a place called Aztlan.
Aztlan existed somewhere in the southern part of California
or the north west of
Mexico. At this time they were Nahuatl speaking. During
the twelfth century they
started a period of wandering and in the thirteenth
century they came across
Mexico\'s central valley. There they decided to settle.
The reason for this is a
prophecy. The prophecy said that when they saw an
eagle sitting on a cactus with
a snake in its mouth that was where they were
to build their great civilization. For
that reason they called it Tenochtitlan,
meaning place of the cactus. Since the
prophecy was filled upon an island
in the middle of a small lake, called Lake
Texcoco, land became short. They
built Tenochtitlan in the year thirteen twenty
five BC. They started as a
small struggling village continually fighting with other
Mexican city-states.
Tenochtitlan acted as a place of refuge.
Aztec Empire
At first the Aztecs
where ruled by the mightiest of the city-states in central Mexico
known as
Azcapotzlaco. They helped Azcapotzlaco to conquer surrounding
territory in
the early fourteen hundreds. By fourteen twenty-eight they had
itself with the help of neighboring allies. Tenochtitlan, by the year
thirty-one, with an alliance with the neighboring city-states of Texcoco and
had become and independent city-state itself. This triple alliance of three
soon controlled all of Mexico\'s central valley. Tenochtitlan, as the
city-state in this alliance, became a base for a program of military
and conquest. However the program was left incomplete even when the
fell to the Spaniards. To connect the Capitol to the mainland the Aztecs
a network of canals, bridges and three stone causeways. Aztecs didn\'t rule
over the lands they concord. Instead they demanded tribute such as food,
woven blankets, precious stones, furs, feathers, fine woods and slaves or
As a result these products became available in the marketplace and
in people\'s homes.
The emperor\'s power came from his control of the
military, wich was
exceedingly large. Under him was his chief deputy, who
would communicate with
the gods and relate the gods wishes to the Emperor.
Below him there was a
council of four noble princes and three honored classes
of warriors who managed
day to day affairs in the empire. Below them were
four social classes, nobles,
commoners, serfs and slaves. Nobles: the nobles
owned private plots of land or
shared land with other families. Commoners:
The commoners were the largest
group who included priests, merchants, artisans,
and farmers who held land in
common with the nobles. Serfs: The majority
of the serfs farmed the nobles land.
Slaves: The slaves were the lowest
class of people. They were socially equal with
the criminals and people who
could not pay debts. Also woman and children who
were prisoners of war worked
as slaves for the nobles.
Aztec culture
For one hundred years the Aztecs
of Tenochtitlan held the greatest amount of
power in all of Mexico. Following
the model of established town dwellers, who had
been living there for over
one thousand years, they became civilized and
The Aztec
civilization was made up of many loosely connected urban
communities. Each
local group of citizens owned a piece of land. Those groups
of people were
called a capulli. Each capulli consisted of a few families that
jointly owned
a piece of land. Since the people were generally farmers, a part of
the annual
crop that was harvested from the land was given to the state as a kind
tax. As the empire started to grow land for farming became tight. One of
Aztecs greatest innovations was the chinampas, witch were rafts on witch
from the bottom of the lake, wich was extremely fertile, was piled and
crops grew
from that. With this innovation the Aztec empire surged to near
three hundred
thousand people. This resent growth made it bigger than any
European city at that
time. Tenochtitalan became large and many open plazas
and market places. In
these market places were products being sold by merchants
that traveled all over
mesoamerica thus resulting in rare commodities becoming
Aztec technology was dependant upon human skills rather
than upon
mechanical equipment. Although the wheel was known to the Aztecs
it wasn\'t
utilized. It was only used for childrens pull-along toys. No vehicles
the wheel, and machines didn\'t use rotary motion. Iron was unknown
to the Aztecs
as was steel. Copper and bronze were known however, and they
were used in
tools. Aztec jewelers made beautiful jewelry out of gold, silver
and other known
alloys. Glass, glazes, gunpowder, plows and alphabetic writing,
wich were
common among Spaniards, didn\'t exist in Mexico. However lack of
seemingly precious items didn\'t stop the Aztecs from making art and
that was amazing to the Europeans. Wheat,