The Aztec Empire History


The center of the Aztec civilization was the Valley of Mexico, a huge, oval
basin about 7,500 feet above sea level. The Aztecs were formed after the Toltec
civilization occurred when hundreds of civilians came towards Lake Texcoco. In
the swamplands there was only one piece of land to farm on and it was totally
surrounded by more marshes. The Aztec families somehow converted these
disadvantages to a mighty empire known as the Aztec Empire. People say the
empire was partially formed by a deeply believed legend. As the legend went, it
said that Aztec people would create an empire in a swampy place where they would
see an eagle eating a snake, while perched on a cactus, which was growing out of
a rock in the swamplands. This is what priests claimed they saw when entering
the new land. By the year 1325 their capital city was finished. They called it
Tenochtitlan. In the capital city, aqueducts were constructed, bridges were
built, and chinapas were made. Chinapas were little islands formed by pilled up
mud. On these chinapas Aztecs grew their food. The Aztec Empire included many
cities and towns, especially in the Valley of Mexico. The early settlers built
log rafts, then covered them with mud and planted seeds to create roots and
develop more solid land for building homes in this marshy land. Canals were also
cut out through the marsh so that a typical Aztec home had its back to a canal
with a canoe tied at the door. In the early 1400s, Tenochtitlan joined with
Texcoco and Tlacopan, two other major cities in the Valley of Mexico.
Tenochtitlan became the most powerful member of the alliance. Montezuma I ruled
from 1440 to 1469 and conquered large areas to the east and to the south.
Montezuma\'s successors expanded the empire until it extended between what is now
Guatemala and the Mexican State of San Luis Potosi. Montezuma II became emperor
in 1502 when the Aztec Empire was at the height of its power. In 1519, the
Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes landed on the East Coast of Mexico and marched
inland to Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards were joined by many of the Indians who
were conquered and forced to pay high taxes to the emperor. Montezuma did not
oppose Cortes because he thought that he was the God Quetzalcoatl. An Aztec
legend said that Quetzalcoatl was driven away by another rival god and had
sailed across the sea and would return some day. His return was predicted to
come in the year Ce Acatl on the Aztec Calendar. This corresponded to the year
1519. Due to this prediction, Montezuma II thought Quetzalcoatl had returned
when Cortes and his troops invaded. He did not resist and was taken prisoner by
Cortes and his troops. In 1520, the Aztecs rebelled and drove the Spaniards from
Tenochtitlan, but Montezuma II was killed in the battle. Cortes reorganized his
troops and resurged into the city. Montezuma\'s successor, Cuauhtemoc,
surrendered in August of 1520. The Spaniards, being strong Christians, felt it
was their duty to wipe out the temples and all other traces of the Aztec
religion. They destroyed Tenochtitlan and built Mexico City on the ruins.
However, archaeologists have excavated a few sites and have uncovered many
remnants of this society. Language: The Aztec spoke a language called Nahuatl
(pronounced NAH waht l). It belongs to a large group of Indian languages, which
also include the languages spoken by the Comanche, Pima, Shoshone and other
tribes of western North America. The Aztec used pictographs to communicate
through writing. Some of the pictures symbolized ideas and others represented
the sounds of the syllables. Food: The principal food of the Aztec was a thin
cornmeal pancake called a tlaxcalli. (In Spanish, it is called a tortilla.) They
used the tlaxcallis to scoop up foods while they ate or they wrapped the foods
in the tlaxcalli to form what is now known as a taco. They hunted for most of
the meat in their diet and the chief game animals were deer, rabbits, ducks and
geese. The only animals they raised for meat were turkeys, rabbits, and dogs.
Arts and Crafts: The Aztec sculptures, which adorned their temples and other
buildings, were among the most elaborate in all of the Americas. Their purpose
was to please the gods and they attempted to do that in everything they did.
Many of the sculptures reflected their perception of their gods and how they
interacted in their lives. The most famous surviving Aztec sculpture is the
large circular Calendar Stone, which represents the Aztec universe.