The Aztec Pyramid at St. Cecilia Acatitlan, Mexico State.

Aztec jade masks depicting the god Xipe Totec.

Aztec cosmogram within the pre-Hispanic Codex Fejérváry-Mayer – the hearth god Xiuhtecuhtli is within the middle.

The Aztec folks have been sure ethnic teams of central Mexico, significantly these teams who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated giant components of Mesoamerica within the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a interval known as the late post-classic interval in Mesoamerican chronology.

Aztec (Aztecatl) is the Nahuatl phrase for “folks from Aztlan”, a mythological place for the Nahuatl-speaking tradition of the time, and later adopted because the phrase to outline the Mexica folks[1]. Typically the time period “Aztec” refers solely to the Mexica folks of Tenochtitlan (now the placement of Mexico Metropolis), located on an island in Lake Texcoco, who referred to themselves as Mexica Tenochca or Colhua-Mexica.
Typically the time period additionally consists of the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan’s two principal allied city-states, the Acolhuas of Texcoco and the Tepanecs of Tlacopan, who along with the Mexica fashioned the Aztec Triple Alliance which has additionally grow to be often called the “Aztec Empire”.

In different contexts, Aztec might discuss with all the assorted metropolis states and their peoples, who shared giant components of their ethnic historical past in addition to many necessary cultural traits with the Mexica, Acolhua and Tepanecs, and who like them, additionally spoke the Nahuatl language. On this which means it’s doable to speak about an Aztec civilization together with all the actual cultural patterns frequent for the Nahuatl talking peoples of the late postclassic interval in Mesoamerica.

From the 13th century Valley of Mexico was the core of Aztec civilization: right here the capital of the Aztec Triple Alliance, town of Tenochtitlan, was constructed upon raised islets in Lake Texcoco. The Triple Alliance fashioned its tributary empire increasing its political hegemony far past the Valley of Mexico, conquering different metropolis states all through Mesoamerica. At its pinnacle Aztec tradition had wealthy and sophisticated mythological and non secular traditions, in addition to reaching exceptional architectural and inventive accomplishments.

In 1521, in what might be probably the most extensively recognized episode within the Spanish colonization of the Americas, Hernán Cortés, together with a lot of Nahuatl talking indigenous allies, conquered Tenochtitlan and defeated the Aztec Triple Alliance beneath the management of Hueyi Tlatoani Moctezuma II; Within the sequence of occasions also known as “The Fall of the Aztec Empire”. Subsequently the Spanish based the brand new settlement of Mexico Metropolis on the location of the ruined Aztec capital.

Aztec tradition and historical past is primarily recognized by way of archaeological proof present in excavations akin to that of the famend Templo Mayor in Mexico Metropolis and lots of others, from indigenous bark paper codices, from eyewitness accounts by Spanish conquistadors akin to Hernán Cortés and Bernal Díaz del Castillo, and particularly from 16th and 17th century descriptions of Aztec tradition and historical past written by Spanish clergymen and literate Aztecs within the Spanish or Nahuatl language, such because the well-known Florentine Codex compiled by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún with the assistance of indigenous Aztec informants.


Aztec folks[edit]

When used about ethnic teams the time period “Aztec” refers to a number of Nahuatl talking peoples of central Mexico within the postclassic interval of Mesoamerican chronology, particularly the ethnic group that had a number one function within the establishing the hegemonic empire based mostly at Tenochtitlan, the Mexica. Different ethnic teams related to the Aztec empire are the Acolhua and Tepanec ethnic teams and a few of the ethnic teams that have been included into the empire, and the time period can be generally used about them. In older utilization the time period was generally used about fashionable Nahuatl talking ethnic teams, as Nahuatl was beforehand known as the “Aztec language”. In latest utilization these ethnic teams are reasonably known as the Nahua peoples.[2][3] Linguistically the time period “Aztecan” continues to be used concerning the department of the Uto-Aztecan languages (Additionally generally referred to as the yuto-nahuan languages) that features the Nahuatl language and its closest kinfolk Pochutec language|Pochutec and Pipil language|Pipil.[4]

To the Aztecs themselves the phrase “aztec” was not an endonym for any specific ethnic group. Relatively it was an umbrella time period used to discuss with a number of ethnic teams, not all of them Nahuatl talking, that claimed heritage from the mythic homeland, Aztlan. Within the Nahuatl language “aztecatl” means “individual from Aztlan”. In 1810 Alexander von Humboldt originated the trendy utilization of “Aztec” as a collective time period utilized to all of the folks linked by commerce, customized, faith, and language to the Mexica state and the Aztec Triple Alliance|Triple Alliance. In 1843, with the publication of the work of William H. Prescott, it was adopted by many of the world, together with 19th century Mexican students who noticed it as a strategy to distinguish present-day Mexicans from pre-conquest Mexicans. This utilization has been the topic of debate in newer years, however the time period “Aztec” continues to be extra frequent.[5] Typically the time period Aztec is changed wholesale with “Mexica”, however this ignores the truth that using Aztec shouldn’t be often restricted to the Mexica ethnic group that inhabited solely the southern a part of the Island of Mexico-Tenochtitlan, but additionally consists of different teams who wouldn’t have recognized as Mexica.

Aztec tradition[edit]

Aztec tradition is the tradition of the folks known as Aztecs, however since all ethnic teams of central Mexico within the postclassic interval shared most elementary cultural traits, lots of the fundamental traits of Aztec tradition cannot stated to be unique for the Aztecs. For a similar purpose the notion of “Aztec civilization” is finest understood as a selected horizon of a common Mesoamerican civilization.

Among the many cultural traits that the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan shared with many different cultures of central Mexico are the agricultural foundation of maize cultivation, the fundamental social group dividing society into courses of noble pipiltin and macehualli commoners, the advanced of non secular beliefs and practices together with many of the pantheon (e.g. gods akin to Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl), the Aztec calendar|calendric system of a xiuhpohualli of 365 days intercalated with a tonalpohualli of 260 days. Cultural traits specific to the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan was the veneration of the Mexica patron God Huitzilopochtli, the development of dual pyramids, and the ceramic ware often called Aztec I to III.[6]

Aztec empire[edit]

The Aztec empire was a tribute empire based mostly in Tenochtitlan, which prolonged its energy all through Mesoamerica within the late postclassic interval.[7] It originated in 1427 as a Triple alliance between the citystates Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan who allied to defeat the Tepanec state of Azcapotzalco, that had beforehand dominated the Basin of Mexico. Quickly Texcoco and Tlacopan grew to become junior companions within the alliance which was de-facto lead by the Mexica of Tenochtitlan.[8] The empire prolonged its energy by a mixture of commerce and navy conquest. It was by no means a real territorial empire controlling a territory by giant navy garrisons in conquered provinces, however reasonably managed its shopper states primarily by putting in pleasant rulers in conquered cities or establishing marriage alliances between the ruling dynasties, and by extending an imperial ideology to its shopper states.[9] Consumer states paid tribute to the Aztec emperor, the Huey Tlatoani in an financial technique limiting communication and commerce between outlying polities making them rely on the imperial middle for the acquisition of luxurious items.[10] The political clout of the empire reached far south into Mesoamerica conquering cities as far south as Chiapas and Guatemala and spanning from the pacific to the atlantic oceans. The empire reached its maximal extent in 1519 simply previous to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors led by Cortés who managed to topple the Aztec empire by allying with a few of the conventional enemies of the Aztecs, the Nahuatl talking Tlaxcala (Nahua state)|Tlaxcalteca.

Historical past[edit]

Migrational interval[edit]

The Nahua peoples started emigrate into Mesoamerica from northern Mexico within the sixth century. They populated central Mexico dislocating audio system of Oto-Manguean languages as they unfold their political affect south. As the previous nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples combined with the advanced civilizations of Mesoamerica, adopting non secular and cultural practices the muse for later Aztec tradition was laid. In the course of the Postclassic interval they rose to energy at such websites as Tula, Hidalgo. Within the 12th century the Nahua energy middle was in Azcapotzalco, from the place the Tepanecs dominated the valley of Mexico. Round this time the Mexica tribe arrived in central Mexico.

Rise of the Triple Alliance[edit]

The Valley of Mexico on the time of the Spanish Conquest.

The true origin of the Mexicas is unsure. In line with their legends, the Mexica tribe homeland was Aztlán. It’s typically thought that Aztlán was someplace to the north of the Valley of Mexico; some specialists have positioned it as far north as Southwestern United States.

Based mostly on these codices in addition to different histories, it seems that the Mexicas arrived at Chapultepec in or across the 12 months 1248.[11]

On the time of their arrival, the Valley of Mexico had many city-states, probably the most highly effective of which have been Culhuacan to the south and Azcapotzalco to the west. The Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco quickly expelled the Mexicas from Chapultepec. In 1299, Culhuacan ruler Cocoxtli gave them permission to settle within the empty barrens of Tizapan, the place they have been ultimately assimilated into Culhuacan tradition.

In 1323, the Mexicas have been proven a imaginative and prescient of an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus, consuming a snake. This imaginative and prescient indicated that this was the placement the place they have been to construct their residence. In any occasion, the Mexicas ultimately arrived on a small swampy island in Lake Texcoco the place they based the city of Tenochtitlan in 1325. In 1376, the Mexicas elected their first Huey Tlatoani, Acamapichtli, who was residing in Texcoco on the time.

For the subsequent 50 years, till 1427, the Mexica have been a tributary of Azcapotzalco, which had grow to be a regional energy, maybe probably the most highly effective for the reason that Toltecs, centuries earlier. Maxtla, son of Tezozomoc, assassinated Chimalpopoca, the Mexica ruler. In an effort to defeat Maxtla, Chimalpopoca’s successor, Itzcoatl, allied with the exiled ruler of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl. This coalition was the muse of the Aztec Triple Alliance, which defeated Azcapotzalco in 1428.

Jaguar warrior, from the Codex Magliabechiano.

The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan would, within the subsequent 100 years, come to dominate the Valley of Mexico and lengthen its energy to each the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific shore. Over this era, Tenochtitlan regularly grew to become the dominant energy within the alliance.

Two of the first architects of the Aztec empire have been the half-brothers Tlacaelel and Montezuma I, nephews of Itzcoatl. Moctezuma I succeeded Itzcoatl as Hueyi Tlatoani in 1440. Though he was additionally supplied the chance to be tlatoani, Tlacaelel most well-liked to function as the ability behind the throne. Tlacaelel reformed the Aztec state and faith. In line with some sources, he ordered the burning of many of the extant Aztec books claiming that they contained lies. He thereupon rewrote the historical past of the Aztec folks, thus creating a standard consciousness of historical past for the Aztecs. This rewriting led on to the curriculum taught to students and promoted the idea that the Aztecs have been at all times a robust and mythic nation; forgetting endlessly a doable true historical past of modest origins. One part of this reform was the establishment of formality conflict (the flower wars) as a strategy to have skilled warriors, and created the need of fixed sacrifices to maintain the Solar transferring.

Spanish conquest[edit]

The empire reached its peak throughout Ahuitzotl’s reign in 1486–1502. His successor, Motehcuzōma Xocoyotzin (higher often called Moctezuma II or Moctezuma), had been Hueyi Tlatoani for 17 years when the Spaniards, led by Hernándo Cortés, landed on the Gulf of Mexico|Gulf Coast within the spring of 1519.

Regardless of some early battles between the 2, Cortés allied himself with the Aztecs’ long-time enemy, the Confederacy of Tlaxcala (Nahua state)|Tlaxcala, and arrived on the gates of Tenochtitlan on November 8, 1519.

The Spaniards and their Tlaxcala (Nahua state)|Tlaxcallan allies grew to become more and more harmful and unwelcome company within the capital metropolis. In June, 1520, hostilities broke out, culminating within the bloodbath within the Primary Temple and the dying of Moctezuma II. The Spaniards fled the city on July 1, an episode later characterised as La Noche Triste (the Unhappy Night time). They and their native allies returned within the spring of 1521 to put Siege of Tenochtitlan|siege to Tenochtitlan, a battle that ended on August 13 with the destruction of town. Throughout this era the now crumbling empire went by way of a speedy line of ruler succession. After the dying of Moctezuma II, the empire fell into the arms of severely weakened emperors, akin to Cuitláhuac, earlier than ultimately being dominated by puppet rulers, akin to Andrés de Tapia Motelchiuh, put in by the Spanish.

Regardless of the decline of the Aztec empire, many of the Mesoamerican cultures have been intact after the autumn of Tenochtitlan. Certainly, the liberty from Aztec domination might have been thought-about a optimistic improvement by many of the different cultures. The higher courses of the Aztec empire have been thought-about noblemen by the Spaniards and customarily handled as such initially. All this modified quickly and the native inhabitants have been quickly forbidden to check by regulation, and had the standing of Minor (regulation)|minors[citation needed].

The Tlaxcalans remained loyal to their Spanish buddies and have been allowed to return on different conquests with Cortés and his males.

Colonial interval inhabitants decline[edit]

In 1520–1521, an outbreak of smallpox swept by way of the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan and was decisive within the fall of town. It’s estimated that between 10% and 50% of the inhabitants fell sufferer to this epidemic.

Subsequently, the Valley of Mexico was hit with two extra epidemics, smallpox (1545–1548) and typhus (1576–1581). The Spaniards, to consolidate the diminishing inhabitants, merged the survivors from small cities within the Valley of Mexico into greater ones. This broke the ability of the higher courses, however didn’t dissolve the coherence of the indigenous society in better Mexico.

The inhabitants earlier than the time of the conquest is unknown and hotly contested,[12] however illness is understood to have ravaged the area; thus, the indigenous inhabitants of the Valley of Mexico is estimated to have declined by greater than 80% in the middle of about 60 years.[13]

Cultural patterns[edit]


The maximal extent of the Aztec Empire

The Aztec Empire was an instance of an empire that dominated by oblique means.
Like most European empires, it was ethnically very numerous, however in contrast to most European empires, it was extra of a system of tribute than a single system of presidency. Within the theoretical framework of imperial techniques posited by Alexander J. Motyl[14] the Aztec empire was an off-the-cuff or hegemonic empire as a result of it didn’t exert supreme authority over the conquered lands, it merely anticipated tributes to be paid. It was additionally a discontinuous empire as a result of not all dominated territories have been related, for instance the southern peripheral zones of Xoconochco weren’t in direct contact with the middle. The hegemonic nature of the Aztec empire will be seen in the truth that typically native rulers have been restored to their positions as soon as their city-state was conquered and the Aztecs didn’t intervene in native affairs so long as the tribute funds have been made.[15]

Though the type of authorities is also known as an empire, in actual fact most areas throughout the empire have been organized as city-states, often called altepetl in Nahuatl. These have been small polities dominated by a king (tlatoani) from a professional dynasty. The Early Aztec interval was a time of progress and competitors amongst altepetl. Even after the empire was fashioned (1428) and commenced its program of growth by way of conquest, the altepetl remained the dominant type of group on the native stage. The environment friendly function of the altepetl as a regional political unit was largely accountable for the success of the empire’s hegemonic type of management.[16]

Tribute and commerce[edit]

A number of pages from the Codex Mendoza listing tributary cities together with the products they equipped, which included not solely luxuries akin to feathers, adorned fits, and greenstone beads, however extra sensible items akin to material, firewood, and meals. Tribute was often paid twice or 4 occasions a 12 months at differing occasions.[17]

Archaeological excavations within the Aztec-ruled provinces present that incorporation into the empire had each prices and advantages for provincial peoples. On the optimistic aspect, the empire promoted commerce and commerce, and unique items from obsidian to bronze managed to succeed in the homes of each commoners and nobles. Commerce companions included the enemy Tarascan, a supply of bronze instruments and jewellery. On the unfavourable aspect, imperial tribute imposed a burden on commoner households, who needed to enhance their work to pay their share of tribute. Nobles, alternatively, usually made out effectively beneath imperial rule due to the oblique nature of imperial group. The empire needed to depend on native kings and nobles and supplied them privileges for his or her assist in sustaining order and conserving the tribute flowing.[18]

Economic system[edit]

The Aztec financial system will be divided right into a political sector, beneath the management of nobles and kings, and a business sector that operated independently of the political sector. The political sector of the financial system centered on the management of land and labor by kings and nobles. Nobles owned all land, and commoners bought entry to farmland and different fields by way of a wide range of preparations, from rental by way of sharecropping to serf-like labor and slavery. These funds from commoners to nobles supported each the lavish life of the excessive the Aristocracy and the funds of city-states. Many luxurious items have been produced for consumption by nobles. The producers of featherwork, sculptures, jewellery, and different luxurious gadgets have been full-time commoner specialists who labored for noble patrons.

Within the business sector of the financial system a number of kinds of cash have been in common use. Small purchases have been made with cacao beans, which needed to be imported from lowland areas. In Aztec marketplaces, a small rabbit was price 30 beans, a turkey egg price Three beans, and a tamal price a single bean. For bigger purchases, standardized lengths of cotton material referred to as quachtli have been used. There have been totally different grades of quachtli, ranging in worth from 65 to 300 cacao beans. One supply acknowledged that 20 quachtli may help a commoner for one 12 months in Tenochtitlan. A person may additionally promote his personal daughter as a sexual slave or future non secular sacrifice, typically for round 500 to 700 beans. A small gold statue (roughly 0.62 kg / 1.37 lb) price 250 beans. Cash was used primarily within the many periodic markets that have been held in every city. A typical city would have a weekly market (each 5 days), whereas bigger cities held markets daily. Cortés reported that the central market of Tlatelolco, Tenochtitlan’s sister metropolis, was visited by 60,000 folks each day. Some sellers within the markets have been petty distributors; farmers would possibly promote a few of their produce, potters offered their vessels, and so forth. Different distributors have been skilled retailers who traveled from market to market in search of income. The pochteca have been specialised retailers organized into unique guilds. They made lengthy expeditions to all components of Mesoamerica, and so they served because the judges and supervisors of the Tlatelolco market. Though the financial system of Aztec Mexico was commercialized (in its use of cash, markets, and retailers), it was not “a capitalist financial system as a result of land and labor weren’t commodities on the market.”[19]


The principle contribution of the Aztec rule was a system of communications between the conquered cities. In Mesoamerica, with out draft animals for transport (nor, because of this, wheeled autos), the roads have been designed for journey on foot. Normally these roads have been maintained by way of tribute, and vacationers had locations to relaxation and eat and even latrines to make use of at common intervals, roughly each 10 or 15 km. Couriers (paynani) have been always travelling alongside these methods, conserving the Aztecs knowledgeable of occasions, and serving to to observe the integrity of the roads.[citation needed]

Mythology and faith[edit]

The Coat of Arms of Mexico, from Aztec mythology

The Aztec Solar Stone, also called the Aztec Calendar Stone, at Nationwide Museum of Anthropology, Mexico Metropolis.

The Aztec goddess of Coatlicue, mom of earth. Nationwide Museum of Anthropology.

The Mexica made reference to not less than two manifestations of the supernatural: tēōtl and tēixiptla. Tēōtl, which the Spaniards and European students routinely mistranslated as “god” or “demon”, referred reasonably to an impersonal pressure that permeated the world. Tēixiptla, in contrast, denoted the bodily representations (“idols”, statues and collectible figurines) of the tēōtl in addition to the human cultic exercise surrounding this bodily illustration. The Mexica “gods” themselves had no existence as distinct entities aside from these tēixiptla representations of tēōtl (Boone 1989).

Veneration of Huitzilopochtli, the personification of the solar and of conflict, was central to the non secular, social and political practices of the Mexicas. Huitzilopochtli attained this central place after the founding of Tenochtitlan and the formation of the Mexica city-state society within the 14th century. Previous to this, Huitzilopochtli was related primarily with searching, presumably one of many necessary subsistence actions of the itinerant bands that might ultimately grow to be the Mexica.

In line with fable, Huitzilopochtli directed the wanderers to discovered a metropolis on the location the place they’d see an eagle devouring a snake perched on a fruit-bearing nopal cactus. (It was stated that Huitzilopochtli killed his nephew, Cópil, and threw his coronary heart on the lake. Huitzilopochtli honoured Cópil by inflicting a cactus to develop over Cópil’s coronary heart.) Legend has it that that is the location on which the Mexicas constructed their capital metropolis of Tenochtitlan. This legendary imaginative and prescient is pictured on the Coat of arms of Mexico.

In line with their very own historical past, when the Mexicas arrived within the Anahuac valley (Valley of Mexico) round Lake Texcoco, the teams residing there thought-about them uncivilized. The Mexicas borrowed a lot of their tradition from the traditional Toltec whom they appear to have not less than partially confused with the extra historic civilization of Teotihuacan. To the Mexicas, the Toltecs have been the originators of all tradition; “Toltecayōtl” was a synonym for tradition. Mexica legends determine the Toltecs and the cult of Quetzalcoatl with the legendary metropolis of Tollan, which in addition they recognized with the extra historic Teotihuacan.

As all different Mesoamerican cultures, the Aztecs performed a variant of the Mesoamerican ballgame, named tlachtli or ollamaliztli in Nahuatl. The sport was performed with a ball of stable rubber , referred to as an olli, whence derives the Spanish phrase for rubber, hule. The gamers hit the ball with their hips, knees, and elbows and needed to go the ball by way of a stone ring to robotically win. The follow of the ballgame carried non secular and mythological meanings and in addition served as sport.

Human sacrifice[edit]

Human sacrifice as proven within the Codex Magliabechiano

For most individuals at this time, and for the European Catholics who first met the Aztecs, human sacrifice was probably the most putting characteristic of Aztec civilization. Whereas human sacrifice was practiced all through Mesoamerica, the Aztecs, if their very own accounts are to be believed, introduced this follow to an unprecedented stage. For instance, for the reconsecration of Nice Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, the Aztecs reported that they sacrificed 84,400 prisoners over the course of 4 days, reportedly by Ahuitzotl, the Nice Speaker himself.

Nevertheless, most specialists take into account these numbers to be overstated.[citation needed] For instance, the sheer logistics related to sacrificing 84,000 victims could be overwhelming, although historians and archaeologists agree that 2,000 is a extra doubtless determine. An analogous consensus has developed on reviews of cannibalism among the many Aztecs.

Accounts by the Tlaxcaltecas, the first enemy of the Aztecs on the time of the Spanish Conquest, present that not less than a few of them thought-about it an honor to be sacrificed. In a single legend, the warrior Tlahuicole was freed by the Aztecs however ultimately returned of his personal volition to die in ritual sacrifice. Tlaxcala additionally practiced the human sacrifice of captured Aztec Residents.

Social buildings[edit]

Class construction[edit]

A portray from Codex Mendoza displaying elder Aztecs being given intoxicants.

The very best class have been the pīpiltin or the Aristocracy.[20] Initially this standing was not hereditary, though the sons of pillis had entry to higher assets and schooling, so it was simpler for them to grow to be pillis. Later the category system took on hereditary points.

The second class have been the mācehualtin, initially peasants. Eduardo Noguera[21]
estimates that in later levels solely 20% of the inhabitants was devoted to agriculture and meals manufacturing. The opposite 80% of society have been warriors, artisans and merchants. Finally, many of the mācehuallis have been devoted to arts and crafts. Their works have been an necessary supply of earnings for town.[22]

Slaves or tlacotin additionally constituted an necessary class. Aztecs may grow to be slaves due to money owed, as a prison punishment or as conflict captives. A slave may have possessions and even personal different slaves. Nevertheless, upon changing into a slave, the entire slave’s animals and extra cash would go to his purchaser. Slaves may purchase their liberty, and slaves may very well be let loose if that they had kids with or have been married to their masters. Usually, upon the dying of the grasp, slaves who had carried out excellent companies have been freed. The remainder of the slaves have been handed on as a part of an inheritance.

Touring retailers referred to as pochtecah have been a small, however necessary class as they not solely facilitated commerce, but additionally communicated very important data throughout the empire and past its borders. They have been usually employed as spies.


Till the age of fourteen, the necessary common[23] schooling of kids was within the arms of their mother and father, however supervised by the authorities of their calpōlli. A part of this schooling concerned studying a group of sayings, referred to as huēhuetlàtolli (“sayings of the outdated”), that embodied the Aztecs’ beliefs.

There have been two kinds of colleges: the telpochcalli, for sensible and navy research, and the calmecac, for superior studying in writing, astronomy, statesmanship, theology, and different areas.


Double-headed serpent: a turquoise mosaic on a wood base, with crimson and white shells used for the mouths. In all probability worn throughout the chest, this decoration measures 20 by 43 cm (Eight by 17 in). It was doubtless created by Mixtec artisans from an Aztec tributary state. 1400–1521, from the British Museum [1].

Music and poetry have been extremely regarded; there have been shows and poetry contests at many of the Aztec festivals. There have been additionally dramatic shows that included gamers, musicians and acrobats.

A exceptional quantity of this poetry survives, having been collected throughout the period of the conquest. In some instances poetry is attributed to particular person authors, akin to Nezahualcoyotl, tlatoani of Texcoco, and Cuacuauhtzin, Lord of Tepechpan, however whether or not these attributions mirror precise authorship is a matter of opinion. Miguel León-Portilla, a well-respected Aztec scholar of Mexico, has acknowledged that it’s on this poetry the place we will discover the actual considered the Aztecs, unbiased of “official” Aztec ideology.[24]

“Poetry” was in xochitl in cuicatl a twin time period which means “the flower and the music” and was divided into totally different genres. Yaocuicatl was dedicated to conflict and the god(s) of conflict, Teocuicatl to the gods and creation myths and to adoration of stated figures, xochicuicatl to flowers (a logo of poetry itself and indicative of the extremely metaphorical nature of a poetry that always utilized duality to convey a number of layers of which means). “Prose” was tlahtolli, additionally with its totally different classes and divisions (Garganigo et al.).

Turquoise masks. Mixtec-Aztec. 1400–1521.

An important assortment of those poems is Romances de los señores de la Nueva España, collected (Tezcoco 1582), most likely by Juan Bautista de Pomar.[25] Bautista de Pomar was the great-grandson of Netzahualcoyotl. He spoke Nahuatl, however was raised a Christian and wrote in Latin characters. (See additionally: “Is It You?”, a brief poem attributed to Netzahualcoyotl, and “Lament on the Fall of Tenochtitlan”, a brief poem contained throughout the “Anales de Tlatelolco” manuscript.)

Metropolis-building and structure[edit]

The capital metropolis of the Aztec empire was Tenochtitlan, now the location of modern-day Mexico Metropolis. Constructed on a sequence of islets in Lake Texcoco, town plan was based mostly on a symmetrical format that was divided into 4 metropolis sections referred to as campans. Town was interlaced with canals which have been helpful for transportation.

Tenochtitlan was constructed in line with a hard and fast plan and centered on the ritual precinct, the place the Nice Pyramid of Tenochtitlan rose 50 m (164.04 ft) above town. Homes have been manufactured from wooden and loam, roofs have been manufactured from reed,[26] though pyramids, temples and palaces have been typically manufactured from stone.

Across the island, chinampa beds have been used to develop meals in addition to, over time, to extend the scale of the island. Chinampas, misnamed “floating gardens”, have been lengthy raised plant beds set upon the shallow lake backside. They have been a really environment friendly agricultural system and will present as much as seven crops a 12 months. On the idea of present chinampa yields, it has been estimated that 1 hectare of chinampa would feed 20 people and 9,000 hectares of chinampas may feed 180,000.[27]

Anthropologist Eduardo Noguera estimates the inhabitants at 200,000 based mostly in the home depend and merging the inhabitants of Tlatelolco (as soon as an unbiased metropolis, however later grew to become a suburb of Tenochtitlan). If one consists of the encircling islets and shores surrounding Lake Texcoco, estimates vary from 300,000 to 700,000 inhabitants.[27]


The pre-conquest Aztecs have been a society that had 4 predominant strategies of agriculture. The earliest, most elementary type of agriculture applied by the Aztecs is named “rainfall cultivation.” The Aztecs additionally applied terrace agriculture in hilly areas, or areas that would not be used for stage floor farming. Within the valleys irrigation farming was used. Dams diverted water from pure springs to the fields. This allowed for harvests regularly. The Aztecs constructed canal techniques that have been longer and far more elaborate than earlier irrigation techniques. They managed to divert a big portion of the Cuauhtitlan River to offer irrigation to giant areas of fields. The community of canals was a really advanced and complicated system.

Within the swampy areas alongside Lake Xochimilco, the Aztecs applied one more technique of crop cultivation. They constructed what are referred to as chinampas. Chinampas are areas of raised land, created from alternating layers of mud from the underside of the lake, and plant matter/different vegetation. These “raised beds” have been separated by slender canals, which allowed farmers to maneuver between them by canoe. The chinampas have been extraordinarily fertile items of land, and yielded, on common, seven crops yearly. As a way to plant on them, farmers first created “seedbeds,” or reed rafts, the place they planted seeds and allowed them to germinate. As soon as that they had, they have been re-planted within the chinampas. This minimize the rising time down significantly.

The Aztecs are credited with domestication of the subspecies of Wild turkey, Meleagris gallopavo, which is native to this area.[28]

Whereas many of the farming occurred exterior the densely populated areas, throughout the cities there was one other technique of (small scale) farming. Every household had their very own backyard plot the place they grew maize, fruits, herbs, medicines and different necessary crops.

Of the assorted crops grown by the Aztecs, maize was a very powerful. Aztec diets centered on it. Maize was grown throughout the complete empire, within the highland terraces, valley farms and in addition on the chinampas. Girls floor maize into a rough meal by rubbing it with a grinding stone referred to as a mano in opposition to a flat stone referred to as a metate. The Aztecs made tortillas from the corn meal. Different crops that the Aztecs relied upon have been avocados, beans, squashes, candy potatoes, tomatoes, chia, amaranth and chilies. These crops have been additionally grown in all places. Crops that have been particular to the lowland areas have been cotton, fruits, cacao beans and rubber timber.

Relationship to different Mesoamerican cultures[edit]

Aztecs admired Mixtec craftsmanship a lot that they imported artisans to Tenochtitlan and requested work to be carried out in sure Mixtec types. The Aztecs additionally admired the Mixtec codices, so a few of them have been made to order by Mixteca for the Aztecs. Within the later days, excessive society Aztec girls began to put on Mixtec clothes, particularly the quexquemetl. It was worn over their conventional huipil, and far coveted by the ladies who couldn’t afford such imported items.

The state of affairs was analogous in some ways to the Phoenician tradition which imported and duplicated artwork from different cultures that they encountered.

Archaeologists often should not have an issue differentiating between Mixtec and Aztec artifacts. Nevertheless, the Mixtec made some merchandise for “export” and that makes classification extra problematic. As well as, the manufacturing of craft was an necessary a part of the Mexica financial system, and so they additionally made items for “export”.

Most modern-day Mexicans (and other people of Mexican descent in different nations) are mestizos, of combined indigenous and European Spanish ancestry. In the course of the 16th century the racial composition of Mexico started to vary from one which featured distinct indigenous (Mexicas and members of the various different Mexican indigenous teams) and immigrant (principally Spanish) populations, to the inhabitants composed primarily of mestizos that’s present in modern-day Mexico.

The Nahuatl language is at this time spoken by 1.5 million folks, principally in mountainous areas within the states of central Mexico. Native dialects of Spanish, Mexican Spanish typically, and the Spanish language worldwide have all been influenced, in various levels, by Nahuatl. Some Nahuatl phrases (most notably chocolate and tomato) have been borrowed by way of Spanish into different languages all over the world.

Mexico Metropolis was constructed on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, making it one of many oldest residing cities of the Americas. Lots of its districts and pure landmarks retain their authentic Nahuatl names. Many different cities and cities in Mexico and Central America have additionally retained their Nahuatl names (whether or not or not they have been initially Mexica and even Nahuatl-speaking cities). Quite a few city names are hybrids of Nahuatl and Spanish.

Mexican delicacies continues to be based mostly on and flavored by agricultural merchandise contributed by the Mexicas/Aztecs and Mesoamerica, most of which retain some type of their authentic Nahuatl names. The delicacies has additionally grow to be a well-liked a part of the delicacies of america and different nations all over the world, sometimes altered to swimsuit numerous nationwide tastes.

The trendy Mexican flag bears the symbol of the Mexica migration story.

Mexico’s premier non secular icon, the Virgin of Guadalupe has sure similarities to the Mexica earth mom goddess Tonantzin.

For the 1986 FIFA World Cup Adidas designed the official match ball to point out in its “triades” Aztec architectural and mural designs [2].


Earlier than the event of archaeology in Mexico within the 19th century, the historians primarily interpreted the traditional written sources to reconstitute aztec historical past. Archaeology allowed to rethink and criticise a few of these interpretations and contradictions between the first sources. Now, the scholar research of aztec civilization is most frequently based mostly on scientific and multidisciplinary methodologies.

Historic sources[edit]

A portray of Tlaloc, as proven on web page 20R of Codex Rios

Aztec codices[edit]

No Aztec codices painted by tlacuiloque (Nahuatl for “painter-scribes”) survive from earlier than the Conquest[29]. Whereas some have been destroyed by pre-Hispanic rulers, akin to Itzcoatl,[30] in an try to standardize official historical past, most have been burned by Catholic missionaries in campaigns of anti-idolatry, probably the most infamous being these of the Franciscan Bishop Juan de Zumárraga, and the Franciscan Diego de Landa[31]. Nevertheless, many early (pre-1550) post-conquest codices are extant, such because the Codex Mendoza and the Codex Borbonicus. The post-conquest books created for Spanish or ecclesiastical patrons, such because the Codex Ríos, the Codex Telleriano-Remensis and the Codex Magliabecchiano, usually describe the non secular practices understood by their patrons to be idolatrous, however are nonetheless important sources for understanding Aztec tradition and faith[32].

The conquistadors[edit]

The accounts of the conquistadors are these of males confronted with a brand new civilization, which they tried to interpret in line with their very own tradition. Cortés was probably the most educated, and his letters to Charles V are a beneficial firsthand account. Sadly, one in all his letters is misplaced and changed by a posterior textual content and the others have been censored previous to their publication. In any case, Cortés was not writing a dispassionate account, however letters justifying his actions and to some extent exaggerating his successes and downplaying his failures.

Bernal Díaz del Castillo accompanied Cortes, and he later wrote a guide named: The Discovery and Conquest of Mexico.[33] In his guide, Capitan Bernal Díaz del Castillo gives his account of the Conquest of Mexico, through which he describes the occasions main as much as the conquest of Mexico together with accounts of the human sacrifices and cannibalism that he witnessed first hand. Bernal Díaz wrote a number of many years after the actual fact, he by no means discovered the native languages, and he didn’t take notes. His account is colourful, however his work is taken into account erratic and exaggerated by historians.[citation needed]

Though Francisco López de Gómara was Cortes’ chaplain, good friend, and confidant, he by no means visited the New World so his account is predicated on rumour.

Monks and students[edit]

The accounts of the primary monks and students, whereas reflecting their religion and their tradition, are necessary sources. Fathers Diego Durán, Motolinia, and Mendieta wrote with their very own faith in thoughts, Father Duran wrote making an attempt to show that the Aztec have been one of many misplaced tribes of Israel. Bartolomé de las Casas wrote as an alternative from an apologetic perspective. There are additionally authors that attempted to make a synthesis of the pre-Hispanic cultures, like “Oviedo y Herrera”, Jose de Acosta, and Pedro Mártir de Anghera.

Maybe probably the most vital supply concerning the Aztec are the manuscripts of Bernardino de Sahagún, who labored with the surviving Aztec clever males. He taught Aztec tlacuilos to jot down the unique Nahuatl accounts utilizing the Latin alphabet. Due to concern of the Spanish authorities, he maintained the anonymity of his informants, and wrote a closely censored model in Spanish. Sadly the Nahuatl authentic was not totally translated till the 20th century, thus realising the extent of the censorship of the Spanish model. The unique Nahuatl manuscript is named the Florentine Codex.

Native authors[edit]

Different necessary sources are the work of native and mestizo authors, descendants of the higher courses. These authors embody Don Fernando Alvarado Tezozómoc, Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, Juan Bautista de Pomar, and Fernando de Alva Cortés Ixtlilxochitl. Ixtlixochitl, for instance, wrote a historical past of Texcoco from a Christian perspective. His account of Netzahualcoyotl, an ancestor of Ixtlilxochitl’s, has a robust resemblance to the story of King Solomon and portrays Netzahualcoyotl as a monotheist and a critic of human sacrifice.

Diego Muñoz Camargo (1521 – c. 1612), a Tlaxcalan mestizo, wrote the Historical past of Tlaxcala six many years after the Spanish conquest. Some components of his work have a robust Tlaxcala bias.

Up to date research[edit]

The mexicanista motion[edit]

Laurette Séjourné, a French anthropologist, wrote about Aztec and Mesoamerican spirituality. Her depiction of the Aztecs as a non secular folks was so compelling that new religions have been fashioned based mostly on her writings. Some components of her work have been adopted by esoteric teams, trying to find occult teachings of the pre-Columbian religions. Séjourné by no means endorsed any of those teams.[citation needed]

Miguel León-Portilla additionally idealizes the Aztec tradition, particularly in his early writings.[citation needed]

Others, akin to Antonio Velazco, have reworked the writings by Sejourné and León-Portilla into a non secular motion. Antonio Velasco Piña has written three books, Tlacaelel, El Azteca entre los Aztecas, La mujer dormida debe dar a luz, and Regina. When combined with the currents of Neopaganism, these books resulted in a brand new non secular motion referred to as “Mexicanista”. This motion referred to as for a return to the spirituality of the Aztecs. It’s argued that, with this return, Mexico will grow to be the subsequent middle of energy. This non secular motion mixes Mesoamerican cults with Hindu esoterism. The Mexicanista motion reached the height of its reputation within the 1990s.

  1. The “Aztec” time period was cast by the Occident literature as for Mexicas. Within the Mexica’s beliefs Mexico-Tenochtitlan was based in Aztlan, an isle in the midst of a lake, and its inhabitants have been referred to as Aztecatl from the place the phrase Aztec was originated :
  2. Lockhart 1992
  3. Smith 1997 p. 2
  4. Campbell 1997
  5. Miguel Leon Portilla (2000). “Aztecas, disquisiciones sobre un gentilicio”. p. 6. 
  6. Smith 1997 4-7
  7. Smith (2001) 250-252
  8. Smith 1997 49-58
  9. Smith 1997 174-175
  10. Smith 1997 176-182
  11. Smith, (1984) p. 173.
  12. By one sequence of estimates, the inhabitants earlier than the time of the conquest is estimated at 19 million; by 1550, the estimated inhabitants was Four million and by 1581 lower than two million[citation needed]
  13. Silent Killers of the New World
  14. Motyl, Alexander J.. Imperial Ends: The Decay, Collapse, and Revival of Empires. New York: Columbia College Press. pp. 13, 19–21, 32–36. ISBN 0-231-12110-5. 
  15. Berdan, et al. (1996), Aztec Imperial Methods. Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC
  16. Smith, Michael E.(2000), Aztec Metropolis-States. In A Comparative Research of Thirty Metropolis-State Cultures, edited by Mogens Herman Hansen, pp. 581–595. The Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Copenhagen.
  17. The Codex Mendoza, edited by F. Berdan and P. Anawalt, College of California Press, 1992
  18. Smith, Life within the Provinces of the Aztec empire, Scientific American, September 1997
  19. (Smith, The Aztecs, 2nd version, chapter 5)
  20. singular kind pilli
  21. Annals of Anthropology, UNAM, Vol. xi, 1974, p. 56
  22. Sanders, William T., Settlement Patterns in Central Mexico. Handbook of Center American Indians, 1971, vol. 3, p. 3–44.
  24. León-Portilla, Damaged Spears.
  25. This quantity was later translated into Spanish by Ángel María Garibay Okay., instructor of León-Portilla, and it exists in English translation by John Bierhorst
  26. “Azteken” (eighth ed. ed.). 1975. 
  27. ab Eduardo Noguera (1974). “Sitios de Ocupacion de la periferia de Tenochtitlan” (XI ed. ed.). 
  28. C. Michael Hogan. 2008. Wild turkey: Meleagris gallopavo,, ed. N. Stromberg
  29. Boone, Elizabeth Hill. Tales in Crimson and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs. Austin: College of Texas Press, 2000.
  30. Boone, Tales in Crimson and Black,” pp. 20-21.
  31. Greenleaf, Richard. Zumárraga and the Mexican Inquisition, 1536-1543. Washington, D.C.: American Academy of Franciscan Historical past, 1962.
  32. Quiñones Keber, Eloise. Codex Telleriano-Remensis: Ritual, Divination, and Historical past in a Pictorial Aztec Manuscript. Austin: College of Texas Press, 1995.
  33. Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España, Escrita por el Capitan Bernal Diaz del Castillo, uno de sus conquistadores – Printed within the Spanish language by Fernandez, Editores S.A. Mexico Metropolis, (Printed within the English language by Farrar, Straus and Cudahy in 1956 Library of Congress Catalog Quantity 56-5758