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 afterthe 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.
In addition, The mother of the Aztec creation story was called Coatlique, the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes. She was created in the image of the unknown, decorated with skulls, snakes, and lacerated hands. There are no cracks in her body and she is a perfect monolith (a totality of intensity and self-containment, yet her features were sqaure and decapitated). Coatlique was first impregnated by an obsidian knife and gave birth to Coyolxanuhqui, goddess of the moon, and to a group of male offspring, who became the stars. Then one day Coatlique found a ball of feathers, which she tucked into her bosom. Whe she looked for it later, it was gone, at which time she realized that she was again pregnant. Her children, the moon and stars did not believe her story. Ashamed of their mother, they resolved to kill her.
A goddess could only give birth once, to the original litter of divinity and no more. During the time that they were plotting her demise, Coatlicue gave birth to the fiery god of war, Huitzilopochtli. With the help of a fire serpent, he destroyed his brothers and sister, murdering them in a rage. He beheaded Coyolxauhqui and threw her body into a deep gorge in a mountain, where it lies dismembered forever. By the year 1325 their capital city was finished. They called it Tenochtitlan. – At its height, the Aztec Empire included millions of people. Even though no one knows exactly how many people there were, it seems clear that the Aztec Empire had a population equal to the large European countries at the time! Tenochtitlfin alone, which may have had as many as 200,000 people, was larger than any European city. Along the shores of Lake Texcoco were other cities. These cities were connected to Tenochtitlfin by a system of causeways, or raised earthen roads, built across the lake.
Bridges on the causeways allowed canoes to go from one part of the lake to another. 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.
Good farming practices helped to support the large population of Tenochtitln. For example, the Aztecs built irrigation systems, constructed terraces on nearby hillsides, and enriched the soil with fertilizer. They developed a completely new agricultural technique for making more farmland out of the swampy land around the city by creating artificial islands, called chinampas, or floating gardens. The chinampas were made by piling rich earth from the bottom of Lake Texcoco onto rafts made of weeds. After awhile, the roots of plants and trees grew down to the lake bottom, anchoring the rafts. These island gardens covered most of the southern part of the lake and were planted with crops that produced large amounts of food.
Their crops included corn, which was their principal crop, various kinds of vegetables (such as beans, squash, tomatoes, and peppers), and flowers. The Aztecs also planted corn and other crops in the irrigated fields around Lake Texcoco. They raised ducks, geese and turkeys, which were eaten by the rich nobles and merchants. They had dogs, but did not use work animals or plows. Instead, they used pointed sticks to poke holes for planting seeds in the soft soil Tenochtitlan became the most powerful member of the alliance. The Aztec Conquerors – The Aztecs carried on constant wars with neighboring peoples. They fought with wooden swords that had sharp stone blades. They also used bows and arrows as well as spears.
Their armor was padded cotton made into suits fitted to the body. This armor worked well against the weapons of other Indians. However, it was little protection against the steel swords, arrows, muskets, and cannons of the Spaniards. The main purpose of the Aztec wars was to capture enemy soldiers so that thousands could be sacrificed, or offered, to the gods. Captives were brought to. There they were led up the steps of a great pyramid on the top of which stood a temple. In front of the temple stood the sacrificial altar. While drums boomed, each unlucky captive was held down on the altar.
The sharp knife of an Aztec priest flashed in the sun, and in an instant the victim’s chest was opened. The priest then reached in, grabbed the heart, and held it aloft for all to see. In this manner, the Aztecs sacrificed thousands of people each year. 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 Quetzalcoatlwas 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 Cortez and his troops invaded. He did not resist and was taken prisoner by Cortez 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 sculptureis the large circular Calendar Stone, which represents the Aztec universe Aztec priests are an example of specialization. The priests were supported by the efforts of other people. They did not grow their own food or make their own clothes. Priests enjoyed power and privilege.