The Aztecs were the people of the Valley of the Mexico. They ruled the area for nearly one centuries, beginning small but soon creating an empire that would last until it fell. The Aztec people were known for their rituals and ferocious warlike fighting but they were not always like that. The people of the Aztec Empire were once a small nomadic group. These people called themselves the Mexicas before becoming the Aztecs.
The Mexicas began around Lake Texcoco but they were not alone. Around the lake, there were other groups called the Acolhuas, Culhuas, and the Tepanecs. These groups were not very peaceful to each other as they battled for land. Eventually, the Mexicas were pushed out by Culhuas when they aimlessly sacrificed the king’s daughter. This led the Mexicas to migrate once more.
These people were nomads of the Chichimec culture from north of Atzland. Their main language was Nahuatl. According to Mexica belief, they were given a “sign” sent to them by their god Huitzilopochtli, and found themselves a region to live in. This region was a swampy island. It remained as a swamp until it was drained. And so the Mexica peoples continued, and the Aztec Empire began.
Itzcoatl was the first Mexica King. After the construction of the Aztec capital, he became the first of six emperors. He created an Aztec feudal system, that concentrated more on wealth, privilege, and political power. The emperor enjoyed war with other city states in Mexico. After his victories he would distribute the land to his nobles.
The Aztecs rituals primarily consisted of human sacrifices. These sacrifices were performed on captured warriors who posed as gods until their time came. The captured warriors were worshipped and given everything they wanted such as exotic foods and sexual needs. After his time of worship was over, he was taken to the Great Temple where his ritual would be performed. The warrior was held down by four priests and the head priest would carve the heart out of his chest and the others would push the body down the stairs. From there the head would be severed and displayed on a skull rack. The whole purpose was to rejoice the warrior god with the sun god Tonatiuh, who were thought to create humans with their own blood which is why they gave blood back.
The Aztecs were ferocious warriors. They knew how to fight and starting at a young age, boys were trained. If warriors died in battle, it was thought that their souls would join the gods.
Their weaponry consisted of wooden spears, swords, and bow and arrows. In particular, every Aztec carried a Macuahuitl, a paddle-sword. Warriors wore simple cotton clothing where half of their bodies would be exposed.
A NEW FORM OF GOVERNMENT:
The Aztec Empire grew bigger as Itzcoatl strived for more city-state lands. Many lands were conquered although there was no official army of the Empire. Instead, Itzcoatl arranged the Triple Alliance, the Mexico-Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan, to fight his wars. After a victory, prizes and riches were taken from the land along with captives. From there, Itzcoatl would appoint a noble as the leader of the recently conquered city state.
There was a downside to this system. Even though the new leader was a noble, the recently conquered land was unchanging. Also, the people of the city state wanted to revolt because they were relied on very heavily. They were expected to feed other nobles, make clothing, gather materials and were also used for manual labor. Nobles wanted temples, aqueducts, and other public projects from the workers. Citizens of conquered city states could be compared to slaves.
THE NEW EMPEROR:
After Itcoatzl’s death, Moctezuma I took the role as emperor. This new emperor brought the Aztec Empire to a time period known as PAX Azteca by the end of his reign. By strengthening the tribunal system and beginning construction of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, the Aztecs were able to rise again. Schools were even made for boys and girls. Boys were destined to be warriors while girls learned to sing, dance, and become mothers for Aztec warriors. Warfare among city states was nonexistent which caused a widespread trade and the market system to flourish. Overall, living standards increased for everyone. This great time period was PAX Azteca.
THE SECOND EMPEROR:
Even though the Aztec Empire had made a great effort in rising, it started to decline again. Moctezuma II had come into reign and was the last ruler of the Aztecs. Commoners of city states disbelieved in their rulers when the Mexica ignored any of their suggestions and ideas. This led to revolts amongst the city states once more and Moctezuma II attempted to reconquer them. Many commoners had turned against the capitol and was resisting their commands. At the same time Spaniard explorer Hernando Cortes arrived at Tenochtitlan.
SPAIN VS. THE AZTECS
During the invasion of Spain, 200,000 commoners were furious about the way they were treated. Cortes made truces with commoners of city states. Spain had made a one year deal making to assemble an army prodigious enough to make war with the Aztec capital. For 85 days the Aztecs fought Spain and their Indian allies through the streets and canals of Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs lost over 100,000 men and soon enough lost when Spain cut down the defenders. This was the official fall of the Aztec Empire.
DESTRUCTION OF THE AZTECS:
In essence, the Aztecs was a civilization that managed to get much done in only a century. By being aggressive and tactical, the Aztecs conquered much land essential for an empire. However, with the empire began declining when the people of city states stopped working together with the capital. The commoners ended up taking sides with the Spaniards leading the Aztecs to their own destruction.