Ancient history


The Aztecs formed one of the most important civilizations that inhabited Pre-Columbian America .

They began to occupy the Mexican plateau at the end of the twelfth century, coming from present-day California, they dominated the other tribes that lived in the region.

The Aztecs settled in the Valley of Mexico and its capital, Tenochtitlán, this is where Mexico City is now located. It is estimated that in 1450, it had about 300 thousand inhabitants.

They built an empire with 500 cities, 15 million inhabitants and spread over an area that stretched from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Ocean.

Aztec Society

Aztec society was rigidly divided, with the emperor above all, as he was considered a representative of the gods.

Below him was the aristocracy made up of the military, priests and high civil servants. At the base of society were artisans, merchants, peasants and slaves.

Peasants had the right to occupy and use the land, but were subject to the payment of a collective tax and free labor in the construction of public works.

Aztec economy

The basis of the economy was agriculture, followed by handicrafts and commerce, which was intense.

To increase the terrain, they built the "chinampas ", artificial islands where maize, the staple food, and beans, squash, tomatoes and cocoa were grown.

In the markets it was possible to obtain axes, bowls, blankets and clothes. As there was no money, the cocoa seed was used as a reference of value, the seed was considered a symbol of wealth and power.

Aztec culture

Architecture was the most expressive art and the Aztecs built grandiose temples and palaces. They had advanced techniques in the construction of platforms, transport ramps, dams and irrigation works. Only in the city of Tenochtitlán there were three dikes to contain the waters.

The sculpture, mainly of religious symbols, was carried out in stone. It was also common for scenes from the life of the gods to be carved on the walls and steps of temples. The painting depicted mythological and historical scenes.

They dominated pictorial writing , with drawings of objects and figures:a person speaking, for example, was represented with strips of paper coming out of his mouth. They also used hieroglyphic writing , based on symbols and sounds.

They had deep knowledge of medicine, mathematics and astronomy. They developed a solar and agricultural calendar, in which the year was divided into 365 days. The priests observed the stars and were consulted on the most varied subjects such as wars or changes in the weather.

Learn more about Aztec Art

Aztec religion

The Aztecs had great devotion to the Blue Hummingbird, god of the midday sun. The worship of the Sun god was accompanied by devotion to Coaticlue, mother of the Blue Hummingbird; to Tezcatlipoca, god of the night; to Quetzacoatl, god of wisdom; and to Tlaloc, god of rain.

The temple of the Sun God was 30 meters high and next to it another temple was built for the other deities. Every 52 years, the Aztecs built a new temple on top of the previous one to thank the gods that the world did not end. The offering of human sacrifices to the gods was a very important part of Aztec culture.

Destruction of the Aztec Empire

In 1519, Hernán Cortez, coming from Cuba, landed in present-day Vera Cruz. Alerted to the existence of a large city to the north, the Spanish conquerors headed there.

At first, the relationship between the two was friendly, but quickly the Spaniards broke their promises and began to demand more riches.

In 1521, after much struggle, the Aztecs were defeated by the Spanish conquerors, commanded by Cortez. The city of Tenochtitlán was razed, the temples were destroyed and many gold pieces were melted down.

The city of Mexico was built by the Spaniards in the same place where Tenochtitlán was located, which holds one of the main cultural patrimonies referring to pre-Columbian societies, the ruins of the Temple Major.

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