The Aztec realm was the last of the good Mesoamerican cultures. Between A.D. 1345 and also 1521, the Aztecs forged an empire over lot of the main Mexican highlands.

You are watching: How did the aztecs strengthen their empire

At the height, the Aztecs subjugated 80,000 square mile throughout main Mexico, indigenous the Gulf coastline to the Pacific Ocean, and also south to what is currently Guatemala. Millions of world in 38 districts paid tribute come the Aztec ruler, Montezuma II, before the Spanish conquest in 1521.

Click below to see an ext posts in this category. Scroll under to view articles around the government, religion, military, and farming system the the Aztec Empire.

Aztec empire Overview

The Aztecs didn’t start out together a powerful people. The Nahuatl speak peoples began as bad hunter-gatherers in north Mexico, in a place well-known to them together Aztlan. Sometime around A.D. 1111, lock left Aztlan, said by their war god Huitzilopochtli the they would have actually to discover a brand-new home. The god would send castle a sign once they reached their new homeland.

Scholars think the Aztecs wandered because that generations, heading ever before southward. Backward and poor, other much more settled people didn’t want the Aztecs come settle close to them and also drove castle on. Finally, roughly A.D. 1325, they saw the god’s sign—the eagle perched on a cactus eat a serpent on an island in Lake Texcoco, or so the legend has actually it. The city created by the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, flourished to end up being the resources of their empire.

Fortunately, the site was a strong, strategy area with good sources of food and clean water. The Aztecs started to build the canals and also dikes important for their form of agriculture and to regulate water levels. They construct causeways linking the island come the shore. Due to the fact that of the island location, business with other cities about the lakes was quickly be lugged out via canoes and boats.

Through marriage partnerships with ruling family members in various other city states, the Aztecs began to construct their politics base. They ended up being fierce warriors and also skillful diplomats. Transparent the late 1300s and also early 1400s, the Aztecs began to grow in political power. In 1428, the Aztec ruler Itzcoatl formed alliances with the surrounding cities the Tlacopan and Texcoco, producing the Triple Alliance the ruled until the coming of the Spanish in 1519.

The last fifty percent of the 15th century observed the Aztec Triple Alliance dominating the bordering areas, reaping a affluent bounty in tribute. Eventually, the Aztecs managed much of main and southern Mexico. Thirty-eight districts sent tribute regularly in the type of affluent textiles, warrior costumes, cacao beans, maize, cotton, honey, salt and also slaves for person sacrifice. Gems, gold and also jewelry involved Tenochtitlan together tribute because that the emperor. Battles for tribute and also captives came to be a means of life together the realm grew in power and also strength. If the Aztecs successfully overcame many, part city states resisted. Tlaxcalla, Cholula and also Huexotzinco all refused Aztec dominance and were never completely conquered.

The Aztec realm was powerful, wealthy and also rich in culture, architecture and the arts. The Spanish gotten in the scene in 1519 when Hernan Cortes landed an exploratory vessel on the coast. Cortes was an initial welcomed by Montezuma II, yet Cortes quickly took the emperor and his advisors hostage. Though the Aztecs managed to litter the conquistadors out of Tenochtitlan, the Spanish regrouped and made partnerships with the Aztec’s best enemy, the Tlaxcalans. They went back in 1521 and also conquered Tenochtitlan, razing the city to the ground and also destroying the Aztec empire in the process.

Governance the the Aztec Empire

The Aztec empire had a hierarchical government with power and also responsibility running from the top down. The empire’s ascendancy was indirect over its provinces. The is, as lengthy as the district or territory paid the tribute it fan the realm in full and also on time, the empire left the neighborhood leaders alone.

The structure of the empire’s hierarchical structure was the family. A group of interrelated families then formed a calpulli, a sort of ar or guild. The calpullis organized local schools and also shrines and also took care of the group as a whole. Every calpulli chosen a headman to oversee the calpulli’s responsibilities. Most Aztec cities included many calpulli.

The headman of each calpulli was a member the the city council. The city councils had a good deal the power; lock made certain the city ran smoothly. Each council had an executive, management council of 4 members. These 4 members were nobles and also usually a member the a military society.

One that the 4 executive board of directors members would be elected the leader of the city, the tlatcani, who looked after not only the city however the bordering countryside as well. These city councils and leaders formed the provincial network that the empire.

At the facility of the realm were the main Aztec altepetls, or city states, that Texcoco, Tlacopan and also Tenochtitlan. That the three, Tenochtitlan gradually muscled its way to dominate over the others.

The pinnacle the power focused in the Huey Tlatoani, the Reverend speak or emperor. The emperor had absolute power and also was worshipped as a god. Through the emperor’s side was his Snake woman or Cihuacoatl, who functioned as a grand vizier or prime minister. Return Snake woman was the title of this position, it was constantly held by a man, usually the emperor’s brothers or cousin. If the Huey Tlatoani dealt with concerns of diplomacy, tribute, war and expansion that the empire, the snake Woman’s obligation was Tenochtitlan itself.

Directly under the emperor were his advisors, the council of Four. These advisors were generals from the army societies. If something were to occur to the emperor, one of these 4 men would certainly be the next Huey Tlatoani. The council recommend the emperor in his decisions.

The realm required a host of other federal government offices, which to be filled by a city’s noble families. Every city had a court device with distinct Courts, Appellate Courts and a supreme Court. The city’s merchant class, the pochteca, had their very own court to consider matters that trade.

Managing the consistent incoming tribute goods from far-flung provinces required another power structure, both main and provincial. Government officials additionally oversaw the markets, native the central markets the the cities to the smaller industries of town and also country.

All that the priesthood and also government officials report to the emperor and also his board of directors of Four. All supported the emperor. Return the Aztec Empire’s tight on its provinces was light, the tribute flowed right into the central coffers.

Weapons of the Aztec Empire

As Aztec warriors verified their courage and also craftiness in battle and skill at catching enemy soldiers because that sacrifice, they obtained in army rank. The Aztec emperors honored the higher ranks with weapons and also distinctive garb the reflected their standing in the military.

Aztecs warriors brought projectile weapons such together bow and arrows to attack the adversary from afar. They also carried tools for the melee when armies came together. The lowest ranking of warriors carried a club and also shield. Greater ranks to be awarded finer weapons. Every rank in the military wore special clothing that denoted the honors they had actually won.

Projectile weapons of Aztec warriors Atlatl

The atlatl was a spear thrower, which produced greater force from a greater distance. Only the highest possible ranks were allowed these weapons as they were in the front lines the the battle. Each warrior transporting the atlatl likewise carried numerous tlacochtli, 5.9 foot long spears tipped v obsidian.

war Bow and also Arrows

The tlahhuitolli to be a 5 foot long war bow strung with animal sinew. Warriors carried their arrows, barbed v obsidian, flint or chert and also fletched through turkey feather in a micomitl or quiver. Quivers might hold about 20 arrows.


Aztec warriors and hunters brought slings make of maguey cactus fiber. The warriors collected rocks as they marched. They also made clay balls spiked v obsidian and also full the obsidian flakes. Even well armored enemies could be wounded through these.


Blowguns and also poisoned darts were much more often offered in hunting, however Aztec warriors trained in ambush would bring along their tlacalhuazcuahuitl and darts tipped through poisonous tree frog secretions.

Melee tools Clubs

Aztec warriors lugged different types of clubs. The macuahuitl society was edged v obsidian blades. When the obsidian shattered easily, it to be razor sharp. A macuahuitl can easily decapitate a man. A macuauitzoctli was a long club do of hardwood with a knob on each side. A huitzauhqui to be a baseball bat kind club, although some of these were studded with obsidian or flint. A cuahuitl was a society shaped like a baton, made of oak. A cuauololli was usually a mace, a society topped with a rock or copper sphere.

Tepoztopilli were spears through obsidian points.

Itztopilli were axes shaped like a tomahawk through a head of either copper or stone. One edge was sharpened, the various other blunt.

Tecaptl to be daggers through handles 7 to nine inches long. They had a twin sided tongue made that flint. Aztec warriors attracted their tecaptl because that hand-to-hand combat.


Aztec warriors carried round shield made of lumber that was either plain or decorated v their military insignia referred to as a chimalli. The higher rank warriors had actually special chimalli with a mosaic of feather denoting their culture or rank.

Basic Aztec armor was quilted cotton of 2 to 3 thicknesses. The cotton was wet in salt brine climate hung come dry. The salt crystallized in the material, which gave it the capability to resist obsidian blades and spears. One extra great of armor, a tunic, was worn by noble Aztec warriors. Warrior societies additionally wore a helmet make of hardwood, sculpted to represent their culture or different animals like birds or coyotes.

Tlahuiztli were distinct suits awarded to various ranks the the military. Every rank wore different colored and decorated tlahuiztli to do them easily distinguished on the battlefield. Each rank also wore pamitl or army emblems.

Warriors the the Aztec Empire

The Aztec warrior was extremely honored in society if he to be successful. Success depended on bravery in battle, tactical skill, heroic deeds and also most the all, in capturing enemy warriors. Due to the fact that every boy and also man received army training, all were referred to as for fight when battle was in the offing. Both commoners and also nobles who recorded enemy warriors relocated up in army rank or became members of military orders. Countless nobles joined the military professionally and also functioned together the command core of the army.

While the Aztec economy depended upon trade, tribute and also agriculture, the real organization of the realm was war. Through war, the Aztec empire gained tribute from conquered enemies. People captured during war came to be slaves or sacrifices in the Aztec’s religious ceremonies. Widening the realm through further occupations strengthened the empire and also brought more riches in tribute. Because that this reason, the emperor rewarded successful warriors that both classes through honors, the appropriate to wear particular garments in distinctive colors, the aristocracy for the commoners and higher status because that nobles and land. Every Aztec warrior could, if he caught enemy warriors, development far in society.

Aztec Warrior Societies

Rank in the military compelled bravery and skill on the battlefield and also capture of adversary soldiers. Through each rank, came distinct clothing and also weapons indigenous the emperor, i m sorry conveyed high honor. Warrior clothing, costumes and weaponry to be instantly recognizable in Aztec society.

Tlamani: One captive warriors. Obtained an undecorated obsidian-edged club and shield, 2 distinctive capes and a shining red loincloth. Cuextecatl: two captive warriors. This rank allowed the warrior come wear the differentiating black and also red suit called a tlahuiztli, sandals and a conical hat. Papalotl: 3 captive warriors. Papalotl (butterfly) to be awarded v a butterfly banner to wear on his back, conferring special honor. Cuauhocelotl: 4 or more captive warriors. These Aztec warriors got to the high rank of Eagle and also Jaguar knights. Eagle and Jaguar Knights

Eagle and also Jaguar warriors were the two main military societies, the highest rank open to commoners. In battle they lugged atlatls, bows, spears and daggers. They got special fight costumes, representing eagles and also jaguars with feathers and jaguar pelts. They came to be full-time warriors and commanders in the army. Great physical strength, battlefield bravery and also captured foe soldiers were necessary to achieve this rank.

Commoners who got to the vaunted Eagle or Jaguar rank were awarded the rank of noble along with certain privileges: castle were provided land, could drink alcohol (pulque), wear high value jewelry denied to commoners, to be asked to dine at the palace and could store concubines. They additionally wore your hair tied v a red cord with green and blue feathers. Eagle and jaguar knights traveled v the pochteca, protecting them, and also guarded their city. While these two ranks were equal, the Eagle knights venerated Huitzilopochtli, the war god and also the Jaguars venerated Tezcatlipocha.

Otomies and the Shorn Ones

The two highest possible military societies were the Otomies and also the Shorn Ones. Otomies took their name from fierce tribe of fighters. The Shorn Ones was the many prestigious rank. They shave their heads other than for a lengthy braid that hair top top the left side and wore yellow tlahuiztli. These two ranks were the shock troops that the empire, the special forces of the Aztec army, and were open just to the nobility. These warriors were considerably feared and also went very first into battle.

Religion that the Aztec Empire

While numerous other Aztec art functions were destroyed, one of two people by the Spanish or by the degradations the time, Aztec rock carvings remain to provide us a glimpse into the worldview the this can be fried Mesoamerican culture. These masterpieces were found in Mexico City in the buried ruins the the former Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan and also its grand pyramid, Templo Mayor.

Statue of Coatlicue

Coatlicue was the Aztec’s planet mother goddess, although a fearsome one. Goddess of the earth, childbirth, fertility and also agriculture, she represented the feminine power of both creation and destruction. A massive rock statue of Coatlicue was found in Mexico City in 1790. Almost 12 feet tall and 5 feet broad, the statue reflects the goddess as much a goddess of death as that birth. With two encountering serpents as her head, claws on her hands and feet, a skirt that serpents and a necklace that skulls, hands and hearts, she discover the Aztec’s terrifying view of your gods.

The myth of Coatlicue speak of the bear of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god that war and also the sun. The myth of Coatlicue speak of a priestess scan the sacred temple on mountain Coatepec once she was impregnated by a sphere of feathers. Her son Huitzilopochtli is born full grown when Coatlicue is assaulted by she daughter, the moon goddess. The newborn warrior death his sister and cuts her right into pieces, symbolizing the win of the sun over the moon. The statue to be so horrifying that each time it to be dug up, it to be reburied. The statue currently resides at the national Museum of anthropology in Mexico City.

Stone that Tizoc

The rock of Tizoc is a carved disk showing the victory of the emperor Tizoc end the Matlatzinca tribe. The emperor had actually it carved to memory his victory and also reveal the martial power of the Aztecs. The large, circular disk has an eight-pointed sun carved on the top, i beg your pardon was provided for sacrificial battles. A warrior recorded in fight was tied come the stone, and armed v a feather lined club. Aztec warriors, armed with obsidian lined clubs, combated the tied warrior and also naturally beat him. The next of the eight-foot diameter disc depicts Tizoc’s victory. The Matlatzincas are displayed as despised barbarians, while Tizoc and his warriors are stood for as noble Toltec warriors. The rock of Tizoc artfully mixes sunlight worship, mythology and Aztec power. Now this masterful carved rock is in ~ the nationwide Museum of anthropology in Mexico City.

Sun Stone

Another massive stone disk, the carvings on the sun Stone, also known as the Calendar Stone, present the four consecutive civilizations of the Aztecs, every one produced by the gods only to end in destruction. This basalt stone, 12 feet in diameter and three feet thick, was found near the cathedral in Mexico City in the 18th century. At the facility is the sunlight god Tonatiuh. Roughly Tonatiuh space the 4 other suns i beg your pardon met devastation as the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca battled for control. After ~ the destruction of a sun and the date it represents, the gods had actually to recreate the world and humans until finally the 5th sun held. At either next of the center, jaguar heads and paws hold hearts, representing earth. Fire serpents are at the bottom that the stone, together their body snake roughly the edge. The Sun rock carving is most likely the most recognized artwork that the Aztec world.

Aztec Art

The Aztecs developed a rich selection of art functions from massive rock sculptures to miniature, exquisitely sculpted gemstone insects. They made stylized hand do pottery, good gold and silver jewelry and breathtaking feather job-related garments. The Aztecs were as intimately affiliated with art as they were through their religion and the two were strictly interwoven. Our understanding of the Aztec culture mostly originates from their pictogram codices and their art.

Aztec craftsmen functioned images of your gods into much of their artwork. In another article we’ll define the great stone carvings: the stone of Tizoc, the substantial statue of Coatlicue and the sunlight or Calendar Stone, as they are masterpieces of Aztec art. That gold and also silver jewelry, lot of that was lost to the conquering Spanish that melted it under for currency. Feather works, unfortunately, nothing last because that ages, although part samples remain. Textiles too, are destroyed by time, and pottery is fragile. Energetic stone carvings, however, remain to display us the great artistry of the Aztecs.

While much of the Aztec population worked in agriculture to keep the empire fed and others were involved in the good trading networks, plenty of others devoted themselves to producing the artworks that noble Aztecs loved. Thus, samples of imaginative creativity in precious steel jewelry, decorated through jade, obsidian, turquoise, greenstone and coral quiet exist, mostly in smaller sized pieces such as earrings or labrets because that lips. Ceramic from Tenochtitlan and surrounding areas still disclose the fine abstract symbolism of the Aztecs. Feather employees made colorful tilmas because that the emperor and nobles, and also produced ceremonial costumes because that the highest warrior castes, producing intricately decorated shields and headdresses.


Many Aztec families and even towns were specialized to giving artwork because that Aztec nobles. Every art had actually its very own calpulli or guild. The noble in the calpulli listed the raw materials and the artists developed the perfect works—the magnificent stone carvings, jewelry, elaborate ritual costumes because that the good religious ceremonies and feather shirts, cloaks and headdresses. The Aztec majesties received art works as tribute or the artists marketed them in the great marketplace in ~ Tlatelolco.

The walls of the great Tenochtitlan Templo Mayor room covered through carvings of Aztec symbolism. Stone carvers created sculptures of the Aztec gods to be provided in the monthly spiritual ceremonies. Really common was the chacmool, a reclining number which got the extract hearts and also blood the sacrificial victims. Aztecs in the rural regions carved the farming gods in both stone and wood, particularly Xipe Totec, the god of spring and vegetation. Other carvers operated in miniature, creating tiny shells, insects and plants out of jade, pearl, onyx and also obsidian. Artists produced mosaic masks provided in religious ceremonies v pieces the turquoise, shell and coral. These masks are extremely representative of the Aztec devotion to your gods.

Although lot Aztec was ruined during the Spanish conquest, many fine samples the each unique art form remains to rundown for viewers the great talent and method of Aztec artists. Check the Aztec source Page ~ above Aztec arts for web links to more information.

Aztec Symbols

Aztec icons were a component of material society in i beg your pardon the ancient culture expressed expertise of the corporeal and immaterial world. The members of that culture absorb the symbols and also their meanings as they prosper up. They view the symbols all approximately them, top top the wall surfaces of your temples, in jewelry, in weaving and in your language and religion. The Aztecs likewise used signs to to express perceptions and experiences the reality.

The Aztecs, like the various other Mesoamerican societies surrounding them, loved icons of their gods, animals and also common items about them. Each day in the routine 260-day calendar, for example, is represented by a number and a symbol. The tonalppohualli or sacred calendar, consists of 2 interlocking cycles, one of 13 days, represented by a number referred to as a coefficient and one the 20 days represented by a day glyph or symbol. The day symbols include pets such as crocodiles, dog or jaguars; abstract topics such as death and motion; and natural things that the Aztecs saw around them every day like houses, reeds, water and rain. Check out the ancient Scripts section on Aztecs to check out good, vivid example of the work glyphs.

All Mesoamerican cultures used human body paint, specifically warriors going right into battle. Various ranks of warrior wore particular colors and used those very same colors in paint their bodies. The many prestigious warrior society, the Shorn Ones, shave their heads and also painted half their head blue and fifty percent yellow. Other warriors strip their faces with black and other colors. Aztecs likewise decorated your bodies permanently in the kind of piercing and also tattoos, although there is no as much evidence for Aztec tattooing together for the cultures roughly them.

The Aztecs focused their lives on their religion. For the reason, many statues and also carvings exist that the Aztec gods, together hideous together they might be to modern eyes. Icons of the sun, the eagle, the feathered serpent and cactus were provided in the Aztec creating system, in dates and time and in titles and also names. The magnificent sun or Calendar stone contains both the 365 job solar calendar and the sacred 260-day tonalpohualli, every one of which are stood for by the rich symbolism that the Aztec culture.

Most Aztec symbols had actually layers the meaning. A butterfly symbol, for instance, represented transformation while frogs symbolized joy. As soon as symbols were an unified as in Aztec pictograms, whole stories might be told through the multiple layers of one Aztec symbol’s meaning. The job signs and coefficients corresponded to one of the Aztec gods, which means the 260-day calendar might be supplied for divination. An stimulate of the Aztec priesthood were diviners. When a kid was born, castle were dubbed to find a name for the baby based on the work of the birth and the god matching to that day. From this symbols, it was thought these priests could tell the baby’s fortune and fate.

Today, due to the fact that of the cultivation interest in human body art, an ext people are learning around Aztec symbols and designs.

Aztec Pictograms

Codex painter was one honored and necessary profession in the Aztec world. Lock were highly trained in the calmecacs, the advanced schools that the noble class. Some calmecacs invite commoner children to train together scribes if lock were extremely talented, but most scribes to be nobles. After ~ the Spanish conquest, codex painters functioned with the clergymans recording the details of Aztec life. This codices are the richest resource of information we have around the Aztecs.

The Aztec Empire, similar to many empires, forced a an excellent deal the paperwork: maintaining track that taxes and tribute paid, record the events of the year both great and small, genealogies of the judgment class, divinations and prophecies, temple business, lawsuits and also court proceedings and also property lists through maps, ownership, borders, rivers and also fields noted. Sellers needed scribes to store accounts of all their trades and also profits. All of this main work required the scribes of the Aztecs—the codex painters.

The Aztecs didn’t have actually a writing device as we recognize it, instead they provided pictograms, tiny pictures that convey meaning to the reader. Pictography combine pictograms and ideograms—graphic signs or pictures that stand for an idea, much like cuneiform or hieroglyphic or Japanese or Chinese characters.

To recognize pictography, one must either know the cultural conventions or the graphics symbol must resemble a physics object. For instance, the idea of death in Aztec pictography was conveyed through a illustration of a corpse wrapped in a bundle for burial; night was conveyed through a black color sky and a close up door eye, and the idea of walking by a footprint trail.

The codices were made the Aztec paper, deer skin or maguey cloth. Strips the these products up come 13 yards by 7 inches high to be cut, and the ends pasted top top thin pieces of hardwood as the cover. The strip was folded like a concertina or a map. Writing in the type of pictograms extended both political parties of the strip.

Only 15 pre-Columbian Mesoamerican codices survive today—none of lock Aztec, but from other cultures of around the same time. However, numerous colonial-era codices survive—those that bring the arts of the tlacuilo (codex painters) but with Nahuatl and Spanish created commentary or description.

The Aztec number device was vigesimal or based on twenty. Numbers as much as twenty were stood for by dots. A flag stood for twenty, which can be recurring as frequently as needed. One hundred, for instance, was 5 flags. Four hundred was portrayed by the prize of a feather or fir tree. The next number to be eight thousand, displayed as a bag of copal incense. V these basic symbols, the Aztecs counting all your tribute and trade. Because that example, one tribute page might show 15 dots and a feather, adhered to by a pictogram that a shield, which expected that the district sent 415 shields come the emperor.

Religion in the Aztec Empire

To recognize the Aztecs, it is important to understand, as finest we can, their spiritual beliefs and also how those beliefs manifested in your culture. To that end, we will certainly look at their religion in general, the gods, sacred calendar and also temples here. Other short articles will cover religious ceremonies and also rituals and the practice of human being sacrifice.

Religion Ruled every one of Life

Aztecs were a devoutly religious people, come the extent that no Aztec do a decision about any facet of his or she life without considering its religious significance. The timing of any type of event huge or little required consulting the religious calendar. No boy was named before a special priest, a diviner, could consider what name might finest fit the child’s tonali or fate. Religion permeated every element of Aztec life, no matter what one’s station, from the highest born emperor come the lowliest slave. The Aztecs worshipped thousands of deities and honored them all in a selection of rituals and ceremonies, some featuring human sacrifice. In the Aztec creation myths, every the gods had sacrificed themselves continuously to lug the world and humans right into being. Thus, human being sacrifice and blood offerings were vital to pay the gods your due and to keep the natural human being in balance.

The Gods

The key Aztec gods have the right to be classified in this way:

Primordial Creators and also Celestial gods Ometecuhtli (Two Lord) and also Omecihuatl (Two Lady)—the divine male/female an imaginative force permeating whatever on planet Xiuhtecuhtli (Turquoise Lord) Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror—Fate and Destiny) Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent—Creator, Wind and also Storm) god of Agriculture, Fertility and also Sacred elements Tlaloc (Rain) Centeotl (Maize, Corn) Xipe Totec (Our Flayed Lord—vegetation god) Huehueteotl (Old, Old Deity–fire) Chalchiutlicue (She of the Jade Skirt—deity of rivers, lakes, springs and the sea) Mayahuel (Maguey cactus goddess) gods of Sacrifice and also War Huitzilopochtli (War and Warrior god) Tonatiuh (Sun god) Tlaltecuhtli (Earth god) The sacred Calendar

The Aztecs supplied two systems for counting time. The Xiuhpohualli was the organic solar 365-day calendar supplied to count the years; it complied with the agricultural seasons. The year to be separated into 18 month of 20 job each. The 5 extra days at the finish of the year were set aside together a period of mourning and also waiting. The second system was the ritual calendar, a 260-day cycle provided for divination. Every 52 year the 2 calendars would align, offering occasion because that the good New Fire Ceremony prior to a brand-new cycle started.

Aztec Temples

The Aztecs built temples at the optimal of spiritual mountains and in the center of your cities. The temple we recognize most about is the Templo market in the heart of what was Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City. At the height of this 197 foot high pyramid stood two shrines, one to Tlaloc, the god that rain and one come Huitzilopochtli, the god the war. Templo Mayor remained in the center of a great plaza, one of 75 or 80 structures which constituted the spiritual center of the city. Sacrificial victim walked up the numerous steps come the height of the pyramid. After your hearts to be extracted and also given to the gods, their bodies were thrown down right into the plaza.

Human Sacrifice

Human sacrifices Aztecs were a component of their religious ceremony that they believed properly appeased your gods to preventive them indigenous suffering. The number of civilization sacrificed by the Aztecs is a secret today and will probably remain a mystery, unless much more archeological proof is uncovered. Whether just a couple of thousand the victims were sacrificed every year, or 250,000 as some scholars say, couple of human continues to be such as bones have actually been uncovered at Templo market or other Aztec temples. A pair of dozen skeletons and a few thousand loosened bones and skulls execute not add up to 250,000 or 20,000 or whatever number is cited.

Evidence of human sacrifice originates from both the Aztecs themselves, their art and also codices containing your writings, and from the Spanish conquerors. However, it is safe to say the the Spanish might easily have exaggerated the numbers killed to do the Aztecs seem much more savage and brutal than they in reality were.

In 1487, the an excellent Templo mayor was dedicated in the key Aztec city that Tenochtitlan through a four-day celebration. How plenty of were sacrificed during that time is a subject of scholarly speculation: some put the figure as low as 10,000 or 20,000, numerous others put it as high as 80,400 human being sacrificed throughout those four days. Scholars think the Aztec priests used 4 sacrificial altars because that the dedication ceremonies. However, if that’s the case and 80,400 civilization were killed, climate the priests would have had to sacrifice 14 civilization every minute, which is a physical impossibility.

Spanish missionaries sent to convert the Aztecs to Christianity learned the Nahuatl language spoken by the Aztecs. These priests and also friars speak to old Aztecs to learn their history. This Aztecs placed the number of sacrificial victim at the time of the temple’s dedication in ~ 4,000, a lot lower full than 80,400.

With scant archeological evidence, that is difficult to understand how many Aztecs passed away under the sacrificial knife. Numerous reputable scholar today put the number between 20,000 and also 250,000 every year because that the totality Aztec Empire. Every Aztecs cities consisted of temples committed to your gods and all of them saw person sacrifices. Every little thing the complete was, we know from both the Aztecs and also the Spanish that plenty of human beings lost their resides to human being sacrifice. Us will more than likely never know exactly how many.

The an initial thing to understand about the Mesoamerican cultures and the Aztecs’ use of person sacrifice is the they were not horrified by it. Instead, it to be a natural component of life to them, vital to keep the people balanced and going forward. Blood and sacrifice helped the sunlight to rise and move across the sky. There is no it, their civilization would end.

That’s no to say that all Aztecs and other Mesoamericans checked out the sacrifice willingly. No doubt many did not want to be sacrificed or to die. Others, however, agreed to offer of themselves because that the greater good. Once we photo victims being caused sacrifice, we see them together weeping, moaning and fighting to obtain free. For the most part, that simply didn’t happen.

To dice as a sacrifice was the most honorable fatality the Aztecs knew. Once an Aztec warrior died in battle or one Aztec mrs in childbirth, those were likewise good, honorable deaths. World who passed away as a sacrifice, together a warrior or in childbirth visited a paradise come be v the god after death. In contrast, a person who passed away of disease went to the shortest level that the underworld, Mictlan.

Many scholars have devised theory to define this “darkness” that the Aztecs, your love of human being sacrifice. Part posited that Aztecs were savages and amoral, less than human. Others have actually said the Aztec leader used person sacrifice come terrorize their population and the nearby cultures. Some stated that an important protein was missing from the Aztec diet and they essential the “meat” from human sacrifices to feeding themselves, utilizing cannibalism to do so. No one of this theories, however, have held up.

From its more quickly inception, Mesoamerican societies featured human sacrifice therefore it was plainly no “invented” by Aztec rulers come terrorize the people, nor to be it a betrayal by the priesthood that Aztec spirituality. Research studies of the Aztec’s mostly vegetarian diet flavored v occasional turkey or dog revealed all necessary ingredients to sustain life. The Aztecs had actually laws versus murder and injury, simply as we do, so the wasn’t that they to be depraved savages.

Rather, it to be a main part of your religion and also spirituality, to give up your blood and also lives in devotion and dedication come the god who had actually sacrificed themselves to develop the world and keep that going. Most religions contain an element of sacrifice—giving up meat in Lent, for example—and offering your life for a friend is a great act the love. The Aztecs accepted this as a necessary part of life. Through dying as a sacrifice, castle honored the gods. Still, we can’t aid but think that countless didn’t great to die, but accepted it as inevitable.

After the Spanish Conquest, plenty of Spanish priests and also friars learned enough of the Aztec’s language come talk through Aztec survivors that the battles and diseases. Indigenous them, the Spanish learned that many of the sacrificial victims were friends the the royal House, or high-ranking nobility and also priests. Every class of Aztec sometimes were sacrificed, and also all periods as well. Children were sacrificed to the god the rain. Regularly enough, however, it to be nobles and also captured warriors whose hearts fed the gods. Remember, however, the being sacrificed was many prestigious means to die. If this shocks united state today, we should nevertheless provide the Aztecs your due—they found human sacrifice not only acceptable, yet necessary and also honorable.

Trade in the Aztec Empire

The Aztec economic situation was based upon three things: agricultural goods, tribute, and trade. Aztec profession was crucially necessary to the empire; there might be no empire without that as countless goods offered by the Aztecs to be not produced locally. Prized white cotton could not thrive at the altitude of the valley of Mexico and had to be imported from conquered semi-tropical regions further south, as were cacao beans, native which chocolate is made.

Two species of commerce were vital to the Aztecs: the local, local markets wherein the products that sustain daily life to be traded and also long-distance luxury trades. Each were crucial to the empire, yet served various purposes in the bigger scheme that Aztec trade.

Aztec trade and local Markets

Every Aztec city and town had that is own industry located near the city center. Tlatelolco, sisters city come Tenochtitlan, had actually the grandest market, illustration 60,000 people to it daily. Just like most local markets, all kinds that utilitarian products were sold, such together cloth, garden produce, food animals, obsidian knives and tools, medicines, wood, leather, furs and animal skins, priceless metals, gems and also pottery. If one Aztec housewife needed some tomatoes, bone needles and also a headache remedy, she’d go to the industry for them. While there, she could buy something come eat and also drink if she had a cacao bean or two to trade. Numerous Aztec civilization went to the sector not only to shop, yet to socialize, one more important facet of the teeming local markets. There Aztecs indigenous every walk of life could meet and also swap news and also gossip.

The local markets to be overseen by government trade officials who made sure the goods and the price asked because that them were fair. 4 levels of regional markets existed: the grand, daily Tlatelolco market, the industries at Xochimilco and Texcoco, the every-five-day industries at numerous other Aztec cities and the small village markets. Officials accumulated tribute and taxes for the emperor from each of these interlocking markets. Some of the local markets also contained specialized goods, fine ceramics for example, or turkeys for food or feather from tropic birds

Pochteca, far Distance Traders

Pochteca were skilled merchants, travel long ranges to attain the luxury goods desired by the nobility: feather from tropical birds, rarely gems or jewelry and pottery produced by other Mesoamerican cultures. The pochteca obtained anything rare and special, and also the white cotton and cacao beans, earning lock a special ar in the Aztec society. They had their very own capulli, laws and section the the city, also their own god, who watched end traders.

They frequently had dual or even triple roles in the empire, as well as being straightforward traders. They often communicated vital information indigenous one area that the realm to another. And also some offered as spies because that the emperor, regularly going disguised as something various other than trader. This critical group, the naualoztomeca, traded in rare, easily brought goods such as gems, rare feathers or secrets. Some pochteca to be the importers, others dealt in everyone goods and also others still were retailers.

Aztec Agriculture: Floating farms Fed the People

Agriculture, in addition to trade and also tribute, formed the basis of the Aztec Empire. As such, growing enough food to feeding the urban populations of the Aztec cities was of major importance. Countless inhabitants of every one of the Aztec urban were involved in planting, cultivating and also harvesting the empire’s food.

Three crops formed the staples of the Aztec diet: maize, or corn, beans and also squash. Every of these three plants assists the others once they are grown together. For example, corn take away nitrogen native the soil, i m sorry beans then replace. P plants require firm assistance on which come grow; corn stalks provide that support. Luxurious squash leaves shade the soil, i m sorry keeps moisture in and also keeps weeds out. These three plants are dubbed the three Sisters and planted together, provide a well-off harvest of every three.

Besides maize, beans and squash, the Aztecs farmed a hold of various other vegetables: tomatoes, avocados, chili peppers, limes, onions, amaranth, peanuts, sweet potatoes and jimacas. While many cacti thrived wild, the Aztecs likewise cultivated those they found most useful, consisting of the remarkable maguey cactus, also known together the mexico aloe, which provided the Aztecs v paper, thatching for roofs, cloth, rope, needles, food native the root of the plant, and also a famous alcoholic beverage fermented native its sap.

To prosper all this food, the Aztecs provided two main farming methods: the chinampas and also terracing. Chinampas to be essentially artificial islands, raised bed gardens on the surface of Lake Texcoco’s shallow waters. The Aztecs focused their realm in the sink of Mexico, v its central basin leading up right into the mountains surrounding the valley. To use the hilly land because that farming, the Aztecs terraced the hills by cutting into them. Lock then developed a restraining wall surface to kind a step in the hillside so the the soil on the step can be offered for crops.

The chinampas ranches were fabricated plots of land gathered from the precipitate from the bottom that the lake. The Aztecs created huge reed mats, which lock floated in the shallows, the edge of i beg your pardon were constructed of woven twigs and also branches attached to write-ups anchored in the lakebed. On the mats, they placed soil from the lake bottom, rotting vegetation and dirt from surrounding areas. Aztec farmers accumulated the soil till it was over the surface ar of the lake. They planted fast-growing pasture trees in ~ the corners that the plots to attach the chinampa come the bottom that the lake by the trees’ roots. In ~ the elevation of the Aztec Empire, thousands of these fertile and productive chinampas surrounding Tenochtitlan and also other Aztec cities.

Terraced, irrigated fields added another great of farmland because that the hungry Aztecs. To bring water to these fields, Aztecs farmer dug irrigation canals in the soil. The terraces likewise grew the Aztecs major crops, offering an extra class of defense for its vital agricultural production, on which the empire depended.

Around the chinampas, the Aztecs could additionally catch fish, frogs, turtles and also waterfowl such together ducks and also geese. Lake Texcoco likewise produced one other favorite Aztec crop—algae from the lake, which we recognize today together spirulina.

Education in the Aztec Empire

Aztec education and learning was quite sophisticated compared to contemporary empires in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The Aztec realm is one of the few older people that featured mandatory education at home and in schools. Every child was educated, no matter his or she social status, even if it is noble, civilian or slave. Two different schools teach the young—one for the noble class and also one because that commoners, return bright, talented commoners can be liked for advanced learning at the noble school. Children’s Aztec education, however, began at home with your parents. From period four or five, guys learned and worked with their fathers at a profession or craft, farming, hunting and also fishing. Girls learned from their mother all the work they would require in running a household.

All children were teach a huge collection of sayings called the huehuetlatolli, which incorporated Aztec ideas and also teachings. The Aztec culture expected well-behaved people so youngsters were taught to be humble, obedient and also hardworking. The huehuetlatolli had many sayings top top all facets of life, from welcoming newborn infants to the household to what to say at the death of a relative. Every few years, the children were dubbed to the temple and also tested on how much they had learned of this inherited cultural knowledge.

For the first 14 year of life, boys and girls were taught at home by their parents. After ~ that, the boys attended one of two people the noble school, dubbed a calmecac, or the commoners’ school, the telpochcalli. Girls checked out a different school, where they learned family skills, religious rituals, singing and also dancing or craftwork. Part talented girl were liked to be midwives and received the full training the a healer. Other athletically talented girls can be sent out to the residence of dancing and singing for unique training.

Much of Aztec culture was separated into calpullis, a group of interrelated families, somewhat like a ar or clan. Each calpulli had actually its very own schools, both calmecac and telpochcalli. Boys and also girls to visit the institutions run by your calpulli.

Aztec Education: Calmecac

Calmecacs were institutions for the sons of nobles, wherein they learned to it is in leaders, priests, scholar or teachers, healers or codex painters. Lock learned literacy, history, spiritual rituals, calendrics, geometry, songs and also the armed forces arts. These advanced studies in astronomy, theology and also statesmen ship prepared the nobles’ sons for job-related in the government and temples.

Aztec Education: Telpochcalli

Telpochcalli taught boys history and religion, agricultural skills, armed forces fighting techniques and a craft or trade, preparing them because that a life as a farmer, metal worker, feather worker, potter or soldier. Athletically talented boys could then be sent on to the military for more military training. The various other students would, ~ graduation, it is in sent earlier to their families to begin their functioning life.

Housing in the Aztec Empire

Aztec houses ranged native one-room huts to large, spacious palaces. Together in your clothing and also diet, the size and style the Aztec homes depended on the family’s social status. Affluent nobles live in many roomed fancy houses, usually built approximately an inner courtyard. Poorer Aztecs and commoners usually lived in one-room homes, constructed of adobe brick and thatched roofs. Nobles could lavishly decorate your homes; together commoners were not permitted to do. Plenty of Aztecs whitewashed their dwellings with lime therefore the homes would reflect light and stay cool.


Many, or perhaps many Macehualtin or commoners were involved in agriculture, taking care of the Tenochtitlan’s chinampas, or garden beds elevated on the shallow shores the Lake Texcoco outside the city. They developed simple, one room houses, usually with a couple of other smaller sized buildings and also a garden in the lot. The family lived, slept, worked, ate and prayed in the huge room, which had actually a small family shrine built in one wall. Many Aztec homes likewise had a separate structure for a vapor bath, together the Aztecs were an extremely clean people. The kitchen area might likewise be in a smaller room developed onto the house.

Most straightforward Aztec residences were developed of adobe bricks, which space made utilizing mud, sand, water and also straw, then dried in the sun. There to be no home windows generally, and one open door. Hardwood for door jambs and also support beams can be discovered outside the cities. Furniture was likewise simple: comfortable reed mats because that sleeping, timber or leather chests for storing clothes and low tables were in many homes, as well as clay pots and also bowls, stone metates for grinding corn, a griddle, water jugs and buckets.

Most work-related took place exterior the home throughout the day. Males went off to have tendency the fields, taking the larger boys v them. Women ground corn, cooked, be crazy yarn, wove cloth and watched the younger children, teaching your daughters what lock would require to understand when they married. Commoners’ dwellings were often constructed outside the city, nearer come the fields and chinampas where the males worked.

Often, one interrelated group of families lived together in a unit called a calpulli. They would construct their homes in a square v a common, central courtyard. The calpulli, which consisted of both nobles and also commoners, detailed mutual assist for that is members, functioning together a sort of clan. The nobles owned the arable land, which the commoners worked. The nobles noted the occupations, often craftwork, and also the commoners paid tribute to the nobles.


Nobles or pipiltin together they were known, lived in larger, finer residences often built of stone, although some were also built that adobe. Noble residences were often built approximately a central courtyard, whereby flower and also vegetable gardens and a fountain would be found. These dwellings were frequently made of carved stone, and contained finer furniture 보다 a commoner would certainly have.

See more: Saved By The Bell College Years Tv Review, Saved By The Bell: The College Years

Noble homes could have a peaked roof, or the roof can be flat and even terraced through a garden. Together nobles to be often connected in make laws and government, they had tendency to live nearer the city centers, approximately the central plaza and marketplace. In ~ the height of society, the emperor resided in a luxurious palace, finish with factory gardens and also a zoo.