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In Robert Wauchope ed. University of Texas Press. University of Oklahoma Press Sarah Cline, and Javier Pescador.
Pearson, Douglass K. Ballentine, translator. El Paso: Texas Western Press, Seven Myths of the Spanish Conquest 1st pbk edition ed.
New York: Columbia University Press. Mexico, 3rd Ed. The Aztecs. Revised Ed. The Codex Mendoza Vol. University of California Press, p. American Anthropologist, New Series 85 2, p.
Academic Press: New York, pp. Strategies of Legitimation and the Aztec State, in Ethnology, 23 4 , pp.
Cambridge University Press: Cambridge, p. Dumbarton Oaks: Washington, D. Davis, Jack E. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman, pp.
Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press , pp. Codex Chimalpahin, Vol. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman.
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Download as PDF Printable version. Maximum extent of the Aztec Empire. Hegemonic military confederation of allied city-states. Nezahualcoyotl Alliance founder.
Tetlepanquetzaltzin last. Pre-Columbian era Age of Discovery. Preceded by. Tlatelolco altepetl. Colhuacan altepetl. Texcoco altepetl.
New Spain. Spanish conquest of Mexico. La Noche Triste. It was a highly structured society with a strict caste system; at the top were nobles, while at the bottom were serfs, indentured servants and enslaved workers.
The Aztec faith shared many aspects with other Mesoamerican religions, like that of the Maya , notably including the rite of human sacrifice.
The Aztec calendar, common in much of Mesoamerica, was based on a solar cycle of days and a ritual cycle of days; the calendar played a central role in the religion and rituals of Aztec society.
The first European to visit Mexican territory was Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, who arrived in Yucatan from Cuba with three ships and about men in early In March , Cortes landed at the town of Tabasco , where he learned from the natives of the great Aztec civilization, then ruled by Moctezuma or Montezuma II.
Defying the authority of Velasquez, Cortes founded the city of Veracruz on the southeastern Mexican coast, where he trained his army into a disciplined fighting force.
Cortes and some soldiers then marched into Mexico, aided by a native woman known as Malinche, who served as a translator. Thanks to instability within the Aztec empire, Cortes was able to form alliances with other native peoples, notably the Tlascalans, who were then at war with Montezuma.
Though the Aztecs had superior numbers, their weapons were inferior, and Cortes was able to immediately take Montezuma and his entourage of lords hostage, gaining control of Tenochtitlan.
The Spaniards then murdered thousands of Aztec nobles during a ritual dance ceremony, and Montezuma died under uncertain circumstances while in custody.
From the 13th century, the Valley of Mexico was the heart of dense population and the rise of city-states.
The Mexica were late-comers to the Valley of Mexico , and founded the city-state of Tenochtitlan on unpromising islets in Lake Texcoco , later becoming the dominant power of the Aztec Triple Alliance or Aztec Empire.
It was a tributary empire that expanded its political hegemony far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states throughout Mesoamerica in the late post-classic period.
It originated in as an alliance between the city-states Tenochtitlan , Texcoco , and Tlacopan ; these allied to defeat the Tepanec state of Azcapotzalco , which had previously dominated the Basin of Mexico.
Soon Texcoco and Tlacopan were relegated to junior partnership in the alliance, with Tenochtitlan the dominant power. The empire extended its reach by a combination of trade and military conquest.
It was never a true territorial empire controlling a territory by large military garrisons in conquered provinces, but rather dominated its client city-states primarily by installing friendly rulers in conquered territories, by constructing marriage alliances between the ruling dynasties, and by extending an imperial ideology to its client city-states.
From there they proceeded with the process of conquest and incorporation of Mesoamerican peoples into the Spanish Empire. With the destruction of the superstructure of the Aztec Empire in , the Spanish utilized the city-states on which the Aztec Empire had been built, to rule the indigenous populations via their local nobles.
Those nobles pledged loyalty to the Spanish crown and converted, at least nominally, to Christianity, and in return were recognized as nobles by the Spanish crown.
Nobles acted as intermediaries to convey tribute and mobilize labor for their new overlords, facilitating the establishment of Spanish colonial rule.
Important for knowledge of post-conquest Nahuas was the training of indigenous scribes to write alphabetic texts in Nahuatl , mainly for local purposes under Spanish colonial rule.
At its height, Aztec culture had rich and complex mythological and religious traditions , as well as achieving remarkable architectural and artistic accomplishments.
The term was not used as an endonym by Aztecs themselves, but it is found in the different migration accounts of the Mexica, where it describes the different tribes who left Aztlan together.
In one account of the journey from Aztlan, Huitzilopochtli , the tutelary deity of the Mexica tribe, tells his followers on the journey that "now, no longer is your name Azteca, you are now Mexitin [Mexica]".
Sometimes the term also includes the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan's two principal allied city-states, the Acolhuas of Texcoco and the Tepanecs of Tlacopan , who together with the Mexica formed the Aztec Triple Alliance that controlled what is often known as the "Aztec Empire.
Barlow who preferred the term "Culhua-Mexica",   and by Pedro Carrasco who prefers the term "Tenochca empire. In other contexts, Aztec may refer to all the various city states and their peoples, who shared large parts of their ethnic history and cultural traits with the Mexica, Acolhua and Tepanecs, and who often also used the Nahuatl language as a lingua franca.
An example is Jerome A. Offner's Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco. When used to describe ethnic groups , the term "Aztec" refers to several Nahuatl-speaking peoples of central Mexico in the postclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology, especially the Mexica, the ethnic group that had a leading role in establishing the hegemonic empire based at Tenochtitlan.
The term extends to further ethnic groups associated with the Aztec empire, such as the Acolhua, the Tepanec and others that were incorporated into the empire.
In older usage the term was commonly used about modern Nahuatl-speaking ethnic groups, as Nahuatl was previously referred to as the "Aztec language".
In recent usage, these ethnic groups are referred to as the Nahua peoples. To the Aztecs themselves the word "aztec" was not an endonym for any particular ethnic group.
Rather, it was an umbrella term used to refer to several ethnic groups, not all of them Nahuatl-speaking, that claimed heritage from the mythic place of origin, Aztlan.
Alexander von Humboldt originated the modern usage of "Aztec" in , as a collective term applied to all the people linked by trade, custom, religion, and language to the Mexica state and the Triple Alliance.
In , with the publication of the work of William H. Prescott on the history of the conquest of Mexico, the term was adopted by most of the world, including 19th-century Mexican scholars who saw it as a way to distinguish present-day Mexicans from pre-conquest Mexicans.
This usage has been the subject of debate in more recent years, but the term "Aztec" is still more common. Knowledge of Aztec society rests on several different sources: The many archeological remains of everything from temple pyramids to thatched huts, can be used to understand many of the aspects of what the Aztec world was like.
However, archeologists often must rely on knowledge from other sources to interpret the historical context of artifacts.
There are many written texts by the indigenous people and Spaniards of the early colonial period that contain invaluable information about precolonial Aztec history.
These texts provide insight into the political histories of various Aztec city-states, and their ruling lineages. Such histories were produced as well in pictorial codices.
Some of these manuscripts were entirely pictorial, often with glyphs. In the postconquest era many other texts were written in Latin script by either literate Aztecs or by Spanish friars who interviewed the native people about their customs and stories.
An important pictorial and alphabetic text produced in the early sixteenth century was Codex Mendoza , named after the first viceroy of Mexico and perhaps commissioned by him, to inform the Spanish crown about the political and economic structure of the Aztec empire.
These annals used pictorial histories and were subsequently transformed into alphabetic annals in Latin script. Spanish friars also produced documentation in chronicles and other types of accounts.
Of key importance is Toribio de Benavente Motolinia , one of the first twelve Franciscans arriving in Mexico in Scholarly study of Aztec civilization is most often based on scientific and multidisciplinary methodologies, combining archeological knowledge with ethnohistorical and ethnographic information.
It is a matter of debate whether the enormous city of Teotihuacan was inhabited by speakers of Nahuatl, or whether Nahuas had not yet arrived in central Mexico in the classic period.
It is generally agreed that the Nahua peoples were not indigenous to the highlands of central Mexico, but that they gradually migrated into the region from somewhere in northwestern Mexico.
At the fall of Teotihuacan in the 6th century CE, a number of city states rose to power in central Mexico, some of them, including Cholula and Xochicalco, probably inhabited by Nahuatl speakers.
As the former nomadic hunter-gatherer peoples mixed with the complex civilizations of Mesoamerica, adopting religious and cultural practices, the foundation for later Aztec culture was laid.
After CE, during the postclassic period, a number of sites almost certainly inhabited by Nahuatl speakers became powerful.
Among them the site of Tula, Hidalgo , and also city states such as Tenayuca , and Colhuacan in the valley of Mexico and Cuauhnahuac in Morelos.
In the ethnohistorical sources from the colonial period, the Mexica themselves describe their arrival in the Valley of Mexico. The ethnonym Aztec Nahuatl Aztecah means "people from Aztlan ", Aztlan being a mythical place of origin toward the north.
Hence the term applied to all those peoples who claimed to carry the heritage from this mythical place.
The migration stories of the Mexica tribe tell how they traveled with other tribes, including the Tlaxcalteca , Tepaneca and Acolhua , but that eventually their tribal deity Huitzilopochtli told them to split from the other Aztec tribes and take on the name "Mexica".
The most powerful were Colhuacan to the south and Azcapotzalco to the west. The Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco soon expelled the Mexica from Chapultepec.
In , Colhuacan ruler Cocoxtli gave them permission to settle in the empty barrens of Tizapan, where they were eventually assimilated into Culhuacan culture.
After living in Colhuacan, the Mexica were again expelled and were forced to move. According to Aztec legend, in , the Mexica were shown a vision of an eagle perched on a prickly pear cactus , eating a snake.
The vision indicated the location where they were to build their settlement. The year of foundation is usually given as In the Mexica royal dynasty was founded when Acamapichtli , son of a Mexica father and a Colhua mother, was elected as the first Huey Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan.
In the first 50 years after the founding of the Mexica dynasty, the Mexica were a tributary of Azcapotzalco, which had become a major regional power under the ruler Tezozomoc.
The Mexica supplied the Tepaneca with warriors for their successful conquest campaigns in the region and received part of the tribute from the conquered city states.
In this way, the political standing and economy of Tenochtitlan gradually grew. In , at Acamapichtli's death, his son Huitzilihhuitl lit. Chimalpopoca lit.
In , Azcapotzalco initiated a war against the Acolhua of Texcoco and killed their ruler Ixtlilxochitl. Even though Ixtlilxochitl was married to Chimalpopoca's daughter, the Mexica ruler continued to support Tezozomoc.
Tezozomoc died in , and his sons began a struggle for rulership of Azcapotzalco. During this struggle for power, Chimalpopoca died, probably killed by Tezozomoc's son Maxtla who saw him as a competitor.
The Mexica were now in open war with Azcapotzalco and Itzcoatl petitioned for an alliance with Nezahualcoyotl , son of the slain Texcocan ruler Ixtlilxochitl against Maxtla.
Itzcoatl also allied with Maxtla's brother Totoquihuaztli ruler of the Tepanec city of Tlacopan. The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan besieged Azcapotzalco, and in they destroyed the city and sacrificed Maxtla.
Through this victory Tenochtitlan became the dominant city state in the Valley of Mexico, and the alliance between the three city-states provided the basis on which the Aztec Empire was built.
Itzcoatl proceeded by securing a power basis for Tenochtitlan, by conquering the city-states on the southern lake — including Culhuacan , Xochimilco , Cuitlahuac and Mizquic.
These states had an economy based on highly productive chinampa agriculture, cultivating human-made extensions of rich soil in the shallow lake Xochimilco.
Itzcoatl then undertook further conquests in the valley of Morelos , subjecting the city state of Cuauhnahuac today Cuernavaca.
In , Motecuzoma I Ilhuicamina [nb 4] lit. The accession of a new ruler in the dominant city state was often an occasion for subjected cities to rebel by refusing to pay tribute.
This meant that new rulers began their rule with a coronation campaign, often against rebellious tributaries, but also sometimes demonstrating their military might by making new conquests.
Motecuzoma tested the attitudes of the cities around the valley by requesting laborers for the enlargement of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan.
Only the city of Chalco refused to provide laborers, and hostilities between Chalco and Tenochtitlan would persist until the s.
Motecuzoma therefore initiated a state of low-intensity warfare against these three cities, staging minor skirmishes called " Flower Wars " Nahuatl xochiyaoyotl against them, perhaps as a strategy of exhaustion.
Motecuzoma also consolidated the political structure of the Triple Alliance, and the internal political organization of Tenochtitlan.
His brother Tlacaelel served as his main advisor Nahuatl languages: Cihuacoatl and he is considered the architect of major political reforms in this period, consolidating the power of the noble class Nahuatl languages: pipiltin and instituting a set of legal codes, and the practice of reinstating conquered rulers in their cities bound by fealty to the Mexica tlatoani.
In , the next ruler was Axayacatl lit. Axayacatl also conquered the independent Mexica city of Tlatelolco, located on the northern part of the island where Tenochtitlan was also located.
The Tlatelolco ruler Moquihuix was married to Axayacatl's sister, and his alleged mistreatment of her was used as an excuse to incorporate Tlatelolco and its important market directly under the control of the tlatoani of Tenochtitlan.
Axayacatl then conquered areas in Central Guerrero, the Puebla Valley, on the gulf coast and against the Otomi and Matlatzinca in the Toluca valley.
The Toluca valley was a buffer zone against the powerful Tarascan state in Michoacan , against which Axayacatl turned next. In the major campaign against the Tarascans Nahuatl languages: Michhuahqueh in —79 the Aztec forces were repelled by a well organized defense.
Axayacatl was soundly defeated in a battle at Tlaximaloyan today Tajimaroa , losing most of his 32, men and only barely escaping back to Tenochtitlan with the remnants of his army.
In at Axayacatls death, his older brother Tizoc was elected ruler. Tizoc's coronation campaign against the Otomi of Metztitlan failed as he lost the major battle and only managed to secure 40 prisoners to be sacrificed for his coronation ceremony.
Having shown weakness, many of the tributary towns rebelled and consequently most of Tizoc's short reign was spent attempting to quell rebellions and maintain control of areas conquered by his predecessors.
Tizoc died suddenly in , and it has been suggested that he was poisoned by his brother and war leader Ahuitzotl who became the next tlatoani.
Tizoc is mostly known as the namesake of the Stone of Tizoc a monumental sculpture Nahuatl temalacatl , decorated with representation of Tizoc's conquests.
The next ruler was Ahuitzotl lit. His successful coronation campaign suppressed rebellions in the Toluca valley and conquered Jilotepec and several communities in the northern Valley of Mexico.
A second campaign to the gulf coast was also highly successful. He began an enlargement of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, inaugurating the new temple in For the inauguration ceremony the Mexica invited the rulers of all their subject cities, who participated as spectators in the ceremony in which an unprecedented number of war captives were sacrificed — some sources giving a figure of 80, prisoners sacrificed over four days.
Probably the actual figure of sacrifices was much smaller, but still numbering several thousand. Ahuitzotl also constructed monumental architecture in sites such as Calixtlahuaca, Malinalco and Tepoztlan.
After a rebellion in the towns of Alahuiztlan and Oztoticpac in Northern Guerrero he ordered the entire population executed, and repopulated with people from the valley of Mexico.
He also constructed a fortified garrison at Oztuma defending the border against the Tarascan state. Moctezuma II Xocoyotzin is known to world history as the Aztec ruler when the Spanish invaders and their indigenous allies began their conquest of the empire in a two-year-long campaign — His early rule did not hint at his future fame.
He succeeded to the rulership after the death of Ahuitzotl. Moctezuma Xocoyotzin lit. He began his rule in standard fashion, conducting a coronation campaign to demonstrate his skills as a leader.
He attacked the fortified city of Nopallan in Oaxaca and subjected the adjacent region to the empire.
An effective warrior, Moctezuma maintained the pace of conquest set by his predecessor and subjected large areas in Guerrero, Oaxaca, Puebla and even far south along the Pacific and Gulf coasts, conquering the province of Xoconochco in Chiapas.
He also consolidated the class structure of Aztec society, by making it harder for commoners Nahuatl languages: macehualtin to accede to the privileged class of the pipiltin through merit in combat.
He also instituted a strict sumptuary code limiting the types of luxury goods that could be consumed by commoners.
In , Moctezuma received the first news of ships with strange warriors having landed on the Gulf Coast near Cempoallan and he dispatched messengers to greet them and find out what was happening, and he ordered his subjects in the area to keep him informed of any new arrivals.
At this point, the power balance had shifted towards the Spaniards who now held Motecuzoma as a prisoner in his own palace.
As this shift in power became clear to Moctezuma's subjects, the Spaniards became increasingly unwelcome in the capital city, and in June , hostilities broke out, culminating in the massacre in the Great Temple , and a major uprising of the Mexica against the Spanish.
During the fighting, Moctezuma was killed, either by the Spaniards who killed him as they fled the city or by the Mexica themselves who considered him a traitor.
He ruled only 80 days, perhaps dying in a smallpox epidemic, although early sources do not give the cause. The Aztecs were weakened by disease, and the Spanish enlisted tens of thousands of Indian allies, especially Tlaxcalans , for the assault on Tenochtitlan.
His death marked the end of a tumultuous era in Aztec political history. The most powerful nobles were called lords Nahuatl languages: teuctin and they owned and controlled noble estates or houses, and could serve in the highest government positions or as military leaders.
Their works were an important source of income for the city. Some macehualtin were landless and worked directly for a lord Nahuatl languages: mayehqueh , whereas the majority of commoners were organized into calpollis which gave them access to land and property.
Commoners were able to obtain privileges similar to those of the nobles by demonstrating prowess in warfare. When a warrior took a captive he accrued the right to use certain emblems, weapons or garments, and as he took more captives his rank and prestige increased.
The Aztec family pattern was bilateral, counting relatives on the father's and mother's side of the family equally, and inheritance was also passed both to sons and daughters.
This meant that women could own property just as men, and that women therefore had a good deal of economic freedom from their spouses.
Nevertheless, Aztec society was highly gendered with separate gender roles for men and women. Men were expected to work outside of the house, as farmers, traders, craftsmen and warriors, whereas women were expected to take the responsibility of the domestic sphere.
Women could however also work outside of the home as small-scale merchants, doctors, priests and midwives. Warfare was highly valued and a source of high prestige, but women's work was metaphorically conceived of as equivalent to warfare, and as equally important in maintaining the equilibrium of the world and pleasing the gods.
This situation has led some scholars to describe Aztec gender ideology as an ideology not of a gender hierarchy, but of gender complementarity, with gender roles being separate but equal.
Among the nobles, marriage alliances were often used as a political strategy with lesser nobles marrying daughters from more prestigious lineages whose status was then inherited by their children.
Nobles were also often polygamous, with lords having many wives. Polygamy was not very common among the commoners and some sources describe it as being prohibited.
The names for these gender identities are deeply connected to the religious customs of the Aztecs, and as such, did play a large role in Aztec society.
Nahuas was of the Aztec and Toltec culture. Nahuas identified as Xochiquetzal; Xochiquetzal is connected with sexual desires.
Unkempt hair, and signified disarray is a sign that women are connected with sexual desires and prostitutes, this is because the Xochiquetzal looked like that on her throne.
Xochiquetzal is known as the goddess that seduces men, this deity was related to sexual desires and sexual activities.
Nahus sexual and gender disorder is symbolized by head and feet turned. Another gender identity is recognised by its Nahuatl word cuiloni.
It is difficult to translate the word cuiloni as the documents from the Aztec Empire mainly are from the Spanish, who viewed homosexuality as sinful behavior, and thus wrote about these unfamiliar gender identities in a negative way, oftentimes employing discriminatory and vulgar language.
What is known for sure is that the cuiloni were biological males who acted in a submissive way both sexually and in other aspects of life. For example, religiously speaking, they were associated with being sacrificed and eaten.
It also transcended sexuality as passiveness, in general, was the main quality associated with the cuiloni. The main unit of Aztec political organization was the city state, in Nahuatl called the altepetl , meaning "water-mountain".
Each altepetl was led by a ruler, a tlatoani , with authority over a group of nobles and a population of commoners. The altepetl included a capital which served as a religious center, the hub of distribution and organization of a local population which often lived spread out in minor settlements surrounding the capital.
Altepetl were also the main source of ethnic identity for the inhabitants, even though Altepetl were frequently composed of groups speaking different languages.
Each altepetl would see itself as standing in a political contrast to other altepetl polities, and war was waged between altepetl states.
In this way Nahuatl speaking Aztecs of one Altepetl would be solidary with speakers of other languages belonging to the same altepetl, but enemies of Nahuatl speakers belonging to other competing altepetl states.
Aztecs had harsh punishments for crimes that seem simple to us now. For example, a person could get the death penalty for adultery ; cutting down a living tree ; moving the boundary of a field to make their land bigger and someone else's smaller; major theft ; treason ; disorderly conduct causing trouble in public , drunkenness ; and promiscuity.
Under Aztec sumptuary law, a commoner could also get the death penalty for wearing cotton. Aztec 'high lords', who were in the top social class.
Merchants , members of "the commoners," carry things they want to sell a long way away. The Aztecs studied astrology and used the movements of the planets and the stars to create different calendars.
They also had a religious calendar which was made up of days. The Aztecs also studied and taught many complex subjects, including geometry , mathematics , debate , law , music , poetry , architecture , and agriculture.
The most popular Aztec sport was Tlachtili. They played this game using rubber balls and vertical hoops on opposite walls in the middle of the court.
The game's goal was to shoot the ball into the hoop using their knees. The first team to score won the game.
The conquistadors defeated the Aztecs, took their empire, and made it into a Spanish colony. Today many Mexicans have Aztec and other Native American forefathers.
People still use Aztec symbols in Mexico. On the Mexican flag , there is a picture of an eagle on a cactus with a snake in its mouth. This was an Aztec symbol.
From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Map of city-states in the 16th century. Main article: Aztec Empire.
Main article: Tenochtitlan. Main article: Mesoamerican ball game. Main article: Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Great Empires of the Past: Empire of the Aztecs.
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Aztec ruins of the former city-state of Tlatelolco foreground and the Church of Santiago de Tlatelolco background , Mexico City. Get exclusive access to content from our First Edition with your subscription.