The Aztec empire was the critical of the good Mesoamerican cultures. In between A.D. 1345 and also 1521, the Aztecs forged an empire over much of the main Mexican highlands.

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At its height, the Aztecs subjugated 80,000 square miles throughout main Mexico, from the Gulf shore to the Pacific Ocean, and also south to what is now Guatemala. Millions of human being in 38 provinces paid tribute come the Aztec ruler, Montezuma II, prior to the Spanish conquest in 1521.

Click below to see an ext posts in this category. Scroll down to check out articles about the government, religion, military, and farming system the the Aztec Empire.

Aztec empire Overview

The Aztecs didn’t begin out together a an effective people. The Nahuatl speak peoples started as bad hunter-gatherers in north Mexico, in a place well-known to them together Aztlan. Sometime roughly A.D. 1111, lock left Aztlan, told by their battle god Huitzilopochtli the they would have to uncover a new home. The god would send castle a sign as soon as they reached their new homeland.

Scholars think the Aztecs wandered because that generations, heading ever southward. Backward and poor, other more settled people didn’t want the Aztecs to settle near them and drove lock on. Finally, about A.D. 1325, they witnessed the god’s sign—the eagle perched ~ above a cactus eat a serpent on an island in Lake Texcoco, or therefore the legend has actually it. The city established by the Aztecs, Tenochtitlan, prospered to end up being the capital of their empire.

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

Through marriage alliances with ruling families in other city states, the Aztecs began to develop their political base. They ended up being fierce warriors and also skillful diplomats. Transparent the late 1300s and early 1400s, the Aztecs began to thrive in politics power. In 1428, the Aztec ruler Itzcoatl formed partnerships with the nearby cities that Tlacopan and Texcoco, developing the Triple Alliance the ruled till the coming of the Spanish in 1519.

The last fifty percent of the 15th century experienced the Aztec Triple Alliance dominating the neighboring areas, reaping a rich bounty in tribute. Eventually, the Aztecs regulated much of central and southern Mexico. Thirty-eight provinces sent tribute routinely in the kind of affluent textiles, warrior costumes, cacao beans, maize, cotton, honey, salt and also slaves for human sacrifice. Gems, gold and also jewelry came to Tenochtitlan together tribute for the emperor. Wars for tribute and captives became a method of life together the realm grew in power and strength. While the Aztecs successfully dominated many, some city says resisted. Tlaxcalla, Cholula and also Huexotzinco all refused Aztec dominance and also were never totally conquered.

The Aztec realm was powerful, wealthy and rich in culture, architecture and the arts. The Spanish entered the scene in 1519 once Hernan Cortes landing an exploratory vessel on the coast. Cortes was very first welcomed through Montezuma II, however Cortes quickly took the emperor and also his torture hostage. Despite the Aztecs managed to throw the conquistadors out of Tenochtitlan, the Spanish regrouped and made partnerships with the Aztec’s greatest enemy, the Tlaxcalans. They returned in 1521 and conquered Tenochtitlan, razing the city come the ground and destroying the Aztec empire in the process.

Governance of the Aztec Empire

The Aztec realm had a hierarchical federal government with power and responsibility to run from the optimal down. The empire’s preeminence was indirect over its provinces. That is, as lengthy as the province or are paid the tribute it owed the realm in full and on time, the empire left the neighborhood leaders alone.

The foundation of the empire’s hierarchical structure to be the family. A team of interrelated family members then formed a calpulli, a type of neighborhood or guild. The calpullis organized neighborhood schools and shrines and took care of the group as a whole. Every calpulli elected a headman to oversee the calpulli’s responsibilities. Many Aztec cities included many calpulli.

The headman of every calpulli was a member that the city council. The city councils had actually a an excellent deal the power; lock made sure the city ran smoothly. Every council had actually an executive council of four members. These 4 members to be nobles and also usually a member the a military society.

One of the 4 executive council members would be chosen the leader that the city, the tlatcani, who looked after not just the city however the surrounding countryside as well. These city councils and leaders created the provincial network the the empire.

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

The pinnacle that power centered in the Huey Tlatoani, the Reverend speaker or emperor. The emperor had absolute power and also was venerated as a god. By the emperor’s side to be his Snake woman or Cihuacoatl, who worked as a cool vizier or element minister. Return Snake woman was the title of this position, that was constantly held by a man, typically the emperor’s brothers or cousin. When the Huey Tlatoani dealt with concerns of diplomacy, tribute, war and expansion that the empire, the snake Woman’s duty was Tenochtitlan itself.

Directly under the emperor were his advisors, the council of Four. This advisors were generals native the military societies. If something were to take place to the emperor, one of these four men would be the next Huey Tlatoani. The council advised 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 mechanism with one-of-a-kind Courts, Appellate Courts and also a supreme Court. The city’s merchant class, the pochteca, had actually their own court to take into consideration matters that trade.

Managing the continuous incoming tribute products from far-flung provinces required another power structure, both central and provincial. Government officials also oversaw the markets, from the central markets of the urban to the smaller markets of town and also country.

All that the priesthood and also government officials report to the emperor and his board of directors of Four. All sustained the emperor. Back the Aztec Empire’s grip on its provinces was light, the tribute flowed into the main coffers.

Weapons that the Aztec Empire

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

Aztecs warriors lugged projectile tools such as bow and also arrows to assault the enemy from afar. They additionally carried tools for the melee when armies came together. The lowest ranking of warriors brought a club and also shield. Higher ranks to be awarded finer weapons. Every rank in the army wore special garments that denoted the honors they had won.

Projectile weapons of Aztec warrior Atlatl

The atlatl was a spear thrower, which developed greater force from a higher distance. Only the greatest ranks were enabled these weapons as they were in the former lines that the battle. Each warrior transporting the atlatl additionally carried numerous tlacochtli, 5.9 foot long spears tipped through obsidian.

battle Bow and Arrows

The tlahhuitolli to be a 5 foot long war bow strung with pet sinew. Warriors lugged their arrows, barbed v obsidian, flint or chert and fletched with turkey feather in a micomitl or quiver. Quivers could hold around 20 arrows.


Aztec warriors and also hunters carried slings make of maguey cactus fiber. The warriors collected rocks as they marched. They likewise made clay balls spiked v obsidian and full of obsidian flakes. Also well armored enemies can be wounded by these.


Blowguns and also poisoned darts were more often used in hunting, however Aztec warrior trained in ambush would carry along your tlacalhuazcuahuitl and also darts tipped v poisonous tree frog secretions.

Melee tools Clubs

Aztec warriors brought different types of clubs. The macuahuitl club was edged through obsidian blades. If the obsidian not correct easily, it to be razor sharp. A macuahuitl could easily decapitate a man. A macuauitzoctli was a lengthy club make of hardwood v a knob on each side. A huitzauhqui to be a baseball bat form club, although some of these to be studded with obsidian or flint. A cuahuitl was a club shaped choose a baton, made of oak. A cuauololli was usually a mace, a society topped v a absent or copper sphere.

Tepoztopilli were spears with obsidian points.

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

Tecaptl to be daggers v handles seven to nine inches long. They had a double sided blade made that flint. Aztec warriors drew their tecaptl for hand-to-hand combat.


Aztec warriors brought round shield make of lumber that to be either level or decorated with their armed forces insignia referred to as a chimalli. The higher rank warriors had special chimalli with a mosaic of feathers denoting their culture or rank.

Basic Aztec armor to be quilted cotton of two to three thicknesses. The cotton was wet in salt brine then hung come dry. The salt crystallized in the material, which gave it the capability to stand up to obsidian blades and spears. One extra class of armor, a tunic, to be worn by noble Aztec warriors. Warrior societies also wore a helmet make of hardwood, sculpted to stand for their culture or different pets like birds or coyotes.

Tlahuiztli were special suits awarded to various ranks that the military. Every rank wore different colored and decorated tlahuiztli to do them easily differentiated on the battlefield. Every rank additionally wore pamitl or military emblems.

Warriors the the Aztec Empire

The Aztec warrior was very honored in society if he was successful. Success relied on bravery in battle, tactical skill, heroic deeds and most the all, in capturing enemy warriors. Since every boy and man received military training, every were dubbed for fight when war was in the offing. Both commoners and also nobles who caught enemy warriors relocated up in armed forces rank or became members of armed forces orders. Many nobles joined the army professionally and also functioned as the command main point of the army.

While the Aztec economy depended upon trade, tribute and also agriculture, the real service of the realm was war. Through war, the Aztec empire gained tribute from dominated 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 brought an ext riches in tribute. Because that this reason, the emperor rewarded effective warriors that both classes with honors, the best to wear particular garments in distinctive colors, nobility for the commoners and higher status for nobles and also land. Every Aztec warrior could, if he recorded enemy warriors, breakthrough far in society.

Aztec Warrior Societies

Rank in the military forced bravery and skill on the battlefield and also capture of adversary soldiers. With each rank, came one-of-a-kind clothing and also weapons from the emperor, i beg your pardon conveyed high honor. Warrior clothing, costumes and weaponry to be instantly recognizable in Aztec society.

Tlamani: One captive warriors. Got an undecorated obsidian-edged club and also shield, 2 distinctive capes and also a glowing red loincloth. Cuextecatl: two captive warriors. This rank allowed the warrior come wear the differentiating black and red suit referred to as a tlahuiztli, sandals and a conical hat. Papalotl: 3 captive warriors. Papalotl (butterfly) were awarded with a butterfly banner to wear ~ above his back, conferring distinct honor. Cuauhocelotl: 4 or an ext captive warriors. These Aztec warriors got to the high rank of Eagle and also Jaguar knights. Eagle and also Jaguar Knights

Eagle and also Jaguar warriors to be the two main military societies, the greatest rank open up to commoners. In fight they lugged atlatls, bows, spears and also daggers. They obtained special battle costumes, representing eagles and also jaguars v feathers and jaguar pelts. They ended up being full-time warriors and commanders in the army. Great physical strength, battlefield bravery and also captured adversary soldiers were necessary to acquire this rank.

Commoners who reached the vaunted Eagle or Jaguar rank to be awarded the location of noble follow me with details privileges: they were provided land, can drink alcohol (pulque), wear high value jewelry refuse to commoners, to be asked come dine at the palace and also could save concubines. They additionally wore their hair tied v a red cord v green and blue feathers. Eagle and jaguar knights traveled v the pochteca, protecting them, and also guarded your city. When these 2 ranks were equal, the Eagle knights worshipped Huitzilopochtli, the war god and the Jaguars venerated Tezcatlipocha.

Otomies and the Shorn Ones

The two highest military cultures were the Otomies and the Shorn Ones. Otomies took their name from fierce people of fighters. The Shorn Ones was the most prestigious rank. They shave their heads other than for a long braid of hair on the left side and wore yellow tlahuiztli. These two ranks to be the shock troops of the empire, the special forces of the Aztec army, and also were open only to the nobility. This warriors were substantially feared and also went an initial into battle.

Religion the the Aztec Empire

While many other Aztec art works were destroyed, one of two people by the Spanish or through the degradations the time, Aztec stone carvings remain to give us a glimpse right into the worldview the this supreme Mesoamerican culture. These masterpieces were uncovered in Mexico City in the buried ruins the the former Aztec funding of Tenochtitlan and also its cool pyramid, Templo Mayor.

Statue of Coatlicue

Coatlicue to be the Aztec’s planet mother goddess, back a fearsome one. Goddess of the earth, childbirth, fertility and agriculture, she stood for the feminine power of both creation and also destruction. A massive stone statue the Coatlicue was found in Mexico City in 1790. Nearly 12 feet tall and 5 feet broad, the statue reflects the goddess as lot a goddess of fatality as the birth. With two facing serpents together her head, claws on she hands and also feet, a skirt that serpents and also a necklace of skulls, hands and also hearts, she reveals the Aztec’s terrifying see of their gods.

The myth of Coatlicue tells of the bear of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god the war and the sun. The myth of Coatlicue tells of a priestess sweeping the spiritual temple on mount Coatepec as soon as she was impregnated by a round of feathers. Her child Huitzilopochtli is born full grown once Coatlicue is struck by she daughter, the moon goddess. The child 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 in ~ the national Museum of sociology in Mexico City.

Stone that Tizoc

The stone of Tizoc is a sculpted disk reflecting the success of the emperor Tizoc over the Matlatzinca tribe. The emperor had actually it carved to storage his victory and also reveal the martial power of the Aztecs. The large, circular disk has actually an eight-pointed sun sculpted on the top, i m sorry was supplied for sacrificial battles. A warrior recorded in battle was tied come the stone, and armed with a feather inside wall club. Aztec warriors, equipped with obsidian inside wall clubs, dealt with the tied warrior and naturally defeated him. The next of the eight-foot diameter decaying depicts Tizoc’s victory. The Matlatzincas are displayed as despised barbarians, when Tizoc and also his warriors are represented as noble Toltec warriors. The stone of Tizoc artfully mixes sun worship, mythology and Aztec power. This particular day this masterful carved stone is in ~ the nationwide Museum of anthropology in Mexico City.

Sun Stone

Another massive stone disk, the piece on the sun Stone, additionally known as the Calendar Stone, present the four consecutive people of the Aztecs, each one developed by the gods only to end in destruction. This basalt stone, 12 feet in diameter and three feet thick, was discovered near the cathedral in Mexico City in the 18th century. In ~ the center is the sun god Tonatiuh. Around Tonatiuh are the 4 other suns i beg your pardon met damage as the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca combated for control. After the devastation of a sun and also the epoch it represents, the gods had actually to recreate the world and humans until lastly the 5th sun held. In ~ either side of the center, jaguar heads and paws organize hearts, representing earth. Fire serpents are at the bottom of the stone, as their bodies snake about the edge. The Sun rock carving is more than likely the most recognized artwork that the Aztec world.

Aztec Art

The Aztecs created a rich range of art works from massive rock sculptures come miniature, exquisitely sculpted gemstone insects. They made stylized hand do pottery, well gold and also silver jewelry and also breathtaking feather occupational garments. The Aztecs were as intimately affiliated with art together they were with their religion and also the 2 were tightly interwoven. Our knowledge of the Aztec culture mostly originates from their pictogram codices and their art.

Aztec craftsmen worked images of your gods right into much of your artwork. In an additional article we’ll describe the great stone carvings: the stone of Tizoc, the enormous statue that Coatlicue and the sunlight or Calendar Stone, together they are masterpieces that Aztec art. That gold and silver jewelry, lot of that was shed to the overcoming Spanish who melted it under for currency. Feather works, unfortunately, don’t last for ages, although some samples remain. Textiles too, are damaged by time, and pottery is fragile. Energetic stone carvings, however, stay to show us the an excellent artistry the the Aztecs.

While much of the Aztec populace worked in agriculture to keep the realm fed and others were involved in the good trading networks, countless others devoted themselves to producing the artworks the noble Aztecs loved. Thus, samples of artistic creativity in precious steel jewelry, decorated with jade, obsidian, turquoise, greenstone and coral still exist, mainly in smaller pieces such together earrings or labrets because that lips. Pottery from Tenochtitlan and surrounding locations still expose the fine summary symbolism of the Aztecs. Feather employees made colorful tilmas for the emperor and also nobles, and also produced ceremonial costumes because that the highest possible warrior castes, creating intricately decorated shields and also headdresses.


Many Aztec families and also even villages were devoted to giving artwork for Aztec nobles. Every art had actually its very own calpulli or guild. The nobles in the calpulli provided the raw materials and also the artists produced the perfect works—the magnificent stone carvings, jewelry, elaborate ritual costumes for the good religious ceremonies and feather shirts, cloaks and headdresses. The Aztec emperors received art works as tribute or the artists marketed them in the great marketplace in ~ Tlatelolco.

The walls of the good Tenochtitlan Templo Mayor are covered through carvings of Aztec symbolism. Rock carvers created sculptures the the Aztec gods to be supplied in the monthly religious ceremonies. Very common was the chacmool, a reclining figure which obtained the extracted hearts and blood the sacrificial victims. Aztecs in the rural regions carved the agricultural gods in both stone and wood, especially Xipe Totec, the god that spring and vegetation. Other carvers functioned in miniature, creating tiny shells, insects and plants the end of jade, pearl, onyx and obsidian. Artists developed mosaic masks used in spiritual ceremonies v pieces of turquoise, shell and also coral. This masks are extremely representative that the Aztec devotion to their gods.

Although lot Aztec was damaged during the Spanish conquest, many fine samples that each distinctive art type remains to outline for viewers the an excellent talent and an approach of Aztec artists. Inspect the Aztec resource Page top top Aztec arts for links to further information.

Aztec Symbols

Aztec signs were a component of material culture in which the ancient culture expressed knowledge of the corporeal and immaterial world. The members that that culture absorb the symbols and also their meanings as they thrive up. They see the icons all roughly them, ~ above the wall surfaces of their temples, in jewelry, in weaving and also in your language and also religion. The Aztecs additionally used signs to to express perceptions and experiences of reality.

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

All Mesoamerican cultures used human body paint, especially warriors going into battle. Various ranks of warrior wore particular colors and also used those very same colors in painting their bodies. The many prestigious warrior society, the Shorn Ones, shaved their heads and also painted fifty percent their head blue and fifty percent yellow. Other warriors strip their deals with with black and also other colors. Aztecs additionally decorated their bodies permanently in the type of piercing and tattoos, although over there is no as much proof for Aztec tattooing together for the cultures around them.

The Aztecs focused their stays on your religion. For the reason, numerous statues and carvings exist of the Aztec gods, as hideous as they might be to modern-day eyes. Signs of the sun, the eagle, the feathered serpent and cactus were offered in the Aztec composing system, in dates and time and in titles and also names. The magnificent sunlight or Calendar rock contains both the 365 work solar calendar and also the spiritual 260-day tonalpohualli, all of which are represented by the rich symbolism the the Aztec culture.

Most Aztec symbols had layers that meaning. A butterfly symbol, for instance, represented revolution while frogs symbolized joy. As soon as symbols were combined as in Aztec pictograms, whole stories can be told with the multiple great of an Aztec symbol’s meaning. The work signs and also coefficients coincided to one of the Aztec gods, which means the 260-day calendar might be offered for divination. An bespeak of the Aztec priesthood were diviners. Once a kid was born, castle were referred to as to find a surname for the baby based upon the work of the birth and also the god matching to the day. From these symbols, it was believed these priests can tell the baby’s fortune and fate.

Today, since of the farming interest in body art, much more people space learning about Aztec symbols and designs.

Aztec Pictograms

Codex painter was an honored and also necessary job in the Aztec world. Lock were extremely trained in the calmecacs, the progressed schools of the noble class. Part calmecacs invited commoner kids to train together scribes if lock were extremely talented, yet most scribes to be nobles. After ~ the Spanish conquest, codex painters operated with the priests recording the details the Aztec life. This codices are the richest resource of info we have around the Aztecs.

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

The Aztecs didn’t have a writing mechanism as we recognize it, instead they provided pictograms, tiny pictures the convey definition to the reader. Pictography combines pictograms and ideograms—graphic symbols or images that stand for an idea, lot like picture writing or hieroglyphic or Japanese or Chinese characters.

To know pictography, one need to either know the cultural conventions or the graphic symbol must resemble a physics object. Because that instance, the idea of death in Aztec pictography to be conveyed through a illustration of a corpse covering in a bundle because that burial; night was conveyed by a black color sky and also a closed eye, and the idea of walking by a footprint trail.

The codices to be made the Aztec paper, deer skin or maguey cloth. Strips of these materials up come 13 yards by 7 customs high to be cut, and also the ends pasted onto thin pieces of timber as the cover. The piece was folded choose a concertina or a map. Composing in the form of pictograms covered both political parties of the strip.

Only 15 pre-Columbian Mesoamerican codices endure today—none of them Aztec, but from other cultures of about the same time. However, hundreds of colonial-era codices survive—those that carry the art of the tlacuilo (codex painters) however with Nahuatl and also Spanish created commentary or description.

The Aztec number mechanism was vigesimal or based upon twenty. Numbers as much as twenty were represented by dots. A flag represented twenty, which might be repetitive as often as needed. One hundred, because that instance, was 5 flags. Four hundred was portrayed by the symbol of a feather or fir tree. The next number was eight thousand, displayed as a bag of copal incense. Through these basic symbols, the Aztecs count all their tribute and also trade. Because that example, one tribute page can show 15 dots and a feather, complied with by a pictogram that a shield, which supposed that the district sent 415 shields come the emperor.

Religion in the Aztec Empire

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

Religion Ruled every one of Life

Aztecs to be a devoutly spiritual people, to the level that no Aztec do a decision about any aspect of his or her life without considering its spiritual significance. The timing of any type of event big or tiny required consulting the spiritual calendar. No son was named prior to a unique priest, a diviner, could consider what surname might ideal fit the child’s tonali or fate. Religion permeated every aspect of Aztec life, no issue what one’s station, indigenous the greatest born emperor to the lowliest slave. The Aztecs worshipped thousands of deities and honored them every in a range of rituals and also ceremonies, part featuring human being sacrifice. In the Aztec development myths, every the gods had actually sacrificed themselves continuously to bring the world and also humans right into being. Thus, person sacrifice and blood offerings were essential to pay the gods their due and also to save the natural civilization in balance.

The Gods

The main Aztec gods have the right to be divide in this way:

Primordial Creators and also Celestial god Ometecuhtli (Two Lord) and Omecihuatl (Two Lady)—the divine male/female creative force permeating every little thing on earth Xiuhtecuhtli (Turquoise Lord) Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror—Fate and Destiny) Quetzalcoatl (Feathered Serpent—Creator, Wind and 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 that the Jade Skirt—deity the rivers, lakes, springs and the sea) Mayahuel (Maguey cactus goddess) gods of Sacrifice and War Huitzilopochtli (War and Warrior god) Tonatiuh (Sun god) Tlaltecuhtli (Earth god) The spiritual Calendar

The Aztecs offered two equipment for counting time. The Xiuhpohualli was the natural solar 365-day calendar offered to count the years; it complied with the farming seasons. The year was separated right into 18 months of 20 days each. The 5 extra days at the end of the year were collection aside as a duration of mourning and also waiting. The second system to be the ritual calendar, a 260-day cycle supplied for divination. Every 52 year the 2 calendars would certainly align, giving occasion because that the good New Fire Ceremony prior to a new cycle started.

Aztec Temples

The Aztecs built temples at the top of spiritual mountains and in the center of their cities. The temple we know most around is the Templo mayor in the heart of what was Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City. In ~ the peak of this 197 foot high pyramid stood 2 shrines, one to Tlaloc, the god that rain and also one to Huitzilopochtli, the god of war. Templo Mayor remained in the center of a great plaza, one of 75 or 80 structures which constituted the religious center the the city. Sacrificial victims walked up the numerous steps come the height of the pyramid. After their hearts were extracted and given come the gods, your bodies were thrown down into the plaza.

Human Sacrifice

Human sacrifices Aztecs to be a part of their religious ceremony that they believed properly appeased your gods to preventive them indigenous suffering. The numbers of people sacrificed through the Aztecs is a secret today and will probably remain a mystery, unless an ext archeological evidence is uncovered. Whether only a couple of thousand of victims to be sacrificed each year, or 250,000 as some scholars say, couple of human continues to be such together bones have been found at Templo market or various other Aztec temples. A couple of dozen skeletons and also a couple of thousand loosened bones and skulls carry out not include up come 250,000 or 20,000 or everything number is cited.

Evidence of human sacrifice comes from both the Aztecs themselves, their art and codices containing their writings, and also from the Spanish conquerors. However, it is for sure to say the the Spanish can easily have exaggerated the numbers killed to make the Aztecs seem more savage and brutal 보다 they in reality were.

In 1487, the great Templo market was specialized in the key Aztec city the Tenochtitlan with a four-day celebration. How plenty of were sacrificed throughout that time is a subject of scholarly speculation: some put the number as low together 10,000 or 20,000, several others put it as high as 80,400 world sacrificed during those 4 days. Scholars think the Aztec clergymans used four sacrificial altars for the dedication ceremonies. However, if that’s the case and 80,400 human being were killed, climate the priests would have had to sacrifice 14 people every minute, which is a physical impossibility.

Spanish missionaries sent out to transform the Aztecs to Christianity learned the Nahuatl language talked by the Aztecs. These priests and friars spoke to old Aztecs to find out their history. These Aztecs placed the number of sacrificial victims at the moment of the temple’s dedication in ~ 4,000, a much lower total than 80,400.

With scant archeological evidence, that is hard to recognize how countless Aztecs passed away under the sacrificial knife. Countless reputable scholar today put the number between 20,000 and also 250,000 per year for the entirety Aztec Empire. All Aztecs cities contained temples specialized to your gods and all of them saw human sacrifices. Whatever the total was, we know from both the Aztecs and the Spanish that many human beings lost their lives to person sacrifice. We will more than likely never know precisely how many.

The an initial thing to understand around the Mesoamerican cultures and also the Aztecs’ use of person sacrifice is that they were not horrified through it. Instead, it was a natural component of life to them, important to save the world balanced and also going forward. Blood and also sacrifice assisted the sunlight to rise and move throughout the sky. Without it, their human being would end.

That’s no to say that all Aztecs and other Mesoamericans went to the sacrifice willingly. No doubt plenty of did not desire to it is in sacrificed or to die. Others, however, i agreeed to provide of themselves because that the better good. When we photo victims being resulted in sacrifice, we view them together weeping, moaning and also fighting to get free. For the most part, that merely didn’t happen.

To dice as a sacrifice to be the most honorable fatality the Aztecs knew. Once an Aztec warrior passed away in battle or one Aztec mrs in childbirth, those were additionally good, honorable deaths. Human being who passed away as a sacrifice, together a warrior or in childbirth checked out a paradise to be v the gods after death. In contrast, a human being who died of an illness went to the lowest level that the underworld, Mictlan.

Many scholars have devised theories to define this “darkness” that the Aztecs, their love of human being sacrifice. Part posited that Aztecs to be savages and amoral, less than human. Others have actually said the Aztec leader used human sacrifice to terrorize their populace and the surrounding cultures. Some stated that an important protein was lacking from the Aztec diet and they required the “meat” from human being sacrifices to feed themselves, utilizing cannibalism to perform so. None of these theories, however, have held up.

From its more quickly inception, Mesoamerican cultures featured person sacrifice so it was plainly not “invented” by Aztec rulers come terrorize the people, nor to be it a treason by the priesthood that Aztec spirituality. Research studies of the Aztec’s greatly vegetarian diet flavored with occasional turkey or dog revealed all essential ingredients to sustain life. The Aztecs had actually laws versus murder and also injury, simply as we do, so it wasn’t that they were depraved savages.

Rather, it to be a central part of their religion and spirituality, to offer up their blood and also lives in devotion and also dedication to the gods who had sacrificed themselves to develop the world and also keep that going. Most religions save on computer an aspect of sacrifice—giving increase meat in Lent, because that example—and providing your life because that a friend is a an excellent act the love. The Aztecs accepted this together a necessary component of life. By dying together a sacrifice, lock honored the gods. Still, we can’t help but think that countless didn’t wish to die, however accepted it as inevitable.

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

Trade in the Aztec Empire

The Aztec economic situation was based upon three things: agricultural goods, tribute, and also trade. Aztec trade was crucially necessary to the empire; there might be no empire without it as numerous goods supplied by the Aztecs to be not produced locally. Prized white cotton might not grow at the altitude the the valley of Mexico and had to be imported from overcame semi-tropical regions additional south, together were cacao beans, native which chocolate is made.

Two types of trade were crucial to the Aztecs: the local, regional markets where the goods that sustain day-to-day life to be traded and also long-distance luxury trades. Every were vital to the empire, but served various purposes in the bigger scheme of Aztec trade.

Aztec profession and local Markets

Every Aztec city and village had its own industry located near the city center. Tlatelolco, sister city come Tenochtitlan, had actually the grandest market, drawing 60,000 human being to that daily. Similar to most regional markets, all kinds of utilitarian items were sold, such as cloth, garden produce, food animals, obsidian knives and also tools, medicines, wood, leather, furs and animal skins, precious metals, gems and also pottery. If one Aztec housewife needed some tomatoes, bone needles and also a headache remedy, she’d go to the market for them. While there, she might buy something to eat and also drink if she had actually a cacao bean or 2 to trade. Numerous Aztec human being went come the industry not just to shop, however to socialize, an additional important aspect of the teeming regional markets. There Aztecs indigenous every walk of life might meet and swap news and also gossip.

The regional markets were overseen by federal government trade officials that made certain the goods and also the prices asked for them were fair. Four levels of local markets existed: the grand, day-to-day Tlatelolco market, the markets at Xochimilco and Texcoco, the every-five-day industries at numerous other Aztec cities and the tiny village markets. Officials collected tribute and also taxes for the emperor from each of this interlocking markets. Some of the regional markets also contained specialized goods, well ceramics for example, or turkeys because that food or feathers from tropical birds

Pochteca, far Distance Traders

Pochteca were expert merchants, traveling long distances to obtain the deluxe goods preferred by the nobility: feathers from tropical birds, rare gems or jewelry and also pottery developed by other Mesoamerican cultures. The pochteca acquired anything rare and also special, as well as the white cotton and cacao beans, earning castle a special place in the Aztec society. They had their own capulli, laws and also section of the city, even their own god, who watched end traders.

They often had dual or also triple duties in the empire, besides being basic traders. They often communicated an important information indigenous one area the the realm to another. And also some served as spies for the emperor, regularly going disguised together something other than trader. This critical group, the naualoztomeca, traded in rare, easily brought goods such together gems, rare feathers or secrets. Part pochteca were the importers, others handle in wholesale goods and also others still were retailers.

Aztec Agriculture: Floating ranches Fed the People

Agriculture, in addition to trade and tribute, formed the basis of the Aztec Empire. As such, growing enough food to feeding the urban populaces of the Aztec cities was of significant importance. Many inhabitants of all of the Aztec cities were affiliated in planting, cultivating and also harvesting the empire’s food.

Three plants formed the staples the the Aztec diet: maize, or corn, beans and squash. Each of these three plants assists the others once they are grown together. For example, corn bring away nitrogen from the soil, i beg your pardon beans climate replace. P plants need firm support on which to grow; corn stalks provide that support. Luxurious squash leaves shade the soil, i m sorry keeps humidity in and also keeps weeds out. These 3 plants are called the 3 Sisters and planted together, administer a well-off harvest of every three.

Besides maize, beans and squash, the Aztecs farmed a host of various other vegetables: tomatoes, avocados, chili peppers, limes, onions, amaranth, peanuts, sweet potatoes and jimacas. While many cacti grew wild, the Aztecs also cultivated those they discovered most useful, consisting of the amazing maguey cactus, additionally known as the mexico aloe, which listed the Aztecs through paper, thatching because that roofs, cloth, rope, needles, food from the root of the plant, and also a renowned alcoholic beverage fermented native its sap.

To thrive all this food, the Aztecs offered two key farming methods: the chinampas and terracing. Chinampas were essentially artificial islands, elevated bed gardens ~ above the surface of Lake Texcoco’s shallow waters. The Aztecs centered their realm in the sink of Mexico, with its central basin top up into the hills surrounding the valley. To usage the hilly land for farming, the Aztecs terraced the hills by cutting right into them. They then developed a restraining wall surface to form a step in the hillside so the the floor on the step deserve to be used for crops.

The chinampas farms were fabricated plots of land gathered from the sedimentation from the bottom of the lake. The Aztecs created large reed mats, which lock floated in the shallows, the edges of which were built of woven twigs and branches fastened to articles anchored in the lakebed. ~ above the mats, they put soil indigenous the lake bottom, rotting vegetation and also dirt from adjacent areas. Aztec farmers gathered the soil till it was above the surface ar of the lake. Castle planted fast-growing willow trees in ~ the corners that the plots to connect the chinampa come the bottom that the lake by the trees’ roots. In ~ the elevation of the Aztec Empire, hundreds of these fertile and productive chinampas surrounded Tenochtitlan and other Aztec cities.

Terraced, irrigated fields added another class of farmland because that the hungry Aztecs. To bring water to these fields, Aztecs farmer dug irrigation canals in the soil. The terraces additionally grew the Aztecs significant crops, giving an extra class of defense for its an essential agricultural production, on i m sorry the realm depended.

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

Education in the Aztec Empire

Aztec education and learning was quite advanced compared to modern empires in the Eastern and Western Hemispheres. The Aztec empire is among the few older civilizations that featured mandatory education and learning at home and in schools. Every boy was educated, no matter his or her social status, even if it is noble, civilian or slave. Two different schools teach the young—one for the noble class and also one for commoners, although bright, talented commoners could be liked for advanced learning in ~ the noble school. Children’s Aztec education, however, started at residence with your parents. From age four or five, guys learned and worked with their fathers at a profession or craft, farming, hunting and also fishing. Girl learned native their mothers all the jobs they would need in running a household.

All youngsters were teach a large collection the sayings referred to as the huehuetlatolli, which incorporated Aztec ideas and also teachings. The Aztec society expected well-behaved people so children were teach to it is in humble, obedient and also hardworking. The huehuetlatolli contained many sayings ~ above all aspects of life, from welcome newborn infants to the family to what come say at the death of a relative. Every couple of years, the youngsters were dubbed to the temple and also tested on exactly how much they had actually learned the this inherited cultural knowledge.

For the first 14 year of life, boys and also girls to be taught at residence by your parents. After that, the guys attended one of two people the noble school, referred to as a calmecac, or the commoners’ school, the telpochcalli. Girls saw a different school, whereby they learned household skills, spiritual rituals, singing and also dancing or craftwork. Some talented girl were preferred to it is in midwives and also received the complete training that a healer. Other athletically talented girls could be sent out to the home of dancing and also singing for unique training.

Much that Aztec culture was split into calpullis, a group of interrelated families, somewhat prefer a community or clan. Every calpulli had its very own schools, both calmecac and telpochcalli. Boys and also girls attend the institutions run by their calpulli.

Aztec Education: Calmecac

Calmecacs were schools for the sons of nobles, whereby they learned to it is in leaders, priests, scholars or teachers, healers or codex painters. They learned literacy, history, religious rituals, calendrics, geometry, songs and the armed forces arts. These advanced studies in astronomy, theology and also statesmen ship all set the nobles’ young for occupational in the government and also temples.

Aztec Education: Telpochcalli

Telpochcalli taught boys background and religion, farming skills, military fighting techniques and also a craft or trade, prepare them because that a life as a farmer, metal worker, feather worker, potter or soldier. Athletically talented boys can then be sent out on to the military for more military training. The other students would, after ~ graduation, be sent back to their family members to start their functioning life.

Housing in the Aztec Empire

Aztec residences ranged from one-room huts to large, spacious palaces. As in your clothing and diet, the size and also style of Aztec homes relied on the family’s social status. Well-off nobles live in countless roomed elaborate houses, normally built about an inner courtyard. Poorer Aztecs and also commoners usually stayed in one-room homes, constructed of adobe brick and also thatched roofs. Nobles might lavishly decorate their homes; as commoners were not permitted to do. Many Aztecs whitewashed their homes with lime therefore the houses would reflect light and stay cool.


Many, or perhaps most Macehualtin or commoners were engaged in agriculture, taking care of the Tenochtitlan’s chinampas, or garden beds increased on the shallow shores of Lake Texcoco outside the city. They built simple, one room houses, usually through a few other smaller buildings and a garden in the lot. The family members lived, slept, worked, ate and also prayed in the large room, which had actually a little family shrine constructed in one wall. Many Aztec homes additionally had a separate structure for a vapor bath, as the Aztecs were very clean people. The kitchen area might also be in a smaller room developed onto the house.

Most simple Aztec dwellings were developed of adobe bricks, which space made using mud, sand, water and also straw, climate 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 found outside the cities. Furniture was additionally simple: comfortable reed mats for sleeping, hardwood or leather chests for storing clothes and low tables to be in most homes, as well as clay pots and also bowls, stone metates for grind corn, a griddle, water jugs and buckets.

Most work-related took place external the home during the day. Men went off to tend the fields, acquisition the larger boys through them. Women ground corn, cooked, be crazy yarn, wove cloth and watched the younger children, teaching their daughters what they would require to know when lock married. Commoners’ residences were often built outside the city, nearer come the fields and also chinampas wherein the guys worked.

Often, one interrelated group of family members lived together in a unit referred to as a calpulli. Lock would build their houses in a square through a common, central courtyard. The calpulli, which contained both nobles and also commoners, detailed mutual help for that members, functioning as a type of clan. The nobles owned the arable land, i beg your pardon the commoners worked. The nobles noted the occupations, often craftwork, and also the commoners payment tribute come the nobles.


Nobles or pipiltin as they to be known, lived in larger, finer houses often developed of stone, although part were likewise built the adobe. Noble houses were frequently built roughly a main courtyard, where flower and vegetable gardens and also a fountain would certainly be found. These homes were regularly made of carved stone, and also contained finer furniture than a commoner would have.

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Noble homes could have a peaked roof, or the roof could be flat and even terraced with a garden. As nobles were often involved in making laws and also government, they often tended to live nearer the city centers, about the main plaza and also marketplace. At the top of society, the emperor stayed in a luxurious palace, complete with botanical gardens and a zoo.