What do you know about the Aztec Empire?

The Aztecs began as a union of three powerful city-states in Mexico. That is to say, these were the city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan. These city-states had become powerful following the assimilation in the jurisdictions of their cities of the smaller units of villages and peripheral areas that they were able respectively to subjugate. The alliance helped defeat the former dominant Tepanec Azcapotzalco in the region. The written history of the Aztecs, as illustrated by their pictographic codes, shows that their place of origin was in Aztlan, Mexico. Soon, these people managed to form a triple alliance that would become the Aztec Empire. The word “Aztec” it is in itself a modern term coined by archaeologists as a way to differentiate people from Maya and others. The Aztec empire, according to the scholar Alexander Motyl, was a hegemonic alliance.

Challenges and controversies

The military power of the empire was concentrated in Tenochtitlan (in modern Mexico City). This city was where the Aztec military forces resided and led their military campaigns by their push for domination over the surrounding region. However, this was not always the case, since at first the three city-states disagreed with each other. However, after the Triple Alliance was created, the union created the empire. Then, in 1519, Hernan Cortes, the first Spanish conqueror to reach the area, arrived by ship. The Spaniards were totally stunned by the wealth of the Aztecs, as the local markets were full of precious stones, silver and gold. They saw the mineral wealth, the exotic fruits and other assets held by the Aztecs like them for the taking.

Reject and Demi

The introduction of Christianity and the greed for the gold of the conquistadors quickly took hold. The ensuing betrayal initiated by the Spaniards was aided by the local natives, causing the subsequent overthrow of one Aztec leader after another. It took only two years for the great Aztec empire to fall and its surviving leader was executed or enslaved. Cortes used treachery to capture the Aztec emperor Montezuma, and the Aztecs attacked the palace where the deceptive cortes had been assigned as guests. The crowd accidentally killed the emperor in the ensuing chaos. Escaping that night to Tlacopan to reorganize his forces and strategize, Cortes raised an army of 100,000, mostly composed of natives. Cortes then attacked Tenochtitlan again, which was already weakened after half of its population died of smallpox introduced into the region by the conquerors. The city fell easily.

Historical meaning and inheritance

The Aztec empire has left a profound cultural legacy, including language, national identity, architecture and cuisine alike. Today, the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs is still spoken by about 1.5 million indigenous people in rural areas of Central Mexico from which the original Aztecs came. The words pomodoro and xocolatl (chocolate) are both derived from this Aztec language. The population of Mexico still has indigenous Mexicans whose ancestors were also part of the Aztec civilization. Mexico City still retains many Nahuatl names for its streets. Some city and city names in the region also come from the same language. Mexican cuisine has preserved some of the Aztec flavors, as well as the Nahuatl names of their dishes.


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