Aztecs Essay, Research Paper


The Aztecs came from Azatlan which is the mythical place of origin(Aztecs of Lost Civilization). Huizilopochtli, the god of war, told the Aztecs to leave Azatlan and wander until they saw an eagle perched on a cactus growing out of a rock and eating a snake(Los Aztecas). The Aztecs traveled many years to find the legend and finally found it while at Lake Texcoco. Lake Texcoco was ruled by the Toltecs between the 10th and 11th centuries(Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia). Since many other tribes also migrated to Lake Texcoco at the same time, the Aztecs were pushed out to the westside of the lake to a swampy area. The only piece of dry land they had was a little island surrounded by marshes. Over a long period of time they built their empire with chinapas. Chinapas were formed by piling up mud from the lake bottom to make little islands(Aztec Empire History). Tenochtitlan (currently Mexico City), which means “Place of the Cactus”, became the capital in 1325 and soon there came many islands in which bridges were built to connect the mainland (Los Aztecas). They also dug canals and constructed aqueducts. There were many religious structures, and they built temples and pyramids. By 1502 the Aztec Empire expanded from Guatemala to San Luis Potosi which is in Central and Southern Mexico and extended 800 miles along a northwest-southeast axis. The Aztecs conquered many cities and all became part of the empire which was wedged between high mountains and surrounded by lakes(Aztecs of Lost Civilization/ Azetc Empire History).

The three social classes of the Aztecs were slave, commoner, and nobility. The slaves (lowest class) were basically servants, although they could buy there way to freedom or if they escaped from their masters and reached the royal palace without being caught they would earn their way to freedom. There were two kinds of commoners (middle class). The maceualtin were given a lifetime ownership of a plot of land in which they would build their house on. The tlalmaitl were tenant farmers. The nobility (highest class) were usually rulers, chiefs, or nobles(Aztecs/ Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia). The Aztecs typical home was on a log raft covered with mud which had plants on it that stabled the raft with its roots. The home usually had it s back to a canal with a canoe tied at the door so they could have efficient transportation(Aztec Empire History).

At the peak of the Aztec market there were 60,000 visitors daily. Goods were brought to the Aztecs from tribute agreements with conquered territories and most goods were exported from the empire to Central America(Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia).

The principle Aztec food was a thin cornmeal pancake called a tlaxacalli, or tortilla. They used the tlaxacallis to scoop up their food or to wrap their food up in it which is now referred to as a taco. The meat that they hunted were deer, rabbits, ducks, and geese. The meat that they raised were turkeys, rabbits, and dogs(Aztec Empire History). They also liked to eat corn, squash, tomatoes, peppers, beans, jicama, prickly pear cactus, and sweet potatoes. Their favorite drink was chocolate, but it was expensive since the cacao bean was used as a form of money(Aztecs).

There was a great temple called Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc which was on the plaza of Teotihuacan. The temple was surrounded by a wall that was decorated with carved serpents. Ceremonies, public events, and festivals , which were all important in Aztec life, were held at the temple(Aztecs). One celebration that happened every 52 years was the Binding up of the Years. People would let there hearth fire go out and then re-light them with the new fire of the celebration and feast(Aztec Empire History).

Religion was extremely important to the Aztec life. They had hundreds of gods. There were religious ceremonies daily in which acts of sacrifice to the gods were taken. It was a great honor to be sacrificed to the gods(Los Aztecas). A sacrifice was when a person reached an alter and was stretched across a convex stone. Then a priest, with a sharp knife, would cut open the victims chest and tear out his heart. The heart then would be placed in a bowl called a chacmool. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people were sacrificed a year(Aztecs).

The language of the Aztecs was called Nahuatl. The language is a mix of Indian languages from the Pimas, Comanches, and the Shoshones(Aztec Empire History). The Aztecs used pictographic writings that were recorded on paper or animal hides. Some of these writings, called codices, still exist today. Their calendar was 365 days and their were five “hollow” days in which was thought of as very bad luck(Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia).

In 1519, Hernando Cortes, a Spanish explorer, landed on the East Coast of Mexico and wanted to conquer Tenchtitlan. The Spaniards were joined by many Indians who were conquered and forced to pay high taxes to the emperor. Montezuma II did not stop Cortes because he thought Cortes was Quetzalcoatl, the god of civilization and learning. An Aztec legend said that Quetzalcoatl was driven away by a rival god and was headed across sea to present day Mexico. Quetzalcoatls return was said to be the year Ceacatl on the Aztec Calendar which is the same as 1519. Due to the legend, Montezuma II thought Cortes was Quetzalcoatl when he invaded the Aztec Empire. Montezuma II was taken prisoner by the Spaniards, but in 1520 he rebelled and drove the Spaniards out of Tenochtitlan. Unfortunately, Montezuma II was killed in this battle and soon on August, 1520 the Aztecs surrendered when Cortes invaded again. The Spaniards wiped out all the temples and all other traces of Aztec civilization. They destroyed Tenochtitlan and built Mexico City on top of it(Aztec Empire History).

Present day Aztecs live in the vicinity of Mexico City and there are well over one million of them. They are the largest aboriginal group in Mexico and their religion is a mix of Aztec and Roman Catholic. Today, to pay contribution to the Aztecs, the cactus, the eagle, and serpent are all on the Mexican paper money(Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia). Today, the Aztecs are “highly respected and remembered for their struggles, devotion, and for the love they showed to their culture.”(Aztec s of Lost Civilizations)


1. Escobedo, Rodolfo. “Los Aztecas”, resobed/, Depaul University, Nov. 12 98, Feb. 26 99.

2. Segarra, Ramon Luis. “Aztec s of Lost Civilization”, lau/EL

MUNDO/tribes/aztec.html, Lamba Alpha Upsilon Fraternity, Inc., Feb. 20 97,

Feb. 26 99.

3. “The Aztec Empire History”, ercarlso/essays/Aztec

Empire.html, Apr. 23 98, Feb. 26 99.

4. Borkovec, Brian; Daane, Angela; Flasch, Janna. “Aztecs”, galta/

mrr/aztecs/index.htm, Fall 97, Feb. 26 99.

5. “Aztec”, Microsoft Encarta 96 Encyclopedia, Microsoft Corporation, 1993-1995

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