They lived in Mexico from around 1168 to 1521. Their empire was vast, they ruled 12 million people in 38 provinces from the Gulf of Mexico across to the shores of the Pacific Ocean.
Originally, they were from Aztlan in northwest Mexico and were nomads with a reputation for brutality and human sacrifice. It is said that on one occasion Aztec warriors presented their lord 8,000 ears taken from their prisoners! They settled on the shores of Lake Texcoco where they built their great city Tenochtitlan. The Spanish invaders destroyed it and then on the same site built a new city, which they called Mexico City. This great city, Tenochtitlan, was the capital of their empire. https://www.britannica.com/event/Battle-of-Tenochtitlan
Warfare was a way of life
Well it was for young boys! They went to military schools, were forced to endure long marches carrying heavy supplies, and would stage mock battles using wooden clubs and spears. When they grew up, they became Ocelot Warriors, were sent on reconnaissance missions, then into battles along with more experienced Jaguar and Eagle Warriors.
The Aztecs at Peace.
At the same time, they relied on agriculture and cultivated beans, tomatoes, squashes, chilli peppers, avocados and potatoes, even crops such as cotton and tobacco.
They constructed garden islands on which to grow these vegetables and other things. I think this was brilliant. They grew them on 900 feet long islands, anchored to the lake by willow tree roots, specially planted for this. Then, of course, the Aztec farmers themselves built homes on these islands. The result was that the fertile mud from the bottom of the lake, combined with dead water plants, made them perfect growing areas.
Selling things was also important but everything had to be of high quality and if your stock was felt to be of poor quality, they would confiscate it. They imposed strong discipline, for example, if anyone stole, there were no arguments, they were publicly flogger to death!
Yes, they used human sacrifice to appease their gods. You see their belief was that the Sun God required energy to rise each morning. This energy was given to him by the other gods who supplied him with their own blood, ensuring his passage across the heavens. This myth started human sacrifice, the hearts of victims were removed while still beating and offered to the Sun God, thus ensuring the sunrise. Frightening, isn’t it? Even worse it is said that they made 50,000 human sacrifices a year!
Why did it end?
On the 8th November 1519, Hernan Cortes arrived with 400 Spanish soldiers and around 1000, native troops. The Aztecs were terrified of the Spanish, metal men astride creatures they had never seen before, horses!
The Spanish considered the Aztecs to be barbarians, due to human sacrifice, however, once they found gold, that was all they were interested in. This led to an unbalanced war. Even though they were skilled and ruthless warriors, they could not compete against a modern trained Spanish army with firearms and cannon. Within two years Tenochtitlan was destroyed along with the Aztec empire.
It was worse than that as many of the remaining Aztecs died of European diseases, such as smallpox, that the Spanish brought with them.
The Aztec empire then disappeared, as everything was destroyed by missionaries convinced that an empire embracing human sacrifice had to be removed from this earth.https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-americas/aztecs
An Aztec Schools Musical
Educational Musicals have published a musical about the lives of the Aztecs before the arrival of the Spanish called The Golden City – The Lost Empire of the Aztecs http://educationalmusicals.co.uk/product/the-golden-city-history-educational-musicals/
It takes children to the spiritual world of the Aztecs. A young archaeologist, Dr Lara Jones, discovers a Codex written 700 years ago by an Aztec farmer called Chipilli. Then, we take you back in time to the last days of the Aztec Empire. To the Golden City, Tenochtitlan, where the Aztec ruler, Moctezuma, faces the Metal Gods invading his world and the end to its existence.
Isn’t history fun?
For more on the Aztecs: