The term Aztec was not used to talk about a unified set of indians. They consist of three main groups, the Mexicas, Acolhuas and Tepanecas. All of these tribes use the Nahua language. The Aztec empire ruled a 500,000 km sq. (193,051 miles sq.) empire, primarily in the Valley of Mexico, in main Mexico.
The first Aztecs were the Nahua people who migrated from northern Mexico in the 6h century. As they move more and more towards south, they met other nomadic tribes. Inter-marriages and cultural assimilation followed suit. Religions and culture were fused creating a mix which became the foundation of Aztec life. By the 12th century, they formed the city of Azcapotzalco, the the main city of the empire where the Tepanecas were the dominant tribe.
Around 1248, the Mexicas came from a place they named Aztlan, a mythical place where the Mexicas fled to seek better home. By that time, they were many city-states in the Mexico Valley, some of them being Culhuacon and Azcapotzalco. The Culhuacon ruler gave permission to the Mexicas to settle in the barren Tizapan. Another process of assimilation and integration occurred between the Mexicas and the native tribes.
The location of the Mexicas’ next home was decided by a dream, a usual method in that era. A dream of an eagle on a thorny pear cactus, clutching a snake in its talons was shown to the people. This began the exodus of the Mexicas from Tizapan to Lake Texcoco, where they started the great city of Tenochtitlan.
For the next few years, these city states grew in harmony until 1427 when the Aztec Triple Alliance was made between cities Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan. This alliance was literally made out of blood and betrayal. The ruler of the Mexicas was murdered prior to the alliance and his death helped the alliance to fruition.
The empire experienced many changes, especially by half-brothers Tlacaelel and Montezuma, the powers behind the throne. They were the main architects of the new Aztec religion and history. Books were burned to create a new start for the Aztecs. Thus, the Aztec empire ruled for the next 100 years.
The fall of the Aztec empire started when Hernan Cortes landed in the Gulf Coast in 1519. After a few small battles, he joined forces with the Tlatcala, a long-time enemy of the Aztecs. Together they marched to the Tenochtitlan gates and arrived on November 8 they year 1519. At first, Emperor Montezuma II, accepted and even paid tribute to the conquistador. This was due to a myth that Cortes was a god that was said to return to the Aztecs in the same year Cortes arrived. This was rejected by historians, who said that it was Spanish propaganda.
Although Montezuma II showered the Spanish with gifts of gold, Cortes kidnapped the emperor and demanded ransom in gold. The amount was duly paid and Cortes continued to rule the Aztecs through the emperor. The Aztecs first revolted after the massacre at the main temple. There are many versions to this story. Some say that the Spanish were enticed by the gold worn by the nobles and murdered them. Others said that the Spanish were trying to stop a human sacrifice, a tradition that has been practiced by the Aztecs for ages.
This was followed by the event of La Noche Triste (The Night of Sorrows). Fearing for his safety, Cortes tried to flee to Tlatcala but was stopped by Aztec guards who fought and killed around 150 Spanish soldiers and 2,000 natives with Cortes barely escaping. It was said the Spanish carried so much gold plundered from their siege that they drowned in the many canals around the main city. The Spanish revenged with their siege on Tenochtitlan which ended on the 13th of August 1521.
There is still much to be discovered about Aztec history. Most of the relics and documents were lost or plundered by the conquistadors during the Spanish conquest. Idols and statues were destroyed for gold and replaced with statues of the Virgin Mary. Temples and houses were looted and pillaged. It is truly horrifying to know that the Aztec empire died in such a tragic way.
By: Roberto Bell
Clement is the owner of the website called Aztec History where you can find lots of information and stories about Aztec empire and other interesting Aztec facts.. Visit The Aztecs and their history.