The Aztec Indians originated from a place called Aztlan, somewhere in north or northwest Mexico. At that time the Aztecs were a small, nomadic tribe living in the border territory on the margins of civilized Mesoamerica. (see map I) In the 13th century they settled in the valley of central Mexico. The Aztecs finally found refuge on a small island in Lake Texcoco, where about 1345, they founded the town of Tenochtitlan. The island was found through a prophecy which said they would settle where they found an eagle perched on a cactus. (see diagram I)
During the next century the Aztecs grew to be greatest power in Mexico. As they grew in political status they became sophisticated and civilized, learning from established peoples who had been town dwellers for more than 1,000 years. (Ekholm, Gordon F.)
The Aztec empire consisted of numerous, loosely connected urban communities. Land ownership was communal. Each local group was composed of a few families that jointly owned a piece of land. Part of the yield of cultivated land was given to the state as a kind of tax.
Technology depended more on human skills than on mechanical devices. Iron and steel were unknown, although copper and bronze were used for tools and Mexican jewelers made ornaments from gold, silver, and their alloys. Wheat, barley, cattle, horses, sheep, and goats were unknown until introduced from Europe and the Mexicans were efficient farmers who made full use of irrigation, terracing, and fertilization of the fields.
Aztec Mexico was rich and civilized. The state controlled every aspect of life. Schooling and training in the martial arts were compulsory for all boys, while the girls were trained in gathering, cooking, and the sewing arts. A centralized bureaucracy looked after the collection and storage of taxes, matters of legislation and punishment. (Peterson, Frederick)
Life for the Aztec's was good. Because of the...