The Rise and Fall of Aztec Civilization

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The Rise, Fall and Contributions of the Aztec Civilization
Hist 2111-213
20 October, 2011

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Aztecs were one of the most advanced civilizations in America and were the masters of their world. That world was the area that scholars today call Mesoamerica, a region that stretches from north central Mexico southward into Central America (The Aztecs 6). Their name is derived from the word Azteca which comes from Aztlan (“White Land”) believed to be today the north-west of region of Mexico. They built huge cities; some were as large as European ones. Religion was very important for the Aztecs and affected them in every way; they worshiped their Gods by building huge towering temples, making sculptures, and doing human sacrifices. The Mexica, a small group of wanderers in search of a home originated in the northwest of Tula, entered the Valley of Mexico sometime after A.D. 1200. Settling among the local people, intermarrying with them and warring with them, the Mexica would rise to become the core of the Aztec Empire (The Aztecs 23). The Mexica, which were also known as the Chichimecs which is believed to mean “barbarians”, were the last ones to enter the Valley of Mexico; They were not only farmers but also hunters and gatherers. After wandering around from Chapultepec to Culhuacan, the Mexica finally find a home in the marshes of Lake Texcoco; since most of the land was taken, they made the little islands located in the lake their home. In one of these islands they saw an eagle perched on top of a tall nopal cactus; they thought it was a signal from their god Huitzilopochtli “telling” them to make that place their home; they made a temple there in honor to the god. Here is where they found a community caled an altepetl, naming it Tenochtitlan after their chief called Tenoch. Since the Mexica saw that all of their boarding cities had kings, they chose one too; Acamapichtli, son of Opoctzin “the great lord”, became king of Tenochtitlan and soon after he was chosen he married a Culhuacan noble woman named Ilancueitl. Even with a king, 2

Tenochtitlan was still not powerful enough to be an independent state. Tepanecs were still dominating. While these two “worked” together, the population in Tenochtitlan was increasing; they were a mixed group of people and they allowed intermarriage with people from neighboring towns. Also they had some friendly connections with Texcoco. In spite of their friendly connections with Texcoco, around 1418 the Mexica fought against the city, and helped to defeat it when the texcocans rebbeled against Tenapec rule (The Aztecs 30). Later, Netzahualcoyotl and Tenochtitlan joined forces to fight Maxtla, a tenapec ruler. Tlacopan, a small and unhappy Tenapec tributary aided these two and also joined them creating “The Triple Alliance”; they defeated Maxtla and sacrificed him. After this, these 3 remained allies but Tenochtitlan was the leader of it. Social changes happened as Tenochtitlan became larger and stronger conquering other cities. Land was now owned by the ruling class and Positions in the government bureaucracy were the exclusive privilege of the hereditary nobility, all of whom traced their lineage of the founding family of the Aztec clan (The essential World History 143). They rebuilt their temple many times; it was bigger but always in the same place where they saw that eagle. After all these conquests and alliances, Tenochtitlan was huge, powerful and at its peak.  

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The Aztecs “had one of the most advanced civilizations in the Americas. They built cities “as large and complex as any in Europe during that time”, says the World Book Encyclopedia. The Aztec empire stretched across Latin America, including at least twenty million people and four hundred cities and towns. The ruler of the Aztecs was called the huey tlatoani, who was believed to have both human and supernatural powers, which linked him with the gods. Religion was integral in the lives of the Aztecs, and they devoted...
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