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The Aztecs


By Lee KaranjaPublished 3 months ago 4 min read

Who were they?

This was a tiny and mysterious group of migrants from the northern deserts that arrived in Mesoamerica during the 12th century. The locals considered them inferior and unproductive and therefore did not accept them as such. After this, the Aztecs settled in Mexico Valley where they established their capital Tenochtitlan, in 1345, making it amongst largest towns at the start of the sixteenth century. In 1325, legend has it the Aztec people had been wandering around the desert, and when they found Lake Texcoco, it was regarded as their sign where they should settle down. This sign showed two snakes fighting against an eagle that has landed on a cactus. This was a push factor that made the Aztecs search for their capital city.

They put up their capital city Tenochtitlan on a spit of land that lay in the western part of Lake Texcoco. These were tall mountains that encircled a lake with marshes around it engulfing the city within themselves. The Aztecs drove piles into the marshes and made small areas of land called Chinampas which are also called floating gardens giving them space for living and plantations. Tenochtitlan had developed sophisticated infrastructure such as the causeway-canals that linked the islands and served the purposes of transport, aqueduct for fresh water, and sewer for refuse. With time the city grew into a large town ruled by a master with nobles, priesthoods, warriors, and merchants under his orders. Even by the beginning of the 16th century, Tenochtitlan had a dazzling display of pyramids, temples, palaces, and plazas.

The gods

To the Aztecs, the sun was highly revered as there were several cosmological ages or suns, which passed by the world before the dawning age. Each world eventually burned, making way for a new one until at last the fifth and the current day reached for the Aztec’s. In the popular sun stone and other references, it was shown that the universe had been through this process of cosmological evolution. As a way of honouring their gods, the Aztecs had parties, meals, songs, dances, and decorated statues during such times. Incensing, rich grave burials that were accompanied by other penances like blood-letting and animal sacrifices were also practiced in this period. The gods were appeased by sacrificing humans including the grown-ups and children. The gods were believed to cause problems like storms, droughts, etc. if they felt offended or angered by men. Usually, sacrificial victims were taken from the defeated side of the war and most prestigious offerings were brave warriors. The sacrifice itself could take three main forms: removal of the heart, decapitation of the victim, making the victim fight a one-on-one war with elite soldiers. There were also people who dressed up as the god and were killed at the end of the celebration.

The fall

The Aztec empire that ruled over a total population of around eleven million people was always troubled by occasional unrest that typically developed at times of changing monarchs in Tenochtitlan. Nevertheless, these uprisings were mercilessly repressed. Nonetheless, things started to get out of hand when Aztec lost considerably to Tlaxcala and Huexotzingo in 1515. Later on, after the coming of the Spanish some rebel states started fighting again to get their freedom back. On encountering the conquerors headed by Hernando Cortez, who had arrived in their splendid ships from the other world, the first approaches between Motecuzoma II, the Aztec ruler, had been kind and rich presents had been swapped. Such peace came tumbling down when a band of a few dozen Spanish soldiers were slaughtered at Tenochtitlan when Cortes was campaigning elsewhere in Veracruz. Disappointed by motecuzoma’s lack of intervention, the Aztecs revolted against him and installed a tlatoani called Cuitlahuac. This served to the advantage of Cortez and made him to return to the city in time to rescue to besieged Spanish troops. Nevertheless, he had to recede back at midnight of 30th of June, the so-called Night of Tears’. Then after the regrouping and getting help of the locals, Cortes returned back once again and laid his seize over the city of Mexico in 1521. The starving and sick Aztecs led by Cuauhtemoc eventually capitulated to Cortez’s men on this dreadful day for them (August 13, 1521). tenochtilan was looted and its monuments were demolished. Then arose the new capital of the colony of New Spain; ending the mesoamerican civilization that began with the olive tribe.


About the Creator

Lee Karanja

Curator of stories & articles that transport you to extraordinary places.

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  • Lee Karanja (Author)3 months ago


  • Elaine Sihera3 months ago

    A very informative and interesting post. I learned a lot! Great writing.

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