Aztec Empire (American Indians Ready Reference)
Article abstract: The greatest flowering of Mesoamerican culture, a militaristic civilization that stretched from Pacific to Atlantic
Legend records that the Nahuatl-speaking Aztecs (or, more accurately, the Culhua Mexica) founded the city of Tenochtitlán in 1325 on a small island in Lake Texcoco (the site of modern Mexico City) and a century later emerged as the last great imperial power of indigenous Mesoamerica. Aztec civilization evolved from the legacy of earlier Mesoamerican groups, especially the Teotihuacán and Tula cultures. A widespread commercial network linked Tenochtitlán with the Maya to the south and extended as far north as what is now the southwestern United States. Through strategic alliances, intimidation, and conquest, the Aztecs dominated central Mexico until the Aztec Empire fell victim to Hernán Cortés and his band of Spanish conquistadores and indigenous allies in 1519-1521.
According to their religious myths, the Mexica wandered southward into the valley of central Mexico, guided by their tribal god, Huitzilopochtli. Along the way, Huitzilopochtli’s priests began the rite of tearing palpitating hearts from the chests of sacrificial victims. They eventually reached Lake Texcoco and encountered peoples whose culture was more advanced. In fact, these sedentary peoples despised the Mexica as primitive barbarians, but found them useful as mercenaries. Clashes with the city of Culhuacán forced the...
(The entire section is 1585 words.)
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Aztec Empire (Magill’s Guide to Military History)
Article abstract: Military significance: The Aztec conquest state developed into the largest known Mesoamerican empire.
On the eve of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire in 1521, the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán was the seat of the largest and most powerful empire to dominate pre-Columbian Middle America. Its status was the product of a long history of conquest statecraft in the central highlands of Mexico. With the collapse of the classic period civilization and metropolis of Teotihuacan (250-750), the central highlands were overrun by competing economic and political claims to highland resources. Internecine warfare, hill forts, and unparalleled levels of ritualized human sacrifice turned the region into a virtual wasteland dominated by warrior elites. From this fractured political landscape of competing kingdoms arose the Toltecs (c. 850-1250) and, subsequently, the Aztecs (1425-1521).
From the outset, Aztec ascendancy was dominated by war and ritual sacrifice as the result of the volatile social and political environment that spawned the development of the Postclassic Period (c. 900-1521). Upon migrating into the Valley of Mexico in the late twelfth century, the Aztecs were quickly called on to deploy their superior hunting and fighting skills in the service of the warring kingdoms of the central highlands. As mercenaries, the Aztecs were without equal in ancient Mexico. Superior organization and marksmanship with...
(The entire section is 659 words.)