The Aztecs were an extremely powerful force in their day and were one of the last of the Native American civilizations. They were a northern Mexican tribe who built a huge empire that dominated what is now present day Mexico. This all came to an end when the Spanish conquest of the 16th century took place. Caesar Chavez led his fleet through Mexico until he reached what is now Mexico city and ransacked the city-center, officially ending the reign of the world’s largest empire of the day.
The Aztecs were able to thrive for 200 years through the 14th and 15th centuries and in that span of time developed fascinating bits of culture that we would love to share with you here.
The Aztecs Referred to Themselves As Mexica
While we refer to them as ‘Aztec,’ the people of the time would not have any idea what you were talking about. The word ‘Aztec’ refers to the “people of Aztlan, which was the ancestral home of the Aztecs. The Aztecs referred to themselves as ‘Mexica’ and spoke a language called Nahuatl.
One might assume that the language died out with the empire, but this is not quite the case. To this day some three million people continue to speak the indigenous language. Most all of these people are located in the central part of Mexico today.
The Aztec Gods Were Numerous
The Aztec people had over 200 deities within their belief system. The gods were divided into groups based on the relevancy of their day to day life. The groups included weather, agriculture, and warfare. The main god was called Huitzilopochtli, and he was associated with war and sacrifice.
Other prominent gods included Quetzacoatl who was the god of knowledge and wisdom, Tlaloc who was the god of rain, and were often displayed in common Aztec artwork and stonework.
Human Sacrifice and War Were A Large Part Of Culture
Ritual sacrifice was a very important part of Aztec culture. Small and large human sacrifices would be made throughout the year which coincided with important calendar dates, to dedicate to temples, to reverse the effects of drought, or to end famine. This was not done out of disrespect to humanity or their people. In fact, the Aztecs viewed it as a matter of survival.
This thinking came from the idea that the sun god Huitzilopochtli was waging a constant war against the darkness. If the darkness won, the world would come to an end. To continue keeping the sun moving across the sky, the Aztecs had to feed thim with human hearts and blood.
They Were Advanced
Despite their primitive technologies, the Aztecs evolved in many areas, such as architecture, astronomy, and art. They created complex agricultural systems called chinampas. They also developed large scale cultivation. Also, because their religion was so important to them, they constructed many great religious buildings.
The most notable temple is the large Templo de Mayor complex which rests at the heart of Tenochtitlan. A true vision to behold.