10 Most-Asked Questions About the Aztecs!

Aztec woman blowing on maize (corn) before putting it into the cooking pot so it will not fear the fire. Florentine Codex I, fol 347 right, Late 16th century, PD image.

10 Most-Asked Questions About the Aztecs

1. Who Were the Aztecs?

Human sacrifice as shown in the Codex Magliabechiano, PD image.

The Aztecs were a group of people who lived over 700 years ago in what we now call central Mexico. They were a well-established society that spoke a language called Nahuatl, and developed advanced education, law and order and infrastructures. The Aztecs were fierce warriors and made enemies of tribes that lived close to them, this was compounded by their most famous of rituals — human sacrifice. They killed people in a sacrificial and ceremonial manor to appease their gods, which they believed to be hungry for human blood.

2. What Did the Aztecs Eat?

Aztec woman blowing on maize (corn) before putting it into the cooking pot so it will not fear the fire. Florentine Codex I, fol 347 right, Late 16th century, PD image.

The Aztecs ate a rich and varied diet. Maize was the main food product they produced; it was turned into tortillas (flat bread) and tacos (crisp fried shells) which were filled with meat and vegetables. The Aztecs also used maize to make drinks.

They grew vegetables, including beans and squash, tomatoes, potatoes, sweet potatoes, limes and chilies. For meat they kept turkeys, dogs and ducks. They also ate insects such as grasshoppers and worms.

The Aztecs are also famous for their love of chocolate. It was mostly consumed as a drink and would have been bitter in comparison to the sweet chocolate we enjoy today.

Globally, people now enjoy much of the Aztec diet and it is known as Mexican food, especially the tortillas and tacos.

3. What Did the Aztecs Wear?

Varieties of clothing worn by Aztec men, before the Spanish conquest. a: young wearing only a maxtlatl b: common people(Macehualtin)dress c: noble(Pipiltin) or high ranking warrior dress d: ruling classes and the clergy e: less common way to wear the tilmatli f: war dress.

The Aztecs’ clothes were an important symbol of status within society. The higher up the social ladder you were, the more material, colors and extravagance you could afford. Those who were extremely rich and well-respected were able to wear clothes made out of feathers.

The poorer people in the Aztec society wore little more than a loincloth; even this could make a statement, though. A loin cloth with any color or stitching added was an illustration that the wearer was not the poorest in society.

4. Where Were the Aztecs From?

This unusual 1704 map, drawn by Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri, is the first published representation of the legendary Aztec migration from Aztlan, a mysterious paradise somewhere to the northwest of Mexico, to Chapultepec Hill, currently Mexico City, PD image.

It is believed that the Aztec people originally came from a legendary place called Aztlan, although its exact location is debated by historians. It is thought likely to have been in northwest Mexico or the southwest US. It is estimated that the first time Nahuatl was spoken in central Mexico was as far back as the 6th century. The people known as the Mexica traveled as nomads around Mexico until they settled down.

5. Where Was the Aztec Civilization Located?

Aztec glyphs for the member-states of the Aztec Triple Alliance: Texcoco (left), Tenochtitlan (middle), and Tlacopan (right). By XcepticZP, PD image.

The nomad Aztec culture had a legend that stated their destined place to settle would be where an eagle was seen sitting on a cactus while holding a snake. An Aztec priest saw this vision alongside Lake Texcoco. This was therefore where the Aztecs finally settled and built their first city.

The Aztec empire eventually spread over three main cities, which became known as the Triple Alliance. These included the Mexica of Tenochtitlán, Acolhua of Texcoco and the Tepaneca of Tlacopan.

6. What Was the Name of the Aztecs’ Capital City?

Page of book published in 1524, belonging to the Newberry Library in Chicago, it shows a map of Tenochtitlan (right) and a diagram of the Gulf of Mexico. Author: an escort of Hernán Cortés. PD image.

The capital city of the Aztecs was the first city that they built on Lake Texcoco. It was called Tenochtitlán. After many years of living as nomads and having to adapt to different environments, the Aztec people knew how to work with their surroundings to succeed. The swamp that they built their city on was not technically ideal and provided many challenges. The land in which they lived was very boggy and wet and they had to build infrastructure to hold back, channel and control the water.

The conditions were, however, perfect for growing horticulture and the Aztecs took advantage of this. They grew plants that they used for medicine and had an abundance of fruit and vegetables. They built canoes so that the fishermen could make the most of the rich availability of food within the waters of the lake.

Today, the capital of Mexico is called Mexico City and is built on the ruins of this ancient Aztec city.

7. Who Ruled the Aztecs?

Once the Aztecs settled, they developed a complex social class system and government. It was similar to the monarchy with a king or emperor at the top of the hierarchy. The Aztecs called their king the Huey Tlatoani. It was believed that their leader was selected by the gods. A new emperor would always be related to his predecessor and would be chosen by high-level nobles.

8. When Were the Aztecs the Dominant Civilization?

After they settled, the Aztecs’ empire and power grew. In 1440, their fifth emperor was appointed; he was called Montezuma I. His rule marked the beginning of what historians see as the height of the Aztec civilization. From this time until 1510, four more kings reigned, including Moctezuma II, who was the ninth ruler and is the king most associated with the Aztecs. He ruled from 1502 to 1520.

9. Who Conquered the Aztecs?

“The Conquest of Tenochtitlán” — from the Conquest of México series.
Unknown artists; Mexico; second half of 17th century; oil on canvas. Representing the 1521 Fall of Tenochtitlan, in the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire. Jay I. Kislak Collection; Rare Book and Special Collections Division (26.2).

In 1519, the Spanish conquistadors arrived in Mexico, and after a two-year war they eventually defeated the Aztecs. Their leader was called Cortés. The conquistadors were greedy men who wanted money and power. There were many different factors that led to the Spanish victory; one of the main reasons was that the Aztecs became unwell after being exposed to the smallpox virus and lost many of their people. The Spanish came with superior weapons and horses and made alliances with the Aztecs’ enemies. The Aztecs’ fate was sealed and by 1520 the Aztec Empire had been conquered.

10. What Happened to the Aztecs?

Evangelization of Mexico. Image credit: Enrique López-Tamayo Biosca cc2.0

After the Aztec society had been destroyed, the Aztecs were taken as slaves by the Spanish. They were treated very badly and many died of disease, malnutrition and mistreatment.

The Spanish wanted to change the native religion of Mexico, and built Christian cathedrals in the place of the Aztec temples. They also built a monastery where priests and monks would actively convert the natives. By working together with the Aztecs, the priests created books (called codexes) which recorded the lives and beliefs of the Aztec people. These have served as wonderful historical sources to help us understand the great Aztec culture.


AZTECS! Video Playlist.

A detailed playlist of the videos is listed below.

The Playlist:

  1. Speedy Summary of the Aztecs – Aztec Essentials in under 2 minutes by IP Factly
  2. 10 Aztec Sacrifice Facts – Aztec Human Sacrifice Essentials in 120 Seconds by IP Factly
  3. The Aztec Empire Summary – by Sandra Alvarez
  4. Aztec Empire & Culture Interesting Facts, Anthropology 1 by PsycheTruth
  5. Aztec Empire & Culture Interesting Facts, Anthropology 2 by PsycheTruth
  6. Aztec Civilization by LearningHelp
  7. Tenochtitlan (The Impossible City) by John Fitz

101 Facts… Aztecs!




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