Amazing History – 101 Facts… Aztecs!
Over 101 amazing facts about the awesome Aztecs. It contains facts, great images and videos that show us more about the Aztec Empire and the society it was built upon.
Learn more about the Aztecs:
- Ten Essential Facts You Need to Know About the Aztecs!
- Eight Reasons the Aztecs Lost Their Empire.
- Human sacrifice – 10 Aztec sacrifice facts!
The Aztecs were one of the three most advanced and dominant civilizations in the Americas before they were discovered by the Europeans. The other two were the Mayas and the Incas.
The Aztecs were family-oriented people. The family structure was very important to them.
Aztec Men Sharing a Meal (16th Century) by Peter Isotalo PD-Art
Fathers usually worked at various jobs outside the home such as farming, crafting or serving in the military.
Mothers usually stayed at home cooking food for the family. Aztec mothers also wove cloth for family clothing.
Aztec Woman Blowing on Maize (corn) before Cooking by Peter Isotalo PD-Art
Aztec children attended schools or stayed at home to help with household chores.
A detailed playlist of the videos is listed below.
- Summary of Aztecs – Aztec Essentials in 86 seconds by IP Factly
- 10 Aztec Sacrifice Facts – Aztec Human Sacrifice Essentials in 120 seconds by IP Factly
- The Aztec Empire Summary – by Sandra Alvarez
- Aztec Empire & Culture Interesting Facts, Anthropology 1 by PsycheTruth
- Aztec Empire & Culture Interesting Facts, Anthropology 2 by PsycheTruth
- Aztec Civilization by LearningHelp
- Tenochtitlan (The Impossible City) by John Fitz
Bathing rituals were an important part of Aztec daily life.
Wealthy people lived in luxurious houses made from stone or sun-dried brick with bathing rooms similar to a sauna.
The Aztec Ruins National Monument, USA by Lorax cc3.0
The poor lived in small huts with thatched roofs made from palm leaves.
The emperor of the Aztecs lived in a huge palace with several rooms and gardens.
Aztec women wore long skirts and blouses as part of their daily clothing.
The Dress Code of Aztec Women by Kamazotz
Aztec men wore loincloths and long capes.
In Aztec society, it was the responsibility of the wife to make clothes for the family.
Only Aztec nobles could wear clothing decorated with feathers.
Only the Aztec emperor could wear a turquoise-colored cloak.
Montezuma II – The Aztec Emperor by ntonio De Solis
Death was usually the punishment for breaking the Aztec clothing law.
Maize was important in the Aztec diet. They would grind it into flour to make tortillas. Squash and beans were also some of their favorite staples.
Aztec Feast – Illustration from the Florentine Codex (Late 16th Century) by Peter Isotalo PD-Art
Aside from fish, Aztecs also ate insects, dogs and even snakes!
The most valued Aztec food was the cocoa bean. The people used it to make chocolate.
Mayan Chef Forbids a Person to Touch a Can of Chocolate by Mayan civilisation
The word chocolate came from the Aztec word “chocolatl”.
Aside from chocolate, the Aztecs also gave us popcorn!
The law required all Aztec children to attend school – even slaves!
Schools in Aztec society were run by priests.
Aztec boys and girls attended separate schools. The girls were taught religion, rituals, songs and dances. They also learned how to cook and make clothing.
Boys learned about religion, farming and crafting such as pottery and feather-work. They were also trained how to fight as warriors.
Aztec Warriors as Shown in the Florentine Codex by anonymous PD-Art
Noble children went to special schools where they learned about the law, writing and engineering.
Aztec children learned early in life about manners and how they should behave. They were taught to respect the old and the sick.
The Daily Life of Aztecs by Anonymous
Aztec men got married around the age of twenty.
Weddings in Aztec society were arranged by matchmakers. Once the matchmaker had chosen a couple to be married, both parties had to agree and could not complain.
Slaves in Aztec society were treated well and could buy their way out of slavery.
Slaves who escaped their masters and made it to the Royal Palace would become freemen.
The oldest members of a family were respected and well taken care of in Aztec society.
The basic unit of Aztec society was the family.
In Aztec society structure, the family belonged to a larger group called a calpulli. This was like a clan or a small tribe. Most members of the calpulli were related to each other.
Calpulli – The Aztec Society Structure by Xuan Che cc2.0
Each calpulli had its own chief, school and a trade in which they specialized.
Calpullis belonged to a higher organization called the Alteptl or city-state.
In the Aztec society, slaves could possess their own slaves.
In English, calpulli means “big house”.
The Tecuhtli was a ruling class just below the emperor. It was made up of rulers from other city-states.
Nezahualpilli, ruler of Texcoco – An Example of Tecuhtli
The noble class of Aztec society was called Pipiltin. The new emperor would always come from this class.
Aztec merchants had their own social class where they were treated like the nobility. It was called Pochteca.
Pochteca – Illustration from the Florentine Codex
The common people in the Aztec society belonged to the Macahualtin.
The Aztec Empire was made up of city-states. Each city-state was ruled by a large city located at the center of the region.
The city-states were independent from Aztec rule as long as they paid tribute to the emperor.
The Aztec government was ruled by an emperor . The Aztecs called him Huey Tlatoani.
Monument of Aztec Leader Cuauhtémoc (Huey Tlatoani) by pacomexico cc2.0
A new emperor would spend four days fasting, meditating and worshipping the gods before he could lead the empire.
Huey Tlatoani held the ultimate power in the land. The Aztecs believed that he was appointed by the gods and had been given the divine right to rule.
Huey Tlatoani means “Great Speaker” in English.
Leaders of lesser cities were also called the Tlatoani of that city.
The second-in-command of the Aztec government was the Cihuacoatl. His job was to keep the empire running smoothly on a day-to-day basis.
The Statue of Cihuacoatl by Madman2001 cc3.0
In English, Cihuacoatl means “Female Snake”. Ironically, this office was always held by a man.
The Council of Four was another important part of the Aztec government. It was made up of generals and powerful men who were qualified to become the next emperor. They served as the emperor’s advisers.
The Aztecs also had priests, judges and other civic leaders serving in the government.
The Aztecs had a system called the “one-time forgiveness law”. Under this system, a citizen could confess a crime to a priest and be forgiven. This would only work if the criminal confessed his sins before he got caught.
The “one-time forgiveness law”, as its name suggests, could only be used once.
Acamapichtli was the first Huey Tlatoani of the Aztecs. He ascended to the throne in 1375 and ruled for nineteen years.
Acamapichtli, the First Aztec King (Reigned 1376–95) by Tovar PD-Art
Itzcoatl founded the Triple Alliance -a political and military agreement between the Aztecs, the Texcoco and the Tlacopan tribes of Mexico. He was the fourth emperor of the Aztecs.
Under the rule of Montezuma I, the Aztecs became the most powerful member of the Triple Alliance. The Aztec Empire was also expanded under his leadership.
Under Montezuma II the Aztec Empire reached its greatest size. Unfortunately he was also in charge when the Spanish arrived. The Spaniards killed Montezuma II and conquered the Aztec Empire.
The Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II by N. Mathew PD-Art
The capital of the Aztec Empire was the city of Tenochtitlan. This was where the emperor and most of the government leaders lived.
Tenochtitlan – The Capital of Aztec Empire by Hernan Cortes PD-Art
Historians believe that the city of Tenochtitlan had a population of 200,000 people during the rule of Montezuma II.
Tenochtitlan was located in what is now Mexico City.
Tenochtitlan was located on a swampy island in Lake Texcoco. The Aztecs were able to settle there because no one else wanted the swampy wasteland.
There were several canals throughout the city of Tenochtitlan. The canals served as roads that allowed people to easily travel around the city by boat.
Several temples to the Aztec gods were built at the center of the city. The largest was the pyramid called the Templo Mayor.
The Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan by Wolfgang Sauber cc3.0
The city of Tenochtitlan was divided into four zones and twenty districts.
To keep the city from flooding, the Aztecs built a ten-mile long dike alongside the city.
During festivals and holidays, almost 40,000 people would visit the marketplace of Tenochtitlan.
The sun played a major role in Aztec religion. Every morning, the Aztecs would perform rituals and sacrifices to give strength to the rising sun.
The Aztecs often called themselves “The People of the Sun”.
Huitzilopochtli was the most fearsome and most powerful of all Aztec gods. He was the god of the sun, war and sacrifice.
Representation of the Aztec (Mexica) god Huitzilopochtli by Ptcamn
Huitzilopochtli was also the patron god of Tenochtitlan.
Huitzilopochtli means “leaf-handed hummingbird” in English.
Tlaloc was the Aztec god of rain and water. He was often drawn with fangs and big goggle-like eyes.
Tlaloc, as shown in the late 16th century Codex Ríos by anonymous PD-Art
Quetzalcoatl was the Aztec god of life and wind. He was usually drawn as a serpent that could fly (closely resembling a dragon). Quetzalcoatl in English means “feathered-serpent”.
Quetzalcoatl – Aztec god of life and wind by anonymous PD-Art
In Aztec mythology, Tezcatlipoca was the rival of Quetzalcoatl. His name meant “smoking mirror”.
The Aztec god for agriculture was Chicomecoatl. She was usually drawn as a young girl carrying flowers or as a woman using the sun as a shield. Chicomecoatl means “seven snakes” in English.
Chicomecoatl in an illustration from Rig Veda Americanus by Tagishsimon
Experts believe that between 10,000 and 80,400 people were sacrificed during the four-day dedication ceremony for the Great Temple in 1487. There is much dispute about the actual number.
The Aztecs believed that heaven and hell had several levels.
Those who died in battle would go to the highest level of heaven while those who drowned would go to the underworld.
Xiuhmolpilli was the largest of all Aztec festivals. It was celebrated once every fifty-two years in order to prevent the end of the world. Xiuhmolpilli means “new fire” in English.
Xiuhmolpilli – Representation of a new fire ceremony by anonymous PD-Art
In the Xiuhmolpilli festival the Aztecs would destroy all of their household items.
The Aztecs went to war in order to take captives that they could use in their sacrifices.
The Aztecs spoke the language Nahuatl. You can still hear some of it today in Mexico. The words coyote, avocado, chili and chocolate come from the Nahuatl language.
The Aztecs did not have an alphabet. They used pictures called glyphs or pictographs to represent items, sounds or events.
Aztec Boturini Codex showing semasiological writing combined with glyph by Pirru PD-Art
An Aztec book is called a codex.
The Replica of Aztec Codex by Rosemania cc2.0
Many Aztec codices were more than thirty-three feet (ten meters) long!
In Aztec society, usually only the priests knew how to read and write.
The Aztecs had two calendars, the Tonalpohualli (day count) and the Xiuhpohualli (solar year).
The Tonalpohualli had 260 days. It was very sacred to the Aztecs as it divided the time equally among the various gods and kept the universe in balance.
Tonalpohualli Aztec Calendar by anonymous PD-Art
The Xiuhpohualli was used to track time. It had 365 days divided into eighteen months of twenty days each.
Aztec sun stone showing the 20 Days by Ancheta Wis cc2.5
If you do the math, you’ll notice that there were five days left off in the Xiuhpohualli calendar. For the Aztecs, these days were considered unlucky.
Every fifty-two years, the two calendars would start on the same day. This would signal the celebration of the Xiuhmolpilli.
The Aztecs built artificial islands called chinampas along swampy areas for agriculture. Many experts refer to chinampas as floating gardens.
Canals in Xochimilco, Chinampas by Gael Simon cc3.0
The Aztecs were expert engineers and architects. At the capital city of Tenochtitlan, they built two large aqueducts that carried fresh water from springs located almost three miles away!
Patolli was one of the most popular games among the Aztecs. It was a board game where players moved their pieces around the board by rolling dice.
Patolli as overseen by the god Macuilxochitl by Berkeley, University of California
Ullamalitzli was a ball game played on a court. The players had to pass a rubber ball around using their hips, shoulders, heads and knees.
The Game of Ullamalitzli as playing by Aztec Players by Maunus PD-Art
Ullamalitzli came from the Aztec word ulli, which means “rubber”.
Aztecs used music, poetry and sculpture to honor and praise their gods.
The Aztecs were also known for making breathtakingly beautiful and intricate mosaic masks. Great examples are the mosaic masks of Tezcatlipoca and Quetzalcoatl and the Aztec Serpent Mosaic. These works of art are currently on display at The British Museum in London.
The Mask of Aztec Deity Tezcatlipoca by Manuel de Corselas cc3.0
The Aztecs used a lot of symbolism and metaphor in their art. For instance, the hummingbird represented the sun god, the eagle represented the warrior and flowers represented the beauty of life. Aztec art was full of vivid colors and sophisticated designs.
Poetry was the highest form of art in Aztec culture. Poems were passed down verbally from generation to generation.
The Aztecs played various musical instruments such as flutes, whistles, shells and drums. They used music to ask the gods for rain or a good harvest.
Aztec potteries were known for their sophisticated designs and colors.
Feather-work was among the prized art of the Aztecs. Artists usually wove brightly colored feathers together to make beautiful headdresses and cloaks. Only the rich were allowed to wear feather-work items.
Feather-workers were called amanteca. They were one of the most respected classes in Aztec society.
Aztec warriors with feathered shields by anonymous PD-Art
The Aztecs were also fond of wearing jewelry made from gold, silver, copper, jade and obsidian. Jewelry made from precious metals and gemstones was reserved for the nobles.
The calendar stone is one of the most famous Aztec sculptures. It has a diameter of twelve feet (three and a half meters) and a weight of around twenty-four US tons (twenty-two metric tons).
Aztec Calendar Stone aka Monolith of the Stone of the Sun by El Comandante cc3.0
When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico in April of 1519, Montezuma II thought that he was the embodiment of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl.
Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico with 500 men, sixteen horses and some cannons. He founded a small settlement and created alliances with some of the local tribes.
The Spaniards carried several diseases that killed more than eighty percent of the people living in the Valley of Mexico. Some of these diseases were smallpox, influenza and malaria.
Though Montezuma II believed that Hernán Cortés was Quetzalcoatl, tensions mounted between the two parties and a war broke out.
Storming of the Teocalli by Cortez and His Troops by Emanuel Leutze PD-Art
Montezuma II was captured and killed by Hernán Cortés. Historians are not sure how or even why he was killed.
Hernán Cortés conquered the Aztec Empire after three months of intense fighting.
Hernán Cortés founded Mexico City on the ruins of Tenochtitlan. Today, Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world.