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The Aztecs
A Policy Of Conquest
Aztec Society, Religion and Life
Cortes and the Spanish Conquest
Who were the Aztecs?
Nomadic people from the
northwestern United States
known as Aztlan, the Aztecs
ventured to Mexico because of
a vision
“Eagle on perched on a cactus,
eating a snake”
A small island in Lake Texcoco
will become the site of the
Aztecs capital city Tenochtitlan
in 1325
Surrounded by water, good soil
and protective bridges
A Policy of Conquest
1st ruler Acamapichtli, “Handful of Arrows” 1376-1396
guided early building of Tenochtitlan and launched first
conquest of the region
Conquests sought to obtain natural resources needed for
building materials, tools and prisoners for labor and
“Policy of Conquest” after conquering a region Aztecs allow
local leaders to stay in power but expect heavy tribute
Aztecs enter into a “Triple Alliance” with two powerful citystates, Texcoco and Tlacopan to expand into wealthy
farmlands outside of the Valley of Mexico
Aztec empire will expand over an area of 78,000 miles
A Policy of Conquest
“Policy of Conquest” led to
constant threat of rebellion
from concqueroed people
5th ruler, Montezuma I, “Angry
Lord, Archer of The Sky”,
Expanded the Aztec empire
more than any other emperor
through aggressive military
expansion for economic gains
Increased trade in cocoa,
rubber, cotton, fruits, feathers,
and seashells
Tenochtitlan, was an island
city covering an area of 5
miles surrounded by Lake
Canals were used as streets
and people traveled by
Aqueducts brought fresh
water and sewage was
carried out in barges
Palaces, a royal zoo,
gardens, city fountains, and
open market greeted vistors
Chinampas were man made
islands of plants, trees and
compacted lake mud
Served as floating
agricultural gardens that
provided food and a place
to live for commoners
Possessed a 365 day
calendar used to keep track
of seasonal events and a
260 day religious calendar
that used names for dates
Aztec Religion and Human
Believed in over 1,6000
gods who controlled every
aspect of Aztec life
Gods had to be pleased to
make sure that crops grew,
rain came and sun would
Believed gods had created
the world through sacrifice
and their blood
Aztec Religion and Human
Aztecs believed Huitzilopochtli,
god of war demanded blood and
human hearts for protection and
Warriors taken on battlefields
were treated as gods then
Hearts were removed and held
high for approval and bodies
were then thrown down steps
Aztec Society
Clothing determined social rank
Nobles wore sandals and clothes of cotton
Commoners wore clothes of coarse cloth
Jewelry also was regulated to show social rank
Education was highly valued but, wealthy received better
than the common Aztec
Diet consisted of beans, sweet potatoes, avocados, onions,
tomatoes, turkey and dog
Wealthy drank chocolatl and smoked tobacco
During periods of poor harvest commoners turned to eating,
worms, tadpoles, slugs, and other insects to survive
Montezuma II
9th ruler, Montezuma II, “Angry
Lord, The Younger”, 1502-1520
successful military ruler but
religiously superstitious
Prophecies stated that
Quetzalcoatl would return to
rule over Aztecs
Lived a life of luxury with a 100
wives in a palace considered an
architectural marvel
No one was allowed to look at
him or touch
The Last Rulers of Tenochtitlan
10th ruler, Cuitlahuac
ruled after Montezuma II
and died 80 days later of
11th ruler, Cuauhtemoc
1520-1525 Aztec empire
ends with destruction of
Tenochtitlan, and
hanging of Cuauhtemoc
by Spanish
Aztec Family Life
Land was farmed by a family
Additional land was granted
as families grew or if father
was a great warrior
Lazy families had land taken
from them
Parents and elders expected to
be respected
Children were punished by
being pricked with a spine,
beaten with a stick or forced
to inhale burning chili peppers
Aztec Warriors
Military training began at age
After killing or capturing four
opponents a warrior was given
land and allowed to wear
ceremonial clothes
Best became professional
soldiers called Eagle or Jaguar
warriors who became part of
Warfare was based on taking
prisoners and increasing land
Cortes and the Spanish Conquest
Hernan Cortes, Spanish
conquistador who ventures
to Mexico because of the
gold and silver
1519 leads a military
expedition to conqueror
Aztec empire
Cortes conquerors the
Tlaxcalan army of 50,000
with 400 Spaniards
Spanish steel, amour, and
the horse win the day
Cortes and the Spanish Conquest
Aztec enemies join Cortes
because it provides them the
opportunity to defeat the Aztecs
Spaniards make it clear that they
are there for gold and seize
Montezuma as a prisoner
During negotiations for
Montezuma’s freedom Aztec
warriors stone the Spanish
causing the death of Montezuma
(strangled by Spanish?)
Cortes and the Spanish Conquest
La Noche Triste, “Night of Sorrow” for Spanish when they
escaped Tenochtitlan but lost thousands of men
1519 smallpox and measles arrive with Spaniards and
spreads reducing Aztec population
December 1920 Cortes returns to attack Tenochtitlan with
a navy and is victorious after 3 months
Cortes used 13 warships and 200,000 canoes to attack the
500,000 people die during this battle due to disease,
polluted water or starvation
The Aztec empire is no more