The Aztecs were an American Indian people who ruled a mighty empire in Mexico from the 1400's to the 1500's. The Aztecs had one of the most advanced civilizations in the Americas and built cities as large as any in Europe at that time. They also practiced a remarkable religion that affected every part of their lives and featured human sacrifice. The Aztecs built towering temples, created huge sculptures, and held impressive ceremonies all for the purpose of worshipping their gods. The Spaniards destroyed their magnificent empire in the year 1521, but the Aztecs left a lasting mark on Mexican life and culture .
The majority of the Aztecs lived in what is now called the Valley of Mexico. Located at an elevation of over 7,000 feet, the large valley has housed many great cities. From the massive pyramids of Tenochtitlan, to the inhabitants of the vast hub of modern Mexico City, the great valley has been the heartland of many empires . The mighty Aztecs were the last indigenous group of people to enter the Valley of Mexico. Like many other pre-Columbian cultures, the Aztecs developed their own political system, religion, social structure, agricultural techniques, lifestyle and worldview . The Aztecs were truly unique.
The early Aztecs were semi-nomadic hunters and farmers. According to legend, in about 1000 AD the Aztecs left their mythic, island homeland of Aztlan in the desert frontiers of northern Mexico to begin their 100-year migration south to the Valley of Mexico. Led by their powerful patron god, Huiziloposhtli, they continued their migration southward, stopping along the way to plant crops, to build temples for their gods, and to offer human sacrifices in their honor . From groups they encountered as they traveled, the Aztecs adopted new customs and traditions. The Aztecs were becoming a very religious people.
When the Aztecs reached the Valley of Mexico in about 1193, this fertile inland basin was already heavily populated and little land was left for them to colonize. The Aztecs appeared rude and uncivilized to the members of the older city-states that clustered around the basin . For about another 100 years they continued to look for a permanent home. As they continued their search they served as mercenary soldiers and servants for their powerful neighbors. They continued to absorb the traditions, manners, and customs of the more advanced and established communities that surrounded them. As the Aztecs grew in number, they established superior military and civil organizations.
According to the famous legend, the Aztecs finally settled at a spot where an eagle sat upon a cactus eating a snake. This was a sign foretold by their patron god. The sign, found by the priests, finally appeared on a small island in Lake Texcoco. By 1325, on the island, the Aztecs built a temple to Huitziposhtli...