The Aztec Civilisation

The Aztec Civilisation

Aztec Civilisation (1325-1521)

Origins and Rise

  • The Aztec Empire was rooted in a tripartite alliance between the city-states of Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, and Tlacopan.
  • At its height in the early 16th century, it was the most dominant force in the region of present-day Mexico.
  • Its capital, Tenochtitlán, was a beautifully designed, bustling city built on Lake Texcoco.

Society and Culture

  • The Aztecs were highly agricultural and traded extensively, with a complex social hierarchy and a tradition of military conquest.
  • Their language, Nahuatl, remains spoken by some groups in Mexico today.
  • The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice as part of their religious rituals, a practice that shocked and horrified the Europeans. This created a negative image of savage and uncivilised people which has been often used to validate their conquest and subjugation.

Fall and Conquest

  • The arrival of the Spanish, led by Hernán Cortés in 1519, marked the beginning of the end for the Aztec Empire.
  • A combination of Spanish military technology, alliances with disgruntled native tribes, introduction of diseases like smallpox, and other factors led to the fall of the Empire in 1521.
  • The Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán was razed, and on its ruins, the Spanish built Mexico City, the capital of New Spain.


  • Despite its demise, the Aztec civilisation left a lasting impact on Mexico and the world.
  • Its historical glyphs, temples, and the ruins of Tenochtitlán reveal a lot about Aztec history, traditions, and culture.
  • The Aztec’s influence can be seen in many aspects of contemporary Mexican culture, such as food, language, and art.
  • The fall of the Aztec Empire symbolises the devastating impact of colonial conquest on indigenous cultures and societies.
  • Like Columbus, the image of Cortés is controversial, seen as a hero by some for spreading Christianity and civilisation, and as a symbol of oppression and destruction by others.