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Aztec Aztec, self name Culhua-Mexica, Nahuatl-speaking people who in the 15th and early 16th centuries ruled a large empire in what is now central and southern Mexico. The Aztecs are so called from Aztlán (“White Land”), an allusion to their origins, probably in northern Mexico. Aztec rule has been described by scholars as " hegemonic " or "indirect". The Aztecs left rulers of conquered cities in power so long as they agreed to pay semi-annual tribute to the Alliance, as well as supply military forces when needed for the Aztec war efforts. The Aztec Empire was peopled by a group that was once nomadic, the Mexicas. Their chroniclers told them that after their long journey from Aztlán, they found themselves to be outcasts, until they found the sign sent to them by their god Huitzilopochtli, and began to build their city. The Aztecs (/ ˈæztɛks /) were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from to The Aztec peoples included different ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to the 16th centuries. Aztec Learning System Login. Login. Password.

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Benchmark Education Company. Ancient Aztecs. Lorenz Educational Press. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia Limited. Retrieved April 17, Alexander Eds.

The American Indian Heritage Foundation. Boston, MA: Beacon Press. Paul Tice ed. Indians in the Americas. Book Tree.

Aztec Medicine, Health and Nutrition. New Brunswick : Rutgers University Press. Aztec History and Culture. The Rosen Publishing Group.

Chocolate: Food of the Gods. Greenwood Publishing Group. The History Channel. Retrieved May 18, The Aztec and Mayan Worlds. Tribal Directory. The Aztecs: New Perspectives.

Explore Mesolore. The Aztec Calendar Handbook. Aztec Calendar Handbook. For the broader use of the term, see the article on Aztec civilization.

Nahua peoples descended from Chichimec peoples who migrated to central Mexico from the north in the early 13th century. Early migrants settled the Basin of Mexico and surrounding lands by establishing a series of independent city-states.

Most of the existing settlements had been established by other indigenous peoples before the Mexica migration. These early city-states fought various small-scale wars with each other, but due to shifting alliances, no individual city gained dominance.

They entered the Basin of Mexico around the year , and by then most of the good agricultural land had already been claimed.

The Mexica served as mercenaries for Culhuacan. After the Mexica served Culhuacan in battle, the ruler appointed one of his daughters to rule over the Mexica.

According to mythological native accounts, the Mexica instead sacrificed her by flaying her skin, on the command of their god Xipe Totec.

The Mexica moved to an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco , where an eagle nested on a nopal cactus. The Mexica rose to prominence as fierce warriors and were able to establish themselves as a military power.

The importance of warriors and the integral nature of warfare in Mexica political and religious life helped propel them to emerge as the dominant military power prior to the arrival of the Spanish in The new Mexica city-state allied with the city of Azcapotzalco and paid tribute to its ruler, Tezozomoc.

Until this point, the Mexica ruler was not recognized as a legitimate king. Mexica leaders successfully petitioned one of the kings of Culhuacan to provide a daughter to marry into the Mexica line.

Their son, Acamapichtli , was enthroned as the first tlatoani of Tenochtitlan in the year While the Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco expanded their rule with help from the Mexica, the Acolhua city of Texcoco grew in power in the eastern portion of the lake basin.

Eventually, war erupted between the two states, and the Mexica played a vital role in the conquest of Texcoco. By then, Tenochtitlan had grown into a major city and was rewarded for its loyalty to the Tepanecs by receiving Texcoco as a tributary province.

Mexica warfare, from it's tactics to arms, was marked by a focus on capturing enemies rather than killing them. Capturing enemies was important for religious ritual and provided a means by which soldiers could distinguish themselves during campaigns.

In , the Tepanec king Tezozomoc died, [19] [20] [21] and the resulting succession crisis precipitated a civil war between potential successors.

But his son, Maxtla , soon usurped the throne and turned against factions that opposed him, including the Mexica ruler Chimalpopoca.

The latter died shortly thereafter, possibly assassinated by Maxtla. The new Mexica ruler Itzcoatl continued to defy Maxtla; he blockaded Tenochtitlan and demanded increased tribute payments.

Nezahualcoyotl recruited military help from the king of Huexotzinco , and the Mexica gained the support of a dissident Tepanec city, Tlacopan.

In , Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, Tlacopan, and Huexotzinco went to war against Azcapotzalco, emerging victorious in After the war, Huexotzinco withdrew, and in , [1] the three remaining cities formed a treaty known today as the Triple Alliance.

Land acquired from these conquests was to be held by the three cities together. Tribute was to be divided so that two-fifths each went to Tenochtitlan and Texcoco, and one-fifth went to Tlacopan.

Each of the three kings of the alliance in turn assumed the title "huetlatoani" "Elder Speaker", often translated as "Emperor". In this role, each temporarily held a de jure position above the rulers of other city-states "tlatoani".

In the next years, the Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan came to dominate the Valley of Mexico and extend its power to the shores of the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific.

Tenochtitlan gradually became the dominant power in the alliance. Two of the primary architects of this alliance were the half-brothers Tlacaelel and Moctezuma , nephews of Itzcoatl.

Moctezuma eventually succeeded Itzcoatl as the Mexica huetlatoani in Tlacaelel occupied the newly created title of " Cihuacoatl ", equivalent to something between "Prime Minister" and "Viceroy".

Shortly after the formation of the Triple Alliance, Itzcoatl and Tlacopan instigated sweeping reforms on the Aztec state and religion. It has been alleged that Tlacaelel ordered the burning of some or most of the extant Aztec books, claiming that they contained lies and that it was "not wise that all the people should know the paintings".

After Moctezuma I succeeded Itzcoatl as the Mexica emperor, more reforms were instigated to maintain control over conquered cities.

A new imperial tribute system established Mexica tribute collectors that taxed the population directly, bypassing the authority of local dynasties.

Nezahualcoyotl also instituted a policy in the Acolhua lands of granting subject kings tributary holdings in lands far from their capitals. Some rebellious kings were replaced by calpixqueh , or appointed governors rather than dynastic rulers.

Moctezuma issued new laws that further separated nobles from commoners and instituted the death penalty for adultery and other offenses.

Moctezuma also created a new title called "quauhpilli" that could be conferred on commoners. In some rare cases, commoners that received this title married into royal families and became kings.

One component of this reform was the creation of an institution of regulated warfare called the Flower Wars. Mesoamerican warfare overall is characterized by a strong preference for capturing live prisoners as opposed to slaughtering the enemy on the battlefield, which was considered sloppy and gratuitous.

The Flower Wars are a potent manifestation of this approach to warfare. These highly ritualized wars ensured a steady, healthy supply of experienced Aztec warriors as well as a steady, healthy supply of captured enemy warriors for sacrifice to the gods.

Flower wars were pre-arranged by officials on both sides and conducted specifically for the purpose of each polity collecting prisoners for sacrifice.

After the defeat of the Tepanecs, Itzcoatl and Nezahualcoyotl rapidly consolidated power in the Basin of Mexico and began to expand beyond its borders.

The Aztecs did not have a fully developed writing system like the Maya, however like the Maya and Zapotec, they did use a writing system that combined logographic signs with phonetic syllable signs.

Logograms would, for example, be the use of an image of a mountain to signify the word tepetl, "mountain", whereas a phonetic syllable sign would be the use of an image of a tooth tlantli to signify the syllable tla in words unrelated to teeth.

The combination of these principles allowed the Aztecs to represent the sounds of names of persons and places.

Narratives tended to be represented through sequences of images, using various iconographic conventions such as footprints to show paths, temples on fire to show conquest events, etc.

Epigrapher Alfonso Lacadena has demonstrated that the different syllable signs used by the Aztecs almost enabled the representation of all the most frequent syllables of the Nahuatl language with some notable exceptions , [] but some scholars have argued that such a high degree of phoneticity was only achieved after the conquest when the Aztecs had been introduced to the principles of phonetic writing by the Spanish.

The image to right demonstrates the use of phonetic signs for writing place names in the colonial Aztec Codex Mendoza. Song and poetry were highly regarded; there were presentations and poetry contests at most of the Aztec festivals.

There were also dramatic presentations that included players, musicians and acrobats. There were several different genres of cuicatl song : Yaocuicatl was devoted to war and the god s of war, Teocuicatl to the gods and creation myths and to adoration of said figures, xochicuicatl to flowers a symbol of poetry itself and indicative of the highly metaphorical nature of a poetry that often utilized duality to convey multiple layers of meaning.

A key aspect of Aztec poetics was the use of parallelism, using a structure of embedded couplets to express different perspectives on the same element.

For example, the Nahuatl expression for "poetry" was in xochitl in cuicatl a dual term meaning "the flower, the song".

A remarkable amount of this poetry survives, having been collected during the era of the conquest. In some cases poetry is attributed to individual authors, such as Nezahualcoyotl , tlatoani of Texcoco, and Cuacuauhtzin , Lord of Tepechpan, but whether these attributions reflect actual authorship is a matter of opinion.

The Aztecs produced ceramics of different types. Common are orange wares, which are orange or buff burnished ceramics with no slip.

Red wares are ceramics with a reddish slip. Very common is "black on orange" ware which is orange ware decorated with painted designs in black.

Aztec I is characterized by floral designs and day- name glyphs; Aztec II is characterized by a stylized grass design above calligraphic designs such as s-curves or loops; Aztec III is characterized by very simple line designs; Aztec four continues some pre-Columbian designs but adds European influenced floral designs.

There were local variations on each of these styles, and archeologists continue to refine the ceramic sequence.

Typical vessels for everyday use were clay griddles for cooking comalli , bowls and plates for eating caxitl , pots for cooking comitl , molcajetes or mortar-type vessels with slashed bases for grinding chilli molcaxitl , and different kinds of braziers, tripod dishes and biconical goblets.

Vessels were fired in simple updraft kilns or even in open firing in pit kilns at low temperatures. Aztec painted art was produced on animal skin mostly deer , on cotton lienzos and on amate paper made from bark e.

The surface of the material was often first treated with gesso to make the images stand out more clearly.

The art of painting and writing was known in Nahuatl by the metaphor in tlilli, in tlapalli - meaning "the black ink, the red pigment".

There are few extant Aztec painted books. Of these none are conclusively confirmed to have been created before the conquest, but several codices must have been painted either right before the conquest or very soon after - before traditions for producing them were much disturbed.

Even if some codices may have been produced after the conquest, there is good reason to think that they may have been copied from pre-Columbian originals by scribes.

The Codex Borbonicus is considered by some to be the only extant Aztec codex produced before the conquest - it is a calendric codex describing the day and month counts indicating the patron deities of the different time periods.

After the conquest, codices with calendric or religious information were sought out and systematically destroyed by the church - whereas other types of painted books, particularly historical narratives and tribute lists continued to be produced.

Sculptures were carved in stone and wood, but few wood carvings have survived. In Aztec artwork a number of monumental stone sculptures have been preserved, such sculptures usually functioned as adornments for religious architecture.

The Coyolxauhqui Stone representing the dismembered goddess Coyolxauhqui , found in , was at the foot of the staircase leading up to the Great Temple in Tenochtitlan.

The most well known examples of this type of sculpture are the Stone of Tizoc and the Stone of Motecuzoma I , both carved with images of warfare and conquest by specific Aztec rulers.

Many smaller stone sculptures depicting deities also exist. The style used in religious sculpture was rigid stances likely meant to create a powerful experience in the onlooker.

An especially prized art form among the Aztecs was featherwork - the creation of intricate and colorful mosaics of feathers, and their use in garments as well as decoration on weaponry, war banners, and warrior suits.

The class of highly skilled and honored craftsmen who created feather objects was called the amanteca , [] named after the Amantla neighborhood in Tenochtitlan where they lived and worked.

The Florentine Codex gives information about how feather works were created. The amanteca had two ways of creating their works. One was to secure the feathers in place using agave cord for three-dimensional objects such as fly whisks, fans, bracelets, headgear and other objects.

The second and more difficult was a mosaic type technique, which the Spanish also called "feather painting. Feather mosaics were arrangements of minute fragments of feathers from a wide variety of birds, generally worked on a paper base, made from cotton and paste, then itself backed with amate paper, but bases of other types of paper and directly on amate were done as well.

These works were done in layers with "common" feathers, dyed feathers and precious feathers. First a model was made with lower quality feathers and the precious feathers found only on the top layer.

The adhesive for the feathers in the Mesoamerican period was made from orchid bulbs. Feathers from local and faraway sources were used, especially in the Aztec Empire.

The feathers were obtained from wild birds as well as from domesticated turkeys and ducks, with the finest quetzal feathers coming from Chiapas, Guatemala and Honduras.

These feathers were obtained through trade and tribute. Due to the difficulty of conserving feathers, fewer than ten pieces of original Aztec featherwork exist today.

Mexico City was built on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, gradually replacing and covering the lake, the island and the architecture of Aztec Tenochtitlan.

This meant that aspects of Aztec culture and the Nahuatl language continued to expand during the early colonial period as Aztec auxiliary forces made permanent settlements in many of the areas that were put under the Spanish crown.

The Aztec ruling dynasty continued to govern the indigenous polity of San Juan Tenochtitlan, a division of the Spanish capital of Mexico City, but the subsequent indigenous rulers were mostly puppets installed by the Spanish.

Other former Aztec city states likewise were established as colonial indigenous towns, governed by a local indigenous gobernador. This office was often initially held by the hereditary indigenous ruling line, with the gobernador being the tlatoani , but the two positions in many Nahua towns became separated over time.

Indigenous governors were in charge of the colonial political organization of the Indians. In particular they enabled the continued functioning of the tribute and obligatory labor of commoner Indians to benefit the Spanish holders of encomiendas.

Encomiendas were private grants of labor and tribute from particular indigenous communities to particular Spaniards, replacing the Aztec overlords with Spanish.

In the early colonial period some indigenous governors became quite rich and influential and were able to maintain positions of power comparable to that of Spanish encomenderos.

After the arrival of the Europeans in Mexico and the conquest, indigenous populations declined significantly.

This was largely the result of the epidemics of viruses brought to the continent against which the natives had no immunity. In —, an outbreak of smallpox swept through the population of Tenochtitlan and was decisive in the fall of the city ; further significant epidemics struck in and There has been no general consensus about the population size of Mexico at the time of European arrival.

Early estimates gave very small population figures for the Valley of Mexico, in Kubler estimated a figure , Their very high figure has been highly criticized for relying on unwarranted assumptions.

Although the Aztec empire fell, some of its highest elites continued to hold elite status in the colonial era.

The principal heirs of Moctezuma II and their descendants retained high status. His son Pedro Moctezuma produced a son, who married into Spanish aristocracy and a further generation saw the creation of the title, Count of Moctezuma.

From to , the Viceroy of Mexico was held the title of count of Moctezuma. In , the holder of the title became a Grandee of Spain.

The different Nahua peoples, just as other Mesoamerican indigenous peoples in colonial New Spain, were able to maintain many aspects of their social and political structure under the colonial rule.

The Spanish recognized the indigenous elites as nobles in the Spanish colonial system, maintaining the status distinction of the pre-conquest era, and used these noblemen as intermediaries between the Spanish colonial government and their communities.

This was contingent on their conversion to Christianity and continuing loyalty to the Spanish crown. Colonial Nahua polities had considerable autonomy to regulate their local affairs.

The Spanish rulers did not entirely understand the indigenous political organization, but they recognized the importance of the existing system and their elite rulers.

They reshaped the political system utilizing altepetl or city-states as the basic unit of governance. In the colonial era, altepetl were renamed cabeceras or "head towns" although they often retained the term altepetl in local-level, Nahuatl-language documentation , with outlying settlements governed by the cabeceras named sujetos , subject communities.

In cabeceras , the Spanish created Iberian-style town councils, or cabildos , which usually continued to function as the elite ruling group had in the pre-conquest era.

Indigenous populations living in sparsely populated areas were resettled to form new communities, making it easier for them to brought within range of evangelization efforts, and easier for the colonial state to exploit their labor.

Today the legacy of the Aztecs lives on in Mexico in many forms. Archeological sites are excavated and opened to the public and their artifacts are prominently displayed in museums.

Place names and loanwords from the Aztec language Nahuatl permeate the Mexican landscape and vocabulary, and Aztec symbols and mythology have been promoted by the Mexican government and integrated into contemporary Mexican nationalism as emblems of the country.

During the 19th century, the image of the Aztecs as uncivilized barbarians was replaced with romanticized visions of the Aztecs as original sons of the soil, with a highly developed culture rivaling the ancient European civilizations.

When Mexico became independent from Spain, a romanticized version of the Aztecs became a source of images that could be used to ground the new nation as a unique blend of European and American.

Aztec culture and history has been central to the formation of a Mexican national identity after Mexican independence in In 17th and 18th century Europe, the Aztecs were generally described as barbaric, gruesome and culturally inferior.

Intellectuals utilized Aztec writings , such as those collected by Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl , and writings of Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc , and Chimalpahin to understand Mexico's indigenous past in texts by indigenous writers.

This search became the basis for what historian D. Brading calls "creole patriotism. He wrote it expressly to defend Mexico's indigenous past against the slanders of contemporary writers, such as Pauw, Buffon, Raynal, and William Robertson.

Unearthed were the famous calendar stone, as well as a statue of Coatlicue. A decade later, German scientist Alexander von Humboldt spent a year in Mexico, during his four-year expedition to Spanish America.

One of his early publications from that period was Views of the Cordilleras and Monuments of the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas.

In the realm of religion, late colonial paintings of the Virgin of Guadalupe have examples of her depicted floating above the iconic nopal cactus of the Aztecs.

Juan Diego , the Nahua to whom the apparition was said to appear, links the dark Virgin to Mexico's Aztec past. When New Spain achieved independence in and became a monarchy, the First Mexican Empire , its flag had the traditional Aztec eagle on a nopal cactus.

The eagle had a crown, symbolizing the new Mexican monarchy. In the s, when the French established the Second Mexican Empire under Maximilian of Habsburg , the Mexican flag retained the emblematic eagle and cactus, with elaborate symbols of monarchy.

After the defeat of the French and their Mexican collaborators, the Mexican Republic was re-established, and the flag returned to its republican simplicity.

Tensions within post-independence Mexico pitted those rejecting the ancient civilizations of Mexico as source of national pride, the Hispanistas , mostly politically conservative Mexican elites, and those who saw them as a source of pride, the Indigenistas , who were mostly liberal Mexican elites.

Although the flag of the Mexican Republic had the symbol of the Aztecs as its central element, conservative elites were generally hostile to the current indigenous populations of Mexico or crediting them with a glorious prehispanic history.

With Santa Anna's overthrow in , Mexican liberals and scholars interested in the indigenous past became more active.

Liberals were more favorably inclined to the indigenous populations and their history, but considered a pressing matter being the "Indian Problem.

The late nineteenth century in Mexico was a period in which Aztec civilization became a point of national pride.

His policies opening Mexico to foreign investors and modernizing the country under a firm hand controlling unrest, "Order and Progress," undermined Mexico's indigenous populations and their communities.

In world's fairs of the late nineteenth century, Mexico's pavilions included a major focus on its indigenous past, especially the Aztecs.

Mexican scholars such as Alfredo Chavero helped shape the cultural image of Mexico at these exhibitions. The Mexican Revolution — and significant participation of indigenous people in the struggle in many regions, ignited a broad government-sponsored political and cultural movement of indigenismo , with symbols of Mexico's Aztec past becoming ubiquitous, most especially in Mexican muralism of Diego Rivera.

In their works, Mexican authors such as Octavio Paz and Agustin Fuentes have analyzed the use Aztec symbols by the modern Mexican state, critiquing the way it adopts and adapts indigenous culture to political ends, yet they have also in their works made use of the symbolic idiom themselves.

Paz for example critiqued the architectural layout of the National Museum of Anthropology , which constructs a view of Mexican history as culminating with the Aztecs, as an expression of a nationalist appropriation of Aztec culture.

Scholars in Europe and the United States increasingly wanted investigations into Mexico's ancient civilizations, starting in the nineteenth century.

Humboldt had been extremely important bringing ancient Mexico into broader scholarly discussions of ancient civilizations.

It was Humboldt…who woke us from our sleep. Although not directly connected with the Aztecs, it contributed to the increased interest in ancient Mexican studies in Europe.

English aristocrat Lord Kingsborough spent considerable energy in their pursuit of understanding of ancient Mexico. Kingsborough answered Humboldt's call for the publication of all known Mexican codices, publishing nine volumes of Antiquities of Mexico — that were richly illustrated, bankrupting him.

He was not directly interested in the Aztecs, but rather in proving that Mexico had been colonized by Jews. In the United States in the early nineteenth century, interest in ancient Mexico propelled John Lloyd Stephens to travel to Mexico and then publish well-illustrated accounts in the early s.

But the research of a half-blind Bostonian, William Hickling Prescott , into the Spanish conquest of Mexico resulted in his highly popular and deeply researched The Conquest of Mexico His resulting work was a mixture of pro- and anti-Aztec attitudes.

In the assessment of Benjamin Keen , Prescott's history "has survived attacks from every quarter, and still dominates the conceptions of the laymen, if not the specialist, concerning Aztec civilization.

One entire work was devoted to ancient Mexico, half of which concerned the Aztecs. It was a work of synthesis drawing on Ixtlilxochitl and Brasseur de Bourbourg, among others.

When the International Congress of Americanists was formed in Nancy, France in , Mexican scholars became active participants, and Mexico City has hosted the biennial multidisciplinary meeting six times, starting in Mexico's ancient civilizations have continued to be the focus of major scholarly investigations by Mexican and international scholars.

The Nahuatl language is today spoken by 1. Mexican Spanish today incorporates hundreds of loans from Nahuatl, and many of these words have passed into general Spanish use, and further into other world languages.

In Mexico, Aztec place names are ubiquitous, particularly in central Mexico where the Aztec empire was centered, but also in other regions where many towns, cities and regions were established under their Nahuatl names, as Aztec auxiliary troops accompanied the Spanish colonizers on the early expeditions that mapped New Spain.

In this way even towns, that were not originally Nahuatl speaking came to be known by their Nahuatl names. Mexican cuisine continues to be based on staple elements of Mesoamerican cooking and, particularly, of Aztec cuisine : corn, chili, beans, squash, tomato, avocado.

Many of these staple products continue to be known by their Nahuatl names, carrying in this way ties to the Aztec people who introduced these foods to the Spaniards and to the world.

Through spread of ancient Mesoamerican food elements, particularly plants, Nahuatl loan words chocolate , tomato , chili , avocado , tamale , taco , pupusa , chipotle , pozole , atole have been borrowed through Spanish into other languages around the world.

Today Aztec images and Nahuatl words are often used to lend an air of authenticity or exoticism in the marketing of Mexican cuisine. The idea of the Aztecs has captivated the imaginations of Europeans since the first encounters, and has provided many iconic symbols to Western popular culture.

The Aztecs and figures from Aztec mythology feature in Western culture. Knopf , insisted on a change of title. Aztec society has also been depicted in cinema.

It adopted the perspective of an Aztec scribe, Topiltzin, who survived the attack on the temple of Tenochtitlan.

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Redirected from Aztec. For other uses, see Aztec disambiguation. Ethnic group of central Mexico and its civilization.

Main article: History of the Aztecs. Main article: Aztec Empire. Main article: Spanish conquest of the Aztec empire. Main articles: Class in Aztec society , Aztec society , and Aztec slavery.

Main article: Women in Aztec civilization. See also: Aztec Empire: Government. Main article: Mexico-Tenochtitlan.

Main article: Aztec religion. Main article: List of Aztec gods and supernatural beings. Main article: Aztec mythology. Main article: Aztec calendar.

Main article: Aztec writing. It was a highly structured society with a strict caste system; at the top were nobles, while at the bottom were serfs, indentured servants and enslaved workers.

The Aztec faith shared many aspects with other Mesoamerican religions, like that of the Maya , notably including the rite of human sacrifice.

The Aztec calendar, common in much of Mesoamerica, was based on a solar cycle of days and a ritual cycle of days; the calendar played a central role in the religion and rituals of Aztec society.

The first European to visit Mexican territory was Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba, who arrived in Yucatan from Cuba with three ships and about men in early In March , Cortes landed at the town of Tabasco , where he learned from the natives of the great Aztec civilization, then ruled by Moctezuma or Montezuma II.

Defying the authority of Velasquez, Cortes founded the city of Veracruz on the southeastern Mexican coast, where he trained his army into a disciplined fighting force.

Cortes and some soldiers then marched into Mexico, aided by a native woman known as Malinche, who served as a translator.

Thanks to instability within the Aztec empire, Cortes was able to form alliances with other native peoples, notably the Tlascalans, who were then at war with Montezuma.

Though the Aztecs had superior numbers, their weapons were inferior, and Cortes was able to immediately take Montezuma and his entourage of lords hostage, gaining control of Tenochtitlan.

The Spaniards then murdered thousands of Aztec nobles during a ritual dance ceremony, and Montezuma died under uncertain circumstances while in custody.

Closely entwined with Aztec religion was the calendar, on which the elaborate round of rituals and ceremonies that occupied the priests was based. The Aztec calendar was the one common to much of Mesoamerica, and it comprised a solar year of days and a sacred year of days; the two yearly cycles running in parallel produced a larger cycle of 52 years.

The Aztec empire was still expanding, and its society still evolving, when its progress was halted in by the appearance of Spanish explorers.

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