The Aztec Empire dominated Mesoamerica from Mexico and Guatemala to the territories of Salvador and Honduras in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries for almost one hundred years. This was at the same time as the Inca Empire in Peru. The Aztec empire was made up of the native people who were called the Nahuatl-speakers and the Culhua-Mexico, who had come from the
Pacific Northwest and settled in the area which would become the capital of Mexico, Tenochtitlan.
The Aztecs began their reign in 1427 after the leader, Itzcoatl, with the assistance of surrounding cities, defeated the Tepanecs and gained control of the Mexican basin.
The Tenochcas slowly became more powerful and skilled in warfare, so that various peoples of the area wanted to become allies with them in the constant conflicts between the tribes. The
Tenochcas eventually became free under Itzacoatl 1428-1440), and they could continue to build their city, Tenochtitlan. With Itzacoatl's leadership, they built temples, roads, a causeway that
linked the city to the mainland, and they worked on their government and religious hierarchy. Leadership of the nation was passed on from brother to brother and then to the eldest son of the
eldest brother. Leaders were then chosen by religious leaders and people of political power, based on their skills on the battlefield and their ability to speak eloquently. Itzacoatl and the
chief who followed him Mocteuzma I (1440-1469) had wars in the Valley of Mexico and the southern regions of Vera Cruz, Guerrero, and Puebla. Because of these wars, Tenochtitlan grew rapidly in
size which required the need for an aqueduct system to bring water from the mainland. It also grew culturally as the Tenochcas took the gods of the region into their own religion.
Tenochtitlan was a beautiful and well-run city. The Aztecs used techniques from different cultures to build Tenochtitlan. There was a ceremonial plaza paved with stone.
They constructed lavish temples which were like the Mayan pyramids with terraced steps. Two of the temples were dedicated to their most important gods - the sun god, who was the god of war, and
the rain god. The city was built on five islands that were connected to the mainland by three causeways. They had canals instead of street, so people traveled within the city by canoe. When the
Spanish saw Tenochtitlan they called it "The Venice of the New World". At the height of Aztec civilization, around 1300-1500
CE, more than 200,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan. It was bigger
than any city in Europe at the time.