Aztec Civilization
Essential Question
How were both European and Native
American cultures changed after
European contact with the Aztecs?
SS6H1a: Describe the encounter and
consequences of the conflict between the Spanish
and the Aztecs and the roles of Cortes and
1200-1500 CE
1600 CE
300-900 CE
1100-1521 CE
• Location: Central
• Time Frame: 1100 CE
to 1521 CE
• Main City:
Tenochtitlán (present
day Mexico city)
The Legend of Tenochtitlán
(Based on Aztec mythology)
• The Aztec tribe lived in ancient Mexico for about 400 years. For the first
200 years, the Aztecs were constantly on the move. No one wanted the
Aztecs as neighbors because they practiced human sacrifice in order to
please the sun god.
• According to legend, the Aztec tribal god promised to show his people (the
Aztecs) the place they were to settle and build a great capital city.
• He told them to look for an eagle perched on a cactus on a rock with a
snake in its beak. This would be the sign that they had reached the place
that would be theirs.
• The Aztecs found this eagle located near Lake Texcoco. They then built
Tenochtitlán in either the year 1325 or 1345 (the actual date is uncertain)
Have you seen this symbol before?
The City of Tenochtitlan
• Aztecs greatest city – had
more than 200,000
• Located on an island on
Lake Texcoco
• Had waterways for major
• Causeways linked the city
to the mainland
• At the center was the
great plaza with the great
temple that was over 200
feet tall
The Great Temple
• Where human sacrifices
and offerings to the gods
took place.
• The Aztecs believed that if
they offered blood sacrifices
to their gods, this would
keep the sun alive and the
world would continue.
Aztec Society
• The Aztecs were divided into
clans (called Calpullis) which
were large family groups
• The clan was the basis of all
Aztec society and
• Aztec children were expected
to share in all the work
• Writing – Used picture writing but did not
develop an Alphabet
• Aztec Calendar
– 365 day calendar
• Medicine
– The doctors practiced their medicine
and operations on human sacrifices
and with dead bodies from wars. They
got a lot of their medicine from plants.
• Education
– Public education for boys and girls
starting at age 13
– They taught lessons in citizenship,
history and tradition, religious
ceremonies and arts and crafts.
– Boys learned methods of warfare, girls
learned singing and dancing skills
Aztec Warfare
• The Aztecs believed it was a
religious duty to be a warrior
• Used swords, bows and arrows,
javelins, clubs and slings for
• Aztecs went to war to get
tribute (what losers gave to
winners) and sacrificial victims
for religious ceremonies
• Goal of Aztec warfare was
capture, not kill
• Members of losing tribe
became slaves or sacrifices
Cortés Conquers the Aztecs
• 1519- Spanish Conquistador
Hernando Cortes landed in
Mexico…and developed a
thirst for Aztec gold!
• The enemies of the Aztecs
(other conquered tribes)
joined forces with Cortes to
take control of Tenochtitlan
• Cortés and his alliance
headed to Tenochtitlán with
500 soldiers and 16 horses
• The Aztec ruler,
Montezuma, thought Cortes
was the god Quetzalcoatl
and presented him with
The Fall of the Aztecs
• Spaniards massacred many
Aztecs during a religious
ceremony and fighting
• The Spanish escaped and
returned with more
weapons and supplies and
conquered the Aztecs.
What advantages did
the Spanish have?
• Weapons (guns and cannons)
• Horses (the Native Americans were terrified of
• Diseases (smallpox, measles, and chicken pox)
What were the consequences of the conflict
between the Spanish and the Aztecs?
• The Spanish tore down temples and replaced
them with cathedrals.
• They destroyed Aztec art and books.
• The forced them to become Christians.
• They enslaved many Native Americans.
• They spread their diseases and killed 7 million
Native Americans within 50 years.

Aztec, Inca, and Maya Civilizations