|Unique unit||Jaguar (replaces Warrior)|
|Unique building||Floating gardens (replaces Water mill)|
Gains culture from every enemy unit killed
Musical Theme: Cora Mitote Song from Santa Teresa, composed by Michael Curran
Architecture: Native American Music Set: Native American
Civilopedia Entry (History)Edit
The Aztecs were a Native American civilization that occupied central Mexico for roughly one hundred years in the 15th and 16th centuries. The Aztecs ruled a mighty empire and possessed a rich culture, producing some of the most impressive pre-Colombian architecture in North America. Today the Aztecs are best remembered for the bloodiness of their religious practices and rapidity with which they collapsed in the face of external assault.
Climate and TerrainEdit
The Aztec Empire was located in the "Mesa Central" or central plateau in the heart of modern Mexico (Mexico City is built atop the ruins of the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan.) The Valley of Mexico is dominated by a number of conjoined lakes: Zumpango, Xaltocan, Texcoco, Xochimilco, and Chalco. The area features abundant rainfall and a temperate climate, and the land is incredibly fertile.
The origin of the Aztec people is uncertain, but their origin stories suggest they were a tribe of hunter-gatherers on the northern Mexican plateau before they migrated down to Meso-America in the 12th century. The word "Aztec" comes from "Aztlan" ("White Land"), an allusion to northern Mexico. The Aztecs reached central Mexico sometime around 1250; what happened to them before that period is mostly speculation and myth.
At the time of the Aztecs' arrival, the population of central Mexico was divided between hundreds of small tribes or city-states, the most important of which were the Azcapotzalco and the Culhuacan. During the early period the Aztecs were vassals of the Azcapotzalco, who in 1325 gave them permission to settle on a small island in Lake Texcoco, where they founded their capital city, Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs remained subject to the Azcapotzalcos for around 100 years.
The Triple AllianceEdit
By the fifteenth century, the Azcapotzalcos had become a strong regional power. In 1427 the Azcapotzalco leader, Maxtla, had the Aztec leader Chimalpopca (sic) assassinated and laid siege to the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan. To defeat the Azcapotzalcos, Chimalpopca's successor Itzcoatl allied with two other powerful city-states, Texcoco and Tlacopan. The allies successfully raised the siege of Tenochtitlan and shortly thereafter conquered the Azcapotzalcos themselves.
Over the next century the "Triple Alliance" would come to control all of central Mexico, eventually extending its power across the entirety of the country, from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Tenochtitlan would become the dominant member in the alliance, making the Aztecs de facto rulers of a vast continental empire.
In 1440, Montezuma I succeeded his uncle Itzcoatl to become ruler of the Aztecs. During his reign Montezuma solidified the Triple Alliance. He extended the Alliance's control to the Gulf coast, subjugating the Totonac and the Huastic (sic) people. He also led successful campaigns against other neighbors, including the Mixtecs, Cotaxtla, and Orizaba. (It's important not to confuse Montezuma I with his unfortunate and incompetent namesake, Montezuma II, about whom see below). Montezuma I died in 1469. For more details on Montezuma I, see his Civilopedia entry.
While Montezuma I held the throne, his half-brother Tlacaelel was engaged in reforming the Aztec state. He literally rewrote the Aztec religion, according to some sources ordering the burning of hundreds of texts because of historical inaccuracies. Under Tlacaelel, the Aztec religion stated that the Aztecs were chosen people, destined to be above all others. Tlacaelel also emphasized the importance of militarism and ritual sacrifice in the Aztec religion, a change which would have far-reaching and devastating effects upon the Aztecs and the region as a whole. Tlacaelel oversaw the creation of many temples and religious buildings, including the Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlan, dedicated to the Aztec god of war Huitzilopochtli.
Politically, Tlacaelel was one of the architects of the Triple Alliance. He is said to have ordered the burning of conquered people's histories to ensure that his people's worldview was dominant. He also strengthened the Aztec nobility and priesthood at the expense of the peasants.
Tlacaelel died in 1487, probably much to the relief of Central American historians everywhere.
The Empire AscendantEdit
At the height of its power, the Aztec Empire dominated an area of nearly 200,000 square miles (slightly under a third the size of modern Mexico), with some five to six million subjects. Somewhat like the Mongols , the Aztecs left the subject tribes to their own devices as long as the requisite tribute was paid. The Aztecs were great traders, and Aztec merchants happily did business with allies and enemies alike. Lacking a monetary system, trade was based upon the barter system.
Possessing no draft animals or wheeled vehicles, the Aztecs constructed a vast road network designed for foot travel. In addition to merchants, these roads were in constant use by soldiers and military couriers, making them safe enough for women to travel on alone.
The Good Stuff (a.k.a., Human Sacrifice)Edit
The Aztec religion as revised by Tlacaelel believed that a steady stream of sacrifice was required to keep the universe operating properly. Sacrifice was required to keep the rain falling, the crops growing, the sun rising, and so forth. Sins were expiated by sacrifice. The Aztecs sacrificed animals, wealth, food, their own blood - and human beings. The Aztecs claimed that they sacrificed over 80,000 prisoners to reconsecrate the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan in 1487, though many historians believe this to be a massive exaggeration, with 5,000 or fewer being the most that would be logistically possible given the size of the sacrificial table. Even if the smaller number is closer to the truth, that's still quite a lot of blood and beating hearts to deal with.
The Aztec religion placed a premium upon the sacrifice of enemy warriors captured in battle, which became something of a problem once the Empire had conquered pretty much everybody within reach. This led to a form of ritualized combat known as the "Flower Wars," under which two sides would meet at a prescribed time and place for the specific purpose of battling to acquire prisoners. Once the battle was over, each side would take their prisoners back to their cities for religious sacrifice.
The Fall of the AztecsEdit
In 1502 the ninth emperor Montezuma II (1502-1520) succeeded his uncle Ahuitzotl as the ruler of an empire that had reached its greatest extent, stretching from what is now northern Mexico to Honduras and Nicaragua. The Aztec empire was still expanding, and its society still evolving, when its progress was halted in 1519 by the appearance of Spanish adventurers on the Gulf Coast.
In February of 1519, Hernan Cortes led an expedition into Central America, leading a force of 500 men, 13 horses and a small number of cannon. In mid-August he marched on Tenochtitlan after burning his ships to discourage retreat. Along the way he gathered many Native American allies eager to assist in the downfall of the hated Aztecs.
According to Spanish records, Cortes was greatly assisted in his conquest by Aztec religious traditions that said that the God Quetzalcoatl would return as a white man from across the water. The Aztecs were not certain if Cortes was Quetzalcoatl, which made them reluctant to fight him. Cortes' godhood was further confirmed by his command of horses, dogs, firearms and cannon which the Aztecs had never seen, and which at first naturally terrified them.
By the time Cortes reached Tenochtitlan, he had a huge following of native allies. Montezuma II welcomed the Spaniards into the city peacefully, whereupon Cortes made him prisoner. Through Montezuma Cortes ordered the Aztecs to provide the Spanish with huge amounts of treasure. Eventually, the Aztecs stoned Montezuma to death and drove the Spanish out of their capital, but Cortes got reinforcements and returned, laying siege to the city. In 1521 the city fell and was razed, and in August the last ruler of the Aztecs was captured.
The Empire was vanquished, destroyed by ambitious foreigners with advanced weapons who took advantage of the native majority's hatred for their Aztec overlords. Unfortunately for the natives, the Spanish were not especially nicer to their subject people and it would be some time before they would once again be free from oppression and once again have some control over their own destinies.
The Spaniards were surprised to learn that Montezuma bathed twice a day. Europeans hardly bathed at all.
Montezuma II's headdress was made from the feathers of over 250 birds.
The cocoa bean was highly treasured in the Aztec Empire. In fact, the bean was used as currency, as well as Aztec food. The word chocolate comes from an Aztec/Mayan word chocolatl.
There are actually three Aztec calendar wheels - there is a third big wheel called the calendar round. The two major cycles (the tonalpohualli and the xiuhpohualli) were interlocking, and every 52 years they would align again. This was a sort of Aztec "century", and was a reason for religious celebration.
The Mexica people of the Aztec empire had compulsory education for everyone, regardless of gender or class. People in the Aztec society were generally well educated, though boys received a wider education than girls.
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