Alexander von Humboldt, a German explorer and scientist, arrived in Mexico in 1803 after traveling throughout Latin America. What he saw and experienced in Mexico City left an impression on him. He became interested in the indigenous history of the country. He wrote about the country's history and drew illustrations of their sculptures.
He coined the term "Aztecs" to describe the powerful Mesoamericans who had established a vast empire in Mexico. The name Aztec originated from the Nahua word Aztlan, which referred to their mythical homeland. The term was popularized several decades later by historian William H. Prescott and is still used today.
However, the Aztecs did not refer to themselves as such. According to Aztec Culture, they called themselves the Mexica. The Mexica were part of the Nahua, a larger ethnic group who spoke Nahuatl. There are approximately 1.5 million native Nahuatl speakers left today. Some words from the Mexica language include chocolate, avocado, coyote, tomato, tamales, guacamole, peyote, and shack.
The Mexica (Aztec) people's exact origins are unknown. Several myths describe the Mexica migration from Aztlan, which was thought to be somewhere in northern Mexico or the southwestern United States. The Mexica left Chicomoztoc at the request of their patron deity, Huitzilopochtli, to travel to a new settlement.
Teotihuacan, the capital city of a small empire in Central Mexico, was the birthplace of their civilization. The town was established on a small plot of land in the western region of Lake Texcoco.
High mountains, a lake, and marshes surrounded it. The Aztecs sank piles into the swamps to form small land masses known as chinampas, or floating gardens, to create living and farming spaces. The city is well-developed, with causeways connecting islands, aqueducts carrying fresh water, and sewers removing waste. It grew into a metropolis ruled by a ruler and supported by nobles, priests, warriors, and merchants.
They were divided into several ethnic groups. According to Nahuatl legend, Chicomoztoc, or "the place of the seven caves," was home to seven tribes. Chicomoztoc is the mythical birthplace of the Nahuatl people. Each cave represented a different Nahua ethnic group: the Xochimilca, Tlahuica, Acolhua, Tlaxcalteca, Tepaneca, Chalca, and Mexica.
Mexica population increased from around 500,000 at the start of the Aztec Period (1325 AD) to 3,000 000 by the time the Spanish invaded the empire in 1520 AD.
The Aztecs formed the Aztec Triple Alliance with the Texcocans and Tacubans in 1428, led by Itzcoatl, and became the dominant power in central Mexico.
In the Aztec culture, Individuals were classified as nobles, commoners (macehualtin), serfs, or enslaved people. Aztec society was divided into eight social classes. They were the rulers, warriors, nobility, priests and priestesses, free poor, enslaved people, servants, and the middle class; the tlatoani (rulers), warriors, sovereignty, and high priests and priestesses were the most valuable of these.
The free poor, enslaved people, servants, and the middle class comprised the lower classes. There have only been a few dozen tlatoani (ruler, king) progressions in Aztec history. Montezuma I, Axayacatl, Tizoc, Ahuitzotl, and Montezuma II were notable rulers.
The Aztec culture followed the assigned ruler of the country, who came from the Aztec nobles. They possessed property, enslaved people, and servants and were also in charge of the army.
The nobility is divided into three classes. The tlatoani (ruler), tetecuhtin (high lords), and pipiltin (rulers) are already mentioned (regular lord). The nobility is a hereditary group as well.
Aztec warriors in the Aztec Culture, also known as the military, were a select group of fearless young men who had received extensive training in using weapons for combat, battle, and war.
Although it is a difficult job, priests and priestesses play an essential role in Aztec Culture and society. They are in charge of keeping track of planetary events, naming constellations, computing the movement of stars and planets, reading the calendar, divining interventions, checking horoscopes, making offerings and sacrifices, and drawing blood. Some priests also heard confessions.
The majority of Aztec people were commoners (macehualtin). Accountants, legislators, merchants, quarriers, feather workers, potters, weavers, sculptors, painters, goldsmiths, and silversmiths are among them.
In the Aztec culture, they had an incredible agricultural system that was the foundation of their success in establishing a great state and, eventually, an empire. Their high productivity in this field resulted in a wealthy and populous state. Aztec agriculture included extensive cultivation of all available land, sophisticated irrigation systems, and swamp reclamation using raised areas known as chinampas ("floating gardens").
Rich lake bottom soil was piled up to form ridges between rows of ditches or canals. The chinampas produced multiple harvests each year due to the mild climate and ample water for irrigation. As a result of the mild climate and plentiful water for irrigation, the chinampas produced multiple harvests yearly.
The chinampas had multiple crops annually due to the mild weather and abundant water for irrigation. Agriculture provided various fruits and vegetables, such as tomatoes, chili peppers, pumpkins, and beans, which were required to feed the empire's large population; Aztec staple crops included maize, beans, amaranth (a protein-rich, gluten-free grain), and squash.
Famines and food shortages became commonplace in the Aztec Empire's later years, resulting in periods of social unrest and malnutrition for commoners. Fish, algae, and insect larvae from lakes were used as food sources. Apart from agriculture, individuals built the Aztec economy on two pillars: tribute and trade.
Tributes are a form of tax payment of Aztec households to their city-state, is a tribute is a lump sum payment usually made forcibly. Tributes included food, cacao, gems, cotton, other textiles, animals, animal skins, building materials, and warrior costumes and shields. This tribute was meaningful because people used it to help feed the enormous population and to pay warriors, priests, officials, and servants. Official tribute collectors, known as calpixque, were located in each conquered province and ensured that payments were made as required.
Tributes are tax payments made by Aztec households to their city-state. A tribute is a one-time payment that is usually made under duress. Food, cacao, gems, cotton and other textiles, animals, animal skins, buildings, materials, warrior costumes, and shields were among the tributes. This tribute was significant because it fed the enormous population and paid warriors, priests, officials, and servants. Calpixque, or authoritative tribute collectors, were positioned in each colonized province to ensure payment on time.
The Aztec items are among the most important trade goods in the empire's economy. Merchants who bought and sold these items in marketplaces spread them throughout the Aztec empire. Every city, town, and village had a marketplace that met regularly following the Aztec five-day week.
One of the most known Aztec cultures is that Human sacrifice was an essential aspect of Aztec religion and culture. Human sacrifice had a long history in Mesoamerica before the Aztec Empire rose to prominence. According to archaeological evidence, human sacrifice was practiced by the Toltec and Teotihuacan in the centuries preceding the Aztec Empire. As a result, historians believe human sacrifice was a common practice in the Aztec Empire.
Human sacrifice was widely practiced, with victims' chests being cut open on an altar atop a tall temple or pyramid. After removing the hearts, they throw the victim's body down the pyramid steps. This practice has always been a part of Aztec culture. The vast majority of sacrificial victims are captured, enemy soldiers. The victims' skulls were then displayed in public places. The sacrifices also served as a form of social and political propaganda.
Despite the brutality of human sacrifice, the Aztecs believed it was necessary to ensure the survival of life. According to Aztec religion, the world was created by the sacrifice of the gods. As a result, Mexicas regarded sacrifice as necessary to repay their debts to the gods. The focus of sacrifice was only sometimes on humans. People also sacrificed animals and valuable objects to the gods.
The Mexicas practiced polytheism, which means they believed in and worshiped more than one god. The names of the hundred gods and goddesses were seen as forces and spirits rather than gods and goddesses. Sculptures made of stone and clay would be dressed in deity clothing for their incarnation. The most prominent deities were close relatives who transformed into one another.
The calendar was closely interwoven with Aztec religion, on which priests and priestesses performed elegant rituals and ceremonies. The ritual cleansings to prepare the priests for contact; offerings and sacrifices to gain the gods' approval; and theatrical dramas performed by masked performers in the form of dances, songs, and professionals were all part of the ceremonies.
The Aztec calendar consisted of a solar year of 365 days and a sacred year of 260 days, which produced a larger cycle of 52 years when run in parallel.
The Aztec culture is indeed brutal and gruesome compared to other ancient tribes. Still, because we know little about the Aztecs from the Spaniards who caused their fall, we are not 100% sure about the reality of these mentioned Aztec cultures. However, no matter how they depicted the Aztecs, we cannot agree with their Human sacrifice rites.