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The ancient Aztec society was created by the ruthless, warlike Mexica, immigrants from the north acclaimed for their military skills who spoke Nahuatal. The Mexica proudly identified themselves as the successor to the Tolmec empire, and went on to adopt many Toltec gods, cultural forms, and rituals. By 1325 their state was strong and they had seized much of the Valley of Mexico under their control where they later built their capital Tenochtitlan. The Aztec society continued to expand into surrounding regions in 1428. Moctezuma, who is hailed as the empire’s greatest leader, once declared that war would always be the Aztec people’s main objective was to conquer new territories and obtain human sacrifices for their gods out of the prisoners they take captive.
The Aztecs viewed the sun to be a warrior-god who fought his way daily across the skies to halt the destruction of the universe by the forces of darkness. In order to see to the “sun-god” staying fit for battle, the Aztecs had to feed the deity with blood from non-Aztec prisoners of wars captured in their frequent fighting. Captives were regularly sacrificed in brutal rituals. Another Aztec myth, involving the god Huitzilopochtli, required that human hearts be torn out of the recently sacrificed. No other major society practiced human sacrifice on the scale the Aztec did, sacrificing thousands of people on a yearly basis.
The Aztecs developed a prosperous economy and a dynamic social system. The capital Tenochtitlan (the site of today’s Mexico City), was situated on a swampy island in the middle of a large lake. One of the world’s great cities; it boasted magnificent temples, large palaces, some forty pyramids, and various diverse markets that served tens of thousands a day. The first Spaniards to reach the city in 1519 were definitely amazed by its offerings and amenities. Tenochititlan operated as the central hub of a trade system stretching all the way into North America and Central America. Consequently, when the newly arrived Spanish began to invade Tenochititlan, the Aztec fell in defeat as their already-mounting insecurities, as well as strictly obsidian tools and weapons, made them an easy enemy for the invaders who countered with their vigorous military, steel swords, and Spanish guns. The Aztec era was ended in 1521 by Spanish conquest and occupation at the hands of Herman Cortes.
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