The Mexica people came a long way from homeless and oppressed wanderers between 1200 and 1300 to masters of the Valley of Mexico during the 1400s. They built the city of Tenochtitlan in 1325 and turned it into a magnificent capital of an expanding kingdom. The Mexica realm became bigger when its kings established the Aztec Triple Alliance with the cities of Tlacopan and Texcoco. During the fifteenth century, the Aztec empire stretched from Central Mexico into the Gulf and Pacific Coasts. They also conquered the northern frontiers of Guatemala. The Aztec Empire’s height in Mexico is recorded on the Bible Timeline Chart with World History during the late 1400s.
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The Rise of the Aztec Empire
Before they became the undisputed masters of Central Mexico, the Mexica people were ruled by the powerful and cruel Tepanec rulers of Azcapotzalco. This kind of arrangement continued until the Tepanec lords decided to murder Chimalpopoco, the Mexica’s third king, along with his half-Tepanec son while they slept in his palace.
The Mexica people and their council of elders hastily elected a successor to replace their murdered king. The successor was Prince Itzcoatl, the son of the previous king Huitzilihuitl. He became the new ruler of Mexicas in 1426/1427. After the celebrations, King Itzcoatl sent his nephew to negotiate for peace with King Maxtla, the Tepanec king of Azcapotzalco. But Maxtla did not want peace between his people and the Mexicas, so he declared war on them.
Itzcoatl had no choice but to tell his people to prepare for war. The rulers of the cities of Texcoco and Tlacopan also agreed to join him in battle as their people were also oppressed by the Tepanecs. It became the Mexica (Tenochtitlan)-Texcoco-Tlacopan Triple Alliance, and as the years passed, it would be known as the Aztec Empire. The armies of the Triple Alliance defeated the Tepanec warriors and killed many of their people. They also brought the city of Azcapotzalco to the ground as revenge for their oppression. King Itzcoatl then allowed his soldiers to loot the city’s treasures and added these to Tenochtitlan’s wealth.
King Itzcoatl died in 1440, but not before he led his army to conquer the cities of Coyoacan and Xochimilca. When he died, he left behind a stronger, bigger, and wealthier empire.
Aztec Golden Age
King Itzcoatl was succeeded by his son Moctezuma I Ilhuicamina. He ruled a wealthy and powerful empire, so he decided that it was time to honor Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war. Moctezuma ordered his people to build the Great Temple right in the center of Tenochtitlan. It took many years before they finished the building. It remained unfinished when he died and was only completed by his son Ahuitzotl. He folded the city of Texcoco and the lands of the Chalcas into the Aztec empire during his reign and expanded his domain east into the Gulf of Mexico. He ruled for thirty years. These years were considered to be the Aztecs’ golden age in political influence and military might.
Two of his sons succeeded Moctezuma I when he died, but both kings were unremarkable and their years were marked with crushing defeats. The second son, King Tizoc, was so unpopular that he was murdered by his own men. The council elected Moctezuma’s youngest son, Prince Ahuitzotl, as Tizoc’s successor in 1486.
Luckily, their gamble paid off as King Ahuitzotl was a young and brave warrior who was favored by his people. It was during his reign that the Aztecs completed the construction of the Great Temple. This event was celebrated with a feast and the sacrifice of tens of thousands of slaves and captives in honor of their god.
Ahuitzotl proved to be a capable ruler and a great military commander. He expanded the empire’s borders into Oaxaca, Guerrero, Veracruz, and even as far south as Guatemala. He died in 1502 after returning from a war in Oaxaca.
Picture By Provincias_tributarias_de_la_Triple_Alianza_(s._XVI).svg: YavidaxiuAztec_Empire_(orthographic_projection).svg:File:Provincias tributarias de la Triple Alianza (s. XVI).svg : YavidaxiuFile:Mexico (orthographic projection).svg : SsolbergjDerivative work : Keepscases and Sémhur – Provincias_tributarias_de_la_Triple_Alianza_(s._XVI).svg, from the Atlas del México prehispánico, special edition of Arqueología Mexicana, 2000-07-05, México.Aztec_Empire_(orthographic_projection).svg, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link
Aguilar-Moreno, Manuel. Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. New York: Facts on File, 2006.
Cremin, Aedeen. The World Encyclopedia of Archaeology. Richmond Hill, Ont.: Firefly Books, 2012.
Hardoy, Jorge Enrique. Pre-Columbian Cities. New York: Walker, 1973.
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