The Roaring Years of the Aztecs
by Victoria Ruiz, age 9
The Aztecs were one of the greatest civilizations in Mexico during the 1400’s.
The 1300’s marked the beginning of the Aztecs’ rise to power, with the building of the city Tenochtitlán. The city was built on an island that is now known as Mexico City.
The Aztec ruler relied on its warrior class to defend and expand the empire. Second in importance were the priests. Lastly were farmers, traders, craftsworkers and slaves. Aztecs farmed on floating gardens, called chinampas. They were among the first to use cocoa beans to make a chocolate drink. One other minor legacy of the Aztecs includes some words that are still used today, like “tomato” and “avocado”.
The Great Temple, a stone pyramid at Tenochtitlán was the main religious building with sacrificial altars on top. It was rebuilt six times because each ruler would add a larger and more impressive one on top of the old temple. Religion was very important to the Aztecs. They carried out human sacrifices to win the favor of their gods and worshiped many, including gods of war, rain, sun and wind. Priests sacrificed captives in a ceremony by cutting out their still-beating hearts with a very sharp stone. The statues of the gods were then bathed with the blood.
When Montezuma II became emperor in 1502 the Aztec Empire was at its height. During his rule, the empire stretched from the east to the west coast of Mexico. In 1519 Hernán Cortés, along with his small force of Spanish soldiers, arrived in Mexico. Montezuma II, along with many Aztecs, believed Cortés to be the legendary god, Quetzalcóatl. Cortés’s army had completely destroyed Tenochtitlán by 1521. After the fall of the Aztecs, Cortés took control and became governor of Mexico.
[Source: The Kingfisher Children’s Encyclopedia]