Mexico VI: Aztecs I--Introduction to People & Civilization

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:03:45
Year Produced: 2010

One of most advanced civilizations in the Americas was at its height when it was abruptly invaded and conquered by the Spanish.

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Lead: One of most advanced civilizations in the Americas was at its height when it was abruptly invaded and conquered by the Spanish.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: When Spanish explorers, led by Hernan Cortes, landed in present-day Mexico in 1519, the Aztec civilization and empire stretched from central Mexico southward to present-day Guatemala.

The Aztecs were originally hunter gatherers. It is believed they migrated into Mexico from northern regions in search of food and to escape drought and perhaps due to over-population. Beginning in the early 13th century, they began to establish their presence in The Valley of Mexico and the highlands of central Mexico. As the Aztecs settled, they began to conquer neighboring tribes and absorb the culture of many, including the Toltecs, Maya, and the Mixteca from southern Mexico.

Interestingly, the Aztec civilization was actually a composite civilization. They absorbed art, culture, and religious rituals as well as advancements in science from other civilizations, built on them, and grew their empire to 20 million people and hundreds of cities. Their capital and largest municipality, Tenochtitlan, was built around 1325 CE on the present-day site of Mexico City. At the time of the Spanish invasion, Tenochtitlan had a population of perhaps as many as 250,000 people. The Spaniards who first encountered the Aztecs in this city were impressed with its cleanliness and the order in which it was kept. This splendid city stood on an island in a large lake surrounded by volcanos and was connected to the mainland by causeways. It is from here that the powerful Aztec empire was ruled and its military arm reached in all directions to intimidate enemies, secure allies and conquer their opponents.

Next Time: Aztec Religion and Aztec Rituals

Research by Ann Johnson, our producer is Steve Clark. At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.