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Publié le : 2/5/2013 -Format: Document en format HTML protégé

Aztec Empire - USA History.
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Aztec Empire - USA History.
I

INTRODUCTION

Aztec Empire, Native American state that ruled much of what is now Mexico from about 1428 until 1521, when the empire was conquered by the Spaniards. The empire
represented the highest point in the development of the rich Aztec civilization that had begun more than a century earlier. At the height of their power, the Aztec
controlled a region stretching from the Valley of Mexico in central Mexico east to the Gulf of Mexico and south to Guatemala.
The Aztec built great cities and developed a complex social, political, and religious structure. Their capital, Tenochtitlán, was located on the site of present-day Mexico
City. An elaborate metropolis built on islands and reclaimed marsh land, Tenochtitlán was possibly the largest city in the world at the time of the Spanish conquest. It
featured a huge temple complex, a royal palace, and numerous canals.
After the Spanish conquest, the empire of the Aztec was destroyed, but their civilization remained an important influence on the development of Mexican culture. Many
contemporary Mexicans are descended from the Aztec, and more than 1 million Mexicans speak Nahuatl, the native Aztec language, as their primary language. In
Mexico City, excavations continue to uncover temple foundations, statues, jewelry, and other artifacts of the Aztec civilization.
Aztec refers both to the people who founded the empire, who called themselves Mexica, or Tenochca, and, more generally, to all of the many other Nahuatl-speaking
ethnic groups that lived in the Valley of Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest. The name Aztec is derived from Aztlán, the mythical homeland of the Mexica;
according to tradition, Aztlán was located northwest of the Valley of Mexico, possibly in west Mexico. The name Mexico is derived from Mexica.

II

EARLY HISTORY

Long before the rise of the Aztec, the Valley of Mexico was the center of a highly developed civilization. A fertile basin, the valley was located 2400 m (7800 ft) above
sea level. In its center lay five interconnected lakes dotted with marshy islands. From about

AD

100 to 650 the valley was dominated by the city of Teotihuacán, center

of a powerful religious, economic, and political state.
After the decline of Teotihuacán, the Toltec people migrated into central Mexico from the north and established a conquest state there. The Toltec civilization reached its
height in the 10th and 11th centuries. In the 13th century wandering bands of Nahuatl-speaking warriors, often called Chichimec, invaded the valley. They took over
Toltec cities, such as Atzcapotzalco, and founded new ones, such as Texcoco de Mora. The Chichimec combined their own cultural traditions with those of the Toltec to
form the early Aztec civilization, whose social structure, economy, and arts would reach their height under the rule of the later empire.

III

ORIGINS AND GROWTH OF THE AZTEC EMPIRE

The group that eventually founded the Aztec Empire, the Mexica, migrated to the Valley of Mexico in the middle of the 13th century. As late arrivals, the Mexica, a
hunter-gatherer people, were forced by other groups in the valley to take refuge on two islands near the western shore of Lake Texcoco (one of the five lakes in the
area). The Mexica believed in a certain legend, which held that they would establish a great civilization in a marshy area, where they would first see a cactus growing
out of a rock with an eagle perched on the cactus. After the Mexica arrived at the swampy site on the shore of Lake Texcoco, their priests proclaimed that they had
seen the promised omen. The site turned out to be a strategic location, with abundant food supplies and waterways for transportation.
The Mexica began farming for a living, and in 1325 they founded the city of Tenochtitlán on one of the lake islands. For the next 100 years they paid tribute to stronger
neighboring groups, especially the Tepaneca of the city-state of Azcapotzalco, whom they served as mercernaries.
As the Mexica grew in number, they established superior military and civil organizations. The Mexica of Tenochtitlán formed a triple alliance with the city-states of
Texcoco and Tlacopan. In 1428 the triple alliance defeated the Tepaneca. Under the Mexica ruler Itzcoatl, his successor Montezuma I, and the Texcocan ruler
Netzahualcóyotl, the three states waged a series of conquests. They eventually established an empire that extended from central Mexico to the Guatemalan border and
included many different states and ethnic groups, who were forced to pay tribute to the alliance. Tenochtitlán became the dominant power within the alliance.

IV

AZTEC CIVILIZATION

Aztec society was highly structured, based on agriculture, and guided by a religion that pervaded every aspect of life. The Aztec worshiped gods that represented
natural forces that were vital to their agricultural economy. Aztec cities were dominated by giant stone pyramids topped by temples where human sacrifices were
dedicated to the gods. Aztec art was primarily an expression of religion, and even warfare, which increased the empire's wealth and power, served the religious purpose
of providing captives to be sacrificed.

A

Social Organization

The basic unit of Aztec society was the calpulli, sometimes, at least for early Aztec history, thought of as a clan, or group of families who claimed descent from a
common ancestor. Each calpulli regulated its own affairs, electing a council and officers to keep order, lead in war, dispense justice, and maintain records. Calpulli ran
schools in which boys were taught citizenship, warfare, history, crafts, and religion. Each calpulli also had a temple, an armory to hold weapons, and a storehouse for
goods and tribute that were distributed among its members. Within each calpulli, land was divided among the heads of families according to their needs. Each family
had a right to use the land but owned only the goods that it produced.
In Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital, calpulli fulfilled the same functions but gradually took a different form. As the city grew large and complex, the calpulli were no longer
based on family relationships, but became wards, or political divisions, of the city. Each calpulli still had its own governing council, school, temple, and land, but its
members were not necessarily related. There were 15 calpulli in Tenochtitlán when the city was founded in 1325; by the 16th century there were as many as 80.
In Tenochtitlán and other Aztec city-states, the most capable leaders of each calpulli together composed a tribal council, which elected four chief officials. One of these
four officials was selected as the tlatoani (ruler). After Tenochtitlán became the center of Aztec civilization, its ruler ...


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