Before being conquered in 1521 by the Spaniards, the Aztec Indians had one of the most dynamic ancient civilizations in the Americas, with a population of 15 million and close to 500 cities. The most famous of these cities, Teotihuacan was the capitol of the empire. They had great knowledge in science and architecture, creating great buildings and complex calendars.
Faced with turning a marsh land into their home, the Aztec Indians used what
they had on had to build an elaborate city. Chinapas, piled up mud to form islands,
were connected by bridges and aqua ducts used for irrigation and waterways. They
used readily available thatch for roofs and mud and water to create the Adobe
bricks to construct the walls of their homes and steam baths.
The Aztec Indians built great statues and temples to honor their gods. Having a Polytheistic religion they had many gods they worshipped in their daily lives. The Aztec Indians believed that human sacrifices kept their "good" gods strong and able to keep the "bad" gods at bay. Their sacrifices had no bounds from children to warriors they were sacrificed as needed.
The Aztec Indians had four basic classes in their society. The slaves were generally war captives or people who owed debt. They could buy their freedom or it could be earned. The traveling merchants brought commerce to the empire. They also acted as spies and delivered communications across the empire and the border. The peasants were the artisans, food producers, and traders. Some of the lower level warriors were also classified as peasants. The nobility was the highest class in the social structure. They included the decorated warriors, priests, and inherited nobilities.
The Aztec Indians were great warriors. Starting at age 17 the warriors began their military life, though there basic training started much younger. Soldier uniforms were primarily leather and feathers that were covered in war paintings and patterns. There weapons were clubs, wooden spears, and knives made of flint. Exceptional warriors became part of elite groups, like the Jaguars and Eagles. The Aztec warrior were considered nobility along with the priests.
However great the Aztec warriors were, they were not prepared for the Spaniards. The Spaniards, lead by Hernan Cortes, at first had been welcomed by the Aztec Indians. But after a bloody battled that took the life of Montezuma, the leader at the time, they had no choice but to follow Spanish law.