The Aztecs — Mighty Warriors of Mexico

All about us we saw cities and villages built in the water, their great towers and buildings of masonry rising out of it…When I beheld the scenes around me I thought within myself, this was the garden of the world.
—Bernal Diaz del Castillo, Spanish conquistador

When the Spanish conquistador Hernan de Cortes and his army arrived in Tenochtitlan (ten-ohch-teet-LAHN), capital of the mighty Aztec empire, they were amazed by what they saw. The island city was built in the middle of Lake Texcoco, connected to the surrounding land by three great causeways. Stone aqueducts delivered fresh water to the city residents. A network of canals made up the city streets, and farmers grew vegetables on ingeniously constructed “floating gardens” (chinampas). There were palaces, parks, ball courts, a zoo, a bustling market, and an awe-inspiring temple complex. Tenochtitlan was the hub of a rich civilization that dominated the region of modern-day Mexico at the time the Spanish forces arrived. In this lesson, students will learn about the history and culture of the Aztecs and discover why their civilization came to an abrupt end.

Guiding Questions

Who were the Aztecs?

Where and when did they live?

What was their culture like?

What were their major religious beliefs?

What was their capital city like?

What happened to them?

Learning Objectives

Identify the Aztecs as the builders of a great city and rich civilization in what is now Mexico

Locate the Aztec Empire and its capital on a map

Be able to place the Aztecs in the chronology of American history

Describe several aspects of Aztec culture

Tell the legend of the founding of the capital city of Tenochtitlan and describe the way the city looked at its peak

Understand the causes of the Aztec civilization's downfall