Facts about Aztecs Culture

The Aztec empire thrived for just 100 years before it was crushed by Spanish conquerers. But during that time, the Aztecs developed a culture whose mix of wealth and bloodlust still holds our fascination.

500 to 700 people had to die each year in order to appease the gods. The majority were prisoners of war.

In 1980, 42 child skeletons were found near the big temple. Children were sacrificed in times of drought, as their tears were thought to bring rain.

Priests would strip the skin from sacrifices and wear it for 20 days in honor of XipeTotec, the fertility god.

Aztec mythology held that the creator god, the Feathered Snake, would return in 1519. When the Spanish arrived that year, the Aztecs thought that Hernán Cortés was the anticipated god.

 Aztec empireThe invading army consisted of only 500 soldiers and 100 sailors. But the horses, weapons and tactics of the Spanish gave them an edge.

8,000 men were members of the Aztec army. When on the march, the line stretched some 15 miles long.

25% of all Aztecs died of smallpox, brought to the area by the Spanish. The disease had not been present in Mexico, so the Aztecs had no resistance.

The last of the true Aztec emperors, Moctezuma II, died in 1520, having been humiliated by the Spanish. In 1521, the last of the resistance was defeated.

Moctezuma IIThe Aztec solar calendar divided the year into 18 months of 20 days each. That accounted for only 360 days — the last five were considered particularly unfortunate.

Archaeologists have found more than 7,000 Aztec objects, from decorated skulls to earthenware pots, while excavating the ancient temple area.

The stones that the Aztecs used to build their temples weighed up to 44 tons.

A body of laws from the city of Tetzcoco contained 80 laws and punishments. Strangulation was the standard punishment for theft.

Facts about Aztecs40,000 to 50,000 buyers and sellers congregated every day in the large marketplace outside the capital. Judges authorized to sentence people to death ensured that order was kept.

The Aztec empire grew to cover an area of 80,000 square miles (slightly smaller than Kansas) in what is now Mexico.

400 to 500 smaller states were subjugated by the Aztecs over 100 years and forced to pay taxes.

In its heyday, the Aztec empire included 5 to 6 million people.

The capital, Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City), was built on a 7-square-mile island in Lake Texcoco and had 200,000 citizens.