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Who were the Aztecs?

Step pyramids in TenochtitlánCenturies ago, the Aztecs ruled a huge area of what is now Mexico. They conquered many neighbouring tribes. They had a huge army of trained soldiers, including the fearsome Jaguar warriors. The Aztec capital, Tenochtitlán, was a magnificent city built in the middle of a lake. It had many temples, each built in the shape of a stepped pyramid.



A panorama of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital, built on an island in Lake Texcoco


A panorama of Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital, built on an island in Lake Texcoco

The eagle and the cactus

According to legend, the gods told the Mexica people (later known as the Aztecs) where to build their new home. It was to be the place where they saw an eagle resting on a prickly pear cactus. This came to pass on a swampy island in the middle of Lake Texcoco, high in the mountains. So it was on this spot that the Aztecs founded the city of Tenochtitlán in 1325. It would later be the capital of the Aztec Empire. (Today, what little remains of Tenochtitlán lies under the streets of modern Mexico City.) 
Under their ruler Moctezuma I (ruled 1440–1468), the Aztecs extended their empire across central Mexico, from coast to coast. At its height, the Aztec Empire had a population of around 4 million people.

Aztec soldiers marching off to battle were often given chocolate drinks to keep their spirits up.

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