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The Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlan

Itzcoatl, Tlacopan, Aztec trade, Aztec capital, Texcoco

As the Aztecs grew in number, they established powerful military and civil organizations. Their island settlement, known as Tenochtitlan, soon grew from a small village of huts into a large city of adobe houses and stone temples. It became the Aztec capital, serving as the center for Aztec trade and military activity throughout the region. It is estimated that at the time of the Spanish invasion in the early 1500s, the city was one of the largest in the world and supported a population of about 200,000 people.

Tenochtitlan’s military strength increased, and under Itzcoatl, the first Aztec emperor, the Aztecs extended their influence throughout the entire Valley of Mexico. By the 15th century, the Aztecs had become the preeminent power in central and southern Mexico.

The political organization of the Aztec Empire extended far beyond Tenochtitlan and rested on a triple alliance between the city-states of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. The alliance, which was established in the mid-1400s, was soon dominated by the Aztecs. A series of military campaigns extended the Aztecs’ power and influence well beyond the central valley and across Mesoamerica. On the eve of the Spanish conquest, Aztec-controlled territory reached west to the Pacific Ocean, east to the Gulf of Mexico, and south nearly to the modern-day border with Guatemala. Because of resentment against Aztec rule and internal strife within the far-flung Aztec Empire, Spanish invaders would later be able to ally with a number of Native American peoples who would help them to defeat the Aztecs.

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