Aztec Triple Alliance
Overview
 
The Aztec Triple Alliance, or Aztec Empire began as an alliance of three Nahua city-states or "altepeme
Altepetl
The altepetl, in Pre-Columbian and Spanish conquest-era Aztec society, was the local, ethnically based political entity. The word is a combination of the Nahuatl words ā-tl, meaning water, and tepē-tl, meaning mountain....

": Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan
Tlacopan
Tlacopan , also called Tacuba, was a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city-state situated on the western shore of Lake Texcoco.Founded by Tlacomatzin, Tlacopan was a Tepanec kingdom subordinate to nearby Azcapotzalco...

. These city-states ruled the area in and around the Valley of Mexico
Valley of Mexico
The Valley of Mexico is a highlands plateau in central Mexico roughly coterminous with the present-day Distrito Federal and the eastern half of the State of Mexico. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the Valley of Mexico was a centre for several pre-Columbian civilizations, including...

 from 1428 until they were defeated by the Spanish conquistador
Conquistador
Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492...

es
and their native allies under Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 in 1521.

The Triple Alliance was formed from the victorious faction in a war between the city of Azcapotzalco
Azcapotzalco (altepetl)
Azcapotzalco was a pre-Columbian Nahua altepetl , capital of the Tepanec empire, in the Valley of Mexico, on the western shore of Lake Texcoco.The name Azcapotzalco means "at the anthill" in Nahuatl...

 and its former tributary provinces.
Encyclopedia
The Aztec Triple Alliance, or Aztec Empire began as an alliance of three Nahua city-states or "altepeme
Altepetl
The altepetl, in Pre-Columbian and Spanish conquest-era Aztec society, was the local, ethnically based political entity. The word is a combination of the Nahuatl words ā-tl, meaning water, and tepē-tl, meaning mountain....

": Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan
Tlacopan
Tlacopan , also called Tacuba, was a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city-state situated on the western shore of Lake Texcoco.Founded by Tlacomatzin, Tlacopan was a Tepanec kingdom subordinate to nearby Azcapotzalco...

. These city-states ruled the area in and around the Valley of Mexico
Valley of Mexico
The Valley of Mexico is a highlands plateau in central Mexico roughly coterminous with the present-day Distrito Federal and the eastern half of the State of Mexico. Surrounded by mountains and volcanoes, the Valley of Mexico was a centre for several pre-Columbian civilizations, including...

 from 1428 until they were defeated by the Spanish conquistador
Conquistador
Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492...

es
and their native allies under Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

 in 1521.

The Triple Alliance was formed from the victorious faction in a war between the city of Azcapotzalco
Azcapotzalco (altepetl)
Azcapotzalco was a pre-Columbian Nahua altepetl , capital of the Tepanec empire, in the Valley of Mexico, on the western shore of Lake Texcoco.The name Azcapotzalco means "at the anthill" in Nahuatl...

 and its former tributary provinces. Despite the initial conception of the empire as an alliance of three cities, Tenochtitlan quickly established itself as the dominant partner. By the time the Spanish arrived in 1520, the lands of the Alliance were effectively ruled from Tenochtitlan, and the other partners in the alliance had assumed subsidiary roles.

The alliance waged wars of conquest and expanded rapidly after its formation. At its height, the alliance controlled an empire that covered most of central Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

 as well as some more distant lands. Aztec rule has been described by scholars as "hegemonic" or "indirect". Rulers of conquered cities were usually left in power as long as they agreed to pay semi-annual tribute to the alliance or provided military support in wars with enemy states.

Etymology

The word "Aztec" is a modern invention and would not have been recognized by the people themselves. It has variously been used to refer to the Triple Alliance empire, the Nahuatl
Nahuatl
Nahuatl is thought to mean "a good, clear sound" This language name has several spellings, among them náhuatl , Naoatl, Nauatl, Nahuatl, Nawatl. In a back formation from the name of the language, the ethnic group of Nahuatl speakers are called Nahua...

-speaking people of central Mexico
Aztec
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica in the 14th, 15th and 16th centuries, a period referred to as the late post-classic period in Mesoamerican chronology.Aztec is the...

 prior the Spanish conquest, or the Mexica
Mexica
The Mexica were a pre-Columbian people of central Mexico.Mexica may also refer to:*Mexica , a board game designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling*Mexica , a 2005 novel by Norman Spinrad...

 ethnicity specifically. The name comes from a Nahuatl word meaning "people from Aztlan
Aztlán
Aztlán is the mythical ancestral home of the Nahua peoples, one of the main cultural groups in Mesoamerica. And, by extension, is the mythical homeland of the Uto-Aztecan peoples. Aztec is the Nahuatl word for "people from Aztlan".-Legend:...

", reflecting the mythical place of origin for Nahua peoples.

Before the Empire

Nahua peoples were not originally indigenous to central Mexico, and are instead descended from Chichimec peoples
Chichimeca
Chichimeca was the name that the Nahua peoples of Mexico generically applied to a wide range of semi-nomadic peoples who inhabited the north of modern-day Mexico and southwestern United States, and carried the same sense as the European term "barbarian"...

 who migrated into the region from the north in the early 13th century AD. According to the pictographic codices in which the Aztecs recorded their history, the place of origin was called Aztlán
Aztlán
Aztlán is the mythical ancestral home of the Nahua peoples, one of the main cultural groups in Mesoamerica. And, by extension, is the mythical homeland of the Uto-Aztecan peoples. Aztec is the Nahuatl word for "people from Aztlan".-Legend:...

. The early migrants settled the Basin of Mexico and surrounding lands by establishing a series of independent city-states. These early Aztec cities were ruled by petty kings called "tlatoque"
Tlatoani
Tlatoani is the Nahuatl term for the ruler of an altepetl, a pre-Hispanic state. The word literally means "speaker", but may be translated into English as "king". A is a female ruler, or queen regnant....

 (singular "tlatoani"). Most of the cities and towns in the region prior to the Aztec migration were assimilated into Aztec culture.

These early city-states fought various small-scale wars with each other, but due to the shifting nature of alliances no individual city gained dominance. The Mexica were the last of the Aztlan migrants to arrive in Central Mexico. They entered the Basin of Mexico around the year 1250 AD, when most of the good agricultural land was taken. The Mexica persuaded the king of Culhuacan
Culhuacan
Culhuacan or Colhuacan was one of the Nahuatl-speaking pre-Columbian city-states of the Valley of Mexico. According to tradition, Culhuacan was founded by the Toltecs under Mixcoatl and was the first Toltec city...

 to reluctantly allow them to settle in a relatively infertile patch of land called Tizaapan.

After serving the king of Culhuacan in battle, the Mexica were granted one of his daughters to rule over them. According to mythological native accounts, the Mexica sacrificed her on the command of their god Huitzilopochtli
Huitzilopochtli
In Aztec mythology, Huitzilopochtli, also spelled Uitzilopochtli , was a god of war, a sun god, and the patron of the city of Tenochtitlan. He was also the national god of the Mexicas of Tenochtitlan.- Genealogy :...

. When the king of Culhuacan witnessed this, he attacked and used his army to drive the Mexica from Tizaapan by force. The Mexica then moved to an island in the middle of Lake Texcoco
Lake Texcoco
Lake Texcoco was a natural lake formation within the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs built the city of Tenochtitlan on an island in the lake. The Spaniards built Mexico City over Tenochtitlan...

, where an eagle nested on a nopal cactus. The Mexica interpreted this as a sign from their god, and founded their new city, Tenochtitlan, on this island in the year 2 House (1325 AD).

The new Mexica city allied itself with the city of Azcapotzalco
Azcapotzalco (altepetl)
Azcapotzalco was a pre-Columbian Nahua altepetl , capital of the Tepanec empire, in the Valley of Mexico, on the western shore of Lake Texcoco.The name Azcapotzalco means "at the anthill" in Nahuatl...

 and paid tribute to its king, Tezozomoc. With Mexica assistance, Azcopotzalco began to expand into a small tributary empire. Until this point, the Mexica did not have a legitimate king. Mexica leaders successfully petitioned one of the kings of Culhuacan to provide a daughter to marry into the Mexica line. Their son, Acamapichtli
Acamapichtli
Acamapichtli was the first tlatoani, or ruler, of the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan, and founder of the Aztec imperial dynasty. He became ruler in 1375 and reigned for 19 years.- Family and early life :...

, was enthroned as the first tlatoani of Tenochtitlan in the year 1372.

As the Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco continued to expand their kingdom with the assistance of the Mexica, the Acolhua
Acolhua
The Acolhua are a Mesoamerican people who arrived in the Valley of Mexico in or around the year 1200 CE. The Acolhua were a sister culture of the Aztecs as well as the Tepanec, Chalca, Xochimilca and others....

 city of Texcoco
Texcoco
Texcoco was a major Acolhua city-state in the central Mexican plateau region of Mesoamerica during the Late Postclassic period of pre-Columbian Mesoamerican chronology. It was situated on the eastern bank of Lake Texcoco in the Valley of Mexico, to the northeast of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan...

 grew in power in the eastern portion of the lake basin. War eventually erupted between the two states, and the Mexica played a vital role in the conquest of Texcoco. By this time, Tenochtitlan had grown into a major city and was rewarded for its loyalty to the Tepanecs by receiving Texcoco as a tributary province.

The Tepanec Civil War and the Triple Alliance

In 1426, the Tepanec king Tezozomoc died, and the resulting succession crisis precipitated a civil war. The Mexica supported Tezozomoc's preferred heir Tayahauh who was initially enthroned as king. His brother, Maxtla, soon usurped the throne and turned against those factions that opposed him, including the Mexica king Chimalpopoca
Chimalpopoca
Chimalpopoca was the third king of Tenochtitlan .-Rule:On the day of Chimalpopoca's coronation in 1417 , his brother Tlacaelel I was named high priest...

. Chimalpopoca died shortly after this, possibly assassinated by Maxtla.

The new Mexica king Itzcoatl
Itzcóatl
Itzcoatl was the fourth emperor of the Aztecs, ruling from 1427 to 1440, the period when the Mexica threw off the domination of the Tepanecs and laid the foundations for the eventual Aztec Empire.- Biography :...

 remained defiant to Maxtla, and in response Maxtla had Tenochtitlan blockade
Blockade
A blockade is an effort to cut off food, supplies, war material or communications from a particular area by force, either in part or totally. A blockade should not be confused with an embargo or sanctions, which are legal barriers to trade, and is distinct from a siege in that a blockade is usually...

d and demanded increased tribute payments. Maxtla similarly turned against the Acolhua, and the king of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl
Nezahualcoyotl
Nezahualcoyotl was a philosopher, warrior, architect, poet and ruler of the city-state of Texcoco in pre-Columbian Mexico...

 fled into exile. Nezahualcoyotl recruited the military assistance of the king of Huexotzinco, and the Mexica gained the support of a dissident Tepanec city, Tlacopan
Tlacopan
Tlacopan , also called Tacuba, was a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican city-state situated on the western shore of Lake Texcoco.Founded by Tlacomatzin, Tlacopan was a Tepanec kingdom subordinate to nearby Azcapotzalco...

. In 1427, Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, Tlacopan, and Huexotzinco went to war with Azcapotzalco and emerged victorious in 1428.

After the war, Huexotzinco withdrew and the three remaining cities formed a treaty known today as the Triple Alliance. The Tepanec lands were carved up between the three cities who agreed to cooperate in future wars of conquest. Land acquired from these conquests was to be held by the three cities together. Tribute was to be divided so that two fifths each went to Tenochtitlan and Texcoco and one fifth went to Tlacopan. Each of the three kings of the alliance in turn assumed the title "huetlatoani" ("Elder Speaker", often translated as "Emperor"), which placed them in a de jure
De jure
De jure is an expression that means "concerning law", as contrasted with de facto, which means "concerning fact".De jure = 'Legally', De facto = 'In fact'....

 position above the rulers of other city-states ("tlatoani").

The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan would, in the next 100 years, come to dominate the Valley of Mexico and extend its power to both the Gulf of Mexico
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 and the Pacific
Pacific Ocean
The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south, bounded by Asia and Australia in the west, and the Americas in the east.At 165.2 million square kilometres in area, this largest division of the World...

 shore. Over this period, Tenochtitlan gradually became the dominant power in the alliance. Two of the primary architects of this alliance were the half-brothers Tlacaelel
Tlacaelel
Tlacaelel I was the principal architect of the Aztec Triple Alliance and hence the Mexica empire. He was the son of Emperor Huitzilihuitl and Queen Cacamacihuatl, nephew of Emperor Itzcoatl, and brother of Emperors Chimalpopoca and Moctezuma I.During the reign of his uncle Itzcoatl, Tlacaelel was...

 and Motecuzoma
Moctezuma I
Moctezuma I , also known as Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, Huehuemotecuhzoma or Montezuma I , was the fifth Aztec emperor - king of Tenochtitlan...

, nephews of Itzcoatl. Motecuzoma would eventually succeed Itzcoatl as the Mexica huetlatoani in 1440. Tlacaelel occupied the newly created title of "Cihuacoatl", roughly equivalent to "Prime Minister".

Imperial Reforms

Shortly after the formation of the Triple Alliance, Itzcoatl and Tlacaelel instigated sweeping reforms the Aztec state and religion
Aztec religion
Aztec religion is the Mesoamerican religion practiced by the Aztec empire. Like other Mesoamerican religions, it had elements of human sacrifice in connection with a large number of religious festivals which were held according to patterns of the Aztec calendar...

. Tlacaelel ordered the burning of most of the extant Aztec books, claiming that they contained lies and that it was "not wise that all the people should know the paintings". He thereafter rewrote the history of the Aztec people, placing the Mexica in a more central role.

After Motecuzoma I
Moctezuma I
Moctezuma I , also known as Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, Huehuemotecuhzoma or Montezuma I , was the fifth Aztec emperor - king of Tenochtitlan...

 succeeded Itzcoatl as the Mexica emperor, more reforms were instigated to maintain control over conquered cities. Uncooperative kings were replaced with puppet rulers loyal to the Mexica. A new imperial tribute system established Mexica tribute collectors that taxed the population directly, bypassing the authority of local dynasties. Nezahualcoyotl also instituted a policy in the Acolhua lands of granting subject kings tributary holdings in lands far from their capitals. This was done to create an incentive for cooperation with the empire; if a city's king rebelled, he lost the tribute he received from foreign land. Some rebellious kings were replaced by "calpixque", or appointed governors rather than dynastic rulers.

Motecuzoma issued new laws that further separated nobles from commoners and instituted the death penalty for adultery and other offenses. By royal decree, a religiously-supervised school was built in every neighborhood. Commoner neighborhoods had a school called a "telpochcalli" where they received basic religious instruction and military training. A second, more prestigious type of school called a "calmecac" served to teach the nobility, as well as commoners of high standing seeking to become priests or artisans. Motecuzoma also created a new title called "quauhpilli" that could be conferred on commoners. This title was a form of non-hereditary lesser nobility awarded for outstanding military or civil service (similar to the English knight
Knight
A knight was a member of a class of lower nobility in the High Middle Ages.By the Late Middle Ages, the rank had become associated with the ideals of chivalry, a code of conduct for the perfect courtly Christian warrior....

). In some rare cases, commoners that received this title married into royal families and became kings.

One component of this reform was the creation of ritual wars called the Flower Wars
Flower war
A flower war or flowery war is the name given to the battles fought between the Aztec Triple Alliance and some of their enemies: most notably the city-states of Tlaxcala, Huejotzingo, Atlixco and Cholula.-Sources:...

. These wars created a steady supply of experienced Aztec warriors and war captives for human sacrifice
Human sacrifice in Aztec culture
Human sacrifice was a religious practice characteristic of pre-Columbian Aztec civilization, as well as of other mesoamerican civilizations such as the Maya and the Zapotec. The extent of the practice is debated by modern scholars...

. Flower wars were pre-arranged by the emperors and enemy cities and conducted specifically for the purpose of collecting prisoners for sacrifice. According to native historical accounts, these wars were instigated by Tlacaelel as a means of appeasing the gods in response to a massive drought that gripped the Basin of Mexico from 1450-4. The flower wars were mostly waged between the Aztec Empire and the neighboring cities of Tlaxcala
Tlaxcala (Nahua state)
Tlaxcala was a pre-Columbian city state of central Mexico.Tlaxcala was a confederation of four altepetl — Ocotelolco, Quiahuiztlan, Tepeticpac and Tizatlan — which each took turns providing a ruler for Tlaxcala as a whole.-History:Tlaxcala was never conquered by the Aztec empire, but was...

.

Early Wars of Expansion

After the defeat of the Tepanecs, Itzcoatl and Nezahualcoyotl rapidly consolidated power in the Basin of Mexico and began to expand beyond its borders. The first targets for imperial expansion were Coyoacan in the Basin of Mexico and Cuauhnahuac and Huaxtepec in the modern Mexican state of Morelos
Morelos
Morelos officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Morelos is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 33 municipalities and its capital city is Cuernavaca....

. These conquests provided the new empire with a large influx of tribute, especially agricultural goods.

On the death of Itzcoatl, Motecuzoma I was enthroned as the new Mexica emperor. The expansion of the empire was briefly halted by a major four-year drought that hit the Basin of Mexico in 1450, and several cities in Morelos had to be re-conquered after the drought subsided. Motecuzoma and Nezahualcoyotl continued to expand the empire east towards the Gulf of Mexico and south into Oaxaca
Oaxaca
Oaxaca , , officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Oaxaca is one of the 31 states which, along with the Federal District, comprise the 32 federative entities of Mexico. It is divided into 571 municipalities; of which 418 are governed by the system of customs and traditions...

. In 1468, Motecuzoma I died and was succeeded by his son, Axayacatl
Axayacatl
Axayacatl was the sixth Aztec Emperor, a ruler of the Postclassic Mesoamerican Aztec Empire and city of Tenochtitlan, who reigned from 1469 to 1481.He is chiefly remembered for subjugating Tlatelolco, Tenochtitlan's sister city, in 1473....

. Most of Axayacatl's thirteen-year-reign was spent consolidating the territory acquired under his predecessor. Motecuzoma and Nezahualcoyotl had expanded rapidly and many provinces rebelled.

At the same time as the Aztec Empire was expanding and consolidating power, the Tarascan Empire
Tarascan state
The Tarascan state was a state in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, roughly covering the geographic area of the present-day Mexican state of Michoacán. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico it was the second-largest state in Mexico. The state was founded in the early 14th century and lost its...

 in West Mexico was similarly expanding. In 1455, the Tarascans under their king Tzitzipandaquare had invaded the Toluca Valley, claiming lands previously conquered by Motecuzoma and Itzcoatl. In 1472, Axayacatl re-conquered the region and successfully defended it from Tarascan attempts to take it back. In 1479, Axayacatl launched a major invasion of the Tarascan Empire with 32,000 Aztec soldiers. The Tarascans met them just across the border with 50,000 soldiers and scored a resounding victory, killing or capturing over 90% of the Aztec army. Axayacatl himself was wounded in the battle, retreated to Tenochtitlan, and never engaged the Tarascans in battle again.

In 1472, Nezahualcoyotl died and his son Nezahualpilli
Nezahualpilli
Nezahualpilli was ruler of the Mesoamerican city-state of Texcoco, elected by the city's nobility after the death of his father, Nezahualcoyotl, in 1472....

 was enthroned as the new huetlatoani of Texcoco. This was followed by the death of Axayacatl in 1481. Axayacatl was replaced by his brother Tizoc
Tízoc
Tizocic or Tizocicatzin , usually known in English as Tizoc, was the seventh tlatoani of Tenochtitlan.-Biography:...

. Tizoc's reign was notoriously brief. He proved to be ineffectual and did not significantly expand the empire. Due to his apparent incompetence, Tizoc was likely assassinated by his own nobles five years into his rule.

Later Wars of Expansion

Tizoc was succeeded by his brother Ahuitzotl in 1486. Like his predecessors before him, the first part of Ahuitzotl's reign was spent suppressing rebellions which were commonplace due to the indirect nature of Aztec rule. Ahuitzotl then began a new wave of conquests including the Valley of Oaxaca
Valley of Oaxaca
The Valley of Oaxaca is a geographic region located within the modern day State of Oaxaca in southern Mexico. The valley, which is located within the Sierra Madre Mountains, is shaped like a distorted and almost upside-down “Y,” with each of its arms bearing specific names: the northwestern Etla...

 and the Soconusco Coast
Soconusco
Soconusco is a region of the Mexican state of Chiapas, located in the extreme south of the state and separated from Guatemala by the Suchiate River. It is a region of rich lowlands and foothills. The economic center is Tapachula. Soconusco consists of 16 municipalities.The name comes from the...

. Due to increased border skirmishes with the Tarascans, Ahuitzotl conquered the border city of Otzoma and turned the city into a military outpost. The population of Otzoma was either killed or dispersed in the process. The Tarascans subsequently established fortresses nearby to protect against Aztec expansion. Ahuitzotl responded by expanding further west to the Pacific Coast of Guerrero
Guerrero
Guerrero officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Guerrero is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 81 municipalities and its capital city is Chilpancingo....

.

By the reign of Ahuitzotl, the Mexica were the largest and most powerful faction in the Aztec Triple Alliance. Building upon the prestige the Mexica had acquired over the course of the conquests, Ahuitzotl began to use the title "huehuetlatoani" ("Eldest Speaker") to distinguish himself from the rulers of Texcoco and Tlacopan. Even though the alliance still technically ran the empire, the Mexica Emperor now assumed nominal if not actual seniority.

Ahuitzotl was succeeded by his brother Motecuzoma II
Moctezuma II
Moctezuma , also known by a number of variant spellings including Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, was the ninth tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlan, reigning from 1502 to 1520...

 in 1502. Motecuzoma II spent most of his reign consolidating power in lands conquered by his predecessors. In 1515, Aztec armies commanded by the Tlaxcalan general Tlahuicole invaded the Tarascan Empire once again. The Aztec army failed to take any territory and was mostly restricted to raiding. The Tarascans defeated them and the army withdrew.

Motecuzoma II instituted more imperial reforms. After the death of Nezahualcoyotl, the Mexica Emperors had become the de facto rulers of the alliance. Motecuzoma II used his reign to attempt to consolidate power more closely with the Mexica Emperor. He removed many of Ahuitzotl's advisors and had several of them executed. He also abolished the "quauhpilli" class, destroying the chance for commoners to advance to the nobility. His reform efforts were inevitably cut short by the Spanish Conquest in 1519.

Spanish conquest and Aztec defeat

The empire reached its height during Ahuitzotl's reign in 1486–1502. His successor, Motehcuzōma Xocoyotzin (better known as Moctezuma II
Moctezuma II
Moctezuma , also known by a number of variant spellings including Montezuma, Moteuczoma, Motecuhzoma and referred to in full by early Nahuatl texts as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, was the ninth tlatoani or ruler of Tenochtitlan, reigning from 1502 to 1520...

 or Moctezuma), had been Hueyi Tlatoani for 17 years when the Spaniards, led by Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés
Hernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro, 1st Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century...

, landed on the Gulf Coast
Gulf of Mexico
The Gulf of Mexico is a partially landlocked ocean basin largely surrounded by the North American continent and the island of Cuba. It is bounded on the northeast, north and northwest by the Gulf Coast of the United States, on the southwest and south by Mexico, and on the southeast by Cuba. In...

 in the spring of 1519.

Despite some early battles between the two, Hernán Cortés allied himself with the Aztecs' long-time enemy, the Confederacy of Tlaxcala
Tlaxcala (Nahua state)
Tlaxcala was a pre-Columbian city state of central Mexico.Tlaxcala was a confederation of four altepetl — Ocotelolco, Quiahuiztlan, Tepeticpac and Tizatlan — which each took turns providing a ruler for Tlaxcala as a whole.-History:Tlaxcala was never conquered by the Aztec empire, but was...

, and arrived at the gates of Tenochtitlan on November 8, 1519.

The Spaniards and their Tlaxcallan
Tlaxcala (Nahua state)
Tlaxcala was a pre-Columbian city state of central Mexico.Tlaxcala was a confederation of four altepetl — Ocotelolco, Quiahuiztlan, Tepeticpac and Tizatlan — which each took turns providing a ruler for Tlaxcala as a whole.-History:Tlaxcala was never conquered by the Aztec empire, but was...

 allies became increasingly dangerous and unwelcome guests in the capital city. In June, 1520, hostilities broke out, culminating in the massacre in the Main Temple and the death of Moctezuma II. The Spaniards fled the town on July 1, an episode later characterized as La Noche Triste
La Noche Triste
La Noche Triste on June 30, 1520, was an important event during the Spanish conquest of Mexico, wherein Hernán Cortés and his army of Spanish conquistadors and native allies fought their way out of the Mexican capital at Tenochtitlan following the death of the Aztec king Montezuma, whom the...

 (the Sad Night). They and their native allies returned in the spring of 1521 to lay siege to Tenochtitlan
Siege of Tenochtitlan
The siege of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire, came about in 1521 through the manipulation of local factions and divisions by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés...

, a battle that ended on August 13 with the destruction of the city. During this period the now crumbling empire went through a rapid line of ruler succession. After the death of Moctezuma II, the empire fell into the hands of severely weakened emperors, such as Cuitláhuac
Cuitláhuac
Cuitláhuac or Cuitláhuac was the 10th tlatoani of the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan for 80 days during the year Two Flint ....

, before eventually being ruled by puppet rulers, such as Andrés de Tapia Motelchiuh
Andrés de Tapia Motelchiuh
Don Andrés de Tapia Motelchiuhtzin Huitznahuatlailótlac was the ruler of Tenochtitlan .After the death of Don Juan Velázquez Tlacotzin in Nochixtlan in 1525, Hernán Cortés chose Don Andrés Motelchiuhtzin as the new ruler of Tenochtitlan....

, installed by the Spanish.

Despite the decline of the Aztec Empire, most of the Mesoamerican cultures were intact after the fall of Tenochtitlan. Indeed, the freedom from Aztec domination may have been considered a positive development by most of the other cultures. The upper classes of the Aztec empire were considered noblemen by the Spaniards and generally treated as such initially. All this changed rapidly and the native population were soon forbidden to study by law, and had the status of minors
Minor (law)
In law, a minor is a person under a certain age — the age of majority — which legally demarcates childhood from adulthood; the age depends upon jurisdiction and application, but is typically 18...

.

The Tlaxcalans remained loyal to their Spanish friends and were allowed to come on other conquests with Cortés and his men.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.
 
x
OK