The Aztec Empire

Michael E. Smith and Maëlle Sergheraert

in The Oxford Handbook of Mesoamerican Archaeology

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780195390933
Published online November 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

The Aztec Empire

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  • Historical Archaeology



The Aztec Empire was created within a setting of competing city-states ( altepetl ) that covered the landscape of central Mexico starting around 1100 ad . These small polities, ruled by kings ( tlatoani ) and a council of nobles, consisted of a modest urban center and the surrounding farmland. In a dynamic political setting, tlatoque (plural of tlatoani) sought to expand their areas of control, and by 1400 ad several small empires had been formed through conquest. Rebellions happened each time a subjected people had the feeling that the empire was weakened (e.g., at times of tlatoque succession). But the Aztecs were fast to respond and always put down these rebellions. The arrival of the Spaniards in 1519 presented a new occasion for some of the subjected people to rebel against the Aztecs, uniting themselves with the Spanish forces, and this time, they were stronger. The Aztec Empire fell at the hands of its Spanish and native enemies on August 13, 1521.

Keywords: Aztecs; central Mexico; Spanish; city-states; altepetl; tlatoani

Article.  3108 words. 

Subjects: Archaeology ; Archaeology by Region ; Historical Archaeology

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