The Maya, Aztec, and Inca Civilizations are often taught in conjunction with each other, though each has their own unique culture and contributions to the world. Engage and educate students with Storyboard That premade activities!
Students can create a poster that shows their research about the Aztec Empire and the Spanish invasion
Montezuma II did not trust Cortés, but the Aztecs had never seen people like the Conquistadors. Montezuma thought Cortés might be the god Quetzalcoatl because the Aztecs believed that he would come to earth as a man one day. Cortés happened to arrive on Quetzalcoatl's birthday!
In 1519 under Emperor Montezuma II, there were about 5 million people in the Aztec Empire, covering 80,000 square miles in most of central and southern Mexico. The capital city Tenochtitlan (today Mexico City) had 200,000 people. The empire was diverse including many different tribes with different languages.
The Aztecs and Cortés
The Aztecs believed in omens and during King Montezuma II's reign, they had apparently seen what they believed were 8 bad omens: fire in the sky, the temple of Huitzilopochtli (their primary god) burned down, fire across waters, a lake appeared to boil, the sound of weeping women at night, fishermen caught an unknown animal, and a two headed man was seen. They believed this meant something bad was going to happen. April, 1519, Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortés, 500 soldiers, 16 horses, and cannons landed!
The Aztec Civilization began around 1325 with the settlement of the capital city of Tenochtitlan. They conquered neighboring groups to become a very advanced empire that excelled in engineering, math, agriculture, art, architecture, and writing. They believed in many gods and honored them at their temples and also practiced human sacrifice.
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Cortés and his men marched to the capital city. They destroyed the Aztec holy city of Cholula on the way. When they arrived at Tenochtitlan, at first Montezuma II welcomed them with gifts, trying to keep the peace. However, fighting broke out and Montezuma II was captured and killed. After three months of fighting, Cortés, his men, and his indigenous allies took control of the city and conquered the Aztec empire in 1521. Over time, the indigenous groups died of Spanish diseases and were killed or enslaved by the brutal conquistadors until about 80% of the indigenous population perished.
At first, relations were friendly. Cortés and his men settled in what is today Veracruz. He made alliances with tribes nearby. Some tribes did not like the Aztec rule. They were willing to march with the Conquistadors to conquer the capital city of Tenochtitlan and overthrow Montezuma II.