Aztecs, pre-Columbian natives of Central Mexico, traditionally thought to have migrated from Aztlán in the north to the Valley of Mexico. A warrior tribe, they took over the cities of the Toltecs, from whom they also derived part of their culture. The Aztec empire consisted of a confederation of 3 city states, Tenochtitlan (the capital, site of present-day Mexico City), Tlacopan, and Texcoco. The empire expanded under the rule of Montezuma I, and eventually extended to present day Guatemala. Montezuma I would die defending Tenochtitlán. Religious belief contributed greatly to Aztec political and social structure. The 2 chief gods were Huitzilopochtli, god of war and the sun, and Quetzalcoatl, god of learning. Human victims were sacrificed to these and other gods. The Aztecs were superb artisans, working in gold, silver, and copper and creating fine pottery and mosaics. They are famed for their lavishly decorated temples, such as those at Tenochtitlan, Tula, Cuicuilco, Xochicalco, and Cholula. The arrival of the conquistador Hernán Cortés (1519) heralded the destruction and collapse of the Aztec empire.
See also: Mexico.