When the Aztecs first arrived in the
Valley of Mexico, other tribes were already living on the best land in
to Aztec legend, when the Aztecs spotted an eagle, perched on a
cactus, holding a snake, they were to settle down, peacefully, until
they had gained strength. They were not to make war with their
neighbors. Instead, they were to build a glorious Aztec city, a city of
Normally, when the Aztecs entered an
area, they immediately began to fight with their neighbors. But, around
1100 BCE, because of the legend, rather than fight the other tribes for
the best land, the Aztecs quietly settled along the swampy shores of
Lake Texcoco. The Aztecs built canoes so they could fish, hunt
waterfowl, and trade with other tribes for the building materials they
If you had never met the Aztecs before,
you would have thought of them as very good neighbors - at least while
they were behaving peacefully.
Free School for Everyone:
To build the city they wanted, they knew
that they would need many engineers, builders, and traders. To solve
this problem, the Aztecs created schools for their children. Attendance
at school was mandatory. All Aztec children had to attend school, even
girls and slaves.
The Aztecs were the only people in the
world at this time in history to have free schools that every child had
Girls learned about religion. They also
learned the crafts that the Aztecs believed were woman’s work, which
included weaving, cooking, sewing, embroidering, and childcare. The
girls were trained to be good wives and mothers.
Boys went to one of two schools. One
school was for the sons of nobles, wealthy traders, and successful
merchants. The other school was for the common people and slaves. But,
whichever school an Aztec boy attended, he was trained to be a
specialist. Boys studied how to be farmers, traders, engineers,
builders, astronomers, and doctors.
Those students who became builders and
engineers were the people who designed and built the amazing Aztec
cities. That included the capital city of Tenochtitlan, which was
located on the swampy shores of Lake Texcoco.
As the Aztec population grew more food
was needed. To solve this problem, Aztec engineers created
“floating” gardens. First,
they built a series of rafts and anchored each to the lakebed.
Vegetation and reeds were piled on top of a raft. Then, they piled
on enough dirt to be able to grow crops.
Capital City of Tenochtitlan: With the help of trained
engineers, builders, and traders, Tenochtitlan became a great city. It
had huge temples, beautiful open plazas, and a huge bustling central
marketplace.By the mid-1400’s, Tenochtitlan had a population of about
300,000 people, which made it the largest city in the world at that
Through successful human-environment
interaction, in a very short amount of time, the Aztecs went from being
a wandering tribe to being a very visible presence in ancient Mexico.