Magnificent Cities of the Americas

Commerce/Location on the Post Classical Trade Network

The city of Tenochtitlan depended on a barter system. Since the Aztec empire was one of the largest in the Americas during it's time, the furthest civilization they traded with was located in modern day Guatemala. This meant that Tenochtitlan traded with neighboring enemy civilizations, such as the Tarascan Empire which provided them with copper and bronze goods in exchange for obsidian. Goods were also produced for the leader or sold in local markets. Some of these valued goods included: jaguar skins, tropical bird feathers, rubber, cotton, chocolate,  and cacao beans.


The social structure of Tenochtitlan was similar to that of other post classical era empires, with it following from greatest to least importance: ruler, nobles, warriors, merchants, priests, and tax collectors, serfs, indentured servants,  and slaves. They mainly spoke Nahuatl. Surprisingly, women had power and influence in society. Although they mostly performed household duties, they could also participate in the marketplace or work as teachers or priestesses.


The Tenochtitlan people were polytheistic, with their main gods being the Plumed Serpent Quetzalcoatl, the rain god Tlaloc, and the sun god Huitzilopochtli. The people believed they were the chosen ones of the sun god, and according to Aztec belief, their world existed under the fifth sun, four previous ones having been destroyed by various cataclysms. Therefore, their primary mission was to keep the sun rising, a task accomplished by "appeasing" Huitzilopoctli with plentiful offerings of human hearts. Their culture involved many types of human sacrifices and rituals, and worshiped their gods in vast temples. Despite the gruesome part of their culture/religion, it was also custom for Tenochtitlan people to teach arts and crafts, religion, traditions, and history.


The empire expanded in two ways, drastically increasing the growth of Tenochtitlan. One way was through the military conquest of neighboring lands by Moctezuma the First. This conquest of land also helped establish trade across the empire. The second way was that The Triple Alliance, the main political force, formed a tributary empire, expanding its enforcement far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states throughout Mesoamerica.


The people of Tenochtitlan had many important innovations throughout their time. Some of the most important that we still use today include the invention of rubber and the production of chocolate. They also created a form of paper using fig trees and had a profound ability to create medicines and other ailments.


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