This week, we feature the Aztecs. It's hard to argue with a group of people who consider themselves "the chosen people of the war god Huitzilopochtli." For one thing, you probably couldn't even pronounce Huitzilopochtli. For another thing, the Aztec had a nasty habit of making frequent sacrifices to their gods (and we aren't talking incense and candles here). Yet, despite their fearsome ways and speech-defying names, the Aztecs were also extremely skilled farmers and artisans.
The origin of the Aztec people is hard to ascertain, partly because of the lack of surviving historical records, but also because those texts that did survive often seem to freely mix mythology with historical narrative. Elements of their own tradition suggest that they were a tribe of hunter-gatherers on the northern Mexican plateau before their appearance in Meso-America in the 12th century. The Aztec were so called for Aztlán ("White Land"), an allusion to their origins in northern Mexico. It is possible that their migration southward was part of a general movement of peoples that followed, or perhaps helped trigger, the collapse of the Toltec civilization. The Aztecs settled on islands in Lake Texcoco and in 1325 founded Tenochtitlán, which remained their chief city. The basis of the Aztec's success in creating a great state and ultimately an empire was their remarkable system of agriculture, which featured intensive cultivation of all available land, as well as elaborate systems of irrigation and reclamation of swampland. The high productivity gained by these methods made for a rich and populous state. Apparently, even their religious practices were efficient: it is estimated that between 10,000 and 15,000 people were sacrificed per year at the height of the empire. The Aztec empire was equaled in the New World only by that of the Incas of Peru, and the brilliance of the civilization is also comparable to that of other great ancient cultures of the New and the Old World.
Under a succession of ambitious kings they established a dominion that eventually stretched over most of present-day Mexico. By commerce and conquest, Tenochtitlán came to rule an empire of 400 to 500 small states, comprising by 1519 some five-to six-million people spread over 80,000 square miles. Valor in war was the surest path to advancement in Aztec society. The priestly and bureaucratic classes were involved in the administration of the empire, while at the bottom of society were classes of serfs, indentured servants, and outright slaves. The incredible story of a wandering tribe that was able to build an empire in one century (from the beginning of the 14th century to the beginning of the 15th) can be largely explained by three main factors: the Aztec religion, the thriving trade routes centered on Tenochtilán, and Aztec military organization. In 1502, Montezuma II became the ninth emperor of the Aztec Empire succeeding his uncle Ahuitzotl. Even the Aztec sages could not have forseen that hundreds of years later, a gastrointestinal disorder would be named after him. At the time, the empire had reached its greatest extent, stretching from what is now northern Mexico into Honduras and Nicaragua. The Aztec empire was still expanding, and its society still evolving, when its progress was halted in 1519 by the appearance of Spanish adventurers. Montezuma was taken prisoner by Hernándo Cortés and died in custody. Montezuma's successors, Cuitláhuac and Cuauhtémoc, were unable to stave off the conquistadors and, with the Spanish sack of Tenochtitlán in 1521, the Aztec empire came to an end.
In Civilization III, the Aztecs are considered a Militaristic and Religious civilization, therefore, they start with Warrior Code and Ceremonial Burial, and have significant bonuses to military activities and religious pursuits. See the developer update on Civ-specific abilities for more on these bonuses.
As a militaristic society, the Aztecs placed a very high emphasis on honor and battlefield skill. After an Aztec warrior captured four or five enemy soldiers, he could advance to the rank of Eagle or Jaguar Warrior. These ranks provided unique benefits, such as exemption from taxes. Jaguar Warriors were fearsome combatants who wore colorful costumes including elaborately plumed headgear and Jaguar pelts, and wielded war shields (chimalli) and obsidian-tipped weapons such as war hammers and swords.
The Jaguar Warrior is an upgraded version of the warrior. With an additional movement point, the Jaguar Warrior can quickly rush an enemy unit or descend on a city to attack.
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