Architecture / Empire / Aztec

concalli: In Aztec building, a storehouse.

teopan: An Aztec form of the teocalli.

calli: In the Nahuatl, or Aztec, language of Mexico, a house. Prefixes were used to designated different kinds of houses, as Concalli, storehouse; Texcalli, a kitchen; Teccizcalli, House of Shells; Ticplantlacalli, stone house; Teocalli, House of God (From Teotl, the Highest Being), etc. The last term is now employed as meaning the mound upon which the temple stood, as well as the sacred building itself.

Meso-American architecture: Architecture of the Aztec, Mayan, and other Central-American civilizations of the first millennium BC until the Spanish Conquest of the 16th c. Most surviving structures had a ritualistic function, and included flat-topped pyramidal platforms with ramps and/or steps leading to the summit. Many buildings had sculpted friezes, borders, and panels, and the simple rectilinear blocky forms of the temples bore a resemblance to European stripped Classical buildings of 18th c. and later, while the formal symmetrical geometry of layouts and complexes had ceremonial roads and a gridiron plan. Meso-American architecture had a considerable influence on aspects of Art Deco.

Mexican architecture: A term too broad to be useful, for it includes the most primitive forms of shelter; the stone architecture of the Mayas, built at the beginning of the Christian era; the ceremonial grandeur of the Toltecs; the carved mosaic stonework of the Zapotecs; the luxurious terraced cities of the warlike Aztecs; and the varied splendors of the Spanish conquistadors who arrived in 1519.

tezcacoac: An Aztec arsenal.

tlillancalli: An Aztec building used for a military school.

tecpan: The Aztec council house, or official house.

ezhuahuac: An Aztec penitential building.


Foundation Of The Empire
6th century
First Nahuatl speaking peoples begin to settle in Mexico

Toltec architecture: An austere, geometric, Mesoamerican architecture, ca. 1000 A.D.; which formed the basis for Aztec architecture and other architecture in Mesoamerica; characterized by the use of colonnades several ranks deep, atlantes, square-carved roof supports, monumental serpent columns, balustrades, coatepantli, and narrative relief panels set in plain wall surfaces. Important examples of Toltec architecture are at Tula and Chichen Itza.

serpent column: A type of column used in Toltec architecture; featured a feathered serpent (Quetzalcoatl) whose open-fanged head serves as the base and whose tail rattlers are the roof support, as at Chichen Itza and Tula.

coatepantli: A carved wall featuring the serpent motif; introduced in Toltec architecture ca. 1000 A.D. at Tula (home of Quetzalcoatl, deified as the Feathered Serpent) and used extensively by the Aztecs thereafter.

tzompantli: At Chichen Itza, Yucatan, a Toltec stone altar platform decorated with carved skulls. 2. In Mesoamerica, a rack to which the heads of sacrificial victims were skewered; usually located in a sacred precinct.

Quetzalcoatl: Priest-ruler of the Toltec people, who was deified as the feathered-serpent god called by that name.

The Mexica travel from their northern homeland of Aztlan. These early dates, and the existence and location of Aztlan are hotly debated.

The Mexica roam the area which is now Mexico, trying to find a location in which to settle

Mexica settle near Lake Texcoco, in Chapultepec, though they are soon expelled by the Tepanecs

Mexica settle in Tizapan, by permission of the Culhuacan ruler Cocoxtli.

Tenochtitlán is settled by the Mexica

Building an Empire

Building of causeways with canals

Death of Tenoch, religious ruler of the Mexica

Acamapichtli, 1st Aztec Emperor (1376-1395)

The first king* of Tenochtitlán, Acamapichitli, rules

Original construction of Templo Mayor beings in Tenochtitlán

Huitzilihuitl, 2nd Aztec Emperor (1396-1417)

The second king of Tenochtitlán, Huitzilihuitzli, rules. An alliance with the Tepaneca is created.

Chimalpopoca, 3rd Aztec Emperor (1417-1427)

The third king, Chimalpopoca, has his relatively short reign. He is assasinated by the Tepaneca.


Aztec architecture: Work of the warlike Aztecs, who for a century before the coming of the Spanish conquerors in 1519 had flourished by capturing and sacrificing the neighboring peoples.

Izcoatl, 4th Aztec Emperor (1427-1440)

War with the Tepaneca. Up to this point the Tepaneca had been dominant in central Mexico, ruling from Azcapotzalco and taking tribute from the Mexica.

Azcapotzalco conquered

Establishment of the Triple Alliance between the Mexica, the Acolhua in the city Texcoco and the Tepaneca of Tlacopan. These cities became the foundation of the empire.

Tenochtitlán’s fourth king, Itzcoatl, reigns

Moctezuma I, 5th Aztec Emperor (1440-1469)

Tenochtitlán severely damaged by flooding

Famine in Tenochtitlán

Height of the Empire

Reign of the fifth king, Moctezuma I, who is also referred to as Montezuma I

Tenochtitlán’s sixth king, Azayactl, reigns

Axayacatl, 6th Aztec Emperor (1469-1481)

Reign of Tizoc, the seventh king of Tenochtitlán

Tizoc, 7th Aztec Emperor (1481-1486)
Ahuitzotl, 8th Aztec Emperor (1486-1502)

Rule of Ahuitzotl, eighth king of the city

Dedication of Great Temple (Templo Mayor) at Tenochtitlán. This was the 6th version of the temple.

(Christopher Columbus’s landing at Santa Domingo)

Moctezuma II, 9th Aztec Emperor (1502-1520)

Reign of Moctezuma II, or Montezuma II, most famous of the Aztec kings and ninth king of Tenochtitlán

Severe floods in Tenochtitlán

The Fall of the Empire

The appearance of a comet, believed to signify impending doom

1519 March 4
Landing of Hernan Cortes on the Yucatan peninsula

1519 Nov 8
Cortes arrives in Tenochtitlán

Cuitláhuac I, 10th Aztec Emperor (1520)

Cortes allies with Tlaxcala, enemies of the Aztec, assault on the empire begins. On the 1st of July, the Spanish forces were driven back. The Spanish and their native allies suffered heavy losses. (This is known as la Noche Triste – The Sad Night)

Rule of Cuitláhuac, tenth king of Tenochtitlán

Cuitláhuac dies from smallpox. Rule of Cuauhetemoc, eleventh and last king of the city.

Cuauhtémoc, 11th Aztec Emperor (1521-1525)

1521 Aug 13
Fall of Tenochtitlán. Cuauhetemoc surrenders to Cortes, destruction of the city

Rebuilding of the city by the Spanish as Mexico City, capital of New Spain

Cuauhetemoc is hung by the Spaniards

Colonial rulers
Juan Velázquez, 12th Aztec Emperor (1525)
Motelchiuhtzin Huitznahuatlailótlac aka Don Andrés de Tapia (1525-1530)
Xochiquentzin aka Don Pablo (1532-1536)
Don Diego de Alvarado, 15th Aztec Emperor (1539-1541)
don Diego de San Francisco, 16th Aztec Emperor (1541-1554)
Esteban de Guzmán (Not a tlatoani, but a judge (juez).) (1554-1557)
Don Cristóbal de Guzmán, 17th Aztec Emperor (1557-1562)
Luis de Guzmán, 17th Aztec Emperor (1563-1565)


Also see Architecture index.


Sources Cited

Aztec Timeline,