General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 14 Dec 2017/3 Rain
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Tenochtitlan, Centre of the Aztec World - map by Tomas Filsinger

Tenochtitlan - Centre of the Aztec World

We all know that Tenochtitlan, the Mexica capital city, was one of the largest cities in the world in the early 16th century. Sometimes we struggle to find good facts and figures to demonstrate the size and extent of the ‘Aztec Empire’. Here are a few useful pointers, adapted from David Carrasco’s excellent little book The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction (OUP, 2012) (Compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Pic 1: Map of the Valley of Mexico, circa 1492
Pic 1: Map of the Valley of Mexico, circa 1492 (Click on image to enlarge)

Tenochtitlan, the ‘Great City of Mexico’ as the Spaniards referred to it, was the supreme settlement of a political and economic empire made up of more than 400 cities and towns spread through central Mexico Mesoamerica and extending into several distant southern and eastern areas. Tenochtitlan was the city at the head of a Triple Alliance, which included the city-states of Tezcoco and Tlacopan. Together these three cities strove to control more than 5 million people spread over an area of more than 77,000 square miles. Yet this city’s population and power was concentrated on an island of only 4.6 square miles, which actually combined the two separate settlements of Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan into one large city-state.

Pic 2: Tenochtitlan at the heart of the Basin of Mexico
Pic 2: Tenochtitlan at the heart of the Basin of Mexico (Click on image to enlarge)

Radiating out from this island capital were more than half a dozen causeways that linked it to nine smaller towns on the nearby mainland and pushed the population of this megalopolis closer to 300,000 people. As the Spaniards quickly learned, the Aztec capital was both a highly productive garden city and the centre of a tributary empire that drew in vast supplies of foodstuffs and commodities...

Picture sources:-
• Pic 1: Map of Tenochtitlan and surrounding landscape in 1519 created by and courtesy of Tomás Filsinger
• Pic 2: Anonymous map, scanned from our copy of Circa 1492: Art in the Age of Exploration, edited by Jay A. Levenson, National Gallery of Art, Washington/Yale University Press, 1991
• Pic 3: Painting of Tenochtitlan by Miguel Covarrbias, National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City; photo by Sean Sprague/Mexicolore.

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Aug 06th 2017

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