Tenochtitlan: Facts About the Aztec Capital

Here are some facts about Tenochtitlan.

  • Tenochtitlan was founded in 1325 and it became the capital of the Aztec Empire in the 15th century.
  • It was located in the Vally of Mexico, constructed on an island in Lake Texcoco.

  • It is estimated that the city of Tenochtitlan covered an area of more than 3 square miles.
  • The city was connected to the mainland by giant causeways. The causeways contained bridges to allow for canoes to pass through them. Canals linked all parts of Tenochtitlan and people could get about by foot or by canoe.
  • The Aztecs used some very sophisticated farming methods to grow enough food to feed the population of Tenochtitlan. Fields were placed around the lake to take advantage of the fertile soil and chinampas (fields created on platforms on the surface of the lake) were also used. A network of dikes and canals were used to control the flow of freshwater.
  • Teracotta aqueducts provided the city with water from the springs at Chapultepec. This water was used only for washing and cleaning. The city’s drinking water was taken from mountain springs.
  • There were lots of different types of buildings in Tenochtitlan. There were several markets, schools, temples, palaces and courts for playing ball games (tlachtli), zoos, botanical gardens and an aquarium.
  • Approximately 200,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan at its peak. The Spanish Conquistador, Hernan Cortes, arrived in Tenochtitlan on 8th Novemeber 1519 and he thought that the city was as large as Seville.
  • The ceremonial area of the city, located to the center of Tenochtitlan, included a giant pyramid dedicated to Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec god of war. It also contained temples dedicated to the gods Tlaoc and Quetzalcoatl.
  • The Spanish conqustadors, led by Hernan Cortes and supported by thousands of native allies, attacked Tenochtitlan several times between 1519 and 1521. They finally managed to gain control of the city and set about pulling down most of the city’s buildings.
  • Mexico City was constructed on the site of Tenochtitlan and very few Aztec buildings can be seen. Archaeologists are constantly working on the remains, and the Great Temple was located in 1978.
  • Tlatelolco was the sister city-state to Tenochtitlan and it was also located on the northern part of the island in Lake Texcoco.
  • The famous Aztec calendar stone has been found in the ruins of Tenochtitlan’s Great Temple. It weighs more than 20 tonnes. No one really knows for certain how the stone was used and what it was used for.

What next? Learn more facts about the Aztecs by visiting our Aztec resources page.