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Aztec Capital, Tenochtitlan, Facts That Will Blow Your Mind
It’s undeniable how impressive the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan was for its time, but even today it’s still a technological and cultural marvel. And the wonderful Aztec style is still influencing our design of Aztec rugs today.
It is estimated that more than 700,000 people lived in the city and the areas surrounding the lake. For context, the city of London has 100,000 inhabitants at this time.
It was the first city in the entire world to guarantee free education to all of its people. There was a divide between commoners and nobility, but that’s still pretty impressive 300 years before there was even a United States.
The city was completely white because everything was constructed from lime. Upon first seeing the city, the Spaniards believed that it must be made entirely out of silver.
When looking at the scale and achievements of the Aztec empire, I think most would think they were around for many centuries, but the Aztecs actually only lasted about 200 years.
In the final 70 years or so of Tenochtitlan, Aztec rulers manage to dominate the majority of Mesoamerica (approximately one-third of Europe).
Traders or tradesmen were not allowed to hold public office because it is very likely that their efforts would have been for their own personal benefit.
The capital had the fastest postal service in the world at this time. The Aztecs had many mail runners that would run 8 kilometers then hand off to the next runner. Moctecuhzoma I received fresh fish from the coast that was a single day old.
The Aztecs strove for a very fair system of socioeconomic advancement. They had a meritocracy that allowed any soldier to advance to the highest levels of Eagle or Jaguar warriors based on the number of campaigns he fought in and his performance in those battles. The same was also true of public office.
They developed a system of artificial, floating islands that allowed them to double the standard production of crops. This technology is still being used in the nearby areas today.
The capital had public baths open to everyone in the city. The Aztecs were far ahead in terms of the importance they placed on cleanliness and hygiene. They even used the human waste as fertilizer on their floating crop islands.
Tenochtitlan was by far the most well-lit major city of the 16th century. They streets were lined with torches and bonfires and barbecues blazed at the top of their temples.
There were many medical specialties employed in Tenochtitlan that were unknown in the rest of the world at the time. For instance, there were people dedicated to the practice of herbalism, surgery, chiropractic, psychology, and even the interpretation of dreams and memories.
The capital was constructed upon a swampy lake through the use of stilts.
Every citizen had two forms of taxes. One in spices and the other in labor for the development of the city.
Upon the orders of the Emporer, the capital contained the continent’s first zoo, bringing in many species non-indigenous to the area.
The diet of the Aztec citizens consisted of seeds, roots, insects, plants, and the occasional meats.
There existed two forms of transportation in Tenochtitlan: walking through the streets and taking a canoe through the canals of the city.