The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to 16th centuries. "Aztec" is the Nahuatl word for "people from Aztlan",]a mythological place for the Nahuatl-speaking culture of the time, and later adopted as the word to define the Mexica people. Often the term "Aztec" refers exclusively to the Mexica people of Tenochtitlan (now the location of Mexico City), situated on an island in Lake Texcoco, who referred to themselves as Mexica Tenochca or Colhua-Mexica.
AZTEC PEOPLE When used about ethnic groups the term "Aztec" refers to several Nahuatl speaking peoples of central Mexico in the postclassic period of Mesoamerican chronology, especially the ethnic group that had a leading role in establishing the hegemonic empire based at Tenochtitlan, the Mexica. Other ethnic groups associated with the Aztec empire are the Acolhua and Tepanec ethnic groups and some of the ethnic groups that were incorporated into the empire, and the term is also sometimes used about them. In older usage the term was commonly used about modern Nahuatl speaking ethnic groups, as Nahuatl was previously referred to as the "Aztec language".
In recent usage these ethnic groups are rather referred to as the Nahua peoples. Linguistically the term "Aztecan" is still used about the branch of the Uto-Aztecan languages that includes the Nahuatl language and its closest relatives Pochutec and Pipil.
Aztec culture Aztec culture is the culture of the people referred to as Aztecs, but since all ethnic groups of central Mexico in the postclassic period shared most basic cultural traits, many of the basic traits of Aztec culture cannot be said to be exclusive for the Aztecs. For the same reason the notion of "Aztec civilization" is best understood as a particular horizon of a general Mesoamerican civilization. Among the cultural traits that the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan shared with many other cultures of central Mexico are the agricultural basis of maize cultivation, the basic social organization dividing society into classes of noble pipiltin and macehualli commoners, the complex religious beliefs and practices including most of the pantheon, the calendric system of a xiuhpohualli of 365 days intercalated with a tonalpohualli of 260 days. Cultural traits particular to the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan was the veneration of the Mexica patron God Huitzilopochtli, the construction of twin pyramids, and the ceramic ware known as Aztec I to III.
Aztec empireThe Aztec empire was a tribute empire based in Tenochtitlan,which extended its power throughout Mesoamerica in the latepostclassic period. It originated in 1427 as a triple alliancebetween the city-states Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan whoallied to defeat the Tepanec state of Azcapotzalco, that hadpreviously dominated the Basin of Mexico. Soon Texcoco andTlacopan became junior partners in the alliance which was de-facto led by the Mexico of Tenochtitlan. The empire extended itspower by a combination of trade and military conquest.