How advanced and civilized were the Aztecs really?

Oct 2009
How advanced were they? Was Tenochtitlan greater than most European cities? How "civilized" was their culture in comparison with the Europeans?


Ad Honorem
Dec 2010
The Netherlands
An interesting civilization,
no invention of the wheel, no invention of writing.
Yet, from what I understand they had a very well developed road system and a very interesting ''drug'' system based on cacao.

Jax Historian

Ad Honorem
Jul 2012
Here are a few things I remember from a class I took on them and the Maya a number of years ago.

Either Cortez or Bernal Diaz described Tenochtitlan as larger than Seville, which would make it nearly as large as the largest European cities. They were quite advanced in terms of engineering and agriculture. Yes, they did not have the wheel and they wrote in a pictogram form called codices. nearly all of the remaining ones were created after Tenochtitlan was destroyed. I don't believe they were as advanced in metallurgy as were the Europeans.

As far as their being "civilized" compared to European, they used extensive violence towards other Meso-American groups and built quite an empire. I think, outwardly speaking, they were somewhere as close to violent as Europeans in their attempts at conquest. I don't know how they compare in using violence for maintaining internal political and ideological cohesion compared to Europeans' heresy trials and other controls of political dissidents. But i would guess they weren't far "behind" the Europeans in that area.:eek:

I would call their art and religion pretty sophisticated, I'll leave it to others to compare it to Christianity, Judaism, and, say, the art work of the Renaissance.

Perhaps an important thing to know when comparing the Aztecs to Europeans is that they only arrived in the Mexico valley around 1325, so everything they developed happened in only 200 years. I think a balanced comparison needs to take that into account.

That about taps my understanding...


Ad Honoris
Mar 2009
They were highly developed enough to have floating gardens,
a form of hierarchal government, administration, record keeping
over a community of thousands, canals, causeways, aqueducts
and was larger in population than any city in Europe, save three others.
Jul 2012
Michigan, USA.
-Complex engineering and irrigation systems.
-Education was compulsory.
-Elaborate trade networks and economy.
-An extensive pantheon of deities and spirits that ruled over heavens, and were closely related to their precise calendars.
-Tenochtitlan was a planned city larger than any in Europe, that ran smoothly under effective administration.
-Aztecs bathed often.
-Aztec women enjoyed better treatment than their western counterparts ie women that died in childbirth went to a heaven shared by men who died in battle.

It was a brutal society, but it worked when it was in power until the Spanish.
Mar 2012
Relative to there small population and short time span in which they had agriculture they were truly amazing, relative to eurasia they were quite pathetic.


Ad Honorem
Dec 2010
Oregon coastal mountains
Like Europeans, they were very class conscious and were sophisticated, socially. There were methods available, such as Warrior Societies and Martial exploits, to move up the social ladder and attain noble status.

Slaves could marry, have offspring and were allowed to buy their freedom.

Aztecs were comprised of family clans called 'calpolli'. The Calpollis owned most of the land, upper class Nobles owned their own land as well, and the clan divided it among it's families.

Most Calpolli decisions were derived by popular vote. Women had no vote.

Twenty clans made a Tribe.
Jul 2012
Philadelhpia, PA
While they had advanced technology it is worth noting they were into human sacrifice which is pretty "barbaric".
Oct 2011
While they had advanced technology it is worth noting they were into human sacrifice which is pretty "barbaric".
To a people that think the word "sacrifice" means not eating meat on Fridays it may seem a barbaric practice. But to the people who believed that the sacrificed went straight to "heaven" and got a personal audience with a deity, it was a completely different matter. Some people that were sacrificed knew as much as a year in advance and, far from being prisoners, spent the time between being chosen and their fate being treated as the most honoured members of society on par with, if not better than, royalty.

It's also worth noting that a lot of people that were sacrificed were prisoners of war. The purpose of war was not to kill, it was to capture for sacrifice. Compare that to the European concept of warfare, which was "kill them all and let God sort them out".