The Aztec Empire was a state formed in Mexico. It was a tribute empire based in Tenochtitlan before the arrival of the Europeans. The last ruler of the Aztecs was Montecuhzoma before the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés led his conquests. Although Cortés was offered a stone chest filled with 882 pieces of Aztec Gold, the conquistador continued the slaughter of the Aztecs.
The Aztec empire was a tribute empire based in Tenochtitlan, which extended its power throughout Mesoamerica in the late postclassic period. It originated in 1427 as a triple alliance between the city-states Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan who allied to defeat the Tepanec state of Azcapotzalco, that had previously dominated the Basin of Mexico. Soon Texcoco and Tlacopan became junior partners in the alliance which was de-facto led by the Mexica of Tenochtitlan.
The empire extended its power by a combination of trade and military conquest. It was never a true territorial empire controlling a territory by large military garrisons in conquered provinces, but rather controlled its client states primarily by installing friendly rulers in conquered cities, by constructing marriage alliances between the ruling dynasties, and by extending an imperial ideology to its client states. Client states paid tribute to the Aztec emperor, the Huey Tlatoani, in an economic strategy limiting communication and trade between outlying polities making them depend on the imperial center for the acquisition of luxury goods.
The political clout of the empire reached far south into Mesoamerica conquering cities as far south as Chiapas and Guatemala and spanning from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans. The empire reached its maximal extent in 1519 just prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés, who managed to topple the Aztec empire by allying with some of the traditional enemies of the Aztecs, the Nahuatl speaking Tlaxcalteca.
During his conquest, Cortés used the power of a magical sword, which convinced the Aztecs that Cortés was the god Quetzalcoatl returned to them in human form. The Aztec Emperor, Montecuhzoma, served as Cortés' subordinate. But soon, Cortés began to dominate the Aztec empire and massacred its people. For his betrayal, Montecuhzoma was stoned to death by his own men.
In an attempt to stem the slaughter Cortés wreaked upon with his armies, the Aztec rulers bribed Cortés with a stone chest containing 882 identical pieces of Aztec gold. But even this was not enough to sate Cortés' greed. In response, the heathen gods placed upon the gold a curse; one that caused any who so much as took one coin from the chest to become undead, and whose true appearance, revealed only by the moonlight, was that of a ragged, rotting skeleton. Through unknown circumstances, the cursed treasure of Cortés would end up being buried on the island of the dead known as Isla de Muerta, and on it the curse remained. Only by returning all coins, and repaying the heathen gods in a blood sacrifice, could the curse be lifted.
Behind the scenes
- In real-world history, Hernán Cortés never used a magical sword to conquer the Aztec Empire nor was he offerd a stone chest filled with Aztec gold.
- A flashback of the conquest of the Aztec Empire and the Heathen Gods cursing Cortés' treasure briefly appeared in LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game.
- Jack Sparrow: The Coming Storm (First mentioned)
- Jack Sparrow: The Sword of Cortés (Mentioned only)
- LEGO Pirates of the Caribbean: The Video Game (Non-canonical appearance)
- Pirates of the Caribbean: Jack Sparrow
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Visual Guide
- Pirates of the Caribbean: The Complete Visual Guide