Aztec Timeline

It's time to take a look at an Aztec timeline to get an overview of what happened during the times of this civilization.

Collectively, the people of the allied Central Mexican and American city states between the 12th century CE (AD) and the 15th century Spanish invasion are commonly referred to as the Aztecs.  The Aztec empire was controlled primarily by a political body called the Triple Alliance, made up of the Acolhua people of Texcoco, the Mexica in Tenochtitlán, and the Tepaneca people of Tlacopan.

These three peoples, and three cities, were responsible for the domination of much of Mexico during the period we'll show in our Aztec timeline.

The Triple Alliance
The symbols for the 3 cities which would make up the famous Triple Alliance (see Aztec timeline below)
(L to R) Texcoco, Tenochtitlán (Mexico), and Tlacopán


The Aztec capital city was located at Tenochtitlán, which is the site of the modern Mexico city, and their empire covered nearly all of the current country of Mexico, extending down into other regions of Central America as well (see this Aztec map for details).

Over time, Tenochtitlán became the primary city of the Triple Alliance, and the Mexica became the rulers of the empire.  Social stratification was significant, and religion played an important role in the spiritual and political life of the people.

An Overview - the Aztec Timeline

This Aztec timeline includes the generally agreed upon dates of major events in the empire.  For various reasons, experts dispute some dates, but this will give you an idea of the flow of events in the history of the empire, up until its fall.

Foundation Of The Empire

6th century First Nahuatl speaking peoples begin to settle in Mexico
1110 The Mexica travel from their northern homeland of Aztlan.  These early dates, and the existence and location of Aztlan are hotly debated.
1110-1248 The Mexica roam the area which is now Mexico, trying to find a location in which to settle
1248 Mexica settle near Lake Texcoco, in Chapultepec, though they are soon expelled by the Tepanecs
1299 Mexica settle in Tizapan, by permission of the Culhuacan ruler Cocoxtli.
1325 Tenochtitlán is settled by the Mexica

Building an Empire

1350 Building of causeways with canals
1370 Death of Tenoch, religious ruler of the Mexica
1376-1395 The first king* of Tenochtitlán, Acamapichitli, rules
1390 Original construction of Templo Mayor beings in Tenochtitlán
1395-1417 The second king of Tenochtitlán, Huitzilihuitzli, rules.  An alliance with the Tepaneca is created.
1417-1427 The third king, Chimalpopoca, has his relatively short reign.  He is assasinated by the Tepaneca.
1427-1430 War with the Tepaneca.  Up to this point the Tepaneca had been dominant in central Mexico, ruling from Azcapotzalco and taking tribute from the Mexica.
1430 Azcapotzalco conquered
1431 Establishment of the Triple Alliance between the Mexica, the Acolhua in the city Texcoco and the Tepaneca of Tlacopan.  These cities became the foundation of the empire.
1427-1440 Tenochtitlán's fourth king, Itzcoatl, reigns
1452 Tenochtitlán severely damaged by flooding
1452-1454 Famine in Tenochtitlán

Height of the Empire

1440-1469 Reign of the fifth king, Moctezuma I, who is also referred to as Montezuma I
1469-1481 Tenochtitlán's sixth king, Azayactl, reigns
1481-1486 Reign of Tizoc, the seventh king of Tenochtitlán
1486-1502 Rule of Ahuitzotl, eighth king of the city
1487 Dedication of Great Temple (Templo Mayor) at Tenochtitlán.  This was the 6th version of the temple.
1492 (Christopher Columbus's landing at Santa Domingo)
1502-1520 Reign of Moctezuma II, or Montezuma II, most famous of the Aztec kings and ninth king of Tenochtitlán
1510 Severe floods in Tenochtitlán

The Fall of the Empire

1517 The appearance of a comet, believed to signify impending doom
1519
4 March
Landing of Hernan Cortes on the Yucatan penninsula
1519
8 Nov
Cortes arrives in Tenochtitl√°n
1520 Cortes allies with Tlaxcala, enemies of the Aztec, assault on the empire begins.  On the 1st of July, the Spanish forces were driven back.  The Spanish and their native allies suffered heavy losses.  (This is known as la Noche Triste - The Sad Night)
1520 Rule of Cuitahuac, tenth king of Tenochtitlán
1520 Cuitahuac dies from the first smallpox epidemic to hit the empire.  Rule of Cuauhetemoc, eleventh and last king of the city.
1521
13 Aug
Fall of Tenochtitlán.  Cuauhetemoc surrenders to Cortes, destruction of the city
1522 Rebuilding of the city by the Spanish as Mexico City, capital of New Spain
1525 Cuauhetemoc is hung by the Spaniards


* Note: In this Aztec timeline we refer to the ruler of Tenochtitlán as the city's "king".  He would actually be called the Tlatcani, and as the main ruler of the ruling city he would be the Huey Tlatcani.  Today, we often refer to the Huey Tlatcani of Tenochtitlán as the emperor.  Read more about Aztec government.

Here is an Aztec timeline of emperors, with some information about each.