The story of the Aztecs’ rise to power is awe inspiring one, and is one of the most remarkable stories in world history. They were a relatively unknown group of people who came into the Valley of Mexico during the 12th and 13th century A.D., and rose to be the greatest power in the Americas by the time the Spaniards arrived, in the 16th century.
The center of the Aztec civilization was the Valley of Mexico, a huge, oval basin about 7,500 feet above sea level. The Aztec empire included many cities and towns, especially in the Valley of Mexico. The largest city in the empire was the capital, Tenochtitlan.
Little is known of the earliest Aztecs, they did not keep a written record. Their history was passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Legend has it that they came from an Island called Aztlan, meaning White Place – Place of Herons.
In the Aztec codex Tira de la Peregrinacion, commonly called the Migration Scrolls, the scrolls have the Aztecs leaving Aztlan, which was described as an island in a lake with Chicomoztoc depicted as seven temples in the center of the island. The Aztecs felt they were the “chosen people” of Huitzilopochtli. The Aztecs believed Huitzilopochtli, their war god, was their protector, and he had them search for their promised land.
Sometime during the 12th & 13th centuries, the Aztecs straggled into the Valley of Mexico, led by their chieftain Tenoch.