The Aztec once ruled a mighty empire. They were an advanced civilization located in what is modern day Mexico. The high point of their civilization came in the fifteenth century. In 1521, the Spaniards conquered their empire which began the decline of their civilization. The Aztec civilization can be understood through their religious practices, the architecture they built, and the sculpture they left behind. The Aztec practiced a multitheistic religion that required the sacrifice of human beings to appease their gods. As with many ancient civilizations, their religion reflected their everyday needs. Tlaloc, the rain god, was a very important god. Because they had an agricultural based economy, their livelihood was deeply dependent on having enough rain. This rain god was both feared and honored in hopes that he would bless them with abundant rain for their crops. Huitzilopochitli was another important god. He was the god of War that protected the Aztec from outside aggressors. Human sacrifice was needed to appease this god. When possible, prisoners were used for the sacrifices, but children and slaves were often sacrificed as well. This work was carried out by priests who would cut out the heart of the innocent victims. The architecture of the Aztec expressed both their religious practices and their form of government. Religious ceremonies were carried out in great pyramids that were made of heavy stones. Step-like rows of
stairs led up to a temple at the top where the sacrifices were carried out. One of the best examples of their pyramid architecture can still be seen at Santa Cecilia, Mexico from the ruins that have been left there. In addition, they built large and elegant palaces for their rulers who were emperors. The greatest palace was built in the capital city which was Tenochtitlan. Archaeologists have uncovered many artifacts that were once part of Aztec palace life, as well as artifacts used in temple worship . The sculpture of the Aztec is perhaps the greatest evidence of their multitheistic religious practices and warlike ways. "Aztec sculpture is famous for its massive monumental quality, as exemplified in the figure of Coatlicue, mother of the gods and earth goddess". It was typical of the Aztecs to erect huge images of the gods they wished to please in the hope of earning the god's favor. The huge idols had combined features of men and demon-like qualities. Likewise, the warring spirit of the Aztec can be seen in the sculptured helmets that the warriors wore into battle. It was believed that these helmets would bring them greater power. The civilization of the Aztec people endured for less than a century. Yet it is evident that they were a civilization of passions and accomplishments. We know this because of the rich artifacts that they have left behind. As a result of this legacy we understand their religious culture and their achievements in architecture and sculpture which both reflect the kind of society they were.