Tenochtitlan


    Tenochtitlan was an Aztec city that was arranged in a slightly different manor than other Aztec cities(Smith 186).  It was an urban island settlement that housed 200,000 inhabitants at its height(Carrasco 67).  It was one of the largest cities in the world at the time of the Spanish conquest.  The two largest cities in the world at this time were Paris and Constantinople with 300,000 people.  Needless to say, when the conquistadors encountered this miraculous city, they were in awe(Carrasco 66)!

    Tenochtitlan was at first constructed like other city-state capitals with an organized central area and an unorganized region outside the center precincts.  When the Mexicas came to power and Tenochtitlan's population began to grow explosively there was a need to organize.  The Mexicas' decided that, since Tenochtitlan had become the capital of the Aztec civilization, it was time to renovate.  They wanted it to have a renewed splendor and to look prestigious and important.  They decided to renovate it along grid lines.  Not only the central region was renovated to match this grid, but also the outskirts to make the entire city more organized.  The people of Tenochtitlan borrowed a lot of stylistic designs from Teotihuacan and Tula to rebuild their city, including using a grid, certain architectural styles, and sculpture.  The entire city of Tenochtitlan was divided into five quadrants, if you count the center one.  Canals divided the city in the four cardinal directions.  The central plaza was not the only administrative and religious center in Tenochtitlan.  In the center of each of the four surrounding quadrants there was also a central plaza(Smith 197).  The Incas also chose to organize their city layouts along gridlines in their early empire.  For more information about this see Inca grid pattern.

    Outside of the city centers, were the houses of its people.  The houses of the lords and nobles normally surrounded the market places and civic centers(Carrasco 72).  On the outskirts of the city, there were gardens in the swamps.  By using their superior farming skills, these people made chinampas, rectangular patches of earth in the swamp, to cultivate plants for food and to build houses on.  They were able to have very productive planting areas because of this technology(Carrasco 69).


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