Engineering an Empire: The Aztecs (2006)
Videos in this documentary
The story of the Aztec empire is one wrapped in myth and legend. In less than 200 years they transformed themselves from a band of wandering nomads to the greatest civilization the New World had ever known. What records remain of this amazing feat indicate they did it through brilliant military campaigns and by ingeniously applying technology to master the harsh environment they faced. They built their capital city where no city should have been possible: in the middle of a lake. They quickly transformed marshes into rich agricultural land surrounding an urban center that rivaled any city in the world at the time. They called it Tenochtitlan. When the Spanish conquistadors arrived there in 1519, and saw its gleaming pyramids, temples and places, grand canals filled with boats, enormous causeways crossing miles of lake from the mainland with aqueducts bringing fresh running water to the massive city, they actually thought they were dreaming.
But they also practiced human sacrifice on an unprecedented scale, at one time dispatching 20,000 victims at a single temple dedication ceremony. They also made many enemies. By the time the Spaniards landed they had no trouble recruiting tribal allies to destroy the Aztecs and that they did just that with amazing speed leveling Tenochtitlan completely to build their colonial capital, Mexico City, on the rubble. From the remains of the Great Temple in Mexico City, to the construction of their Venice of the New World, this episode will examine the architecture and infrastructure behind the New World's greatest, and last, indigenous society.