Book Review: Tenochtitlan – Capital of the Aztec Empire

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tenochtitlan crop for webTenochtitlan
José Luis de Rojas
University Press of Florida
ISBN 978-0-8130-4220-6

Besides Ancient Egypt, no civilisation has been examined and scrutinised more than the Aztecs. Human Sacrifice, vicious and bloody wars, magnificent architecture and a spectacular downfall have brought the Aztec empire eternal fame.

In this informative and stimulating book, José Luis de Rojas brings a new dimension to a much-discussed subject. The book is targeted at a ‘non-technical’ audience, which is demonstrated in the friendly font size and orderly layout of the chapters.

The author delivers a rich and detailed narrative of the lives of Aztec people (or Mexica as they are also known), from the construction of the city to its eventual collapse at the hands of Spanish Conquistadors. Readers also learn about less-discussed aspects of daily life such as trade, farming and games.

However, the content can at times be dense and confusing, particularly when discussing the royal family tree. Aztec names are notoriously difficult to read, so it would have been useful for a more coherent genealogy to be included.

There is also little discussion of religion and sacrifice, which the author argues can be over-scrutinised. While this may be true, it feels as if there is an elephant in the room, as religion was a fundamental aspect of the lives of every man, woman and child of the city. At one point, the author alludes to cannibalism of sacrifice victims and then swiftly moves on to the subject of dancing, before the reader has even had the chance to digest what they have just read.

Despite this, the book is an excellent chronicle of life in Tenochtitlan, and I would recommend to anyone who already has an interest in this fascinating civilisation.

Review by Lucy Woods

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