), also known as Mexica culture, was a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521, during the time in which a triple alliance of the Mexica, Texcoca and Tepaneca tribes established the Aztec empire.
The Aztec people were certain ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to the 16th centuries.
The Aztec have also referred to themselves as the Meshika or Mehika.
Aztec culture is the culture of the people referred to as Aztecs, but since most ethnic groups of central Mexico in the postclassic period shared basic cultural traits, many of the traits that characterize Aztec culture cannot be said to be exclusive to the Aztecs.
For the same reason, the notion of "Aztec civilization" is best understood as a particular horizon of a general Mesoamerican civilization.
The culture of central Mexico includes maize cultivation, the social division between pipiltin nobility and macehualtin commoners, a pantheon (featuring Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl), and the calendric system of a xiuhpohualli of 365 days intercalated with a tonalpohualli of 260 days.
Particular to the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan was the Mexica patron God Huitzilopochtli, twin pyramids, and the ceramic ware known as Aztec I to III.
From the 13th century, the Valley of Mexico was the heart of Aztec civilization: there the city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Triple Alliance, was built upon raised islets in Lake Texcoco.
The Triple Alliance formed the Aztec Empire, a tributary empire that expanded its political hegemony far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states throughout Mesoamerica in the late postclassic period.
It originated in 1427 as an alliance between the city-states Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan; these allied to defeat the Tepanec state of Azcapotzalco, which had previously dominated the Basin of Mexico.
Soon Texcoco and Tlacopan became junior partners in the alliance, of which the Mexica of Tenochtitlan were the de facto leaders.
The empire extended its power by a combination of trade and military conquest.