Aztec is the Nahuat wordfor "people from Aztlan", a mythological place for the Nahuatl-speaking culture of the time, and later adopted as the word to define the Mexica people. Oftenthe term "Aztec" refers exclusively to the Mexica people of Tenochtitlan situated on an island in Lake Texcoco, who referred to themselves as MexicaTenochca.
Aztec culture is the culture of the people referred to as Aztecs, but since all ethnic groups of central Mexico in the postclassic period shared mostbasic cultural traits, many of the basic traits of Aztec culture cannot be said to be exclusive for the Aztecs. For the same reason the notion of "Azteccivilization" is best understood as a particular horizon of a general Mesoamerican civilization.
The empire reached its height during Ahuitzotl's reign in1486–1502. His successor, Moctezuma, had been Hueyi Tlatoani for 17 years when the Spaniards, led by Hernándo Cortés, landed on the Gulf Coast in the spring of1519.Despite some early battles between the two, Cortés allied himself with the Aztecs’ long-time enemy, the Confederacy of Tlaxcala, and arrived at thegates of Tenochtitlan on November 8, 1519. In June, 1520, hostilities broke out, culminating in the massacre in the Main Temple and the death of Moctezuma II.