Social Studies

Aztec Empire

ImageHundreds of years ago, a towering temple stood at the center of what is now Mexico City. This Great Temple was a symbol of the power of the Aztec Empire—an empire that stretched across much of Mexico.


The Aztec Empire was the last in a series of great Native American civilizations in Mexico. Before they became powerful, the Aztec people wandered from place to place and lived by hunting animals and gathering wild plants. They roamed a part of northern Mexico called Aztlán. The name Aztec comes from Aztlán.


ImageCan you imagine wanting nothing? How would you feel? Calm and relaxed? Cheerful? Satisfied? This is the state of mind Buddhists try to reach. Buddhism is both a religion and a philosophy. It was founded in the 6th century bc by a man known as Buddha.


Siddhartha Gautama, who later became known as Buddha, was born in Nepal around 563 bc. His father was a king. Young Siddhartha grew up knowing only comfort and pleasure. Then one day he discovered that suffering exists, and it troubled him. Why did people suffer, he wondered? How could they be saved?


ImageHinduism is the world’s third biggest religion. It has about 900 million followers. Only Christianity and Islam have more. Hinduism, however, has not spread as much as Christianity and Islam. About 20 million Hindus live outside India. All the rest live in India, where the religion was born.


Hinduism is one of the world’s oldest religions, but it has no founder. It grew slowly out of the beliefs and practice of ancient tribes. These tribes, the Indo-Aryans, entered India around 3000 bc. Over many centuries, their religion ripened into Hinduism.


ImageChristianity has more followers than any other religion. It centers on Jesus Christ, whom Christians consider to be the Son of God. His birth marks the first year of the Christian calendar, the one most people use today.


The story of Christianity begins with Jesus. He was born about 2,000 years ago in Bethlehem, a town in the ancient Middle Eastern region of Judea.

Jesus preached that God is love. He told people to love even their enemies. He also spoke about the Kingdom of God.


ImageIslam is the second largest religion in the world. Only Christianity has more followers. People who follow the religion of Islam are called Muslims. Today, almost 1 billion people call themselves Muslims. Most Muslims live in a string of countries that extends from Morocco in North Africa to Indonesia in Southeast Asia.


An Arab trader named Muhammad was the founding prophet of Islam. He lived in Mecca, a busy trading town in Arabia (now called Saudi Arabia). Mecca had temples built to honor various pagan gods. Pilgrims visited these temples to worship statues of the gods.