Page:The Rambler in Mexico.djvu/156

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150
THE PYRAMIDS.

of the conquest, only carry you backward to an epoch, a hundred and fifty years, or thereabout, anterior to that event; or to the foundation of the Mexican empire.

The weak and uncertain glimmer of their traditional history, respecting the period of the Aztec emigration, and that of the various nations whom they succeeded, if followed till it vanishes in utter darkness, hardly points back to times more remote than the middle of the seventh century, an age of comparatively modern history in the Old World. At that epoch, it is stated that the Toltecs, a powerful nation, emigrating from their original country somewhere to the northeast, made an irruption upon Anahuac, or the great table land and valley of Mexico. Their pilgrimage southward seems to have been slow, and to have lasted an entire century; and several sites are indicated as places of temporary sojourn before they finally settled, but their principal seat of government, which was monarchical, was at Tula, a few leagues to the north of the valley of Mexico.

They were, by the testimony of all succeeding tribes, the most civilized of all the nations which held possession of Anahuac; living in cities, submitting to a regular form of government, and possessing a knowledge of hieroglyphic writing, the casting of metals, and the cultivation of maize and cotton; evincing great skill in the mechanic arts, and chiefly remarkable for the ingenious astronomical arrangement of time in use among them.[1] They held their sway over the central portion of the country for four centuries, when they would appear to have been cut off by a famine and pestilence, and most of their cities deserted. Part of the remnant emigrated to the southward, towards the isthmus; a few remained in the sacred city of Cholula.

A hundred years' desolation followed, when, about 1170, a second people, emigrating also from the north, sat down upon the deserted territory. They were also subject to a monarchical government; but were far less civilized than their predecessors: and in advance in the

  1. See page 130, &c.