The Aztecs Essay Research Paper An example

The Aztecs Essay, Research Paper An example of monumental archetecture within the Aztec society is the great pyramid of Tenochtitlan. It was created by the revered speaker Montecuzoma I, who was the ruler of

The Aztecs Essay, Research Paper

An example of monumental archetecture within the Aztec society is the great pyramid of

Tenochtitlan. It was created by the revered speaker Montecuzoma I, who was the ruler of

the Aztecs in 1466. The pyramid was not finished until the rule of Montecuzoma II,

around 1508. (Carrasco, Moctezumas Mexico, Pg 49.)

The pyramid was known to the Aztecs as the “icpac tlamanacali,” or The Great Pyramid.

It’s base was square, and 150 yards to a side. It rose toa height of 70 yards, and had

smooth sides. The staircase ascending the front was actually two staircases, one for people

going up and one for people going down. The staircases were separated by an ornamental

gutter for blood to flow down. The pyramid was used as an sacrificial altar on which

people were sacrificed to the gods, known to the Aztecs as the “Flowery Death.”

(Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg 92.)

The temporal and spiritual heart of the Aztec empire was the island capital of

Tenochtitlan, and more specifically, it’s ceremonial precinct and the Great Pyramid.

Crisscrossed by canals paralleled by streets, it was described by the conquistadors as

“another Venice.” Like that country, the ready access to water transport made heavy

commerce a reality. It is said that 200,000 canoes could be found on the lake in the early

16th century. (Coe, Atlas of Ancient America, pg 125.)

It is difficult to estimate the size of the city when Cortes first arrived but it is estimated at

100,000 with the Aztec empire containing more then 10 million. (Coe, Atlas of Ancient

America, pg 128.)

Unlike European provinces, Aztec cities and towns had working drinking water and

waste treatment systems. An intricate plumbing system using clay pipes ran down from the

mountains around Mexico valley to all of the towns and cities in the valley. As the water

ran into each town or city it was the dispersed to 10 or 12 places around town were it

flowed into a pool for drinking water or was piped into public baths and toilets. Only

nobles had working drinking and bathing systems with running water in thier homes. The

sewage system worked much like today, having human wastes carried to a collection pool

were solid’s were collected, and then having liquids run off into a series of terraces which

filtered the water. Solid wastes were allowed to sit in a collection pool for about six

months and then were brought to the lake gardens to be used as fertilizer. Some of the

waste management practices used by the Aztecs are stil used today. (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg

220.)

Social Structure-

Uey-Tlatoani

Pipiltin

Macehaultin

Tlacotli

The Aztec social structure contained four well defined classes. At the bottom of the heap

were slaves and serfs, or the Tlacotli, who worked the private lands of the nobility. Next

came the Macehualtin, “the fortunate,” as they were called because they were equally free

of the heavy responsibility of the nobility and of the slaves liability to being basely used.

They were the merchants, shopkeepers and artisans that made up the bulk of the

population. The Macehualtin belonged to localized kin groups known as calpulli or “big

houses,” each of which had it’s own lands, clan leaders, and temple. (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg

354.)

After that came the hereditary nobility or Pipiltin, who supplied the top bureaucrats in the

Aztec imperial system, and from whose ranks was a formed a council which advised the

emperor and elected his successor from the ruling lineage. Also all of the nobility had the

sound “ztin” added to the end of their name.

At the very top of the ladder was the Uey-Tlatoani, or revered speaker. He had absolute

control over civil affairs and it was his job to increase the size of the Aztec empire every

year and if he didn’t wage enough wars within a period of time he would be impeached and

replaced by the Pipiltin. (Oliphant, Atlas of the Ancient World. Pg 268)

The Aztec government consisted of principally of the leadership of the royal house and

the vast bureaucracy backed by it. The Uey-Tlatoani dealed mainly with external affairs of

the Aztec empire such as starting wars and making peace treaties. Also there was a

parallel ruler, another member of the royal lineage, known as the Cihuacoatl. He dealt

mainly with the internal affairs of Tenochtitlan such as the water system and the justice

system. The bureaucracy was set into place by the nobles and performed the same function

that civil servants perform today. (Oliphant, Atlas of the Ancient World, 195.)

To maintain the empire the Aztec government made the territories it conquered tribute

twice yearly. Taxes were collected from the territories also and careful accounts were kept

of what territories had to pay. The heavy taxation and forced tribute disgruntled many

territories. When Hernan Cortes arrived in the early 1500’s they were happy to help him as

spies and informants. (Blacker, Cortez and The Aztec Conquest, 143.)

Aztec religion was based on the worship of many gods, but the most important was the

sun god. Aztec preists were

not allowed to bathe or wash ever during thier time as a priest. This resulted in the priests

becoming encrusted with blood and excretements over time.

The Great Pyramid was built as a sacrificeing platform to the gods. At the very top was a

altar and a statue of the sun god, which had a hollow body in which the preists placed

there victims heart. (Oliphant, Atlas of the Ancient World, Pg 197.)

Every year Tenochtitlan launched a “Flowery War,” in which mock battle’s would take

place for the sole purpose of taking prisoners. Usually the wars were small between

provinces in the empire but one year a large war with an overwhelming defeat by the

province of Tenochtitlan took place and it is estimated that between 10 and 80

THOUSAND prisoners were taken. (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg 436.)

After a “Flowery War,” prisoners were marched back to a provinces capital and put to a

“Flowery Death.” That is, being sacrificed to the gods. In theds, but the most important

was the sun god. Aztec preists were

not allowed to bathe or wash ever during thier time as a priest. This resulted in the priests

becoming encrusted with blood and excretements over time.

The Great Pyramid was built as a sacrificeing platform to the gods. At the very top was a

altar and a statue of the sun god, which had a hollow body in which the preists placed

there victims heart. (Oliphant, Atlas of the Ancient World, Pg 197.)

Every year Tenochtitlan launched a “Flowery War,” in which mock battle’s would take

place for the sole purpose of taking prisoners. Usually the wars were small between

provinces in the empire but one year a large war with an overwhelming defeat by the

province of Tenochtitlan took place and it is estimated that between 10 and 80

THOUSAND prisoners were taken. (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg 436.)

After a “Flowery War,” prisoners were marched back to a provinces capital and put to a

“Flowery Death.” That is, being sacrificed to the gods. In the year that Tenochtitlan took

all those prisoners it took the preists one full week to put to death all the prisoners without

stopping. It is said that the area around The great pyramid “turned into a lake of blood and

the piles of bodies were taller then the building’s.” (Jenning’s, Aztec, Pg 328.)

The center of the Aztec empire is the City of Tenochtitlan, an island on the five lakes in

the Mexican valley. The Mixteca, the Aztecs ancestors, believed in a prophecy that there

great capital and the future center of the world was to be established on a swampy island,

were there would be an eagle seated on a prickly-pair cactus holding a serpent in it’s beak.

The Mixteca acted as mercenaries for one power or another until they fulfilled the

prophecy and settled on what would become “the center of the one world.” The Mixteca

then changed there name to the Aztec’s and started conquering other powers around the

great lake, which is actually divided into six separate lakes. After conquering the other

powers it rewrote there texts making the Aztecs glorified and seem as if they had always

been the dominant power in the area.(Coe, Atlas of Ancient America, Pg 130.)

The Aztec empire relied heavily on the six lakes. The lakes provided food by irrigating

the floating crops and by the fish and fowl that the hunters could collect, provided

transportation for heavy loads and people, and alsofortified Tenochtitlan from invaders.

The mountains surrounding the valley provided clean drinking water, snow for merchants

to sell in the city, and also made another barrier for invaders.

The next geographic feature is the desert to the north. Without hard times in the desert,

the Mixteca would never have had emigrated to the valley and formed the Aztec empire.

The oceans to either side of the empire brought precious dyes and paints to the Pohteca,

Aztec traders. It also brought about the end of the Aztec empire by bringing the Spanish.

These different elements show how the Aztec culture flourished for so long, but also they

also show how it brought about the Aztecs end. Without these characteristics, the Aztecs

would have never developed into the huge empire and culture that they became.

The Aztec empire is now gone, along with almost all of the excellent works that the

culture created, the great lake, the center of the one world, and most of the Aztec

monuments have been buried under the slums of what is now known as Mexico city. The

few artifacts that did survive, only did so because they were placed in a museum or buried

and dug up recently. What a sad ending for what was once the most prosperous nation in

Latin America. One thing has survived though, the Aztec language, Nahuatl. May it last

forever in defiance of the ones who tried to wipe it from the face of the earth.

References:

Blacker, Irwan R. Cortes and the Aztec conquest. New York: American Heritage, 1978.

Carrasco, David, Eduardo Moctezuma, Scott Sessions. Niwot Colorado: Univesity press

of Colorado, 1992. Pg 49.

Coe, Micheal, Elizibeth Benson. Atlas of Ancient America. New York: Equinox, 1986.

Pg 125, 128, 130, 146.

Jennings, Gary. Aztec. Avon, 1980. Pg 92, 220, 329, 354, 436.

Oliphant, Margaret. Atlas of the Ancient World. Simon & Shuster, 1992. Pg 195, 197,

268.