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Aztec Mayans in the History of Mexico

By Ecbryson1 Mar 24, 2013 982 Words
The Mexican pre-conquest world consisted of several different civilization, the Maya and the Aztec being the two most prominent. The Maya and the Aztec, while very similar, both dominated Mesoamerica at a certain time. The Maya dominated from 600 B.C. to A.D. 900, the Aztecs ruled from 1345 to 1521. These pre-conquest civilizations have developed political, economic, and social structures that will be compared. The Aztecs are considered Mesoamericans strongest civilization.

The Mayas political rulers have been depicted through hieroglyphics that have been translated and thought to be understood. Their system of governance consisted of rulers, some of which were women. There rulers were in charge of the civilization. The rulers inherited the right to rule by associating Gods with their royal ancestors. Maya civilization consisted of several large cities of over 50,000 people. Examples of these cities are Palenque, Tikal, and Copan.

The Mayas had a social structure primarily concerned with religion. As was common in Mesoamerica, they are a highly sacrificial society. They left sacrifices for the Gods to repay them. Through the hieroglyphics it can be deduced that the Mayas went through devastating warfare’ they show battles with other cities. This was the first written history. Their class structure was prevalent in the architecture.

The Mayas economic system revolved around Maize. The Mayas treated maize similarly to how they would treat a God. Maize gave the Mayas the ability to become a civilized society. It became a prosperous crop which allowed them to be healthy and reproduce. It is clear in the “Popol Vuh” that the Gods created human beings out of maize.[1] The economy ran on maize because it however the crops did benefited or caused a financial problem.

Chichen Itza, a great Mesoamerican city, was the home of the first ball game. It had a ball court in which the first competitive game was ever played with a ball. The game was played until the losing team was decapitated. This signified creation and sacrificing. The Maya civilization collapsed before the Spanish conquest invaded Mesoamerica. The demise occurred because of a serious drought, disease, and the relentless warfare. There was also environmental degradation and overpopulation which is a deadly combination.

The Aztecs, known as the strongest society to come out of Mesoamerica, dominated pre-conquest Mexico from 1345 to 1521. The built an empire on Lake Texcoco, with a main city named Tenochtitlan. The population in the city alone was 150,000. Moctezuma I and II were the emperors directly previous to and during the Spanish conquest. The Aztec society built upon the foundation laid by earlier civilizations. The Aztecs were “so powerful it rendered other regions weaker.”[2] This is because the Aztecs made people and groups pay a tribute to them. It was an early system of taxes. They had thirty million people paying taxes to the government in Tenochtitlan.

The Aztecs had rigid class distinctions that were apparent through the type of dress one wore. A commoner that dressed as a noble would be persecuted for it. There were several levels of distinction including nobles, judges and priests, knights, soldiers, high and low commoners, and slaves. Commoners were required to get on the ground whenever nobility was passing. Moctezuma lived in the supposed house of God, which no one was allowed into. Moctezuma’s slaves never let him touch the ground.

The Aztecs are people of the Sun, they offer sacrifices to Huitzilopochtli, the God of the Sun and War. Another God, Quetzalcoatl was the God of wisdom. The Aztecs believed that their Gods sacrificed themselves in order to become the sun and the moon; therefore they felt it necessary to leave them sacrificial offerings. There was a Huitzilopochtli following that joined together with Moctezuma II to create the full Aztec empire. The Templo Mayor was a humongous structure dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and to Tlaloc, the ancient God of rain. The pyramid was double a temple for the two separate Gods. As Miguel Leon-Portilla portrays in Broken Spears, it is clear that the Aztec are religious because of the omens they explain. Although there is question as to whether the omens were written down before or after the Spanish conquest, the omens appear to be very accurate and they do show the sense of religion that was present.

The Aztecs had a good sense of leadership, which can be attributed to most of their success as an empire. The Aztecs sent citizens into neighboring towns to enforce human sacrificing. The nobility of each group decides before each battle which citizens would be given over for sacrificial reasons. Tenochtitlan had an extravagant marketplace and was the center of the trade system. They spoke a language name Nahuatl.

The Aztec economy was driven mostly by the tribute and taxes collected from citizens. They also widely expanded the trade routes. The main items sought after for trade were turquoise, gold, cacao beans, and chocolate.[3] The trade canals are said to have had 100,000 canoes trafficking through them. The Aztecs also had the most realistic art of Mesoamerica. They were known for the three-dimensional sculptures.[4]

The Mayas and the Aztecs are, as far as can be deduced, similar in their structures. They were organized, religious, and sacrificial civilizations. They both occupied Mesoamerica prior to the conquest. There are some distinct differences that set the two apart. The Aztecs had a much more developed warrior system. The combat was ritualistic; every boy had to prove himself in combat. Many battles were to the death, the victor has the right to sacrifice the opponent. “But the most important aspect and the dominant meaning of ‘the striping’ for those who performed and for those who watched was the effusion of warrior blood.”[5] -----------------------

[1] “Popol Vuh”; 79
[2] Brief History of Mexico; 42
[3] Foster; 40
[4] Foster; 40
[5] Clendinnen; 71

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