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Aztecs

By ecleto Oct 22, 2013 616 Words
1.What were the strengths and weaknesses of the Aztecs according to the author? Many causes contributed to the fall of the once mighty Aztec empire at the hands of the Spaniards in 1521. While one of the most commonly recognized causes is the superior weaponry of the Spaniards, the reality is that many other situations and Aztec weaknesses ultimately set the stage for a Spanish victory. First of all, the Spaniards inadvertently introduced a variety of new diseases previously unknown to the Aztecs. The Spaniards had already developed immunity to such diseases but unfortunately the Aztecs were an easy target. Smallpox took a huge toll on the Aztec population, it is estimated that within a few months it claimed more Aztec lives than the war itself. Bernardino de Sahagún, author of The Battle for Tenochtitlan wrote, “the disease brought great desolation; a great many died of it.” In addition, the Spaniards also had much superior weapons at their disposal. They had horses, cannons, iron swords, crossbows and harquebuses. On the other hand, the Aztecs were barely equipped with bows and arrows. Furthermore, the conquest would have been almost impossible had the Spaniards not gained the support of other tribes. The Aztecs were profoundly hated by powerful rival tribes such as the Tlaxcaltecans. Many years of paying tribute and providing the Aztecs with their people for human sacrifices had provoked resentment and hatred. Such tribes saw the Spaniards as a viable option to escape from the oppression they were subject to. Also, another weakness was that Moctezuma was a not so competent emperor that attempted diplomacy despite being attacked.

Perhaps the greatest Aztec advantage was their superiority in population and therefore larger fighting force. The Spaniards only had 600 fighting men, and while it is true that they had other tribes as their allies, the Aztec warriors numbered in the thousands. They were also fierce warriors. For example, the author makes reference to the warriors of Otomi rank, which were “ehte warriors bound by oath never to retreat.”

2.How did the Aztec religion and culture contribute to their struggle against the Spaniard? Please discuss whether or not the Aztec religion and culture play a positive role in this struggle? Religion and culture did play an important role in the Aztec’s struggle against the Spaniards. It is important to remember that human sacrifice was a vital aspect of Aztec culture. They often turned not to their own people, but to other tribes to obtain the necessary supply for such ceremonies. This situation along with their request of tributes and labor from neighboring tribes evidently made them many fierce enemies that eventually joined Cortes in the battle against the Aztecs. This alliance was a major cause of the Spaniard success. It is also important to clarify that some of these tribes were defeated by the Spaniards prior to joining them. It is possible that this alliance may have been avoided if the Aztecs had implemented a friendlier policy towards these tribes. But once again, large-scale sacrifices were central to their religion and therefore a large human supply was needed. Also, the book does not mention it, but the Spaniard’s arrival coincided with the expected arrival of Quetzalcoatl, a Mesoamerican deity. The description of Quetzalcoatl matched with the appearance of the Spaniards and this fact certainly played a vital role in favor of the Spaniards. Finally the author mentions that as a last resort, the Aztecs sent a quetzal-owl warrior into battle in order to determine their fate. The Aztecs firmly believed the gods would determine if they ought to keep fighting depending if the quetzal-owl succeeded or failed in battle. In the end, their religious beliefs played against them.

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