The Effectiveness of the Aztec Civilization Before the Spanish Conquest

Topics: Aztec, Aztec Triple Alliance, Mesoamerica Pages: 6 (1949 words) Published: March 22, 2014
Assess the effectiveness of the Aztec Civilization before the Spanish Conquest

The Aztecs were seen as one of the strongest powers during their existence, representing an extremely advanced and successful civilization. In comparison to other developments of the time, the effective state functioning under Aztec control meant a considerably advanced lifestyle for Aztec people. Prior to the Spanish invasion, the Aztecs dominated in the 15th and 16th centuries, conquering neighbouring tribes, and a civilization, which was once a small colony, grew to be an extremely powerful empire. In reflecting on the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan as the centre for Aztec existence, this city proves to be a significant contributor behind the ascension of the Aztec culture. Furthermore, in considering the economic, religious, political and social facets of Aztec life, significant understanding can be gained regarding the effectiveness of such an ancient civilization.

Tenochtitlan, known today as modern day Mexico City, was the largest self-built Aztec city, and has proved to show importance in regards to the effectiveness of the Aztec civilization. According to ancient Aztec beliefs, the head of all Aztec gods, Huizilopochtlid, told the Aztecs to wander the earth until they discovered an eagle with a serpent in its mouth, rested on a cactus. When they found this, they knew this was the chosen land, and began the creation of one of the world’s most successful empires, furthermore naming the area around it the city of Tenochtitlan. Through its role of being the civilization’s main site for economic, religious, political and social aspects of the Aztec culture, it was an urban island settlement that housed 200,000 inhabitants at its height. To gain understanding of its immense size, its population can be compared to those of Paris and Constantinople, where in that time, both cities also had similar populations of immense numbers. Furthermore, the city of Tenochtitlan, joined forces with two neighbouring civilizations, Texoco and Tlacopan, ultimately creating the famous Triple Alliance. Together, these cities dominated central Mexico, further strengthening the communal bonds within the Aztec culture, thus making the Aztec Civilization more effective in regards to their economic, political and warfare factors.

In Aztec culture, trade was an important feeder to their economy, however; it was conducted slightly differently than the traditional way. Unlike many other ancient economies of the time, the Aztecs used “money” as a means of transaction, rather than basing trade primarily on barter. The Aztecs had many markets in which goods would be sold or exchanged; this was a place for important business deals and socialising. These markets were the main form of employment in the Aztec society, therefore proving to be beneficial to the country and its citizens. Travelling merchants would spread news throughout the Aztec empire on the markets and their goods they were selling, which is relatable to our modern day advertising.

Moreover, external trade was a large part of Aztec culture and would occur on a daily basis. Other Mesoamerican cultures became the main central trading partners for the Aztecs, with a vast array of goods being traded between cities. Exported goods ranged from foods, such as cocoa beans, fish and dogs to handmade crafted goods such as clothes, pots, shoes and weaponry. Amongst all these goods, slaves were also imported. Evidently it was through effective and innovative trade, which the Aztecs were able to extend their regional power and maintain their peaceful and beneficial alliances with neighbouring cities.

Following the formation of the triple alliance with the three Aztec cities Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan, the Aztec population had grown immensely, and a system had to be put into place to manage the growing population. The basic unit of ancient Aztec government was the Calpulli; this structure of local...
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