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Aztec Civilisation – Empire History And Cultures

Aztec civilisation was the last present civilisation in Central America. It definitely holds an iconic place in the history as it was also one of the most fierce and powerful civilisations accompanied by the Maya civilisation. 

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Aztec people were quite religious compared to other small-scaled civilisations of that time. The Aztec civilisation was easily able to establish the most powerful region in the history of the continent. The Aztec civilisation imminently became famous for its historical monuments, temples, and culture. 

Origination 

The Aztecs found their ancestry in a small group of men and women who had just arrived at the Mexican Valley. They moved from the North in probably the 12th century. They further belonged to the Nahuatl-speaking people who were also famously known for migrating during the 11th century. A group of these Nahuatl-speaking people was based near the Valley of Mexico.

In 1325, some people from the group moved and further settled into the right center of the Valley. The swampland that they migrated to was known as Texcoco. They gradually started developing themselves and established two small settlements at Tenochtitlán and Tlatelolco. However, from this moment on, the first chapter of the Aztec Civilisation started. 

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Empire

The Aztec Empire consisted of many city-states. They even went to a conquest aligned with two other cities to defeat the king they used to worship. The war lasted for 3 years (1427-1430) and the Aztecs stood victorious accompanied by Texcoco and Tlacopan. The triple alliance (Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, Tlacopan) had its own rules for each occasion. Each had its own royalty, ruler, and independence. They just shared an alliance with each other. They also shared tributes from the subject states. 

Tlacopan was not similar to the other both. It was much smaller and used to receive only one-fifth of the tribute. Texcoco was larger than Tlacopan but smaller than Tenochtitlán so it received two-fifths of Tenochtitlán was the largest empire so it gained most of the tribute. The city of Tenochtitlán was also the main hub of the Mesoamerican states. All the important power was be-seated there. This was the home of the Aztec Emperor and the civilisation’s political capital as well. 

Subject-Cities

The subject cities, therefore, were accountable to the triple alliance. They used to follow the Aztec law and some were even captured by the Aztec. Most of these cities paid tribute to the Aztec capital. It was made necessary to do so. If a local ruler became too harsh, the Aztec emperor used to appoint one of his own to govern the rebellious city. 

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Through thick and thin, the Aztec managed to gain power over 500 city-states. However they were all not so significant in population. None consisted of people over 25,000. 

Social Groups

At the time, the most important group of people in Aztec was the Calpulli. These were powerful communities that were landlords even at that time. They even used to collect taxes from the people because they were so influential. They had set up a council to carry out many tasks similar to tax collection. The Calpulli clan also used to provide troops for military purposes. 

Apart from the aforementioned, there were three main categories in which the people were divided in Aztec civilisation. Up top were the members of the royal families. Then came the common people who were also the majority population. Below them were the slaves. The slaves didn’t have any major part to play, they were mostly acquired for human sacrifice. 

Merchants were also highly regarded in Aztec. They used to travel through Central America and Mexico for months with large caravans. They showcased a symbol of eliteness, power, and wealth. The Aztec used to please the powerful and they were considered much better than the commoners. 

Clothing

As already mentioned above, the Aztecians were highly influenced by the status symbol of each person and hence what they wore redefined it. For instance, the emperor used to wear tunics made from coyote skin which was detailed with feathers of different unique birds. 

The royal members wore vibrant cloaks and jewelry around their necks. Although some also wore jewelry in the ears and nose. 

The merchants usually wore white cotton cloaks which were further detailed with feathers. 

Commoners such as farmers wore completely different attire than the royal and businessmen. They were strictly not allowed to wear decorated, vibrant and clean clothes. They were also left bare-footed and weren’t even allowed to wear sandals or shoes. 

Tenochtitlán – The Capital

The most important element in the Aztec civilisation was their capital, Tenochtitlán. It was the largest Spanish city in the world and one of the largest in the whole world at that time. Some Spanish emperors used to adore the city and had their eyes on it since the very start. In 1519, the city became to strong and held a population of nearly 400,000. Obviously feeding such a massive population was a big task. The Spaniards had acquired the main market with almost 40,000 sellers each day. 

The royal palace was also constructed there and rumour says it had over 300 rooms. It was a multiple-story building that stood through three courtyards. The whole imperial palace covered an area of 10 acres. The rooms of the emperor, queen, and their children were secluded from the main rooms and were also private. The other rooms hence were designated for events, ceremonies, and other such things. 

Religion 

Similar to most civilisations of that time, Aztec civilisation was only be able to build such massively due to their religious beliefs and cultures. They started practicing their religion from the earliest stage when they were in the valley of Mexico hence, Toltec. 

The Aztecians also used to worship with a crowd in the form of a ceremony in the temples. Professional and expert priests were used to lay out the ceremony. Sacrifices in the name of God, religious baths, and religious acts, songs, and dances were frequently common among them. Although it must be mentioned that the most regarded form of religious activity was human sacrifice. Lots of slaves were sacrificed for the sake of God by the Aztecians. 

The Aztec people further believed that the universe was not entirely stable. Death and destruction are inevitable and human sacrifice are the most important. Surprisingly, on the basis of Aztec mythology, they believed that even their gods had to sacrifice themselves for the greater good. Some suggested that it was the only path for them to become Gods. While some believed that they did so in order to maintain the unstable universe. 

The End Of Aztec Civilisation 

The most annoying enemy that the Aztec and other city-states had was the Spanish conquistador, Hernán Cortéz. He had a lot of military at his disposal. He was also blessed with numerous horses, troops, and allies. Hernán was truly a man that knew how to use his resources. 

The Spanish cavalries started conquering small cities near the Aztec capital to gain more control. They were fully in control over all of Mexico by that time. The Spaniards even spread life-threatening germs in the peninsula that helped them achieve their cause.

Just like the others, the Aztec capital was also attacked by the Spanish and was taken under control. However, they didn’t think of destroying such a handful of land and they continued using it afterward. Just the religious culture and laws were changed.

The Spaniards were the root cause of The Aztec Civilisation’s end.