By: oscar perezTwo of the biggest and greatest civilization in the Americas were theAztecs and Incas. These two civilization were both said to be conquered bythe Spanish, but it wasn’t just the Spanish who conquered them.
These twocivilizations both fell from a combination of a weak government, lack oftechnology, new disease introduced by the invaders, and not being preparedfor the invaders. For many centuries the Aztec civilization revolved arounda ideological, social, and political system in which expansion was thecornerstone. Expansion was the cornerstone of their whole civilization,because their religion requested that a large number of human sacrificeswhere to be made to the gods. To get the sacrifices the Aztec went to warwith other tribes in Mexico to get these human sacrifices (Conrad ; Demmest47-49) . With each conquest more sacrifices and more land was added to theAztec kingdom.
The Aztec were a strong civilization who were familiar withorganized large scale war, had specialized war chiefs, and a well organizedsystem of territorial levy in which large armies could be amassed in ashort time (Age of Reconnaissance 124-125). They may have been wellorganized for war, but they were not prepared for internal changes in therecivilization. When expansion was no longer an option there system crumbled. Without expansion they could no longer give human sacrifices in the sameamount in which they use too. Upon the arrival of the Spanish the Aztecgovernment was falling apart, and “Moctezuma II programs of internalmilitary consolidation and administrative and social stabilization hadfailed” (Conrad ; Demmest). When the Aztec’s first met the Spanish theywere amazed by them.
The Spanish used the Aztec’s own legends to takeadvantage of them and gain the upper hand. Other disadvantages that theAztecs had was the need to take prisoner to sacrifice, they were not untiedwith other tribes (Spanish were able to unite with other tribes to helpfight the Aztecs), had primitive weapons, and couldn’t stay on the battlefield for long, because they ran out of supplies quickly (Age ofReconnaissance 167). The Spaniards didn’t destroy the Aztec civilizationall by their self another factor which helped the Spanish were the diseasethat they brought over to the Americas from Europe and Africa. Theintroduction of diseases like syphilis, measles, smallpox, malaria, mumpsand yellow fever are just some sickness that plagued the Budhu 2 Aztecs. Also the introduction of different species of animals and plants caused aecological imbalance (Plagues and Peoples 176-199). All these are somereasons to why the Aztec civilization was destroyed.
With the arrival ofthe Spanish in Mexico rumors started to reach the ears of Spaniards about agreat civilization to the south. This civilization was the Inca. The Incacivilization was inland so it made it harder on the Spanish to reach them. Unlike the Aztecs the Inca empire was held together by a tight socialdiscipline based on commercial land holding and a system of forced labor. Discipline was enjoined by an elaborate cult of ruler-worship and enforcedby a military organization which maintained fortresses and stores atstrategic points (Age of Reconnaissance 170-171). The Incas government wasmore organized then the Aztecs.
One of their strengths soon became a greatweakness. The system that was set up to chose a emperor. The system triedto keep the purity of the royal families bloodline by incestuous marriage. The emperor would have to marry one of his full sisters and have a childwho would then become the emperor upon his fathers death.
It was also setup to prevent civil war in the kingdom (Inca Decline 134). Huascar becameemperor just as the Inca empire’s problems became critical. The governmentneed reforms, and Huascar believed that the royal mummies were the centerof all the problems. Huascar decided that the royal mummies had to beremoved, because they stood in the way of his reforms and wealth. Thisdecision became a political disaster. His assault against the royal mummiescaused the high nobility of the empire to turn against him.
In 1529 a civilwar broke out between the crowned emperor Huascar and his half brotherAtauhualpa. This civil war lasted for about 3 years ending in 1532 withAtauhualpa emerging as the victor. Unfortunately his reign as emperor wascut short by Francisco Pizarro and his men who fought and kill Atauhualpaand his men when they were heading back to Cuzco (Inca Decline 134-139). The Spanish invaders of the America’s came for wealth, settlement, and tospread their faith.
The story’s of the wealth that could be found in theAmerica’s lured many men looking to get rich quick. The governments of theEuropean countries saw the Americas as two things a place to make money anda way to extend their boarders. The Catholic church came to the America’s,because they wanted to convert these “savages and give them salvation”. These are some of the reason to why Europeans ventured in this greatunknown called the Americas. When the Spaniards first arrived in LatinAmerica they were not well Budhu 3 organized armies. Most of the men weregroups of adventures, arming them self, or hooking up with a leader whowould provide them with weapons.
While they may not have had the most welltrained men they did have unity and leadership to guide them. The Spaniardshad the upper hand over the Incas and Aztecs in both technology and unity. The Spanish had gunpowder, but couldn’t use it frequently because most ofit was heavy artillery. They did have a few muskets, and steal weapons. TheIncas and the Aztecs were still using “Stone age” technology. They dependedon weapons made of stone and wood and leather armor.
The invaders had stealswords and armor (Age of Reconnaissance). These advantages along with theinternal problems of the Aztecs and the Incas made it very easy for theSpaniards to conquer them. Two of the greatest civilization to ever live inthe Americas were destroyed in a few years. The Spanish are credited forthe destruction of these two civilization, but did they really destroythem.
By looking back on all the problems that these two civilization hadon the eve of the arrival of the Spanish one would say that they destroyedthem self and the Spanish was just there to do a little work and claim thecredit for the destruction of the Aztecs and Incas. Aztec Empire HistoryThe Aztec civilization revolved around an ideological, social and political system in which expansion was the cornerstone. By Angela SalatinoThe Aztec Empire History The center of the Aztec civilization was theValley of Mexico, a huge,oval basin about 7,500 feet above sea level. TheAztecs were formed afterthe Toltec civilization occurred when hundreds ofcivilians came towards Lake Texcoco. In the swamplands there was only onepiece of land to farm on and it was totally surrounded by more marshes.
TheAztec families somehow converted these disadvantages to a mighty empireknown as the Aztec Empire. People say the empire was partially formed by adeeply believed legend. As the legend went, it said that Aztec people wouldcreate an empire in a swampy place where they would see an eagle eating asnake, while perched on a cactus, which was growing out of a rock in theswamplands. This is what priests claimed they saw when entering the newland. In addition, The mother of the Aztec creation story was called”Coatlique”, the Lady of the Skirt of Snakes. She was created in the imageof the unknown, decorated with skulls, snakes, and lacerated hands.
Thereare no cracks in her body and she is a perfect monolith (a totality ofintensity and self-containment, yet her features were sqaure anddecapitated). Coatlique was first impregnated by an obsidian knife and gavebirth to Coyolxanuhqui, goddess of the moon, and to a group of maleoffspring, who became the stars. Then one day Coatlique found a ball offeathers, which she tucked into her bosom. Whe she looked for it later, itwas gone, at which time she realized that she was again pregnant. Herchildren, the moon and stars did not believe her story. Ashamed of theirmother, they resolved to kill her.
A goddess could only give birth once, tothe original litter of divinity and no more. During the time that they wereplotting her demise, Coatlicue gave birth to the fiery god of war,Huitzilopochtli. With the help of a fire serpent, he destroyed his brothersand sister, murdering them in a rage. He beheaded Coyolxauhqui and threwher body into a deep gorge in a mountain, where it lies dismemberedforever. By the year 1325 their capital city was finished. They called itTenochtitlan.
– At its height, the Aztec Empire included millions ofpeople. Even though no one knows exactly how many people there were, itseems clear that the Aztec Empire had a population equal to the largeEuropean countries at the time! Tenochtitlfin alone, which may have had asmany as 200,000 people, was larger than any European city. Along the shoresof Lake Texcoco were other cities. These cities were connected toTenochtitlfin by a system of causeways, or raised earthen roads, builtacross the lake. Bridges on the causeways allowed canoes to go from onepart of the lake to another.
In the capital city, aqueducts wereconstructed, bridges were built, and chinapas were made. Chinapas werelittle islands formed by pilled up mud. On these chinapas Aztecs grew theirfood. The Aztec Empire included many cities and towns, especially in theValley of Mexico.
The early settlers built log rafts, then covered themwith mud and planted seeds to create roots and develop more solid land forbuilding homes in this marshy land. Canals were also cut out through themarsh so that a typical Aztec home had its back to a canal with a canoetied at the door. In the early 1400s, Tenochtitlan joined with Texcoco andTlacopan, two other major cities in the Valley of Mexico. Good farmingpractices helped to support the large population of Tenochtitln. Forexample, the Aztecs built irrigation systems, constructed terraces onnearby hillsides, and enriched the soil with fertilizer. They developed acompletely new agricultural technique for making more farmland out of theswampy land around the city by creating artificial islands, calledchinampas, or “floating gardens”.
The chinampas were made by piling richearth from the bottom of Lake Texcoco onto rafts made of weeds. Afterawhile, the roots of plants and trees grew down to the lake bottom,anchoring the rafts. These island gardens covered most of the southern partof the lake and were planted with crops that produced large amounts offood. Their crops included corn, which was their principal crop, variouskinds of vegetables (such as beans, squash, tomatoes, and peppers), andflowers.
The Aztecs also planted corn and other crops in the irrigatedfields around Lake Texcoco. They raised ducks, geese and turkeys, whichwere eaten by the rich nobles and merchants. They had dogs, but did not usework animals or plows. Instead, they used pointed sticks to poke holes forplanting seeds in the soft soil Tenochtitlan became the most powerfulmember of the alliance.
The Aztec Conquerors – The Aztecs carried onconstant wars with neighboring peoples. They fought with wooden swords thathad sharp stone blades. They also used bows and arrows as well as spears. Their armor was padded cotton made into suits fitted to the body. Thisarmor worked well against the weapons of other Indians.
However, it waslittle protection against the steel swords, arrows, muskets, and cannons ofthe Spaniards. The main purpose of the Aztec wars was to capture enemysoldiers so that thousands could be sacrificed, or offered, to the gods. Captives were brought to. There they were led up the steps of a greatpyramid on the top of which stood a temple. In front of the temple stoodthe sacrificial altar. While drums boomed, each unlucky captive was helddown on the altar.
The sharp knife of an Aztec priest flashed in the sun,and in an instant the victim’s chest was opened. The priest then reachedin, grabbed the heart, and held it aloft for all to see. In this manner,the Aztecs sacrificed thousands of people each year. Montezuma I ruled from1440 to 1469 and conquered large areas to the east and to the south. Montezuma’s successors expanded the empire until it extended between whatis now Guatemala and the Mexican State of San Luis Potosi.
Montezuma IIbecame emperor in 1502 when the Aztec Empire was at the height of itspower. In 1519, the Spanish explorer Hernando Cortes landed on the EastCoast of Mexico and marched inland to Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards werejoined by many of the Indians who were conquered and forced to pay hightaxes to the emperor. Montezuma did not oppose Cortes because he thoughtthat he was the God Quetzalcoatl.
An Aztec legend said that Quetzalcoatlwasdriven away by another rival god and had sailed across the sea and wouldreturn some day. His return was predicted to come in the year Ce Acatl onthe Aztec Calendar. This corresponded to the year 1519. Due to thisprediction, Montezuma II thought Quetzalcoatl had returned when Cortez andhis troops invaded.
He did not resist and was taken prisoner by Cortez andhis troops. In 1520, the Aztecs rebelled and drove the Spaniards fromTenochtitlan, but Montezuma II was killed in the battle. Cortes reorganizedhis troops and resurged into the city. Montezuma’s successor, Cuauhtemoc,surrendered in August of 1520. The Spaniards, being strong Christians, feltit was their duty to wipe out the temples and all other traces of the Aztecreligion. They destroyed Tenochtitlan and built Mexico City on the ruins.
However, archaeologists have excavated a few sites and have uncovered manyremnants of this society. Language: The Aztec spoke a language calledNahuatl (pronounced NAH waht l). It belongs to a large group of Indianlanguages, which also include the languages spoken by the Comanche, Pima,Shoshone and other tribes of western North America. The Aztec usedpictographs to communicate through writing. Some of the pictures symbolizedideas and others represented the sounds of the syllables.
Food: Theprincipal food of the Aztec was a thin cornmeal pancake called a tlaxcalli. (In Spanish, it is called a tortilla. ) They used the tlaxcallis to scoop upfoods while they ate or they wrapped the foods in the tlaxcalli to formwhat is now known as a taco. They hunted for most of the meat in their dietand the chief game animals were deer, rabbits, ducks and geese. The onlyanimals they raised for meat were turkeys, rabbits, and dogs. Arts andCrafts: The Aztec sculptures, which adorned their temples and otherbuildings, were among the most elaborate in all of the Americas.
Theirpurpose was to please the gods and they attempted to do that in everythingthey did. Many of the sculptures reflected their perception of their godsand how they interacted in their lives. The most famous surviving Aztecsculptureis the large circular Calendar Stone, which represents the Aztecuniverse Aztec priests are an example of specialization. The priests weresupported by the efforts of other people. They did not grow their own foodor make their own clothes. Priests enjoyed power and privilege.
The priestsformed part of the upper class. Aztec society, like all complex societies,had different social classes. People at the top – nobles, high priests, andpeople important in the military and government – had lives of luxury, withfine houses, clothing, and jewelry. The largest class was made up ofcommoners, such as farmers, servants, and craftspeople. In Aztec society,commoners were organized into clans, or groups, made up of many differentfamilies. Each clan joined people together throughout their lives.
Membersof a clan all lived in the same district. Merchants formed yet anotherclass in Aztec society, separate from the commoners. The Aztecs carried ona great deal of trade with other Indian nations. Traders, or pochtecas(pohch TAY kahs), also acted as spies when they went to other Indiancities. They brought back not only goods but also valuable information,such as any signs of unrest in the Empire or possible danger to the Aztectraders. Like the commoners, traders lived in their own district.
However,traders were prosperous. Religion was extremely important in Aztec life. They worshipped hundreds of gods and goddesses, each of whom ruled one ormore human activities or aspects of nature. The people had manyagricultural gods because theirculture was based heavily on farming. TheAztecs made many sacrifices to their gods.
When victims reached the altarthey were stretched across asacrificial stone. A priest with an obsidianknife cut open the victim’s chest and tore out his heart. The heart wasplaced in a bowl called a chacmool. This heart was used as an offer to thegods. If they were in dire need,a warrior would be sacrificed, but for anyother sacrifice a normal person would be deemed sufficient.
It was a greathonor to be chosen for a sacrifice to the gods. Furthermore, Religion wasever present Each place and each trade had its patron deity: each day, andeach division of the day, was watched over by its own god. Priests wereexpected to live in chastity, to mortify their flesh, and to understandastronomy, astrology, the complex rituals and ceremonies, and the art ofpicture writing. Games also formed part of the religious ritual. A popularball game was lachtli, in which a small rubber ball had to be struck by thehips or thighs and knocked across a special court In another ritual game,men attired as birds and attached to ropes were slung in a wide circlearound a pole. The official state religion of the soldiers and noblemen wasconcerned primarily with the great and powerful gods: the creators, thesolar deities, the patrons of the warrior orders.
By contrast, the commonpeople seem to have preferred the lesser, more accessible gods: the patronsof the craft guilds, the protectors of local shrines, and the deities wholooked after the things of everyday life. For everyone, however, rich orpoor, each month of the Aztec calendar had its festival, with music,dancing, processions, and sacrifices. All this came to an end with theSpanish conquest and the introduction of the Christian religion. Aztecsbelieved that the world had been created and destroyed several times.
Ultimately, they believed their world would again end in disaster. TheAztecs thought that their special purpose in life was to delay thatdestruction. They sacrificed to the god of war and the sun to keep the sunin the sky and avoid destruction for as long as possible. Many other Aztecgods controlled natural forces. For example, there was a god of rain and agod of wind.
These gods also required attention, although they might nothave demanded human sacrifice. Life was very insecure, since the gods couldcause all sorts of problems if they became unhappy. It was important,therefore, to know what the gods wanted. The priests supposedly had theability to interpret signs of the gods’ pleasure or unhappiness. Priestshad enormous power in the Aztec society.
The priests also understood thegreat ceremonial calendar. It told of holy days that called for happycelebrations with song and dance. It also told of other days that weresolemn and required fasting. The Aztecs believed that the calendar, ifproperly understood, could foretell the future.
Like all the Mexicanpeoples, the Aztecs worshipped a multitude of gods, each of whom demandedofferings and sacrifices. Above all, the Aztecs considered themselves thechosen people of HUITZILOPOCHTLI, the sun and war god, in whose name theywere destined to conquer all rival nations. Huitzilopochtli shared the maintemple at Tenochtitlan with TIaloc, the rain god, important to the farmersin a land where drought was a constant threat Another important god wasQUETZALCOATL, the feathered serpent, patron of arts and crafts and the godof self-sacrifice. The Aztec held many religious ceremonies to ensure goodcrops by winning the favor of the gods and then to thank them for theharvest. Every 52 years, the Aztec held a great celebration called theBinding up of the Years. Prior to the celebration, the people would lettheir hearth fires go out and then re-light them from the new fire of thecelebration and feast.
A partial list of the Aztec gods: CENTEOTL, The corngod. COATLICUE,She of the Serpent Skirt. EHECATL, The god of wind. HUEHUETEOTL, The fire god. HUITZILOPOCHTLI, The war/sun god and specialguardian of Tenochtitlan. MICTLANTECUHTLE, The god of the dead.
OMETECUHLTIand his wife OMECIHUATL, They created all life in the world. QUETZALCOATL,The god of civilization and learning. TEZCATLIPOCA, The god of Night andSorcery. TLALOC, The rain god.
TONATIUH, The sun god. TONANTZIN, Thehonored grand mother. XILONEN, “Young maize ear,” Maize represents a chiefstaple of the Aztecs. XIPE TOTEC, The god of springtime and re-growth. Aztecdances: The Aztec Dance is known for its special way of expressingreverence and prayer to the supernatural gods of the sun, earth, sky, andwater.
Originally, the resources accessible to the native Indians werelimited, yet they were able to create lively music with the howling of thesea conch, and with rhythms produced by drums and by dried seeds which wereusually tied to the feet of the dancers. Archeologists have learned aboutthe Aztec gods and religious ceremonies from the artwork found in the ruinsof their cities. The images of the gods are represented in stone sculpturesand carved wall scuptures on the walls of the temples. The inside walls ofthe buildings have remains of brilliantly colored paintings showingceremonial events, such as the human sacrifices.
An especially famous Aztecsculpture is the enormous calendar stone, a carved stone circle 12 ft. indiameter. The calendar represents the Aztec universe with the face of thesun god in the center. He is surrounded by designs that symbolize the daysand months and the locations of heavenly bodies at different times of theyear. The Aztec developed a writing and counting system based onpictographs in which each picture represented an object or the sound of asyllable.
Their counting system was based on the number 20, in which onepicture represented 20 items, another 20 x 20 ( = 400) items and so on. Archaelogists have learned to decode some of their writings, which talkabout historical events and provide records of supplies and items fortrade. The Aztecs produced a variety of goods, some for the ruler and hisnoblemen, and some that were sold in markets. Gold ornaments, brightlycolored woven cloth and salt harvested from the lake bed were luxury itemsthat were traded with distant peoples to the south. They were traded forother luxury items, such as tropical bird feathers and jaguar skins (usedfor ceremonial garments), cotton, rubber, and cacao beans (for makingchocolate). Trading goods were carried by canoe and by long caravans ofporters, since the Aztecs had no wheeled vehicles or pack animals.
Aztecwarriors traveled with the caravans and the merchants who led them toprotect them in dangerous areas. Aztec culter had a very complex structurein which there were lower class, middle class and upper class peoples. Theyhad a good system of transportation and irrigation through the use ofcanals. They had a strong warfare system, which was seen by theirconquering of many lands. They also had their own language, and their ownmathematical system.
Their scholars were also very intelligent, they haddeveloped their own system of time measurement and a calendar system thatwas very accurate. The Spanish invaders of the America’s came for wealth, settlement, andto spread their faith. The story’s of the wealth that could be found in theAmerica’s lured many men looking to get rich quick. The governments of theEuropean countries saw the Americas as two things a place to make money anda way to extend their boarders. The Catholic church came to the America’s,because they wanted to convert these “savages and give them salvation”. These are some of the reason to why Europeans ventured in this greatunknown called the Americas.
When the Spaniards first arrived in LatinAmerica they were not well Budhu 3 organized armies. Most of the men weregroups of adventures, arming them self, or hooking up with a leader whowould provide them with weapons. While they may not have had the most welltrained men they did have unity and leadership to guide them. The Spaniardshad the upper hand over the Incas and Aztecs in both technology and unity.
The Spanish had gunpowder, but couldn’t use it frequently because most ofit was heavy artillery. They did have a few muskets, and steal weapons. TheIncas and the Aztecs were still using “Stone age” technology. They dependedon weapons made of stone and wood and leather armor. The invaders had stealswords and armor (Age of Reconnaissance).
These advantages along with theinternal problems of the Aztecs and the Incas made it very easy for theSpaniards to conquer them. Two of the greatest civilization to ever live inthe Americas were destroyed in a few years. The Spanish are credited forthe destruction of these two civilization, but did they really destroythem. By looking back on all the problems that these two civilization hadon the eve of the arrival of the Spanish one would say that they destroyedthem self and the Spanish was just there to do a little work and claim thecredit for the destruction of the Aztecs and Incas.Work Cited 1) Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia Version 7.0.5 CD-ROM GrolierInc.1995 2) Microsoft Encarta 96 CD-ROM Microsoft, 1996 3) InternetAddresses: I)http://www.mexicana.com/english/community/29nf-aztec.shtmlII)http://udgftp.cencar.udg.mx/ingles/Precolombina/Azteca/mexintro.htmlIII)http://www.rmplc.co.uk/eduweb/sites/wickham/topics/aztecs/aztecs.html