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    The Aztec Empire History Essay (1193 words)

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    The Aztec Empire HistoryThe center of the Aztec civilization was the Valley of Mexico, a huge, ovalbasin about 7,500 feet above sea level. The Aztecs were formed after the Tolteccivilization occurred when hundreds of civilians came towards Lake Texcoco. Inthe swamplands there was only one piece of land to farm on and it was totallysurrounded by more marshes.

    The Aztec families somehow converted thesedisadvantages to a mighty empire known as the Aztec Empire. People say theempire was partially formed by a deeply believed legend. As the legend went, itsaid that Aztec people would create an empire in a swampy place where they wouldsee an eagle eating a snake, while perched on a cactus, which was growing out ofa rock in the swamplands. This is what priests claimed they saw when enteringthe new land. By the year 1325 their capital city was finished.

    They called itTenochtitlan. In the capital city, aqueducts were constructed, bridges werebuilt, and chinapas were made. Chinapas were little islands formed by pilled upmud. On these chinapas Aztecs grew their food. The Aztec Empire included manycities and towns, especially in the Valley of Mexico. The early settlers builtlog rafts, then covered them with mud and planted seeds to create roots anddevelop more solid land for building homes in this marshy land.

    Canals were alsocut out through the marsh so that a typical Aztec home had its back to a canalwith a canoe tied at the door. In the early 1400s, Tenochtitlan joined withTexcoco and Tlacopan, two other major cities in the Valley of Mexico. Tenochtitlan became the most powerful member of the alliance. Montezuma I ruledfrom 1440 to 1469 and conquered large areas to the east and to the south.

    Montezuma’s successors expanded the empire until it extended between what is nowGuatemala and the Mexican State of San Luis Potosi. Montezuma II became emperorin 1502 when the Aztec Empire was at the height of its power. In 1519, theSpanish explorer Hernando Cortes landed on the East Coast of Mexico and marchedinland to Tenochtitlan. The Spaniards were joined by many of the Indians whowere conquered and forced to pay high taxes to the emperor.

    Montezuma did notoppose Cortes because he thought that he was the God Quetzalcoatl. An Azteclegend said that Quetzalcoatl was driven away by another rival god and hadsailed across the sea and would return some day. His return was predicted tocome in the year Ce Acatl on the Aztec Calendar. This corresponded to the year1519. Due to this prediction, Montezuma II thought Quetzalcoatl had returnedwhen Cortes and his troops invaded.

    He did not resist and was taken prisoner byCortes and his troops. In 1520, the Aztecs rebelled and drove the Spaniards fromTenochtitlan, but Montezuma II was killed in the battle. Cortes reorganized histroops and resurged into the city. Montezuma’s successor, Cuauhtemoc,surrendered in August of 1520. The Spaniards, being strong Christians, felt itwas 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 called Nahuatl(pronounced NAH waht l). It belongs to a large group of Indian languages, whichalso include the languages spoken by the Comanche, Pima, Shoshone and othertribes of western North America. The Aztec used pictographs to communicatethrough writing.

    Some of the pictures symbolized ideas and others representedthe sounds of the syllables. Food: The principal food of the Aztec was a thincornmeal pancake called a tlaxcalli. (In Spanish, it is called a tortilla. ) Theyused the tlaxcallis to scoop up foods while they ate or. . .

    . . they wrapped the foodsin the tlaxcalli to form what is now known as a taco. They hunted for most ofthe meat in their diet and the chief game animals were deer, rabbits, ducks andgeese.

    The only animals they raised for meat were turkeys, rabbits, and dogs. Arts and Crafts: The Aztec sculptures, which adorned their temples and otherbuildings, were among the most elaborate in all of the Americas. Their purposewas to please the gods and they attempted to do that in everything they did. Many of the sculptures reflected their perception of their gods and how theyinteracted in their lives. The most famous surviving Aztec sculpture is thelarge circular Calendar Stone, which represents the Aztec universe. Religion:Religion was extremely important in Aztec life.

    They worshipped hundreds of godsand goddesses, each of whom ruled one or more human activities or aspects ofnature. The people had many agricultural gods because their culture was basedheavily on farming. The Aztecs made many sacrifices to their gods. When victims reached the altar they were stretched across a sacrificial stone. Apriest with an obsidian knife cut open the victim’s chest and tore out his heart. The heart was placed in a bowl called a chacmool.

    This heart was used as anoffer to the gods. If they were in dire need, a warrior would be sacrificed, butfor any other sacrifice a normal person would be deemed sufficient. It was agreat honor to be chosen for a sacrifice to the gods. The Aztec held manyreligious ceremonies to ensure good crops by winning the favor of the gods andthen to thank them for the harvest. Every 52 years, the Aztec held a greatcelebration called the Binding up of the Years. Prior to the celebration, thepeople would let their hearth fires go out and then re-light them from the newfire of the celebration and feast.

    A partial list of the Aztec gods: CENTEOTL,The corn god. COATLICUE, She of the Serpent Skirt. EHECATL, The god of wind. HUEHUETEOTL, The fire god.

    HUITZILOPOCHTLI, The war/sun god and special guardianof Tenochtitlan. MICTLANTECUHTLE, The god of the dead. OMETECUHLTI and his wifeOMECIHUATL, They created all life in the world. QUETZALCOATL, The god ofcivilization and learning. TEZCATLIPOCA, The god of Night and Sorcery.

    TLALOC,The rain god. TONATIUH, The sun god. TONANTZIN, The honored grandmother. XILONEN,”Young maize ear,” Maize represents a chief staple of the Aztecs. XIPE TOTEC,The god of springtime and re-growth.

    Aztec dances: The Aztec Dance is known forits special way of expressing reverence and prayer to the supernatural gods ofthe sun, earth, sky, and water. Originally, the resources accessible to thenative Indians were limited, yet they were able to create lively music with thehowling of the sea conch, and with rhythms produced by drums and by dried seedswhich were usually tied to the feet of the dancers. Summary: Overall, I feelthat the Aztec civilization was very advanced. It had a very complex structurein which there were lower class, middle class and upper class peoples. They hada good system of transportation and irrigation through the use of canals.

    Theyhad a strong warfare system, which was seen by their conquering of many lands. They also had their own language, and their own mathematical system. Theirscholars were also very intelligent, they had developed their own system of timemeasurement and a calendar system that was very accurate.References:1) Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia Version 7.0.5 CD-ROM Grolier Inc.19952) Microsoft Encarta 96 CD-ROM Microsoft, 19963) Internet Addresses:

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