The Rise and Fall of The Aztec Civilization
Overview and origin:
A prosperous and advanced civilization, the Aztecs-who ought to be officially referred to as Mexica-were among the most famed and important civilizations in America. Arriving in the Postclassic era as simple immigrants, this civilization established its base capital at Tenochtitlan-the now Mexico City. Within several centuries, they were able to grow a vast dynasty that consisted of approximately 15 million individuals all living in just about 500 communities and assert their dominance throughout Mexico.
The Rise of the Aztec Civilization:
Courtesy of their strategic position and military proficiency, the Aztecs forged a strong relationship with among the most powerful capitals in the Mexican valley called Azcapotzalco. They amassed wealth through a collection of tribunes after several successful military operations. They forged an undeniable repute as an empire by electing a Culhuacan royal family member, Acamapichtli as their ruler. What’s more, to fortify their dominance, they forged an alliance in 1428 with Tlacopan and Texcoco cities famously known as Triple Alliance. This powerful political force inspired their expansion beyond Mexico establishing the famous Aztec Empire.
The language of the Aztec or Nahuatl played a significant role in the civilization. They used to pictographs as a representative of their exclusive written language. This language served several purposes such as keeping tabs with cultural and family histories, communication, conducting business and even establishing beautiful poetry plus other prose that were used in ceremonies and rituals.
Aztec civilization worshiped several gods with each representing a diverse life aspect. They followed a Calendrical system in tracking occasions and events such as harvests. In the empire, ceremonies held an important part of their rituals particularly during Coronations and agricultural seasons in order to ensure healthy crops.
During such ceremonies, the gods were offered human sacrifices. Many of these sacrifices were either children or war prisoners. According to them, blood and human hearts appeased and gave their gods strength. All these sacrifices were offered in largely constructed temples.
The Aztec Economy:
The Aztec economy was mainly based on barter trade. They conducted minor purchase using cacao beans that had been imported from the lowlands.
Aztecs were majorly dependent on agriculture with the chief crop being corn. Nonetheless, gathering and hunting also provided them with a livelihood. They farmed using complex irrigation schemes and also shallow lakes through scooping mud and creating special islands called chinampas that were sources of fertile land.
The civilization was distinctly organized into a well-defined society and leadership that comprised 4 classes:
· Nobles (highest rank in power)
· Commoners (the biggest portion of population all mostly farmers)
· Serfs (worked in the land owned by Nobles)
· Slaves (comprised captured and subsequently indebted individuals)
Leadership was hereditary although one would be awarded a leadership post for excellent service to their Emperor.
The reign of the Aztec empire was cut short soon after the Spaniards arrived. The Spaniards conquered and subjugated the Aztecs in a complex process that only took several years and involved numerous players. On arrival in Mexico back in 1519, Hernan Cortes found key allies within the local communities such as the Tlaxcallans formerly subjugated by the civilization, who used the Spaniards to free themselves.
Moreover, prior to the invasion, new European diseases and germs were introduced in Tenochtitlan that significantly decimated the overall native population giving way to Spanish control and hostile takeover. With the Spanish in control, natives were forcefully evicted from their homes and new Spanish villages courtesy of the Spanish nobility and communities replacing them. To see how the Aztecs are still affecting our civilization today, learn more here.