Friday, June 28, 2013

Aztec Civilization

    The Aztecs were a Pre-Columbian Mesoamerican people of Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Colorado. Around 1300 CE, they wandered into the Valley of Mexico.The Aztecs were an advanced and prosperous civilization who built beautiful and sophisticated cities. At their peak, the Aztec civilization had about 15 million people who lived in nearly 500 communities. Aztecs were culturally developed in music, arts, crafts, and the sciences. In spite of all the great accomplishments of the empire, it's the Aztec sacrifice that the people are often remembered for.

The Aztec Empire was built around the city of Tenochtitlan which was truly magnificent. About 300,000 people lived in Tenochtitlan their capital. The center of Tenochtitlan was made up of  Main Temple, palaces, pyramids, and a great plaza. There were close to a dozen temples in the center, but the most important one was the Main Temple. The Main Temple was dedicated to rain god Tlaloc and sun god Huitzilopochtli, whom the Aztecs considered their protector. Everything about Tenochtitlan was wonderful, and the city stands out as one of the greatest empire of all time.

             Aztec Society was carefully divided in to three classes with the top most being nobility, followed by the commoners and then the slaves. In Aztec society, warriors, priests, as well as nobility were highest of the noble class and were often revered for their powers.What a man wore depended on position in society. A king for example wore, a long flowing cape, jewellery, sandals, etc., whereas a man of very low standing wore only a loin cloth. The punishment for a poor person caught wearing clothes that only the rich were allowed to wear was to have their house demolished.
Education was free for all irrespective of the class the children belonged to. But society and class was very important to the Aztecs and they had a segregation system for boys and girls and two separate schools for children from the upper class as well as a separate school for the commoners.

In Aztec society family a husband may have had more than one wife and the husband was supposed to treat all wives equally in daily life- but it would be his primary wife that would go through all the ceremony. Divorce was allowed on certain grounds. Adultery was a crime - death was the punishment.

The Aztec Culture operated with a language called N’ahuatl. Being such an advanced society, they also developed an extensive sort of alphabet of pictures containing several hundred symbols depicting their vocabulary. Aztecs also had books called Codices made from deerskin or tree bark.

         Religion was a very important part of the daily lives of the Aztec people and it was fiercely guarded. They also believed in 13 heavens and 9 hells. Aztecs are well known for their construction of temples, which would have the shape of a pyramid. The thing which makes Aztec pyramids distinct from those found in Egypt is that Aztec pyramids almost always come with steps so that one can walk from the bottom to the top from the outside via the steps, where Egyptian pyramids require one to actually enter the structure from below. The Aztecs named and worshipped nearly 1000 Aztec gods. Among the many, their three main gods were Huitzilopochtli, Tlaloc, and Tezcatlipoca. Huitzilopochtli the sun god, as with others, could only be appeased by the blood of human sacrifice. His great temple was on atop the pyramid in Tenochtitlan. 

      Besides many other rituals human Sacrifice was a very common religious rituals of Aztecs. One of the most celebrated religious days was the O'Nothing Days. During this time, priests would get dressed up like gods and go to an extinct volcano to perform human sacrifices. When the evening star reached the top of the sky, the priests would stretch the captive over an altar, or a special stone. Then the high priest would light a fire on the victim's heart and tear it out. After the heart is cut, the priest would hold the heart to the sun, then put it in a sacred dish. Finally, the bodies were rolled down the temple stairs to lie in a heap. Moreover during the fifth month, Toxcatl, there was a ritual involving the most handsome man in the land, 4 girls and then a mass sacrifice. The man had his way with the 4 girls for one night. The next day the girls danced all the way to the sacrificial stone where they and the man were slaughtered to the god, Tezcatlipoca, god of darkness, deceit, and sorcery.

         Even after that, most victims were happy to die because they thought they would go straight to heaven. Victims (many captured in battle) were beheaded and the heads were displayed as trophies on what is called a great rack or wall. Others sacrificed thought it a great honor and volunteered. It is thought that more than 20,000 were ritualistically killed in a 4 day celebration of the temple’s completion.

Some interesting facts about Aztecs
  • The Aztecs bury a dead member of their family inside their house. Strangely enough, they were buried under their own house! This was a custom that the Aztec adopted from the Maya.
  • When the Aztec warriors had run out of food, they ate their dead enemies. Aztec warriors never ate dead comrades, but dead enemies were a different matter, though.
  • Blood was the 'precious water' that the Gods needed to be fed, as a reminder of the sacrifice they made for all of Mankind.
  • Omens played a big part in Aztec culture. What did a wolf crossing one's path means Misfortune. These were other signs of misfortune: The hooting of an owl or a rabbit entering your house.
  • That after four years dead warriors would come back to earth as a hummingbird or as a butterfly.

  • Montezuma II's headdress was made from the feathers of over 250 birds.
  • Each Aztec home had a steam bath! 
  • It was against the law to be drunk in public in the Aztec empire, unless you were over 70 years old! 
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