The Aztecs (Peoples of America)


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Every town had neighborhoods, each with its chief. A city with many neighborhoods might be divided into four quarters, each quarter with its chief. These divisions made it easy to recruit people for military service or large work projects. In the Valley of Mexico, the center of the Aztec world, there were dozens of cities.

The islands were connected to the mainland by earthen causeways. Today the capital of the republic of Mexico is Mexico City. It is on the same site, but the lake, over the years, has been mostly drained. Social Classes. Like cities today, the Aztec capital was a place of bustling activity, filled with people of all kinds. Everybody, however, fit into one of three categories: nobles, commoners, and tlatlacotin. The tlatlacotin were poor people who had sold themselves as permanent workers. Their children, however, were born free. High officials were usually chosen from the noble class.

Commoners were also selected, if of proven ability. Because the wealthier citizens originally made up most of the army, their votes always counted more than those of the poorer classes in the main popular assembly, the Assembly of Centuries. Although the Senate could not pass laws, in early times the hereditary priests claimed the right to approve laws.

When a girl was born, she was presented with a tiny sewing basket. A boy was given a miniature shield and four little arrows. Before the age of 4, children had their ears pierced. At 5 or 6, children could go out to play, if they had finished their chores. At 10, children were legally responsible for their actions and could be sentenced to punishment. At this age all boys and girls were sent to neighborhood boarding schools.

Some students learned trades. Others studied history, music, the art of speaking, and the interpretation of dreams. At 15 a young woman was ready for marriage. The typical young man became a warrior and would marry later. Men wore loincloths and simple cloaks knotted over one shoulder. Women wore sleeveless blouses and wrap-around skirts of cotton cloth. Shelter and Food. Houses were of one story and might have several rooms, each facing a central courtyard. The kitchen with its fireplace was in the rear. A young family often lived in a single room in the house of the husband's father.

Maize, beans, squash, and turkey were important foods. Crops were grown on island gardens called chinampas , made of fertile soil scooped from the lake bottom. Long prayers were said for a dead person. The corpse was either buried or cremated, together with a sewing basket and weaver's tools for a woman or weapons for a man. It was believed that most people went to the dead land beneath the earth.

SECTION 2: Europeans Invade the Aztec Empire

Those who had drowned went to the paradise of the rain god. The most honored dead were men killed in battle and women who had died in childbirth. They went to the sky to live with the sun. Aztecs worshipped many gods in addition to the rain god and the sun.

The Aztecs and the Making of Colonial Mexico

There was the fire god, called Old God. There was an earth goddess, called Snake Skirt,and a goddess of love, named Flower Plume. Merchants and hunters had special gods who received their prayers.

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Feasts and the Calendar. The year was divided into 18 "months," each with 20 days. In each of these months there was a feast in honor of one or more gods. The rain god and the maize god were remembered in the spring. One of the fall months was devoted to Cloud Snake, god of hunting. Modern-day Mexico City was constructed on the ruins of Tenochtitlan. From until , the Mexica were a tributary of Azcapotzalco.

The Aztec rulers Acamapichtli , Huitzilihuitl and Chimalpopoca were, in fact, vassals of Tezozomoc , the Tepanec ruler of Azcapotzalco. When Tezozomoc died in , his son Malazia ascended to the throne of Azcapotzalco. Maxtla as Malazia was also known sought to tighten Azcapotzalco's grip on the nearby city-states in the Valley of Mexico.

In the process, Chimalpopoca, tlatoani of Tenochtitlan, was assassinated by Maxtla's agents while Nezahualcoyotl of Texcoco was forced into exile.

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In the Valley of Mexico c. The most powerful were Culhuacan on the south shore of Lake Texcoco and Azcapotzalco on the west shore. As a result, when the Mexica arrived in the Valley of Mexico as a semi-nomadic tribe, they found most of the area already occupied.

In roughly , [2] they first settled on Chapultepec, a hill on the west shore of Lake Texcoco, the site of numerous springs. In time, the Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco ousted the Mexica from Chapultepec and the ruler of Culhuacan, Cocoxtli, gave the Mexicah permission to settle in the empty barrens of Tizaapan in There they married and assimilated into Culhuacan culture. In , they asked the new ruler of Culhuacan, Achicometl, for his daughter, in order to make her the goddess Yaocihuatl. Unknown to the king, the Mexica actually planned to sacrifice her. The Mexicah believed that by doing this the princess would join the gods as a deity.

As the story goes, during a festival dinner, a priest came out wearing her flayed skin as part of the ritual.

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Aztec Civilization

Upon seeing this, the king and the people of Culhuacan were horrified and expelled the Mexica. Forced to flee, in they went to a small island on the west side of Lake Texcoco where they began to build their city Tenochtitlan, eventually creating a large artificial island. It is said that the Aztec god, Huitzilopochtli, instructed the Aztecs to found their city at the location where they saw an eagle, on a cactus, with a snake in its talons which is on the current Mexican flag. The Aztecs, apparently, saw this vision on the small island where Tenochtitlan was founded.

Originally, this was an independent Mexicah kingdom, but eventually it was absorbed by Tenochtitlan, and treated as a "fifth" quadrant. In the Mexica elected their first tlatoani, Acamapichtli, following customs learned from the Culhuacan. These customs required cleaning daily nonstop as a ritual. The Triple Alliance of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco , and Tlacopan would, in the next years, come to dominate and extend its power to both the Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific shores.

From the beginning of the Triple Alliance, Tenochtitlan was mostly in charge of the military and conquest, whereas the other two cities had other responsibilities. This military dominance of Tenochtitlan gradually led to this city becoming the dominant power in the alliance. The first Tlatoani of the Triple Alliance was Itzcoatl and he, along with his Texcocan co-ruler Nezahualcoyotl , began expanding the territory dominated by the alliance towards the south, conquering Nahua-speaking cities like Cuauhnahuac now Cuernavaca , and towards Huexotla , Coatlinchan , and Tepoztlan in the modern-day state of Morelos which was then dominated by the Tlahuica.

During this period the Nahuan cities immediately on the lakeside, such as Xochimilco , Culhuacan and Mixquic were also subdued. Two of the primary architects of the Aztec empire were the half-brothers Tlacaelel and Moctezuma I. Moctezuma I succeeded Itzcoatl as the 6th Hueyi Tlatoani in Tlacaelel became the power behind the throne and reformed both the Aztec state and the Aztec religion. Moctezuma I began the expansion in earnest. First he had to reconquer towns which were first conquered by Itzcoatl, but had since rebelled.

He asked a number of smaller cities to contribute to the construction of a new Great Temple, and only Chalco refused, which caused Moctezuma to start a war against them which lasted for several years.


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He then conquered Huastec territory under a pretext of securing Aztec merchants in that area, and then he went to war against the Mixtecs of Coixtlahuaca. Coixtlahuaca was successfully conquered although the Mixtec ruler Atonal received military assistance from the Nahua states of Tlaxcala and Huexotzinco, by now enemies of the Aztecs. After the defeat of Coixtlahuaca many Mixtec artisans were relocated to the Aztec capital.

Tlacaelel was one of the primary architects of the Aztec empire.


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  2. 11d. The Aztec World?
  3. World's longest underwater cave system discovered in Mexico by divers.
  4. The Aztecs and the Making of Colonial Mexico?
  5. La Máscara del Secreto (Spanish Edition).
  6. Parenting Your Way Through Divorce (Little Book Series of Emotional Health for Emotional Wealth 10).
  7. The History of the Native Peoples of the Americas/Mesoamerican Cultures/Aztecs.
  8. Rising to prominence during the war against the Tepanec in the late s, Tlacaelel wielded power as something of a Grand Vizier during the reigns of four Hueyi Tlatoani , until his death in

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    The Aztecs (Peoples of America) The Aztecs (Peoples of America)

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