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Introduction and Aztec Origin
Spanish conquest and Aztec fall
Aztec Sacrificing and Aztec civilization today
Aztec Mythology and Epilogue
At the beginning they was just a group of settlers that simply tried to find a place to settle. They called themselves Mexica, and had their own sets of gods and their own rituals to follow. These rituals was a little to much for the hosts to bear, so they were chased away from host to host in many decades. Until they decided to create an alliance that was so powerful that they soon annihilated almost all of their rivals. They formed what we call The Aztec Civilization today.
According to the legends, the Aztec people were formed in Aztlàn around the 12th century. The location of Aztlàn is very disputed among many experts, and some experts says that it is a mythical place that never existed. According to legends, some settlers came to Aztlàn in search for a place to settle, they wandered along the river and saw an eagle that sat on a cactus with a snake in his mouth (Picture). They took this as a sign from the god that they should settle here.
This is a disputed era with a lot of contradicting legends so ill take it short:
They stayed there for a while until they decided to leave.
It's also uncertain what caused them to leave Aztlàn, but they were permitted by the Culhuacan people to re-settled in the Valley of Mexico in Tizaapan around 1299. But that wouldn't last long because in 1323 the Aztec people asked for the new leader of Culhuacan for his daughter, in order to make her the goddess Yaocihuatl. The leader approved the idea, ignorant that the Aztec's meant that they should sacrifice her, in order to make her the Goddess. True to their rituals, some days later, the priest came unannounced and interrupted a festival dinner wearing his daughters flayed skin. This was, of course, a great shock of horror for new leader, because he didn't know anything about their rituals, so he threw them out of his kingdom with soldiers. They fled, and in 1325 they re-settled once again by the lake Texcoco, and there, they built the legendary city: “Tenochitlan”.
In 1376 the Aztec people elected their first emperor: Acamapichtli. Which means that part of the society had sign of democratic rule. (Further explained in “Aztec society”).
They were forced to pay Azcapotzalco taxes until they formed and triple-alliance with the leader of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl, and smaller city, Tlacopan in 1428. The former Aztec leader was assassinated by Maxtla (The leader of Azcapotzalco) and made room for Itzcoatl which contributed to the triple-alliance. You can see on the map above, that he invaded the first part of what was about to become one of the three greatest civilizations in the whole America.
Since Tenochitlan had a society based on a military-rule, they became the biggest part. They'd split their income such that Tenochitlan and Texcoco both got 2/5 each, when the smaller part, Tlacopan got 1/5 of their income. And after a while they got so powerful that they conquered their former superiors, Azcapotzalco. Right before Hernàn Cortès invaded their lands, the Aztec civilization was at it's height. Tenochitlan had slowly through the decades evolved to a single ruling dominion, and it's allies was just a part of Tenochitlan's rule.
Spanish conquest and Aztec fall:
In 1519, Hernàn Cortèz came to Mexico (as the Aztec lands are called today) with 500 Spaniard military companions. The Aztec's (which was now ruled by Moctezuma II or “Montezuma” as we call him) thought that Hernàn Cortès was a emissary from Quetzalcoatl or Quetzalcoatl himself, so they offered little resistance. In fact, Montezuma gave a lot of gifts to Cortès. Because according to legend Quetzalcoatl was on a one-reed year* suppose to come down to earth in quest to reclaim the city. And further approving their theory about Hernàn Cortès as Quetzalcoatl, the year that Hernàn Cortès came, was a one-reed year.
The Aztec's divided their calendar (Piedra del Sol) into periods of 52 years, and each ending of the 52 years was a one-reed year, that, according to legend, was the year that Quetzalcoatl was suppose to come down to earth on.
Through the years with Aztec superiority their neighbours became sick of paying taxes to their predominance. Cortès saw this and took immediate advantage of it, he offered a mutual protection alliance and the natives would help him with the conquest of the Aztec's.
Three months after the conquistadores (Picture above) came ashore, they had finally reached the outskirts of Tenochitlan (which was now the second greatest city in the world behind Constantinople). Further helping the Spaniards to annihilate the Aztec population, the nature imprinted two great epidemics, Typhus and smallpox, upon the rapidly diminishing population.
And after many months of battling Hernàn Cortès eliminated Tenochitlan in 1521. Cuauhtemoc surrendered as the last emperor ever to reign over the Aztec people. Cortès demanded a final tribute to secure peace amongst them, which consisted of gold, food and women of fair skin.
That didn't help because afterwards Cortès personally took the job of torturing and murdering of Cuauhtemoc. And later on the Spaniards also eliminated their allies.
There was a great distinction between Aztec slaves and other slaves commonly found in Europe that time. The Aztec slaves had much more liberty, they were aloud their own possessions, even slaves. Slavery was not something that carried out in legacy, so if a slave had a child the child would be free. Not like in Europe were slavery was in a strict rule of hereditary. Slaves could buy their liberty, and if a master had mistreated a slave, the slave would have been set free with immediate effect. And for those whom prefers to could also sell themselves as slaves.
The Aztec civilization was one of the first in the world to imply a mandatory school-system regardless to social ranks and gender. They started on school at the age of 15, but before that, the parents was in charge of all the teaching.
It was two main types of schools, and it was the telpochcalli and the calmecac.
Telpochcalli was a school mostly based on fighting skills and such, but they also did teach: history, religion, trading or crafting. And some students were chosen to join the army, but only those which displayed outstanding mastering of the fighting arts. Most of them was sent back home.
Calmecac was a school that based it's teaching upon the more scientific valuable professions. They did teach: Priesting, healing, writing, rituals, history and artistry. They did also teach people to become teachers, and they also trained fighting skills, but not in that degree as the Telpochcalli school did.
Cannibalism was not looked upon as a taboo, but rather they saw upon human flesh a delicacy. They often took the flesh from those whom had been sacrificed.
After the Aztec's had been in a battle they took as many captives as they could and carried them to the Aztec Great Pyramid (Picture below the sacrificing ritual) to be sacrificed. They are supposed to go there in volition, as shown in the picture, to please the god. But the gods did not say anything about using drugs which would effect their judgemental powers. The victim would be held by 3-4 persons (as illustrated in the picture), and the priest would cut open the victims tummy with a very rough knife (as the priest is holding), and then reach for the victims heart under the chest.
These rituals was to give blood to the sun. If the sun did not get enough blood, the whole world would evaporate.
Aztec civilization today:
The Mexica conquered huge lands from water to water, and became one the most powerful civilizations of the whole America. What they conquered would become what we know now as Mexico. Some Mexicans still speak the native language, Nahuatl, some with Spanish accent, and some just lake the Aztec's did in the classical era.
Their culture was so contagious that it spread worldwide, we can see this in many other languages over the world. “Tomato, Chocolate and Avocado” to mention some of the words that has spread across borders.
The Mexican flag today shows the Aztec symbol, a eagle standing on a cactus with a snake in his mouth (read the longer version in the “Aztec origin” in page 1).
Aztec mythology (Needs refining):
The Aztec's had not one but several gods...
The Aztec people worshipped the sun along with all the other gods. After a sacrifice the heart would be taken away from the body and held up towards the sun to please the sun so that the world ending would be postponed. They had different sacrificing for many gods, including one god that said that the priest who committed the sacrifice should flay the sacrificed skin and wear it for two weeks after.
I have always thought that the humans that lived in Asia, Europe, Africa and Oceania that was oblivious to America, had totally different culture and economics systems, but that theory was long from the truth. It is incredible how many similarities that combined the many civilizations, we also see some examples of that in this text. One similarity was that the great worlds both had money and a well-organized trading network. And what also struck me was that they both had knifes, bows and boats. And when i say “they” i mean the America's and the other continents.
“Terribly sorry i didn't include sources for the numerous pictures, and for the lack of information about Aztec Mythology and such!”
Picture of a Aztec man and a Spanish man standing beside each other. What i am trying to illustrate here is what i was talking about in the Epilogue, about the similarities. If the Aztec's had the same speed of research as the Spaniards they would be exactly the same!
(Look at the shield and the arrow with almost exactly the same shape as the one the other world had)