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Research paper topic: Aztec Empire History - 1461 words
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.. per class. Aztec society, like all complex societies, had different social classes. People at the top - nobles, high priests, and people important in the military and government - had lives of luxury, with fine houses, clothing, and jewelry. The largest class was made up of commoners, such as farmers, servants, and craftspeople.
In Aztec society, commoners were organized into clans, or groups, made up of many different families. Each clan joined people together throughout their lives. Members of a clan all lived in the same district. Merchants formed yet another class in Aztec society, separate from the commoners. The Aztecs carried on a great deal of trade with other Indian nations.
Traders, or pochtecas (pohch TAY kahs), also acted as spies when they went to other Indian cities. They brought back not only goods but also valuable information, such as any signs of unrest in the Empire or possible danger to the Aztec traders. Like the commoners, traders lived in their own district. However, traders were prosperous. Religion was extremely important in Aztec life. They worshipped hundreds of gods and goddesses, each of whom ruled one or more human activities or aspects of nature. The people had many agricultural gods because theirculture was based heavily on farming. The Aztecs made many sacrifices to their gods.
When victims reached the altar they were stretched across asacrificial stone. A priest 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 an offer to the gods. If they were in dire need,a warrior would be sacrificed, but for any other sacrifice a normal person would be deemed sufficient.
It was a great honor to be chosen for a sacrifice to the gods. Furthermore, Religion was ever present Each place and each trade had its patron deity: each day, and each division of the day, was watched over by its own god. Priests were expected to live in chastity, to mortify their flesh, and to understand astronomy, astrology, the complex rituals and ceremonies, and the art of picture writing. Games also formed part of the religious ritual. A popular ball game was lachtli, in which a small rubber ball had to be struck by the hips or thighs and knocked across a special court In another ritual game, men attired as birds and attached to ropes were slung in a wide circle around a pole.
The official state religion of the soldiers and noblemen was concerned primarily with the great and powerful gods: the creators, the solar deities, the patrons of the warrior orders. By contrast, the common people seem to have preferred the lesser, more accessible gods: the patrons of the craft guilds, the protectors of local shrines, and the deities who looked after the things of everyday life. For everyone, however, rich or poor, each month of the Aztec calendar had its festival, with music, dancing, processions, and sacrifices. All this came to an end with the Spanish conquest and the introduction of the Christian religion. Aztecs believed that the world had been created and destroyed several times.
Ultimately, they believed their world would again end in disaster. The Aztecs thought that their special purpose in life was to delay that destruction. They sacrificed to the god of war and the sun to keep the sun in the sky and avoid destruction for as long as possible. Many other Aztec gods controlled natural forces. For example, there was a god of rain and a god of wind. These gods also required attention, although they might not have demanded human sacrifice. Life was very insecure, since the gods could cause all sorts of problems if they became unhappy.
It was important, therefore, to know what the gods wanted. The priests supposedly had the ability to interpret signs of the gods' pleasure or unhappiness. Priests had enormous power in the Aztec society.The priests also understood the great ceremonial calendar. It told of holy days that called for happy celebrations with song and dance. It also told of other days that were solemn and required fasting.
The Aztecs believed that the calendar, if properly understood, could foretell the future. Like all the Mexican peoples, the Aztecs worshipped a multitude of gods, each of whom demanded offerings and sacrifices. Above all, the Aztecs considered themselves the chosen people of HUITZILOPOCHTLI, the sun and war god, in whose name they were destined to conquer all rival nations. Huitzilopochtli shared the main temple at Tenochtitlan with TIaloc, the rain god, important to the farmers in a land where drought was a constant threat Another important god was QUETZALCOATL, the feathered serpent, patron of arts and crafts and the god of self-sacrifice. The Aztec held many religious ceremonies to ensure good crops by winning the favor of the gods and then to thank them for the harvest.
Every 52 years, the Aztec held a great celebration called the Binding up of the Years. Prior to the celebration, the people would let their hearth fires go out and then re-light them from the new fire 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 guardian of Tenochtitlan.
MICTLANTECUHTLE, The god of the dead. OMETECUHLTI and his wife OMECIHUATL, They created all life in the world. QUETZALCOATL, The god of civilization and learning. TEZCATLIPOCA, The god of Night and Sorcery. TLALOC, The rain god. TONATIUH, The sun god. TONANTZIN, The honored grand mother. 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 for its special way of expressing reverence and prayer to the supernatural gods of the sun, earth, sky, and water. Originally, the resources accessible to the native Indians were limited, yet they were able to create lively music with the howling of the sea conch, and with rhythms produced by drums and by dried seeds which were usually tied to the feet of the dancers. Archeologists have learned about the Aztec gods and religious ceremonies from the artwork found in the ruins of their cities. The images of the gods are represented in stone sculptures and carved wall scuptures on the walls of the temples. The inside walls of the buildings have remains of brilliantly colored paintings showing ceremonial events, such as the human sacrifices. An especially famous Aztec sculpture is the enormous calendar stone, a carved stone circle 12 ft.
in diameter. The calendar represents the Aztec universe with the face of the sun god in the center. He is surrounded by designs that symbolize the days and months and the locations of heavenly bodies at different times of the year. The Aztec developed a writing and counting system based on pictographs in which each picture represented an object or the sound of a syllable. Their counting system was based on the number 20, in which one picture represented 20 items, another 20 x 20 ( = 400) items and so on.
Archaelogists have learned to decode some of their writings, which talk about historical events and provide records of supplies and items for trade. The Aztecs produced a variety of goods, some for the ruler and his noblemen, and some that were sold in markets. Gold ornaments, brightly colored woven cloth and salt harvested from the lake bed were luxury items that were traded with distant peoples to the south. They were traded for other luxury items, such as tropical bird feathers and jaguar skins (used for ceremonial garments), cotton, rubber, and cacao beans (for making chocolate). Trading goods were carried by canoe and by long caravans of porters, since the Aztecs had no wheeled vehicles or pack animals.
Aztec warriors traveled with the caravans and the merchants who led them to protect them in dangerous areas. Aztec culter had a very complex structure in which there were lower class, middle class and upper class peoples. They had a good system of transportation and irrigation through the use of canals. They had a strong warfare system, which was seen by their conquering of many lands. They also had their own language, and their own mathematical system.
Their scholars were also very intelligent, they had developed their own system of time measurement and a calendar system that was very accurate. Work Cited 1) Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia Version 7.0.5 CD-ROM Grolier Inc.1995 2) Microsoft Encarta 96 CD-ROM Microsoft, 1996 3) Internet Addresses: I)http://www.mexicana.com/english/community/29nf-a ztec.shtml II)http://udgftp.cencar.udg.mx/ingles/Precolombina /Azteca/mexintro.html III)http://www.rmplc.co.uk/eduweb/sites/wickham/to pics/aztecs/aztecs.html History.
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