Research Proposal: Aztec Influence Over Pre-Colonial Mexico the Aztecs

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Aztec Influence Over Pre-Colonial Mexico

The Aztecs by Michael Smith

In the book the Aztecs by Michael Smith, the author addresses the Aztec civilization from the standpoint of archaeological evidence rather than the standpoint of conquering Spaniards. That helps to not only show the issues that the Aztecs faced and how they lived their lives, but it sheds new light on some aspects that might not have otherwise been addressed very clearly or very thoroughly in past books on their civilization. It is a scholarly book, but yet it is very accessible to the average reader, as well, and the numerous sources that Smith (2003) cites give a lot of credibility to his argument. The illustrations also provide insight into the Aztec people and what things were like in Mexico during the time that they were in existence, and the organization of the book into separate chapters based on various issues of civilization and history make Smith's (2003) book much easier to follow than it could have otherwise been. The issues that Smith (2003) looks at have a lot of relevance for people who are interested in the history of Mexico and the Aztec people overall.

The Aztec people took their religion and the rest of what they believed in very seriously. They were one of the first groups of people to make up their own calendar, and they worshiped hundreds of gods and goddesses. They had separate gods and goddesses for the earth, the rain, the wind, fire, and almost everything else that could be thought of. The two most popular gods that were worshiped by the Aztecs were the god of rain, and the sun god. The rain god was worshiped because the Aztecs believed he helped them with a peaceful and quiet life. The sun god was worshiped because the Aztecs believed that if they did not worshiped him and sacrifice to him the sun would not rise. It was believed that the sun god stood for war, and those individuals who were sacrificed to the sun god were usually prisoners that the Aztecs had captured in one battle or another. Smith (2003) paints a strong picture in his book of how powerful and respected the Aztecs were, and the great deal of power and influence that they had over other people who were in Mexico at the time. The Aztecs were a force to be reckoned with during their reign.

The Aztecs often built pyramids and other structures as temples and palaces for the gods that they worshiped. Most of the gods and goddesses that the Aztecs worshiped had to do with forces of nature. The Aztecs were interested in issues like the sun rising each day, but they were also fascinated by the destructive and sometimes chaotic forces of nature, like bad thunderstorms or sandstorms. They did their best to stay away from these chaotic forces, and they tended to worship gods and goddesses that were calm and tranquil. They often believed that the gods were angry with them if a bad storm came about, so they attempted to appease them by sacrifices and other means. Many people in the past have seen the Aztecs as bloodthirsty individuals who killed others for sport or just because they could, but the Aztecs were mostly peaceful people (Smith, 2003). Their killing of other to appease the gods was normal for that time period and for their culture, but they did aggressively defend their territory and the people who belonged to their tribe from outside threats, and that gave them a reputation for being mean and dangerous people. That reputation was only partially deserved.

One of the most significant things that the Aztecs brought to the world was the calendar. The Aztecs had three specific calendar systems. Two individual calendars were put together to make a third calendar. The first calendar system was based on the Aztecs' desire to control nature and is an agricultural calendar that helped them with their crop planting and their sacrifices and appeasements to the gods. The second calendar was a religious calendar that allegedly told the fates of everyone based on the date of their birth. It used a number system to do this. When these two calendars were combined, they made another calendar with a total of 52 solar years. These 52 years were the same amount of time needed for each to the other two calendars to cycle back around and have the same beginning. These calendars were extremely important to the Aztecs in their agricultural pursuits and in their religion. One of the main concerns of the Aztecs was that the proper number of sacrifices be performed in the 52-year cycle. If they were not performed, it was believed that each 52-year period was the end of an era, and destruction could come to the Aztecs if they had not sacrificed appropriately and often enough to the gods that they worshiped (Smith, 2003).

The Aztec religion revolved around nature and the gods that they worshiped, according to Smith (2003), but they held other beliefs as well. They believed that there were five eras in the world, and that they were living in the fifth and last one. The other four had been destroyed in the past. When the fifth and last one was destroyed, the world as they knew it would come to an end, and time would stop. The Aztecs attributed each one of the other four eras as belonging to a specific deity. Another belief held by the Aztecs was that there were five directions in the world. The four that are commonly used: North, South, East, and West, were recognized by the Aztecs. However, they also recognized a direction or center line stretching out from the Aztec capital which was called Tenochtitlan. They believed in a vertical line with layers of heavens and layers of underworld that also spread out from the capital. The gods occupied many of these layers of the heavens, and the Aztecs believed that many gods watched over them and contributed to the cosmos, fertility, and the regeneration of the sun.

While the information that the Spaniards provided in the past can be beneficial to learning these kinds of things about the Aztecs, the way that Smith (2003) presents it makes it much more clear because he shows not just the information that was collected that way but also the information that was collected through serious study of the artifacts and information that the Aztec civilization left behind. Because of their belief in so many gods, for example, the Aztecs picked two or three that they worshiped more than the others. They did, however, make sure that the other gods wore not ignored, as they were concerned that bad luck or poor crop harvest would befall them if they mistreated any other gods they worshiped. The Aztecs took great care not to anger any of the deities that they believed in. They had two primary gods: the god of rain, who was called Tatloc, and the sun god, who was called Huitzlopochtli. He was associated not only with the sun, but also with fire. Tatloc, while being the rain god, was also associated with fertility. Many of the gods that the Aztecs worshiped had multiple purposes. In other words, each one was responsible for or involved with more than one aspect of Aztec life or more than one aspect of nature and existence (Smith, 2003).

Huitzlopochtli was the supreme deity that the Aztecs worshiped. Legend has it that one god sacrificed himself in fire so that he could become the sun. Even when he did this, he did not reappear until he had been nourished from the blood of all of the other gods. This was how the Aztecs came to believe in blood sacrifice, and consequently human sacrifice, according to all that is known about them and their legends (Smith, 2003). Even though Huitzlopochtli was considered the supreme Aztec deity, he did not occupy the top layer of the heavens. Instead, he was seen as one of the four children produced by the deity living in the topmost layer. This particular deity is both male and female, which represents the Aztec belief of duality. The male part of the deity has two different names in the Aztec language, as does the female part of the deity. The Aztec legend states that four children were produced from this deity, and that Huitzlopochtli was one of those children.

Because of this he was seen as having the responsibility of the world. The Aztecs believed that without the sun god there would be no world, so if the sun god ceased to exist, the world would disappear as well. This was largely the reason that so many sacrifices were made to the sun god. Every effort was made to appease him so that the sun would continue to rise and the world would continue to survive. Tatloc, the rain god, was also associated with… [END OF PREVIEW]

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