Term Paper: Aztecs Civilizations of the Past

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Aztecs

Civilizations of the past are always at the forefront of historical discourse. The Aztec Civilization is one of the most studied people groups in history. The purpose of this discussion is to explore several aspects of Aztec Civilization including basic life/family life, government, religion, warfare, and economy. This subject was chosen because there is a great deal of information that has been recorded and preserved as it relates to the Aztec civilization. In addition, the culture of the Aztec people is intriguing and even alluring. The discussion to follow will include information from books Journals and websites. Let us begin our discussion with a brief history of Aztec Civilization.

History of Aztec Civilization

According to a book entitled, Aztecs of Mexico: Origin, Rise, and Fall of the Aztec Nation Aztec Civilization, the civilization was composed of a strong population of independent groups. These groups resided in the Valley of Mexico and later came together to form an Empire that possessed broad authority and came to dominate the majority of southern and central Mexico. In fact a great deal of the history of the Aztec Civilization has been understood and studied because the conquest of this great civilization was important to the European world. For this reason

Their history and social customs are better known than their neighbors' because their conquest had such a far-reaching significance for the European world. Spanish observers of military, priestly and civil status wrote careful accounts of the Aztec life and history, and Indian authors a generation later augmented these records, drawing on the tribal lore still only thinly veneered by Christianity. A few pictographic records, either prepared before the Conquest or copied afterward, are precious additions to the Aztec annals. However, our chief data on Indian history come from archaeology, that branch of research which recovers social history through the study of the surviving remains of human handiwork in ages past."

The study of the Aztec civilization has long been of interest to historians. The customs, religious life and government structure of the empire are fascinating in their complexity and depth. Although there is a great deal that is known about the Aztec civilization, a great deal of the history of the civilization was lost or destroyed when the civilization was conquered. With this being understood this discussion will contain information arising from various studies in the field of archeology, sociology, anthropology and history. Let us now focus on the basic life and family life of the Aztec people.

Basic Life and Family Life

For the Aztec civilization family structure was a very important part of life. Marriage was an important aspect of life in Aztec civilization. For the most part women married as teenagers, while men were a bit older when they married. The marriages were usually arranged.

It was not uncommon for men to have more than one wife but the first wife and her children were the only ones that could inherit wealth or become successors if the family was of Noble status.

Upon becoming married, a couple was given land and a home was built. Pregnancy and Childbirth were also seen as a significant and symbolic time during marriage. The Aztec people related childbirth to a war. According to the article during pregnancy the baby was viewed as one being held captive by the womb. Childbirth was seen as a struggle and the baby was viewed as victorious when finally born. Childbirth was also seen as a struggle or battle for the mother and women who died in childbirth were honored in a way that was similar to a warrior who died in battle.

According to the article, once a child was born there were certain ceremonial rights afforded to the child and the child was welcomed into the community and the religious system. Within the Aztec religion there existed a goddess of Childbirth and when a child was born a special hymn was song to the goddess. In addition following the birth of a child a soothsayer was responsible for studying the mannerisms and temperament of the child. The soothsayer would also ask questions concerning the atmosphere when the child was brought into the world. There were also other rituals and ceremonies that occurred when children were born.

The article also explains that husbands were expected to take good care of all of their wives and children. With this being understood it is believed that most of the men with multiple wives were wealthy and that those with only one wife were usually poor. Within the Aztec empire marriage was taken vary seriously and a wife of husband could be killed for committing adultery. In addition, divorce was allowed and either the husband of the wife could seek a divorce. If a divorce took place, the possessions of the couple were divided in half.

It is believed that the men had most of the power in both daily life and family life. They ruled over both the empire and the home. However, the article points out women also had significant power. Apparently they were able to own businesses and they had a great deal of authority as it pertained to the rearing of children. In addition, older women were revered as elders and advised many in the empire.

As it pertains to education and work it appears that the Aztec civilization was active and vibrant. During the early stages of a child's development the parents had the responsibility of educating the children. In most cases the mother was responsible for educating the female children while the father educated male children. Older children were also taught by their parents but many were also sent to school and there were different levels of education that children could achieve.

The article points out that work and education were indeed a significant aspect of Aztec life. In addition, certain types of work may have separated families for long periods of time. For instance the father may have had an occupation that required travel or going to war.

The article also points out that punishment for children in the Aztec community could be brutal. In most cases up until the age of 8 most of the punishment was through verbal reprimands or scolding. However, older children were likely to receive much harsher punishment because they were expected to behave in a more mature fashion and they were also being prepared for Aztec life.

As you can see, basic life and family in the Aztec civilization was strongly dependent upon the foundation of marriage and family. The Aztecs seemed to put great emphasis on marriage and the treatment of families. Men were expected to care for their families even if they had multiple wives. In addition the Aztecs seemed to understand the need for education and made sure that their children would be able to properly care for their families when they came of age. Family life for the Aztecs also seemed to be marked by a significant respect for older members of the community. Now that we have a greater understanding of Aztec life, let us discuss the Aztec government.

Government

The foundation of the Aztec government was the family structure. It is from this foundation that the other aspects of Aztec government were built upon. After the family unit, the next aspect of the Aztec government was known as the Capulli. The Capulli were groups of families that owned the land; individual families did not own the land in the Aztec Civilization. The Capulli appointed certain people as elders or leaders who were responsible for making certain the needs of the group were met. They were responsible for collecting taxes. The Capulli leaders were also responsible for establishing the schools that common citizens of the civilization would attend.

The next level of authority lie in the City Council. There were three significant city states hat emerged from this system. These city states were the Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan, they are known as the triple alliance and they wielded a great deal of power over Central Mexico. Of the three City States, Tenochtitlan eventually ruled the entire empire.

A book entitled the Aztecs explains that within the civilization there were two classes, nobles and commoners. According to the author Nobles, also known as lords, held the highest positions in government and commanded the army. In addition the nobles tended to own significant amounts of land and live much better lives than did commoners. According to the author

Commoners varied in their degree of subjugation, from the heavy burdens of slaves to the relative freedom of the poltecha merchants. Most commoners however had a number of typical obligations to the Lord, first and foremost of which was to provide him with regular payments of tribute in goods. These payments were assessed by family and consisted of cotton quachtli, food items, or specific good produced by the family. Commoners also provided their lord with regular labor services. Men cultivated the Lord's land, women spun and wove… [END OF PREVIEW]

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