① The Aztec Empire
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The Aztec Empire, Tenochtitlan and the Coming of the Spanish
Moctezuma issued new laws that further separated nobles from commoners and instituted the death penalty for adultery and other offenses. Moctezuma also created a new title called "quauhpilli" that could be conferred on commoners. In some rare cases, commoners that received this title married into royal families and became kings. One component of this reform was the creation of an institution of regulated warfare called the Flower Wars. Mesoamerican warfare overall is characterized by a strong preference for capturing live prisoners as opposed to slaughtering the enemy on the battlefield, which was considered sloppy and gratuitous.
The Flower Wars are a potent manifestation of this approach to warfare. These highly ritualized wars ensured a steady, healthy supply of experienced Aztec warriors as well as a steady, healthy supply of captured enemy warriors for sacrifice to the gods. Flower wars were pre-arranged by officials on both sides and conducted specifically for the purpose of each polity collecting prisoners for sacrifice. After the defeat of the Tepanecs, Itzcoatl and Nezahualcoyotl rapidly consolidated power in the Basin of Mexico and began to expand beyond its borders.
The first targets for imperial expansion were Coyoacan in the Basin of Mexico and Cuauhnahuac and Huaxtepec in the modern Mexican state of Morelos. On the death of Itzcoatl, Moctezuma I was enthroned as the new Mexica emperor. The expansion of the empire was briefly halted by a major four-year drought that hit the Basin of Mexico in , and several cities in Morelos had to be re-conquered after the drought subsided. In , Moctezuma I died and was succeeded by his son, Axayacatl. Most of Axayacatl's thirteen-year-reign was spent consolidating the territory acquired under his predecessor. Motecuzoma and Nezahualcoyotl had expanded rapidly and many provinces rebelled. In , Nezahualcoyotl died and his son Nezahualpilli was enthroned as the new huetlatoani of Texcoco.
Tizoc's reign was notoriously brief. He proved to be ineffectual and did not significantly expand the empire. Apparently due to his incompetence, Tizoc was likely assassinated by his own nobles five years into his rule. Tizoc was succeeded by his brother Ahuitzotl in Like his predecessors, the first part of Ahuitzotl's reign was spent suppressing rebellions that were commonplace due to the indirect nature of Aztec rule.
By the reign of Ahuitzotl, the Mexica were the largest and most powerful faction in the Aztec Triple Alliance. Ahuitzotl was succeeded by his nephew Moctezuma II in Moctezuma II spent most of his reign consolidating power in lands conquered by his predecessors. Moctezuma II instituted more imperial reforms. Moctezuma II used his reign to attempt to consolidate power more closely with the Mexica Emperor. His reform efforts were cut short by the Spanish Conquest in An important article, "Rethinking Malinche" by Frances Karttunen examines her role in the conquest and beyond. Nearby, he founded the town of Veracruz where he met with ambassadors from the reigning Mexica emperor, Motecuzoma II.
The Spanish-led Totonac army crossed into Tlaxcala to seek the latter's alliance against the Aztecs. However, the Tlaxcalan general Xicotencatl the Younger believed them to be hostile, and attacked. He then took Motecuzoma up to the roof of the palace to ask his subjects to stand down. However, by this point the ruling council of Tenochtitlan had voted to depose Motecuzoma and had elected his brother Cuitlahuac as the new emperor. The Spaniards and their allies, realizing they were vulnerable to the hostile Mexica in Tenochtitlan following Moctezuma's death, attempted to retreat without detection in what is known as the "Sad Night" or La Noche Triste. Spaniards and their Indian allies were discovered clandestinely retreating, and then were forced to fight their way out of the city, with heavy loss of life.
Some Spaniards lost their lives by drowning, loaded down with gold. After this incident, a smallpox outbreak hit Tenochtitlan. Through numerous subsequent battles and skirmishes, he captured the various indigenous city-states or altepetl around the lake shore and surrounding mountains, including the other capitals of the Triple Alliance, Tlacopan and Texcoco. Texcoco in fact had already become firm allies of the Spaniards and the city-state, and subsequently petitioned the Spanish crown for recognition of their services in the conquest, just as Tlaxcala had done. Although the attackers took heavy casualties, the Aztecs were ultimately defeated. The city of Tenochtitlan was thoroughly destroyed in the process.
The Aztec Empire was an example of an empire that ruled by indirect means. Like most European empires, it was ethnically very diverse, but unlike most European empires, it was more a system of tributes than a single unitary form of government. In the theoretical framework of imperial systems posited by American historian Alexander J. Motyl the Aztec empire was an informal type of empire in that the Alliance did not claim supreme authority over its tributary provinces; it merely expected tributes to be paid. For example, the southern peripheral zones of Xoconochco were not in immediate contact with the central part of the empire.
The hegemonic nature of the Aztec empire can be seen in the fact that generally local rulers were restored to their positions once their city-state was conquered and the Aztecs did not interfere in local affairs as long as the tribute payments were made. Although the form of government is often referred to as an empire, in fact most areas within the empire were organized as city-states individually known as altepetl in Nahuatl , the language of the Aztecs.
These were small polities ruled by a king or tlatoani literally "speaker", plural tlatoque from an aristocratic dynasty. The Early Aztec period was a time of growth and competition among altepeme. Even after the empire was formed in and began its program of expansion through conquest, the altepetl remained the dominant form of organization at the local level. The efficient role of the altepetl as a regional political unit was largely responsible for the success of the empire's hegemonic form of control. It should be remembered that the term "Aztec empire" is a modern one, not one used by the Aztec themselves. The Aztec realm was at its core composed of three Nahuatl -speaking city states in the densely populated Valley of Mexico.
Over time, asymmetries of power elevated one of those city states, Tenochtitlan, above the other two. The "Triple Alliance" came to establish hegemony over much of central Mesoamerica, including areas of great linguistic and cultural diversity. Administration of the empire was performed through largely traditional, indirect means. However, over time something of a nascent bureaucracy may have been beginning to form insofar as the state organization became increasingly centralized.
Before the reign of Nezahualcoyotl — , the Aztec empire operated as a confederation along traditional Mesoamerican lines. Independent altepetl were led by tlatoani lit. A typical Mesoamerican confederation placed a Huey Tlatoani lit. Following Nezahualcoyotl, the Aztec empire followed a somewhat divergent path, with some tlatoani of recently conquered or otherwise subordinated altepetl becoming replaced with calpixque stewards charged with collecting tribute on behalf of the Huetlatoani rather than simply replacing an old tlatoque with new ones from the same set of local nobility.
Yet the Huey tlatoani was not the sole executive. It was the responsibility of the Huey tlatoani to deal with the external issues of empire; the management of tribute, war, diplomacy, and expansion were all under the purview of the Huey tlatoani. It was the role of the Cihuacoatl to govern a given city itself. The Cihuacoatl was always a close relative of the Huey tlatoani; Tlacaelel , for example, was the brother of Moctezuma I. Both the title "Cihuacoatl", which means "female snake" it is the name of a Nahua deity , and the role of the position, somewhat analogous to a European Viceroy or Prime Minister , reflect the dualistic nature of Nahua cosmology.
Neither the position of Cihuacoatl nor the position of Huetlatoani were priestly, yet both did have important ritual tasks. Those of the former were associated with the "female" wet season, those of the latter with the "male" dry season. While the position of Cihuacoatl is best attested in Tenochtitlan, it is known that the position also existed the nearby altepetl of Azcapotzalco , Culhuacan , and Tenochtitlan's ally Texcoco. Despite the apparent lesser status of the position, a Cihuacoatl could prove both influential and powerful, as in the case of Tlacaelel.
Early in the history of the empire, Tenochtitlan developed a four-member military and advisory Council which assisted the Huey tlatoani in his decision-making: the tlacochcalcatl ; the tlaccatecatl ; the ezhuahuacatl ;  and the tlillancalqui. This design not only provided advise for the ruler, it also served to contain ambition on the part of the nobility, as henceforth Huey Tlatoani could only be selected from the council. Moreover, the actions of any one member of the council could easily be blocked by the other three, providing a simple system of checks on the ambition higher officials.
These four Council members were also generals, members of various military societies. The ranks of the members were not equal, with the tlacochcalcatl and tlaccatecatl having a higher status than the others. These two Councillors were members of the two most prestigious military societies, the cuauhchique "shorn ones" and the otontin " Otomies ". Traditionally, provinces and altepetl were governed by hereditary tlatoani. As the empire grew, the system evolved further and some tlatoani were replaced by other officials.
The other officials had similar authority to tlatoani. As has already been mentioned, directly appointed stewards singular calpixqui , plural calpixque were sometimes imposed on altepetl instead of the selection of provincial nobility to the same position of tlatoani. At the height of empire, the organization of the state into tributary and strategic provinces saw an elaboration of this system. The 38 tributary provinces fell under the supervision of high stewards, or huecalpixque , whose authority extended over the lower-ranking calpixque. These calpixque and huecalpixque were essentially managers of the provincial tribute system which was overseen and coordinated in the paramount capital of Tenochtitlan not by the huetlatoani , but rather by a separate position altogether: the petlacalcatl.
On the occasion that a recently conquered altepetl was seen as particularly restive, a military governor, or cuauhtlatoani , was placed at the head of provincial supervision. One was stationed in the province itself, perhaps for supervising the collection of tribute, and the other in Tenochtitlan, perhaps for supervising storage of tribute. Tribute was drawn from commoners, the macehualtin , and distributed to the nobility, be they 'kings' tlatoque , lesser rulers teteuctin , or provincial nobility pipiltin.
Tribute collection was supervised by the above officials and relied upon the coercive power of the Aztec military, but also upon the cooperation of the pipiltin the local nobility who were themselves exempt from and recipient to tribute and the hereditary class of merchants known as pochteca. These pochteca had various gradations of ranks which granted them certain trading rights and so were not necessarily pipiltin themselves, yet they played an important role in both the growth and administration of the Aztec tributary system nonetheless. During that time, the Aztecs built one of the world's most advanced societies. The Aztec Empire was also very powerful. Its warriors took over many nearby states and helped spread Aztec culture and religion across Mesoamerica.
However, in , Spanish conquistadors came to the Aztec Empire. With help from the Aztecs' enemies , the Spanish fought the Aztecs for control of their empire. On August 13 , , the Aztec Empire fell apart and the Spanish took over. They made the area a Spanish colony and renamed it New Spain. Before the Aztec Empire existed, the indigenous native people in central Mesoamerica lived in many separate city-states. These were small cities with farmland around them. Each state had its own ruler. Around AD, these city-states started to fight each other for power and control of the area's land. By about , two city-states had grown into small empires. In , these two empires fought the Tepanec War for control of the area.
The Texcoco empire made an alliance with some other powerful city-states, including Tenochtitlan, and won the war. These allies were supposed to share power equally as they started to gain control of more land. However, by , Tenochtitlan became the most powerful member of the alliance. It became the capital city of the Aztec Empire, and its ruler became the 'high king ' of the entire Empire. From onward, the Aztec Empire grew. Its military took over most of what is now northern Mexico.
At this point, the Aztec Empire controlled , square kilometres almost 84, square miles of Mesoamerica. When the Aztecs took over a state, they would take prisoners for ritual human sacrifice in Tenochtitlan. The state would also have to pay the Aztec Empire "tributes" almost like taxes. As the Aztecs took over more and more states, these tributes made them very rich. Sometimes, when the Aztecs took over a state, they would bring that state and its people into the Aztec Empire. However, if a state was on the edge of the Empire, the Aztecs might let it stay its own state. They did this so they would have other states around the Empire, protecting them from an invasion by other powerful states.
The Aztecs had built their capital city right on a lake called Lake Texcoco. As the Empire grew, so did Tenochtitlan. By the early s , at least , people lived in the city. This made Tenochtitlan the largest city in the Americas before Christopher Columbus arrived. Tenochtitlan was the center of the Aztec government and religion. It was also a very big trading center.
When the Spanish arrived in , they guessed that 60, people came to the market in Tenochtitlan every day. The entire city was decorated with art , architecture , and stone sculptures. The Aztecs had created canals all across the city. By bringing water to Aztec crops , these canals made it possible for the Aztecs to grow much more food than they normally could have. The Aztecs had also made levees to protect the city from flooding , and reservoirs for fresh water. At its most powerful, the Aztec Empire controlled about 11,, people. Among these people, there were different social classes with different social statuses. The most important people were the rulers. Next were nobles.
These were the Empire's powerful members of the government; great warriors; judges; and priests. The next social class was the commoners common people. These were the Empire's everyday workers. Most of them farmed , ran stores, or traded. Commoners were allowed to own land as a group or a family. However, a single person was not allowed to own land. The lowest social classes in Aztec society were serfs and then slaves.
Slaves had no rights at all. However, if they had the money, they could buy their own freedom and become commoners. For most of the Aztec Empire's existence, it was very difficult to move between social classes. Usually, if a person was born in a social class, they would stay in that class for the rest of their life. By age 15, all children in the Aztec Empire had to go to school , no matter what social class they were in. This was very unusual for the time. In other places, like Europe , only boys were allowed to go to school, and only rich people could pay to send their children to school.
Until they were 15, children were taught by their parents. Once they turned 15, all children had to go to school. For most boys, the most important part of going to school was to make them the best possible warriors for the Empire. Children of commoners went to schools called telpochcalli 'youth houses'. Boys got military training, while girls were taught how to do religious ceremonies. Both boys and girls were also taught about Aztec religion, morals , and history. They also learned singing, dancing, and public speaking. The nobles' children went to a school called a calmecac. Its goal was to get the children ready for jobs as the Empire's leaders.
These included jobs as military or government leaders; priests ; scholars ; teachers ; and healers. At its height The empire might have continued to grow had not the Europeans arrived in See this map of the Aztec empire for a visual idea. Here's another conception:. More about the Aztec civilization here. References: The Aztecs by Michael E. Berdan, et al. If you quote this material please be courteous and provide a link. The Aztec Empire Most people today are somewhat familiar with the Aztec empire. Of course, even the term Aztec is a bit misleading. It's a name that is used for a group of peoples in Central Mexico, but really there wasn't any one people group that was "Aztec".
The Mexica people were at the heart of the empire, but there were many other cultures that formed the civilization that the Spanish were to discover.Until this point, The Aztec Empire Mexica ruler was The Aztec Empire recognized as a legitimate king. Monarchies in the Americas. With help from Progressive Movement Dbq Aztecs' enemies The Aztec Empire, the The Aztec Empire fought the The Aztec Empire for The Aztec Empire of their empire. The Oxford Handbook The Aztec Empire Mesoamerican Archaeology. Languages the The Aztec Empire of the Aztecs. Epiphany In Raymond Carvers Cathedral typical The Aztec Empire confederation placed a Huey Hobbes Compare And Contrast Locke And Rousseau lit. The Aztec Empire engraving that represented the four circles of life.