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Aztecs - Essay Example

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Aztecs were ancient Nahuatl-speaking people whose civilization flourished in Central Mexico from the 12th century AD until they were conquered by the Spanish led by Cortes in 1519. Aztec history is one of the best preserved records of the Mesoamericans…
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Download file to see previous pages Aztecs were ancient Nahuatl-speaking people whose civilization flourished in Central Mexico from the 12th century AD until they were conquered by the Spanish led by Cortes in 1519. Aztec history is one of the best preserved records of the Mesoamericans. The Aztecs were a nomadic tribe living in northern Mexico for centuries before they migrated to the highlands of central Mexico in the 12th century. The power of the Aztecs began to rise in the 14th century, and by the 16th century they were dominating central Mexico and up to present-day Guatemala in the south. Being the last in a series of civilizations in Mesoamerica, the Aztecs had a complex culture that had shades of the cultures of civilizations preceding them such as the Mayan and Teotihuacan. The extensive practice of human sacrifice was a prominent feature of Aztec culture. This essay analyzes the concept of human sacrifice in Aztec culture. Sacrifices were fundamental to most ancient cultures.In fact, all cultures have practiced sacrifice in some form or other, ranging from food and wine to animals and humans. In our modern and civilized cultures, however, human sacrifice is deemed as a freak and abhorrent cult. Human sacrifice among the Sumerians involved poisoning and burial. The Sumerian civilization that existed on the lower reaches of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers about 4000 B.C., practiced human sacrifice in the form of the burial of a king in a lower chamber, followed by a layering of humans and, finally, the chief sacrifice of the queen in the topmost chamber in a tomb. In the Neolithic or Bronze period in China, in what was possibly the earliest known phase of civilization, the Shang Dynasty (1500-600 B.C.) practiced sacrifices of war captives to the royal ancestors. When a king died, it was customary to bury him along with his sacrificed servants. Thus, human sacrifice among the ancient Chinese was practiced for the sake of ancestor worship. The Celts (400-200 BC) whose territory extended from Ireland to parts of Asia Minor, and in the south to parts of Italy, and some regions in Spain, besides the entire Roman empire, also indulged in human sacrifice until the beginning of the Christian era and the act was probably voluntary. Thus, human sacrifice by the Celts was carried out to placate the gods in order to reap benefits for the community. From all accounts the ritual of human sacrifice undertaken by the Aztecs was extremely violent and savage. The most common form of human sacrifice among the Aztecs consisted of blood letting and tearing the hearts out to offer to the gods, in particular, Huitzilopochtli. This involved cutting open the chests of victims at altars on top of temple-pyramids by special sacrifice priests using sacrificial knives carved out of precious stone. A most spectacular yet gruesome event is said to have taken place during the consecration of the temple of Huitzilpochtli, just two decades before Cortes defeated the Aztecs. On this occasion, at least 20,000 prisoners are said to have been sacrificed in a marathon session of sacrifice conducted by Ahuitzotl, the then Aztec ruler, and his relatives, acting as the officiating priests (Raggio et al., 2000). The skulls of the sacrificial victims placed on long wooden racks were later displayed to the public. The Aztec empire was a model of administrative regulation and control, and which had implemented many economic and political innovations. The highly successful Aztec society had developed advanced agriculture, mathematics, astronomy and art. Their capital, Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) established in 1325, developed fast and had a population of more than 100,000 people when it was attacked by the Spanish. The reasons for such a powerful empire yielding so quickly and completely to the Spanish in 1519 beg to be discussed. Religion was a driving force for the Aztecs, Huitzilopochtli being the patron god. Besides this hummingbird-like god, there were several other prominent deities, too. Human sacrifices ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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