Pre-Columbian Civilizations II
Aztecs and Incas

I. Aztecs
  1. Aztecs arrived in valley c. 1218.
    1.  Last Nahua groups to arrive in Valley of Mexico after fall of Toltecs
    2.  Word refers to a collection of small ethnic groups who worked together
    3.  Had trouble finding land, worked as mercenaries for other Nahua city-states
    4.  Founded Tenochtitlan on islands in lake Texcoco c. 1325
    5. The Aztecs who found Tenochtitlan become known as the Mexica
  2. Aztec society
    1. Major social unit the calpulli, kinship networks spanning all social levels with elected chiefs
    2. Each calpulli had its own identity, often associated with certain trades, temples, and city districts
    3. As empire expanded, conquered land distributed among calpulli chiefs
    4. Some social mobility - compulsory education for nobles brought in promising commoners. Schools trained warriors, priests, bureaucrats.
    5. Fantastic wealth in Tenochtitlan as empire expanded
      1. Highly productive chinampa agriculture aided by public works
      2. Yearly tribute from vassal cities included 14 million lbs corn, 8 million lbs beans, 2 million cotton cloaks, extensive luxuries
      3. massive tribute and control of trade networks creates dominant market in Mexico
      4. Massive temples, extensive public works and public arts, public gardens (and a thousand streetsweepers!)
  3. Creating the Empire
    1. Begin big push outward in 1430, gaining subservience of north Mesoamerica.
    2. Begins as a "Triple Alliance" with Texcoco and Tlacopan, but Tenochitlan come to dominate thoroughly
    3. Ruling dynasty in Tenochtitlan will come to claim descent from Toltecs, Aztecs copy much of Toltec militarism
    4. Build a tribute empire, in which conquered cities must pay tribute, but are not directly governed by Aztecs
    5. Local leaders left in place, as long as they cooperated
    6. Ultimately 28 city-states come under the empire
    1. Rapid expansion of empire brought enormous social disparities
      1. Offering a feast was a key social ritual for all classes
      2.  those unable to offer feasts were not able to meet social obligations
      The poorest "had nothing to use, with which to gather and assemble people. He in no way excelled others...He had no bowl or jar. He visited and inflicted pain, misery and suffering on one."
      1.  Increasing demands for land by both calpulli chiefs and conquered nobles pushed more and more peasant farmers on to marginal lands
      2. At certain times, before the harvest, the rich gave out food.
        1.  poor lined up to receive it
        2.  lined up on basis of rank in the capulli
        3.  expected to be docile and passive
        4.  fate blamed as reason some got none when food ran out
        5. no provisions for those unable to get to distribution point
      3. beggars were know as "bumblebees"
    2.  A socially controlled society
      1. severe punishments for public drunkenness
      2.  people out of control thought to be risking an eruption of the sacred
      3.  but also social conflict - many brawls in the marketplace
  4. E. Religion and Empire
    1. Mexica imagined a fragile cosmology
      1. Man is rootless, without foundation
      2. Current existence fated to end
      3. cycles of sun, each must end - 5th Sun must die
    1.  Huitzilopochtli - God of War and the Sun
      1. Huitzilopochtli - the chief tribal god of Aztecs
      2. As with Toltecs, Quetzalcoatl has fled. Tlaloc the rain god shares the central temple with Huitzilipochtli
      3. The sun formed by a god sacrificing himself on coals each day - reborn as sun
      4. Nourishment comes only from human heart (purity) - must be physically freed
      5. Thus human sacrifice vital to religion
      6. Number increase dramatically; tens of thousands each year
      1.  Increasingly common on community, family level
    1.  Sacrifice taken to new heights as part of statecraft
      1.  intimately tied to expansion
      2.  War both religious and political.
    2. All nations must serve Huitzilipotchli
      1. tribute cities must give over sacrificial victims
      2.  Flowery war
        1. meant to take captives, not kill
        2. Often orchestrated
        3. hurt them with Spaniards
    3. An empire based on fear
      1.  Aztecs did not govern their conquests directly
      2.  left them intact as source of tribute
      3.  left them intact as source of "war captives" for sacrifice
      4.  Need to constantly ratchet up the fear
      5.  sacrifice and war become a self-reinforcing obsession
      6.  life of nobles a constant preparation and participation in war
      7.  yet also a society that valued speech, dance, poetry
    4.  This empire of fear left them vulnerable to Spaniards