Info on the Aztecs
The Aztecs / Mexicas were the native American people who dominated northern Mexico at the time of the Spanish conquest led by Hernan CORTES in the early 16th century. According to their own legends, they originated from a place called Aztlan, somewhere in north or northwest Mexico. At that time the Aztecs (who referred to themselves as the Mexica or Tenochca) were a small, nomadic, Nahuatl-speaking aggregation of tribal peoples living on the margins of civilized Mesoamerica. Sometime in the 12th century they embarked on a period of wandering and in the 13th century settled in the central basin of México. Continually dislodged by the small city-states that fought one another in shifting alliances, the Aztecs finally found refuge on small islands in Lake Texcoco where, in 1325, they founded the town of TENOCHTITLAN (modern-day Mexico City). The term Aztec, originally associated with the migrant Mexica, is today a collective term, applied to all the peoples linked by trade, custom, religion, and language to these founders.
Fearless warriors and pragmatic builders, the Aztecs created an empire during the 15th century that was surpassed in size in the Americas only by that of the Incas in Peru. As early texts and modern archaeology continue to reveal, beyond their conquests and many of their religious practices, there were many positive achievements: the formation of a highly specialized and stratified society and an imperial administration, the expansion of a trading network as well as a tribute system, the development and maintenance of a sophisticated agricultural economy, carefully adjusted to the land and the cultivation of an intellectual and religious outlook that held society to be an integral part of the cosmos.
The yearly round of rites and ceremonies in the cities of Tenochtitlan and neighboring Tetzcoco, and their symbolic art and architecture, gave expression to an ancient awareness of the interdependence of nature and humanity.
The Aztecs remain the most extensively documented of all Amerindian civilizations at the time of European contact in the 16th century. Spanish friars, soldiers, and historians and scholars of Indian or mixed descent left invaluable records of all aspects of life. These ethnohistoric sources, linked to modern archaeological inquiries and studies of ethnologists, linguists, historians, and art historians, portray the formation and flourishing of a complex imperial state.
Clockwise, the days of the Aztec Calendar are as follows:
Religion was extremely important in Aztec life. They worshipped hundreds of gods and goddesses, each of whom ruled one or more human activities or aspects of nature. The people had many agricultural gods because their culture was based heavily on farming; also they included natural elements and ancestor-heroes. These gods included:
CENTEOTL, the corn god.
COATLICUE - She of the Serpent Skirt.
EHECATL, the god of wind.
HUEHUETEOTL, "the old, old deity, " was one of the names of the cult of fire, among the oldest in Mesoamerica. The maintenance of fires in the temples was a principal priestly duty, and the renewal of fire was identified with the renewal of time itself.
HUITZILOPOCHTLI, (the war/sun god and special guardian of Tenochtitlan) the deified ancestral warrior-hero, was the Mexica-Aztec patron par excellence. His temple (next to that of Tlaloc) on the Main Pyramid was the focus of fearsome sacrifices of prisoners captured by Aztec warriors. Victims' heads were strung as trophies on a great rack, the Tzompantli, erected in the precinct below.
MICTLANTECUHTLE, god of the dead.
OMETECUHLTI and his wife OMECIHUATL created all life in the world.
QUETZALCOATL, (the god of civilization and learning) "quetzal (feather) serpent, " had dozens of associations. It was the name of a deity, a royal title, the name of a legendary priest-ruler, a title of high priestly office. But its most fundamental significance as a natural force is symbolized by the sculpture of a coiled plumed serpent rising from a base whose underside is carved with the symbols of the earth deity and Tlaloc. The image of the serpent rising from the earth and bearing water on its tail is explained in the Nahuatl language by a description of Quetzalcoatl in terms of the rise of a powerful thunderstorm sweeping down, with wind raising dust before bringing rain.
TEZCATLIPOCA, (god of Night and Sorcery) "Smoking Mirror" (obsidian), characterized as the most powerful, supreme deity, was associated with the notion of destiny. His cult was particularly identified with royalty, for Tezcatlipoca was the object of the lengthy and reverent prayers in rites of kingship.
TLALOC, the rain deity, belonged to another most memorable and universal cult of ancient Mexico. The name may be Aztec, but the idea of a storm god especially identified with mountaintop shrines and life-giving rain was certainly as old as Teotihuacan. The primary temple of this major deity was located atop Mt. Tlaloc, where human victims were sacrificed to fertilize water-rocks within the sacred enclosure. In Tenochtitlan another Tlaloc temple shared the platform atop the dual Main Pyramid, a symbolic mountain.
TONATIUH, the sun, was perceived as a primary source of life whose special devotees were the warriors. The warriors were charged with the mission to provide the sun with sacrificial victims. A special altar to the sun was used for sacrifices in coronation rites, a fact that signifies the importance of the deity. The east-west path of the sun determined the principal ritual axis in the design of Aztec cities.
TONANTZIN, "honored grandmother, " was among the many names of the female earth-deity.
TEZCATLIPOCA, an all-powerful god; Tonatiuh, the sun god.
XILONEN, "young maize ear, " and Chicomecoatl, "seven serpent, " were principal deities of maize representing the chief staple of Mesoamerican peoples.
XIPE TOTEC, the god of springtime and regrowth.
XIUHTECUHTLE the fire god.
The following is a list of Aztec Emperors:
NAME TRANSLATION DATES SERVED TENOCH TUNA DE PIEDRA 1325-1375 ACAMAPICHTLI MANOJO DE CANAS 1376-1396 HUITZILIHUITL PLUMA DE COLIBRI 1397-1417 CHIMALPOPOCA ESCUDO HUMEANTE 1418-1427 ITZCOATL SERPIENTE DE OBSIDIANA 1428-1440 MOCTEZUMA ILHUICAMINA EL FLECHADOR DEL CIELO 1441-1469 AXAYACATL CARA DE AGUA 1470-1481 TIZOC PIERNA ENFERMA 1482-1486 AHUITZOTL PERRO DE AGUA 1487-1502 MOCTEZUMA XOCOYOTZIN EL SENOR VALEROSO 1503-1520 CUITALAHUAC EXCREMENTO SECO 1520-1521
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