Violence in the Aztec Society Essay

“The blue membranophone of Huichilobos sounded once more. accompanied by conches. horns. and trumpet-like instruments. It was a terrific sound. and when we looked at the tall cue ( temple-pyramid ) from which it came we saw our companions who had been captured in Cortes’ licking being dragged up the stairss to be sacrificed. When they had haled them up to a little platform in forepart of the shrine where they kept their accurst graven images we saw them set plums on the caputs of many of them ; and so they made them dance with a kind of fan in forepart of Huichilobos.

Then after they had danced the dad ( Aztec priests ) laid them down on their dorsums on some narrow rocks of forfeit and. cutting unfastened their thoraxs. drew out their palpitating Black Marias which they offered to the graven images before them. Then they kicked the organic structures down the stairss. and the Indian meatmans who were waiting below cut off their weaponries and legs and flayed their faces. which they afterwards prepared like baseball mitt leather. with their face funguss on. and kept for their bibulous festivals. Then they ate their flesh with a sauce of Piper nigrums and tomatoes. ” -Spanish Conquistador. Bernal Diaz ( The Mystery of Aztec Sacrifice by Michael Harner ( 1977:46-50 ) )

The Aztecs were a folk in cardinal Mexico during the 14th. 15th. and 16th centuries. They were located in Tenochtitlan. now Mexico City. on an island in Lake Texcoco. The Aztec community was extremely advanced for their clip period in things such as architecture and mathematics. They developed a complex calendar. irrigation systems. keen art. advanced agribusiness. canals used in transit. chinampas ( drifting gardens ) . and were the first civilisation to necessitate their kids to travel to school. Yet. they were highly violent and resorted to barbarian Acts of the Apostless. It appears from the Spanish records and archeological findings that the Aztecs were most decidedly a violent society. but were they inherently violent or did they have rational grounds related to non-violence explicating their behaviour?

The chief ground bookmans think that the Aztecs were seen as a malicious group was their ritual of human giving. Spanish records of the Aztecs have been known to overstate their descriptions of human giving but archeological research done in 1960 and 1969 tends to back up the conquistadores’ histories. Headless human rib coops wholly missing the limb castanetss were found at Aztec sacrificial sites. Although these remains were found. many bookmans perceive this as a spiritual act refering to the Aztec’s belief that worlds must give that. which was most cherished to them. life. in order to have in return the Sun. rain. and other approvals of the Gods that make life possible. Ortiz de Montellano ( 1978. 1990 ) attributed the Aztec pattern of human forfeit to their belief that the Gods required it. He went on to state that the bulk of human forfeit during crop periods indicated that it was “a gesture of thanks and reciprocality to the Gods ( 1978:614 ) . ”

The Aztecs frequently went to war with their neighbours to convey back captives for human forfeit ; this was called the flowery wars. Although the Aztecs did take captives to be sacrificed. some bookmans believe that the flowery wars were non merely for obtaining sacrificial victims. Hassig ( 1990 ) linked human forfeit to their unstable economic place. He analyzed the flowery wars as an empire-building scheme that was used to have on down stronger enemies instead than as a calculated process to gaining control people for forfeit. Price ( 1978 ) and Isaac ( 1983 ) likewise thought that the flowery wars reflected the shifting of power between neighbouring metropoliss and their inability to suppress the Valley of Mexico ( Tlaxcala-Pueblan Valley ) . Price suggests that the failure of military conquest made human forfeit an ideal alibi to explicate this deficiency of success. King Moteuczoma characterized the wars as rites for obtaining prisoners and as military preparation for soldiers. This is seen as a strategic program to direct the conquistadores’ attending off from political and military failings in the Aztec civilisation.

In the mass bulk of sacrificial rites. cannibalism was performed. This frequently took portion during the sacrificing of captives of war but besides happened during the forfeit of some of their ain people. Harner ( 1977 ) rejected anthropological theories speculating that human forfeit was caused by the demand of their faith and Gods. He thought that their causes were because of a high population rate that caused protein scarceness. Based on surveies of population force per unit area. Harner ( 1970 ) suggested that the large image of Aztec human forfeit and cannibalism resulted from demographical and ecological factors.

These created protein deficits. population force per unit area. seasonal harvest failures. a deficiency of farm animal. the depletion of wild game in the part. dearth. and the environment environing the vale was non suited for farming due to the desertification of the land. The Aztecs had maize and beans to supply protein but since these veggies could merely be grown in certain seasons. they were an deficient manner to acquire protein. This is what led Harner to believe cannibalism was their lone invariable and abundant supply of protein. Harner besides suggested that the intent of the flowery wars was to capture captives to give with the purpose to devour them. Monetary value. ( 1978 ) nevertheless. disagreed. She stated that the highest categories of society. who consumed most of the human forfeits. already had easy entree to other meat.

Ortiz De Montellano ( 1978 ) argued against Harner’s hypothesis every bit good. He stated that there was a broad scope of meat protein available. progresss in agricultural techniques. plentifulness of stored nutrient. and that the Aztecs had a good overall diet. Montellano besides suggested other thoughts as to why the “ecological hypothesis” was non true. The first was that the Aztecs were suppressing new lands and countries for agribusiness. which sometimes provided them with a new beginning of game to run. therefore holding a larger pool of meat to eat.

His second was of the minor handiness of the entire human protein from forfeit because the flesh was reserved for the elite. which included great warriors and priests. Montellano’s tierce was grounds that explained that the majority of the Aztec’s forfeits took portion during the periods of clip in the twelvemonth when there were plentifulness of harvests and plentifulness of nutrient to easy prolong them. This means that alternatively of the Aztecs trusting on human meat during the off-season. they practiced cannibalism regardless of their nutrient position.

Michael Winkelman ( 1998 ) said. “in comparing to other societies with human forfeit. the Aztecs were utmost in several steps: they were the lone human forfeit society in this sample with a high hazard of dearth ; the highest on several steps of population force per unit area ; in the highest class of population denseness ( over 500 individuals per square stat mi ) ; and had the highest degrees of overall warfare for land resources. Therefore. their forfeit and cannibalism may reflect their utmost conditions on many ecological variables. ”

John M. D. Pohl ( 2002 ) stated. “Aztec forfeit. one time perceived as a ruthless pattern committed by a ‘tribe’ apparently obsessed with bloodshed. is now seen as no more or less barbarous than what many imperial civilisations have done. ” The Aztecs were non the lone people throughout the Earth’s history to hold such violent patterns. William Prescott ( 1992 ) compiled research comparing the Aztecs violent ways to those of other civilizations throughout history. Harmonizing to Prescott’s research. such violent patterns were found among the antediluvian Canaanites. the Gaelic people. and the Romans. The Romans had slaves that they condemned to decease simply for the intent of amusement in the Colosseum.

The research besides notes the narrative of Abraham and Isaac in the Old Testament. where Abraham was willing to give his boy for God. While the narrative was against forfeit it still shows that it was a known pattern. Another scriptural narrative of forfeit that Prescott references is the narrative of Jepthah. Jepthah pledges that he will give the first life animal that he saw when returning place if Gods would give him triumph in his approaching conflict. When Jepthah returns place. he is greeted by his girl and is forced by the bindings of his word to do a burned offering of his girl. Prescott’s digest of research besides included the Hindu usage of suttee. which was the self-destruction of the widow on the funeral pyre of her hubby because of the Hindu belief in Samsara.

Gallic anthropologist Claude Levi-Strauss ( 1964 ) described the Aztecs as enduring from “a maniacal compulsion with blood and anguish. ” However. Harner ( 1977:51 ) stated. “Gruesome as these patterns may look. an ecological position and population force per unit area theory render the Aztec accent on human forfeit acceptable as a natural and rational response to the material conditions of their being. A materialist ecological attack reveals the Aztecs to be neither irrational nor mentally ill. but simply human existences who. faced with unusual endurance jobs. responded with unusual behaviour. ”

The Aztec’s beliefs about the universe and how they. as a people. could maintain the Sun rise and the workss turning and hence continued life for future coevalss was besides a really powerful force in their committedness to give to the Gods the highest award of human forfeit. The Aztecs decidedly had a violent civilization and had some really irregular patterns. but were their methods any more cruel than atomic warfare. terrorist act. and anguish for political grounds? We look at the Aztec’s grounds for their violent actions as deficient but we do non oppugn our ain grounds for the force we create today. Possibly it’s in the manner we view. interpret. and warrant the actions.


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