By: Tanner Williams
Why Study The Aztec ?
Blood thirsty savages… That is image most people create in their mind when thinking of Aztec civilization. Accounts of their violence, such as priests wearing the skin of a sacrificial victim, or the sacrificing of children on the first day of each month because their tears would ensure rain, help to reinforce this notion that the Aztec were unintelligent, cruel, and savage people.(Tuerenhout 182, 187) It makes sense that the Aztec are most famous for their frequent participation in human sacrifice. It is attention grabbing. People like to read about spilt blood. However, there is so much more to learn about the Aztecs then just their human sacrifices. They in fact were not unintelligent, cruel, or savage at all, far from it.
Killing children for their tears? How is that not stupid, cruel, and savage?
This is hard for us to wrap our brains around as a member of society that values human life so highly. What is important to understand is that all civilizations have a different set of beliefs and ideologies. These beliefs allow societies to have priorities and set goals to achieve. For example, one society’s beliefs might value public safety and security over personal liberties. This country might work to achieve laws banning citizens from owning firearms. In the USA, there are a lot of people who’s ideologies value personal liberties over public safety and therefore work towards preventing such laws.
The Aztecs as an entire society had a very interesting set of ideologies that did not prioritize preserving human life above all else. Because of this difference in priorities, what our society might view as cruel or stupid, was neither cruel nor stupid when based off of the Aztec belief system. When it came to accomplishing what was important to them, the Aztec were extremely successful and efficient.
To learn more about what was important to the Aztecs and how they were so successful at achieving their goals, cruise through the following links:
Pictures: (top to bottom)
1.) “Piedra del Sol”, located in the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. (Moctezuma pg 97-98)
2.) From Codex Magliabechiano (Townsend 98)