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Terms in this set (19)
Cities' most valuable item
Green or black volcanic glass found in the Valley of Mexico
Used to make razor-sharp weapons (sacrifice)
-Topilzin, Toltec ruler, tried to change the Toltec religion and encouraged them to worship this god
--Followers of a different god rebelled forcing Toptzin and his followers into Exile on the Yucatan Peninsula
The Legend of Quetzalcoatl
After his exile from Tula, the god traveled east, crossing the sea on a raft of snakes
He would return one day, bringing a new reign of light and peace.
-This alliance became the leading power in the Valley of Mexico and soon gained control over neighboring regions
Alliance controlled a vast empire
-Was crowned emperor in 1502
-The Aztec Empire began to weaken
-For a century, the Aztecs had been demanding tribute and sacrificial victims from the provinces under their control
-The population of Tenochtitlan was growing even greater
--Montezuma called for tribute and sacrifice
How do you think the Aztecs were able to establish an extensive empire in such a relatively short period of time?
Foundations were already there
o The Aztecs were preceded by two other important civilizations that traced their ancestry to the Olmec and Zapotec
Aztecs began to gain power
City-states and other places already existed in Central Mexico
The Aztecs eventually began to conquer these other locations and bring them under Aztec control
The Valley of Mexico was Aztec home
o Had several large shallow lakes at center
o Accessible resources
o Fertile soil
On what was Teotihuacan's power and wealth based?
At the peak of the sixth century, Teotihuacan had a population of between 150,000 and 200,000 people, making it on of the largest cities in the world at the time.
Center of a thriving trade network that extended far into Central America
Teotihuacan (City of the Gods)
How did the Aztecs rule their empire?
Military leaders held great power in Aztec society (
Noble class: Military leaders, government officials, and priests
o Usually ruled over vast estates
o Wealthy and luxurious
o Included merchants, artisans, soldiers, and farmers
• Formed special type of elite
• They often traveled widely (acting as spies for the emperor and gaining great wealth for themselves)
o Were captives who did many different jobs
Emperor sat atop the Aztec social pyramid
Why did the Aztecs think it was necessary to make blood sacrifices to the sun god, Huizilopochtli?
Huitzilopochtli is the god of the sun and warfare
He told them to find a city of their own
He said to look for a place where an eagle perched on a cactus, holding a snake in its mouth
They found such a place on a small island in Lake Texcoco (there they found their city)
How were the Aztecs able to overcome the problems associated with Tenochtitlan's island location?
Aztec engineers built three raised roads, called causeways, over the water and marshland
Streets and broad avenues connected the city center with outlying residential districts
Canals that intersected with these roadways allowed canoes to bring people directly into the city center
Canoes brought goods from far away to the economic heart of the city
o Farm plots built on the marshy fringes of th lake
o Extremely productive
Center of the city was walled complex filled with palaces, temples, and government buildings
Why do you think the Aztecs allowed some conquered peoples to govern themselves with relatively little interference?
The Aztec based their power in military conquest and the tribute they gained from their conquered subjects
Generally exercised loose control over their empire
Letting local rulers govern their own regions
If local rulers failed to pay tribute, the Aztecs responded brutally
They destroyed the rebellious villages and captured or slaughtered the inhabitants
They probably allowed some conquered peoples to govern themselves with relatively little inference because the empire was so vast that they couldn't do it themselves (or control it very well)
The only way they could control it was through tributes
How did the Aztec need for victims for sacrifice lead to problems controlling the empire?
1,000 gods that the Aztecs worshiped
The Aztecs pictured Quetzalcoatl not only as a feather serpent, but also as a pale skinned man with a beard
To make sure that Huitzilopochtli was strong enough to fight the evil during the night, he needed the nourishment of human blood (sacrifice)
Sacrificial victims included enslaved persons, criminals, and people offered as tribute by conquered provinces
A number of provinces rose up against Aztec oppression (unrest/rebellion)
Many Aztecs began to predict that terrible things were about to happen
Arrival of the Spanish
The Toltec Empire lasted until 1150 CE
Various people would jockey for control—the winners would be the Aztecs (Mexica)
The Aztecs spoke Nahuatl, the language of the Toltecs, which made their rise to power more acceptable.
The Aztec Rise to Power
Aztecs were tough warriors and fanatical followers of their gods, to whom they offered human sacrifices
Their own legends held that their wandering would end when they saw an eagle perched on a cactus with a serpent in its beak
Supposedly they saw this on an island in Lake Texcoco and they founded Tenochtitlan there in 1325 CE
They would go on to conquer lands and take tribute from the conquered peoples.
Peak of Aztec Power
Around the time of Columbus
Tenochtitlan had a central zone of palaces and temples
It was surrounded by brick residential districts, smaller palaces, and markets
There were gardens and a zoo kept for the ruler
Set in the midst of a lake and crisscrossed by canals
Present day Mexico City rises on the site
Hernán Cortés says...(conquistador) "The stone masonry and the woodwork are equally good; they could not be better anywhere."
Incorporated many features that had long been part of the Mesoamerican belief system
Gods of rain, fire, water, corn, sky, and the sun
There were at least 128 major deities, but there seems to be many more
Each deity had a feminine form (a basic duality was recognized in all things)
Women important in Aztec society
(commonly women have more power in indigenous socities)
Each god has at least five aspects—associated with the cardinal directions and the center
The gods had sacrificed themselves for humankind
Pay them back in sacrifice
The nourishment the gods needed most was that which was most precious: human life in the forms of heart and blood
It is debated how much of Aztec sacrifice was the result of religious conviction and how much was a tactic of terror and political control
What could it be?
Political control (terror tactics)
Lack of resources (Population control)
Protein deficiency (debunked—most sacrifices happened when they had more food)
Demanded tribute from those they conquered
Pictographs or glyphs
Not a complete writing system that can communicate all things
The Destruction of the Aztec Civilization:
Native American alliances
The Legend of the Return of Quetzalcoatl
Quetzalcoatl will return and will bring them out of the dark
Horses and Boats emerge on the ocean
Beards and Horses
Return would be marked by a tree with a speer through it (they mistakened this for the cross)
Aztec invited them in, but they destroyed everything and a lot of history
Destruction of Tenochtitlan
Planned city of Tenochtitlan
Causeways or bridges to city
Chinampas: floating gardens
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