The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction

The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction

David Carrasco

Language: English

Pages: 152

ISBN: 0195379381

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


This Very Short Introduction employs the disciplines of history, religious studies, and anthropology as it illuminates the complexities of Aztec life. Readers meet a people highly skilled in sculpture, astronomy, city planning, poetry, and philosophy, who were also profoundly committed to cosmic regeneration through the thrust of the ceremonial knife and through warfare. Davíd Carrasco looks beyond Spanish accounts that have colored much of the Western narrative to let Aztec voices speak about their origin stories, the cosmic significance of their capital city, their methods of child rearing, and the contributions women made to daily life and the empire. Carrasco discusses the arrival of the Spaniards, contrasts Aztec mythical traditions about the origins of their city with actual urban life in Mesoamerica, and outlines the rise of the Aztec empire. He also explores Aztec religion, which provided both justification for and alternatives to warfare, sacrifice, and imperialism, and he sheds light on Aztec poetry, philosophy, painting, and especially monumental sculpture and architecture. He concludes by looking at how the Aztecs have been portrayed in Western thought, art, film, and literature as well as in Latino culture and arts.

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González Echevarría MODERNISM Christopher Butler MOLECULES Philip Ball MORMONISM Richard Lyman Bushman MUHAMMAD Jonathan A.C. Brown MULTICULTURALISM Ali Rattansi MUSIC Nicholas Cook MYTH Robert A. Segal NATIONALISM Steven Grosby NELSON MANDELA Elleke Boehmer NEOLIBERALISM Manfred Steger and Ravi Roy THE NEW TESTAMENT Luke Timothy Johnson THE NEW TESTAMENT AS LITERATURE Kyle Keefer NEWTON Robert Iliffe NIETZSCHE Michael Tanner NINETEENTH-CENTURY BRITAIN Christopher Harvie and H. C.

beyond doubt, but it is also clear that Spanish chroniclers exaggerated the numbers and purposes of these sacrifices as a strategy to justify their own conquests and prodigious violence against Mesoamerican men, women, and children. Scholarship also reveals that many ancient cultures including the Romans, Greeks, Japanese, Chinese, Africans, Andeans, and Egyptians practiced human sacrifice, often in very large numbers. Even though the Aztec image in Western thought ranks them as the biggest

his beginning, was in this manner.” The action took place on the great mountain near Tula, the ancient city associated with Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent man-god. Coatlicue (Serpent Skirt), mother of Coyolxauhqui and “the four hundred gods of the south,” was sweeping out a temple when “there fell on her some plumage.” She picked up the feathers, which symbolized divine semen, placed them in her blouse, and miraculously became pregnant. When her four hundred children learned of their

the ruler and protected it on its journey. This means that the Aztecs had a practice somewhat similar to the cult of relics we associate with medieval Europe. The bones of rulers and others who attained a divine reputation while alive were kept in special containers (boxes, vases, or jars) and displayed or buried in temples. They would receive offerings and, in exchange, the souls of the deceased would lend strength and protection to the community. A number of these relic containers have been

well-taught, well-brought up.” And referring to a life of fame and public significance, in Aztec times and even after the Spaniards arrived: “Mixtitlan, aiauhtitlan: in the clouds, in the mist. This was said of the highly esteemed, the very great; of those never before seen, of those never before known, nor anywhere seen in times of yore. So here in all Mexico it was thus said that the Spaniards came emerging from within the clouds, within the mist.” And this paradoxical appreciation: “Yollotl,

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