A slave was similar to a paid servant. The children of the poor people could be sold as slaves, but it was usually for a determined period of time. The slaves had the right to buy their freedom.
War was a very important activity, because of their conquering ambition and also for religious reasons. Mexicas believed that the gods had sacrificed themselves for the people and their blood had given them life. They thought that the sun lived on blood from human hearts so the purpose of human blood was to feed the sun gods and ensure their continuity and the preserving of life. The sacrifice of animals and humans was part of Aztec religion. To warriors it was the maximum honor to be killed in battle or volunteer for a sacrifice. One main reason to make war on other tribes was to capture prisoners for sacrifice.
In Aztec religion various gods ruled daily life. Huitzilopochtli, the sun god, Coyolxauhqui, the moon, (that was murdered by her brother sun) Tlaloc, rain, Quetzalc atl, the inventor of writing and calendar, associated with resurrection. Each god had its own temple where the idol was kept.
The Aztecs used pictographic writing engraved on paper or animal skin. They also had a calendar system they had adopted from the Mayas. It had 365 days, divided in 18 months of 20 days, to which they added five empty days that were believed to be of bad luck.
Education was very strict and started from an early age. The parents wanted their children to be productive citizens from the moment they were born. Women were taught modest and demure behavior and to master all the housekeeping activities, cookery and textile. Men were instructed for war. From childhood they were trained to be strong and resistant, so they were bathed in cold water, wore light clothes and slept on the floor. Their characters were strengthened by severe punishments and harsh lessons about honesty, respect to their elders, sacrifice and justice. During the first years the father had the task of educating the son and the mother the daughter. After home education was finished the children of nobles and priests attended the calmecac and the others the tepochcalli. They learned music, song and dance, religion, history, mathematics, reading, writing, martial arts, calendar and other subjects.
Poetry was very appreciated in the Aztec world. It was one of the most important art forms and shows their view about the fragility of life, the endless doubts of the soul and the beauty of the world. It's also ritual poetry, often as a dialog with the supreme deity to which the poet speaks his inner thoughts, in a language filled with symbols, metaphors and myth. Among many poets we could name Tlaltecatzin, who brought the influence of Toltec culture to promote cultural flourishing to improve the way of life of his people. Other poets were Tecayhuatzin, Ayocuan and Nezahualcoyotl, considered to be the greatest by his people.
The poems reveal their understanding of the world and the phenomenon of nature, but also their great religious beliefs and the connection they shared with heir background. Just as the ancient Greek poetry, Aztec lyricism was filled with a certain philosophical melancholy that devoted lyrics to the deities, to creation, to the mysteries of human spirit, sometimes wondering about the meaning of life, others praising the greatness of their state and civilization. Tlaltecatzin's poetry is full of metaphors and even open for different interpretations, as the flowers can describe in his verses both the pleasure of love and beauty of a woman, but also the enigma of death, the melancholy of the short lived splendor of life.
Their rich culture and developed society had a great influence over many other tribes with which the Aztecs kept contact, spreading their social, religious and artistic achievements. The Spaniards were very impressed with this civilization when they discovered the many shades of the Aztec world, and many devoted special study to their history. Even if they had to destroy their world for economical and political interests, in the notes and memoirs the Conquistadors left behind can be seen their marvel and appreciation for their culture.
1-Carrasco, David. Daily life of the Aztecs: people of the sun and earth. Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, 1998.
2-Coe, Michael D., Koontz, Rex. Mexico: from Olmecs to Aztecs, Thames and Hudson, New York, 2002.
3-Hooker, Richard, World Civilizations. Civilizations in America, the Toltecs. 1996
http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/CIVAMRCA/TOLTECS.HTM (Accessed December 9, 2006)
4- Lawrence Rebecca Olmecs mysteries and resources, http://www.tylwythteg.com/OLMEC/Olmec1.html2003, (Accessed December 9, 2006)
5-Miguel Leon-Portilla. Fifteen poets of the Aztec world, Norman University of Oklahoma Press, 1992.
6- Pasztory Esther. Pre-Columbian art. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998
7-Smith, Michael Ernest. The Aztecs. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford 2003.
Smith, Michael Ernest. The Aztecs. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford 2003 P. 31
Pasztory Esther. Pre-Columbian art. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1998. P. 83
Smith, Michael Ernest. The Aztecs. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford 2003 P. 148
Carrasco, David. Daily life of the Aztecs: people of the sun and earth. Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, 1998 P. 127
Smith, Michael Ernest. The Aztecs. Blackwell Publishing, Oxford 2003 P. 125
Carrasco, David. Daily life of the Aztecs: people of the sun and earth. Greenwood Publishing Group, Westport, 1998 P. 193