The author points out that there were more commoners than nobles but the commoners were often at the mercy of nobles and were expected to serve them. Although this was the case, it was also true that commoners had a great deal of control over their lives and in most cases they had enough to meet their basic needs and the needs of their family.
One of the most interesting aspects of Aztec civilization is Aztec religious practices. According to an article found in the Journal of the Southwest, the Aztec religious system dominated the way of life for the Aztec people. The research indicates that the religious system of the Aztec people was very much associated with the Aztec Calendar. This calendar was based on the yearly agricultural cycle.
For instance when the winter solstice occurred the Aztec people would participate in fire festivals. The purpose of such festivals was to persuade the sun to return so that the days or sunlight hours would not be so short.
The Aztec people also participated in a large ceremonial race during the winter solstice. The ceremony involved was held to imitate "the sun's circular route through the cycle of the day and of the year, followed in early March, the first month of the Aztec year, by the Feast of the Sun (Duran 1971:414)." These rituals took place during an influential time in the agricultural year and lasted until the summer solstice. This was an important time on the Aztec Calendar because it coincided with the planting of seeds during the arrival of the rains.
As such the lives of the Aztec people were very dependent upon these ceremonies and what they represented.
The author further explains that that Aztec year was composed of eighteen months that contained 20 days each, totaling 360 days. The research explains that five days were added on during the final month of the year. During each of the eighteen months certain ceremonies were held, usually to honor one of their many deities.
The deities were believed to be responsible for different aspects of agricultural success including fertility and rain. The deities were also important to success in hunting and in warfare. The author further explains that for the Aztec, the spring planting cycle fell between the third month of Tozoztontli and the sixth month of Etzalqualitztli (roughly 10 April-28 June), and although each month had prescribed ceremonies specific to it, together they formed integral parts of a continuing cycle that saw the fields planted and the setting up of the first fruits. Tozoztontli was the time of the sacrifice of the blood of children, both in comparatively minor, localized wounds of ears, tongues and shins, and actual child sacrifice of a group of chosen victims. Concurrent with this sacrifice of blood was the letting of childish tears which mimicked the rain, inducing it through sympathetic magic to fall."
The sacrificing of human-beings was the most disturbing aspect of Aztec Religion. Research has indicated that not only were there human sacrifices but also cannibalism in Aztec civilization. Amongst researchers there are debates as to the purpose of such sacrifices. Some argue that is was indeed a religious practice and the human sacrifice was offered because they believed that the gods required such a sacrifice. However some anthropologists and sociologists have suggested that human sacrifice in Aztec Civilization occurred as a result of both demographic and ecologic dynamics which resulted in shortage of protein and there were also population pressures. The article explains that there were adverse agricultural circumstances along with seasonal crop failures a lack of domesticated herbivores, a decrease in the presence of wild game in the area, famine, and environmental issues that developed as a result of limitations concerning the growth of agriculture.
The author explains that even though crops such as corn and beans provided complementary vegetable proteins, they do not contain fatty acids and because these crops were seasonally scarce what the Aztec people would have available would have been insufficient. As such it has been hypothesized that cannibalism occurred because it was a way to provide a significant source of protein. The author also points out that in most cases the Aztecs would not eat individuals that were members of their own social group or community. Instead they practiced a type of warfare known as "flowery wars," as a way to acquire sacrificial victims. Whatever the case, Human Sacrifice was a significant component in Aztec life and religious ritual.
In addition the aforementioned ceremonies, there were also elaborate ceremonies in the fourth and fifth months of the Aztec year. The largest ceremony was held in the sixth month of the Aztec year and it was referred to as the "great feast of symbolic plenty" during this feast "beans and corn were eaten together in a sacred stew reserved for this month alone."
The Aztec Civilization was marked by extreme warfare. War was indeed a significant part of Aztec life. In the earlier times of the Aztec civilization the Aztecs did not have a standing Army.
That is there was no army constantly at the ready when a problem arose. Instead, commoners were called upon when problems arose. However, over time and through many conquests a standing army developed.
A great deal of the warfare that Aztecs were involved in was a result of their desire for imperial expansion.
According to a book entitled Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control, this desire came from a lack of transportation. According to the author, the Aztec empire lacked transportation and as such it was difficult to get goods from place to place. Aztecs could not rely heavily on animals to transport goods, because there were not many in the area (which is why some believe cannibalism was practiced). As such, the Aztec empire could not trade goods in a substantial way because of the cost associated with transporting the goods. They could, however, conquer various regions and wield political control that forced these conquered regions to pay for the transport of goods.
The author points out; cities were usually attacked sequentially using the resources and even the manpower received by the previous conquest. Apparently the Aztec Army engaged in warfare until they exhausted their resources, were defeated or conquered the territory. In some cases the desire of the empire to expand brought the Aztecs to cities that were so distant that they had no enemies. However, on these occasions the Aztec Army would learn of local antagonisms and exploit them for the gain of the empire. Additionally, there were occasions where the Aztec Army and Empire would simply intimidate cities into submission. The Aztecs were able to accomplish this because of the reputation that the army had around the region. Many cities would rather submit to the authority of the empire willingly than have to deal with a bloody and ruthless conquest.
It is evident that the Aztec civilization was ruthless in warfare and the government was rather imperialistic. A great deal of the conquests were deemed necessary as a way to strengthen the Aztec economy and the dominion of the civilization in the region of the world. Ultimately the Aztecs were conquered because another people group had the same desire.
As was previously mentioned in this discussion agriculture was a major part of Aztec life. Not only was agriculture linked to the physical survival of the Aztec people, it was also the center of their economic system. The Aztecs traded food items throughout its empire. In addition, there was the trade if handmade items such as art and baskets.
Throughout the empire there were also various people who had expertise in certain trades and they might barter their services. In this way the community was self sufficient because trades would be passed on from generation to generation. These trades included artistry, carpentry and the like. In addition, people were taught at an early age the significance and importance of agriculture and how to produce what was needed to survive on both a personal level and an economic level.
Another important aspect of the Aztec economy was the role that conquests played in expanding the material growth of the civilization. With each conquest, the Aztecs were able to obtain more resources in both material and human capital. In addition, in many of the conquest a great deal of the rule was still in the hands of local authority and as such the empire was able to circumvent the costs associated with sending new leaders into these conquered territories. This made the economy of the civilization stronger.
It is evident that the civilization had a strong economy for many years. Even though agriculture could be unsteady at times, the civilization managed to find other goods to trade. In addition the conquest that the civilization took part in yielded a great deal of wealth.