Tag Archives: Ancient Cultures

The Rise and Fall of the Aztec Empire

Formed from the alliance between Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan city-states, the Aztec Empire refers to a near 100 year-rule between the years 1428 and 1521 over the land lying in the Mexican valley. The Empire was inhabited by indigenous Mesoamerican Nahua people, who belonged to different ethnic groups. Among these groups, the most common trait was the Nahuatl language.

The Empire’s origins go back to the alliance between the then newly-formed city of the Mexica people, Tenochtitlan and the city of Azcapotzalco, inhabited by the Tepanec people. The Mexica people paid tribute to Tezozomoc, the ruler of Azcapotzalco and aided him in conquests so that their city could gain legitimacy. These included the conquest of Texcoco, which was given to Tenochtitlan as a tributary province.

Later, Tezozomoc’s death triggered a civil war over who will succeed. This war, known as the Tepanec War, brought together Tenochtitlan, Texcoco as well as the dissident Tepanec city Tlacopan against the usurper Maxtla. At the end of this war, the three city-states formed a treaty known as the Triple Alliance in 1430. Lands and tribute were distributed among the three and promises were made to aid one another in future conquests.

For the next 100 years, this Empire grew from the Mexican valley and spread towards Gulf of Mexico and the Pacific Ocean. Tenochtitlan, the city-state of the warrior Mexica people, later became dominant in the Empire with the other city-states taking a secondary role. The Empire spread from conquests, which strengthened it and ensured its survival. The Aztecs practiced indirect rule over their conquests, only wanting tribute and inclusion of their god Huitzilopochtli among the deities worshipped by the locals. Local rulers were usually reinstated after conquests and local affairs were not interfered with under the Aztec hegemony.

Aztec culture today is known widely for its rich cultural contributions in the form glyphs, poetry, ceramics, wall paintings, sculpture and the distinct art of featherwork i.e. forming mosaics from bird plumage. A polytheistic people, the Aztces believed in the sun-controlling and war-favoring Huitzilopochtli, rain-controlling Tlaloc, Quetzalcoatl, a deity that controls the winds, the skies and the stars and Tezcatlipoca, a deity of magic and fate.

A notable characteristic of the Aztec culture was the close relationship between religion and warfare. The Aztec ruler was believed to be divine and maintainer of natural order. The concept of sacrifice was central to their beliefs – the mythological gods had sacrificed themselves for life to perpetuate and the people had to emulate that sacrifice for life to continue. It was the rationale behind the ritualistic Flower Wars in which Aztecs attacked their enemies, the Tlaxcala in order to get live sacrifices for the gods.

The Aztec Empire came to an end when Spanish conquistadors, led by Hernán Cortés and aided by the local Tlaxcala people, brought down the city of Tenochtitlan in August 1521. The city-states, previously under the hegemonic rule of the Aztecs, swore fidelity to the Spanish crown and their rulers converted to Christianity. This began the Spanish colonial rule in Mexico.

 

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A Look Back At the Babylonian Empire

Babylonian Palace Ruins

The Babylonian Empire was an empire that existed somewhere between 2300 – 1900 BC. It was a culture that dominated the entire southeastern Mesopotamia from the river Tigris to the river Euphrates. The name of the empire was derived from the city of Babylon which was the capital of the empire at that time. It is a city that has been around for centuries and so Babylonia refers to the culture that developed in and around the city. Babylon was founded a little before the reign of Sargon Akkad started, whose rule lasted from 2334 BC to 2279 BC. He claimed to have built the extravagant temples of the city.

Babylon was divided into two countries Akkad and Sumer. These two states were constantly at war with each other, engulfing the entire Mesopotamia in their fight for power. The warfare first started between the states of Sumer for power. This made them vulnerable to the conquests by the Akkadians and Elams. The Babylonian state was finally taken over by the Amorites, who were Semitic people like the Akkadians.

The Amorites developed their own central government which would help them keep control over their lands that had previously been under the reign of Sumerians and Akkadians. Despite being at war on a continuous basis the Sumerians and the Akkadians developed a distinct culture which was later adopted and enhanced by the Amorites upon their invasion of Babylon, in the year 1900 BC.

The Amorites brought with them the reign of Hammurabi, the most impressive ruler known in history. He is the most well-known for creating the law based on his Code of Hammurabi. After the retirement of his father, King Sin Muballit, Hammurabi rose to the throne and declared himself the king of Babylon and the areas around it. His laws were strict but they encouraged peace and prosperity. He went on to heighten and widen the walls of the city. He invested in building canals and grand temples. He made sure that diplomacy was practiced in his administration.

He excelled in forming coalitions and setting his trusted people on top positions in order to practice fairness and at the same time be able to keep the power in his hand. He was, in fact, so successful in this agenda that he was able to unite the entire Mesopotamia under the rule of Babylon. Babylon, due to its lavish and well-designed infrastructure became known as the largest city in the world.

The empire, however, shrank in size, or fell apart, after Hammurabi’s death. The south again rose to war, with the Hittites taking over by the year 1595 BC. The rule was then taken over by the Kassites. However, that was short-lived as Assyria, broke away from the Babylonians’ control and tried to gain control of the city. A series of wars took place to gain control over Babylon, after which the Nebuchadnezzar I fought off the Assyrians and defeated the Elams, who had been becoming powerful at that time.

The Persians then took the city from Nabonidus in 539 BC, which got snatched by Alexander the Great in 331 BC, eventually falling in the hands of Seleucids who later abandoned Babylon, thus putting an end to one of the most magnificent empires in history.

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The Incredible Inca Empire

Inca Empire

The Inca Empire was a colossal empire that prospered in the Andean region of the continent of South America starting from the early 13th century A.D. up until its seizure by the Spanish in the 1530s. However, the Spanish could not fully take over the land up until 1572 since the Inca leaders kept up the resistance against the regime.

The Incas called their empire Tawantinsuyu which means the “Land of the Four Corners”. This is because the empire was divided up into four “suyu” which would intersect at the capital called Cuzco. Their official language was Quechua, however, the empire itself contained numerous non-Inca groups as well. The Inca, by the time of Spanish crusaders, contained 10 million people who spoke 100 different languages.

At its peak, the empire extended from the border of the modern world, Ecuador, and Columbia, all the way to the southern Santiago, Chile.

Origins

The Incas are first thought to appear in today’s southeastern Peru during the 12th century. A lot of the history of Inca’s origins has been lost between reality and spoken myth, as the case with the majority of the civilizations. According to some versions of the Inca myth, they were created by the sun god Inti, who sent Manco Capac towards the Earth through the middle of three caves which are now situated in the village of Paccari Tampu. After slaying his brothers, Capac led his sisters and their followers through the wild before settling near the seemingly fertile valley near Cusco in the 1200s.

Though the Incas began expanding their land, they did not truly become as powerful as they are known to be till the eighth emperor, Viracocha Inca, came into power by the early 15th century.

Cuzco

This is a city nestled in a mountain valley which is 10,000 feet above sea level. It once formed the center of the Inca world. The emperor, Pachacuti, who was also the first emperor of Inca, began its transformation from a modest village to a magnificent city whose trail line was shaped out to look like a puma in aerial view. It is said that the commoners were not allowed to live in the city instead they were instructed to live on the outskirts of it. Pachacuti made this into a scared city through encouraging the worship of their ancestors, so much so that it almost became a cult.

Religion

The Incas believed in numerous gods, and these deities had to be honored in numerous ways such as through fasting, prayers, and animal sacrifice. However, the most powerful form of worship was human sacrifice.

Today, even though the empire has been vanquished, its legacy still lives on within the people of Andes.

 

Amita Vadlamudi has also written articles on other ancient cultures. Read her article on Ancient Egypt on her Weebly site. Amita Vadlamudi’s professional profile can be found at her about.me site.

The Wonderful World of the Indus Valley Civilization

When we hear the word “ancient civilizations”, our mind immediately recalls the Greek, Egyptian, Roman and Mesopotamian civilizations. Several civilizations have descended from them, and to this day, archaeologists continuously search for more civilizations.

A remarkable civilization was discovered in the 1920s, in South Asia. It was this discovery that reaffirmed the belief that Egypt and Mesopotamia were not the only early civilizations. This community was the Indus Valley Civilization.

In the vast Indus River plains (today’s Pakistan and Western India), archaeologists discovered the remains of a 4,600 year old city. It is said that this civilization had existed at the same time as ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Indus Valley Civilization is most known by two of its major cities: Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa. These two cities were the first to be discovered as the indicators of an Indus Valley Civilization.

The Indus Valley residents had a language which is said to have influenced the majority of the languages spoken in South India. The language found written on the pottery, found in Pakistan, dating back to 5,500 years ago, is thought to be the oldest language in the world.

The people of Indus were believed to worship several gods, such as the mother goddesses, phallic gods, and even gods who had parts of humans and animal conjoined. Some scholars believe that a religion similar to Hinduism was practiced.

It is said that no one ruler ruled this civilization. Mohenjo-Daro, Harappa, and other cities had their own rulers. Indus Valley does, however, show signs of having engaged in trade. The presence of the weight system explains the possibility of a fair trade system.

The men and women had distinctive hairstyles that varied by culture. In fact, evidence has been found of people wearing different hairstyles and clothes but living in the same place. This means that a diverse group of people with different ethnicities lived in the same city.

Indus Valley is one of the few civilizations that show no signs of having an army, fighting battles, or inflicting any form of violence amongst its people.

It is thought that the cities had been abandoned by 1900 BC. The cause is not known but many believe that the floods from Indus River forced the people to abandon these areas. This ancient civilization, however, continues to fascinate the explorers and visitors alike. It is hoped that one day we will get to know more about this majestic civilization.

Amita Vadlamudi is an avid reader of world history. Because of their value in showing how human beings have evolved and changed, ancient cultures are of particular interest to Ms. Vadlamudi.

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