Tag Archives: Ancient History

Gupta Dynasty of Ancient India

Architecture

The Gupta Empire spanned across the northern, central and southern regions of the Indian subcontinent between 320 CE and 550 CE (Common Era). The period is known for its accomplishment in arts and architecture, science and religion, as well as philosophy.

The earliest signs of the Gupta Dynasty can be traced back to Srigupta, who was a regional monarch at the time, established the dynasty in circa 240 CE. 

Chandragupta (320-335 CE) was mostly responsible for the expansion of this empire. He rose to prominence as the first sovereign ruler of the empire. His reign marked the end of more than half a millennia of provincial powers.

The ascendancy of the Gupta Empire marked a period of progress that flowed into the next two hundred and fifty years. This period became known as the Golden Age in India’s rich and prosperous history.

However, 550 CE marked the end of the Gupta Empire, after it was invaded by the Huna clans.  This invasion led to disintegration, and soon after, the Empire fell into many regional kingdoms.

The most famous Gupta rulers were Chandragupta I and Samudragupta.

The son of Ghatotkacha, Chandragupta was known for utilizing his army effectively. He was gifted abundant mines of iron ores, courtesy of his union with Licchhavi Princess Kumaradevi. Using this means at his disposal, Chandragupta and his kingdom were able to thrive.

Metallurgy was showing promising signs of growth and forged iron was able to meet not just internal demands, but also became a priceless commodity in trade. Combining his cavalry with his resources, Chandragupta and his forces proved too strong for other ruling factions in the region. They subjugated one after the other as the Gupta Empire began in earnest and expanded all the way to Allahabad.

In circa 335 to 375 CE, Chandragupta the first was succeeded by his son Samudragupta. He was known by his subordinates as a master tactician and military genius. Upon ascending to the throne of the Gupta Empire, Samudragupta began an aggressive expansion of the kingdom.

He conquered the remaining regions of North India and then turned his attention to the south. By the time his reign ended, Samudragupta was able to capture parts of southern India as well. During his time the empire spanned from the Himalayas in the north to the south of Krishna and Godavari rivers in the south and from Afghanistan in the west to the Brahmaputra river in the east.

 

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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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