Aztec, a +1000 page book, is the culmination of 12 years of historical research by its author Gary Jennings. First published in 1980, the book narrates the adventures of Mixtli, an aztec native, before & after the arrival of the Spanish conquerors in Mexico. The book serves as a window into a distant time, into an Aztec Empire capable of great beauty and cruelty. But most of all, Aztec demonstrate the unique philosophy of life and way of living of the aztec people.
Tenochtlitan - The Capital of the Aztec Empire
Aztec reminds of us of a time where everyone believed in “fate”, a place where men coexisted peacefully with nature, and a society in which money wasn’t the most important thing in the world.
Every time a aztec baby was born, his umbilical cord was cut off. If the baby was a girl, the umbilical cord would be wrapped around a piece of wood and buried under the house. (this should help the girl develop good household skills – the aztecs would say) If the baby was a boy, the umbilical cord would be wrapped around a small wooden shield and given to a warrior. The warrior would then proceed to bury the “shield” in a battlefield. (according to aztec tradition, this would give the boy the courage he needed to be a great warrior) This piece of buried umbilical cord was referred to as an aztec’s “tonali” or fate. The common aztec believe that their human fate was tied to their “tonali” and the will of the gods.
Like many ancient cultures, the aztec’s religion was deeply interwined with the elements of nature. The aztec gods manifested their will through meteorological and astrological acts. Just like the early Christians, the aztecs believed that man and nature where subject to the direct power and intervention of the God(s). But unlike the Europeans of the time who disdained nature, destroyed countless forests and abused of the Earth’s resources; the aztecs lived sorrounded by nature.
Unlike in today’s capitalistic society, money wasn’t everything in the aztec world. As there was no official currency, the aztec’s often traded using gold powder, copper chunks, jade rocks, and chocolate beans. Honor, prestige, war and power – were more imporant than money. And the aztec tradesmen were members of a guild, known as the Pochteca, and always traded in the name and for the well-being of their Empire. (And unlike those working at Wall Street, these ancient traders would have never allowed their greed to destroy their nation)
And finally... the topic of human sacrifice
Why did the aztecs perform human sacrifices?
According to Aztec folkore, the world and its human inhabitants has been destroyed four times. The first time the entire human population was devoured by jaguars. The second time, destroyed by tornadoes and hurricanes. The third time, by a rain of fire. And finally, by a massive flood like Noah’s (but without survivors). According to aztec religion, these four destructions were sent by the gods because they were not pleased. The gods demanded a more constant supply of human blood, or else they would grow thirsty and destroy. From the aztec point of view, being sacrificied was an honor: they were giving their life for a good cause. Protecting the human race from further divine destruction.
Henceforth the problem: how can you sustain an Empire that constantly requires war prisioners for sacrifice?
The answer is easy: make “fake” wars. During times of peace, the six central Aztec nations would wage their own war simulation, called “Florid Wars”. Every year, 3 Aztecs nations would face off against the other 3 Aztec nations in an open field. The objective of these “Florid Wars” was not to kill the enemy, but to disable and capture prisoners. These “fake” wars would last several days, until all of the generals decided they had captured enough prisioners. Each army would then return to their own nation and commit massive “Florid Sacrifices”. And the gods were pleased.
MEMORABLE QUOTES FROM THE BOOK
Yes, at your age you expect a lot. You can go in any direction you choose. You can go alone or with company. Your companions might travel with you a short or long distance. But at the end of your life, no matter how full your wanderings and days have been, you must learn what everybody eventually learns […] No man has ever lived more than one life, which he himself as choosen and for the most part lived alone.
I believe that memories are the only treasure that humans can ever hope of owning forever.
We had wasted love, which is the most unforgettable waste of all. Time and love are the only two things in the world that one can’t buy, only spend.