The Aztecs and the Incas

The Aztecs and the Incas are two of the most memorable ancient Indian tribesbecause of their accomplishments and the way that they flourished and became two of themost prominent tribes in the Americas. The Aztecs, also known as the Mexica, dominatedcentral and southern Mexico from the 14th to 16th centuries and are best known forhaving established an empire based on conquest, tribute paying and the religious sacrificeof humans and animals. The Quechian-speaking Incas established an extensive Andeanempire in South America shortly before the conquest of the New World by the Europeans. These two empires arose from lowly beginnings. The Aztecs were forced tooccupy the swampy area the western side of Lake Texcoco after the fall of the Tolteccivilization. They converted their disadvantageous beginning into a powerfully advancedempire within two centuries, partially because of their belief in a legend. The legend goeson to say that they would establish a great civilization in a marshy area where they wouldsee a cactus growing out of a rock and perched on top, an eagle eating a snake. Priestssupposedly saw this in 1325 upon arrival and founded the great city of Tenochtitlan. Asthe Aztecs grew in number, they established superior military and civil organizations. The Incas, on the other hand, had no legend to guide them. They were originally asmall warlike tribe inhabiting the south highland region of the Cordillera Central in Peru.They moved into the valley of Cuzco in at about 1100 and for roughly the next 300 years,raided and whenever possible, imposed tribute on neighboring peoples. Until the middle ofthe 15th century, however, the Incas undertook no imperialistic expansion or politicalconsolidation. The empire reached it?s greatest extent in the reign of Huayna Capac. Bythis time, the Incas controlled a territory roughly the size of the Atlantic Coast states ofthe US. The capital city of the Aztecs was an artificial island, formed by piling up mudfrom the lake bottom, called Tenochtitlan, inhabited by over 100000 people, twice thepopulation of any European city at the time. Tenochtitlan means ?Place of the Cactus? andunder Montezuma, it became the most powerful city in Mexico. It had an advanced watersupply system, with public fountains and reservoirs throughout the city. Laid out into agrid pattern, it was divided by canals- ?roads? for canoe traffic- and into four districts,each with it?s own temples, schools and markets. The edges of the city had simple housedfor the poor; the center had grand houses for the rich. Markets were held every five daysand people from everywhere came to sell goods, exchange gossip and news. Officerspatrolled the streets and thieves would be tried and punished on the spot. Tenochtitlan wasindeed a very organized city. The Incan empire was an agriculturally based theocracy rigidly organized alongsocialistic lines. The entire domain was also divided into four great regions or quarters andthese regions were subdivided into provinces and various other lesser socioeconomicgroups. While Tenochtitlan had a system of canals and paved roads to keep the citytogether, there was a great network of stone roads connecting all parts of the realm to thecapital city of Cuzco. Trained runners, working in relays, covered up to 400 km a daydelivering messages. Like the Aztecs, who often traveled around their city in canoes, theIncas had Balsa wood boats which provided a rapid means of transportation along riversand streams. Although the Incas had neither horses, nor a system of writing, authorities inCuzco were able to keep in close touch with developments around the empire with thissystem. Communication was also enhanced by keeping numerical records of troops,supplies, population data, and general inventories by means of knotted and colored stringcalled quipus. The imperial administrators had everything under control. While the Incans had no form of writing, the Aztecs used pictographic writing,hieroglyphics, recorded on animal hides. Some of these writings still exist today. Thehieroglyphics can also still be found on the ruins of ancient temples. They used a calendarsystem developed by the earlier Mayan civilization. Both civilizations had numerous gods and paid sacrifices to them. The Incans hadthe gods of sun, stars and weather. Their goddesses were of the earth, moon and sea. Theyhad numerous and elaborate ceremonies and rituals, primarily centered on health andagricultural concerns. Live animals were often sacrificed at important ceremonies; humanswere sacrificed occasionally to the gods. The Aztecs also had gods which ruled over daily life. Among these wereUitzilopochtli, the sun god, Coyolxauhqui, the moon goddess, and