AP UNITED STATES HISTORY
Describe the Aztec civilization and the effect that European conquest had on it.
While the Aztecs shaped a sophisticated civilization with advanced agricultural practices, elaborate cities, talented mathematicians, sacrificial religious rituals, and far-flung commerce, European conquest brought negative things like death, along with positive things such as animals, language, and laws.
The Aztecs based their agriculture primarily on the cultivation of the Indian corn, maize, which fed huge populations. Even though they didn’t rely on large draft animals like horses and oxen, and didn’t have the invention of the wheel, these people were able to create complex cities and carry commerce to great lengths. Also, some of their people were talented mathematicians that made extremely accurate astronomical observations. Due to many of these factors, the Aztecs created a complex, large-scale, centralized nation-state. The capital of Tenochtitlan rivaled any city in contemporary Europe, and was surrounded by beautiful gardens.
A more morbid component of the Aztec society was the way they offered sacrifices to their gods. They sought the regard of their gods by offering up human sacrifices. The chosen sacrifices, often captives conquered in battle, would have their hearts cut out of their chests while they were still alive. Records show that over 5,000 people were ritually killed to celebrate the crowning of one certain Aztec chieftain.
Hernan Cortes heard of unrest within the Aztec empire among the peoples who were demanded as tribute, and also heard of tales of wealth and gold within the empire, and proceeded to approach the Aztecs. Cortes was at first approached by ambassadors from the Aztec chieftain Moctezuma, yet Cortes still proceeded with a hunger for wealth and power. Cortes laid siege to the city, and it capitulated on August 13, 1521. A terrible toll was taken on the empire due...