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Valuable Insight into the Aztec Civilization,
This review is from: The Aztecs: A Very Short Introduction (Very Short Introductions) (Paperback)When the Spaniards landed in Mexico at the beginning of the sixteenth century they encountered an advanced culture and civilization that was on par with some of the most sophisticated civilizations of the "Old World." The center of that civilization (or rather civilizations) was located at the place of today's Mexico City, and the people who had ruled in this place were known as Aztecs. Aztecs were fierce warriors, and their entire culture was permeated with
This books aims to give a fairly comprehensive overview of the Aztec history, within the constraints of the "very short introduction" format. The result is a detailed account of the historical and cultural aspects of the Aztec civilization that are not very familiar to most people, even to those who consider themselves history buffs. Unfortunately this lack of familiarity with Aztecs to begin with makes it hard to follow some parts of this book, as they deal with names, locations, and traditions that are largely new to the most readers that come from the European-centric education in history. It also doesn't help that a lot of names seem very similar to each other. However, this book also presents a good opportunity to gain familiarity with those names.
One of the most famous (or rather infamous) aspects of the Aztec culture is the institution of human sacrifice. This book doesn't downplay its significance, but it tries to give a more sober and scholarly assessment of the extent of this practice. According to the archeological evidence cited herein, the number of victims of human sacrifice is probably far smaller than the numbers claimed either by the Aztecs themselves, or the early Spanish conquerors.
Despite its wide extent and sophisticated nature, the Aztec civilization was largely extinguished within a few decades after the arrival of Europeans. However, the fall of the Aztec "empire" was equally due to the alliance of the Europeans with many of the subservient peoples that were oppressed by the Aztecs as it was to the conquistadores' superior weaponry and the introduction of unfamiliar diseases. Even though the Aztec nation disappeared as a readily identifiable political entity, Aztecs and other native peoples have been crucially instrumental in shaping of the Mexican identity down to the present times. Whether you are interested in the historical roots of this identity, or are just curious about Aztecs in their own right, this short book will help you gain a better understanding of this fascinating pre-Columbian civilization.