Like the Athenians and Spartans of ancient Greece, the Inca and the Aztec bear resemblance to the two other ancient cultures. The Athenians and Incas were both more interested in developing their Arts as well as their military, but both the Spartans and the Aztecs were highly interested more so in warfare than religion. Although the Aztec and Inca never had to face each other, it is interesting to compare them because of their dominant positions of extremely large and powerful tribes. I am going to compare and contrast religion and the social system along with their system of government, which can be put together.
The Inca and Aztec were both extremely religious. Their entire lives revolved around religion. They both also had different ways of interpreting their faith. They both believed in gods, festivals, and afterlife. The Aztec had many gods that they believed in, for example, Huitzilopotchli, the war god, and Tlaloc, the rain god. This showed significance in the dualism of belief because one deals with war and the other is with agriculture, two major occupations of the Aztec. Their worshipping is also similar to modern day North American Indians. They worship corn because it was food and was associated with fertility. Similar to the Inca, the Aztec believed in a god that controlled from the heavens. It was a god which beared the characteristics of both males and females and was called Omelecuhtli. His temple was the universe and he sat alone. In his hands, he held a drop of water that contained a green seed and the seed was actually the Earth submerged into the ocean. There were no temples for him because he was so important; he was in the hearth of every family’s home.
The Inca had a different interpretation of faith. Like the Aztec, they worshipped gods and deities but unlike the Aztec, they worshipped many sacred places. They believed in good and evil things and saw omens in many things such as rainbows, falling stars, and the hoot of an owl.
They believed that Viracocha was the most important god of all. He was similar to Omelecuhtli, the Aztec god. He was the creator of the Sun, Moon, and Stars that were all seen as gods. The Sun was the life giver and was the most important server of Viracocha. He watched over the crops and was the father of the Emperor. His image was a human face surrounded by rays of flowing hair.
The Moon was the wife of the Sun. It was believed that an eclipse was the result a great serpent or mountain lion trying to eat her. To frighten off the creatures, they would point their weapons at the moon and start screaming and shouting at it.
The constellations, or Stars, all had duties assigned to them by Viracocha. For example, Pleiades had the job of looking over the seeds in the fields, and Lyra, which looked like a llama, looked after the herds.
They also worshipped some other gods such as Thunder, the god of weather, who was an important deity. He was pictured as a man with a war club and a sling in the other hand. Thunder and lightning came from the sling and he drew rain from the Milky Way. Farmers worshipped the Earth Mother and fishermen worshipped that Mother Sea.
The Aztec and Inca both had very different beliefs for the afterlife. The Aztec, like most Indians, believed that the four directions of the world were extremely important. One important thing to remember about the Aztecs is that they used a language that was very symbolic and used many allusions. They perceived the North (where the Sun was never visible), South (where the sun was highest in the sky), East (where the sun rose), and West (where the sun set), were key to understanding magical and religious thinking. The sequence of the Sun also represented the sequence of life. They believed that the body rises, becomes stronger, weakens, and finally dies. The east was the home of the morning star, the west was the home of the Lord of the Jewels, the south was the home of mother Earth, and the north was the land of the dead and maize seed.
The afterlife only came to those who died of natural causes. Unlike the Incas, the Aztec went into the Earth. The body was dressed in his best finery and was accompanied by a slaughtered, red dog, and a package of food. On the third day after death, the body was cremated and began the journey to the afterlife. The soul had first to travel on a road that goes west into the Earth but on the way; there were several horrible obstacles that the soul must have had to survive. One of them was the Clashing Rocks which, now and then, would crash together. If the soul were caught between them, that would be the end of the journey. If the soul survived that, it then had to negotiate a narrow mountain-ledge and if not, it would fall off and die. Finally, if the soul was successful in it’s three year journey, it went through the final “Wind of Knives”, which was just flint, and would reduce the body into a skeleton.
After that final ordeal, they spent the rest of their lives with the death gods and enjoy their good company. There were several different divisions of the underworld for different states of being. There was one for babies that contained trees with fruit that was shaped as breasts and nursed the babies until it was time for them to return to Earth. There was also the Tlalocan heaven that was for people who died of water-related causes. It was the home of the rain god.
The best of the heavens was dedicated to the people who died for their country showing their nationalism. It was also for women who died during childbirth.
The Inca believed that good people went up to heaven and lived with the Sun. There they had warmth, food, and chica. The bad people, like witches, went to live in the Earth, opposite the Aztec. In the earth, it was cold and dark and they were given stones to eat. The nobility always lived with the Sun, regardless of what they did.
Both the Inca and the Aztec had some sort of belief in supernatural spirits and ghosts. The Aztec believed that ghosts were always in the natural form of humans. Their purpose was to reveal information or request for better behavior on Earth. They also believed that diseases were small, insect-like, spirits that were sent at people for one reason or another. They secured themselves and sucked on the blood of humans or took the soul of the human. There were also happy visits from the ghosts to say that all is well. They also appeared as beautiful butterflies and flew around the house.
The Inca believed in spirits, supernatural beings, and sacred places, unlike the Aztec. The evil spirits were not worshipped, but feared. They believed that spirits were actually witches on Earth and at night, they went around causing trouble. Supernatural beings were actually friends of man and were full of kindness. They punished transgressors with bad luck, but never to the extent of being harmful.
Nobles, generals, even the emperor consulted the supernatural before they set out on journeys. A few famous beings were: one that lived at Pachamac, just south of Lima, and another, Aporimal, who was actually a tree trunk. They built a house around him and dressed him in fine women’s clothing. It did not speak, but merely acknowledged with movement such as the shaking of his leaves.
Also sorcerers foretold the future. They drank themselves into unconsciousness and later woke up to tell what they saw. For the Aztecs, fire was symbolic for the life of every person. Fire was thought more of as a tool that would help foretell the future. Another important thing about Omelecuhtli is that he was thought of as the one, who fertilized the womb of a woman therefore, the gift of life was due to the creator. For the Inca, fire was used to help predict the future. An interesting thing that the Inca used to predict the future was to use a diviner who would place braziers opposite from each other. The fire chanter called for the spirits of the living and dead to help him. To help lure them, food and drink was used. The diviners questioned the spirit and through ventriloquism, voiced their replies. At that very instant, assistants who were hidden behind walls blew in a tube that controlled the fires. That way, they could make the fire rise and fall with the replies making it seem very magical.
The Inca also believed in good magic and bad magic. Men who practiced bad magic were hated and feared and if found guilty of evil, he and his family were sentenced to death. To bring sickness or death, the sorcerer had to make an image of a person and spit on it. Disease could only be cured through magic and prayer because it was to be a result of sorcery. They used plants to heal but they had no knowledge about chemicals. They though that plants had magic to cure illness.
Like any ancient empires, both the Inca and Aztec’s system of government and society was quite harsh. They both gave absolute power to their leaders and they both had assistants to help them.
The Inca believed that power came directly from the Sun god. They managed to achieve a political and government system unsurpassed by any Indian tribe. They had a system of a theocracy that was agriculturally based and dominated by the Inca. The power fell from the Inca (emperor), to the royal family and upper aristocracy, then to the imperial administrators and petty nobility, and finally, the artisans and farm laborers. The Inca also decided to divide their entire empire into four quarters. These regions were divided into sub-regions and lesser socioeconomic regions of which the smallest was the family landholding known as an allya.
In each village, overseers were responsible for ten families. Those responsible for families had to keep track of marriages, deaths, and births in the families. Above the overseers were the curacas, lesser members of the nobility. They were responsible for one hundred families. People came to the overseers for their problems and grievances. The overseers, if they could not get information, asked the curacas for advice on behalf of the people. The curacas were under noblemen, who were responsible for 500 families. Together, they sat in court, listened to complaints, and administered justice. They had strict laws. When a man confessed, he would be punished by the judges, but not the Gods, similar to the Aztec.
There were nobles who were responsible for 1000, 10 000, and 40 000 families. Finally, four wise men were responsible for the whole of the population, which was around eight to sixteen million. The Inca’s governmental system, unlike the Aztec’s, was a complete dictatorship of one man, meaning that everybody was responsible to the state and received benefits from the state. Their system contained traces of fascism, communism, monarchy, and democracy.
They incorporated subject tribes into the hierarchy. They tried to make “out-of-town” princes into believing that the Inca way of life was the best way and that he should teach his father’s followers his mother’s customs. They kept all their records on quipu, which was a complex structure of knotted cords of many colors. Like the Aztec, the Inca society was not a patriarchal one. Women were highly respected everywhere which refers to the previous paragraphs statement, “teach his father’s followers his mother’s customs.” That means that the man should teach everybody the customs of his mother. In other societies at that time, that would be highly frowned on.
The Aztec form of social structure and government can be considered less advanced than the Incas. The Aztec government is divided into three groups: slaves, commoners, and the nobility. The slavery system was different from many other cultures. Children could be sold into slavery, but only for a short period. The one interesting thing about the slave’s freedom was that if he could make it to the royal palace before his master catches him, the slave would be given his/her freedom instantaneously. The commoners were given a lifetime ownership of the land they were given to build houses, farms, and any other necessities. The nobility section of society was made of priests, nobles who were born by birth, and those who were able to earn it. People who were able to earn it were warriors or people who could do something special for the emperor or another nobleman.
The emperor was a very important member of the Aztec society. He was considered a god from the very second he was elected. There were also many rules about the emperor. One was that nobody could talk, speak, or hear the emperor. The emperor’s power came from his control of the extremely large military. The chief deputy would communicate with the gods and relate the God’s wishes to the emperor. There were four noble princes and three honored classes of warriors. The emperor’s son was not always the heir, unlike the Inca whose son inherited the throne because the emperor must have origins that lead to the Sun God. There was a council of wise men, which were like Roman servants. They decided democratically the next ruler. Once the ruler was elected, he controlled everything because he was a representative of Huitzilipochtlilon, on Earth.
There was a calpulli in every region of Mexico. Relatives or people of the same profession formed a calpulli. There were calpulli for priests, warriors, and clayworkers. For every calpulli, there was a governor who was elected by the oldest men in the calpulli. They had their own schools, temples, and even garrisons.
In the Aztec society, there were no closed societies. For example, anyone could become a member of the council of wise men. Even poor people were given the chance to reach the highest parts of society. That was the secret of the Aztec’s that would enable them to conquer anyone.
Since both the Inca and Aztec were halted from developing their society fully, it is extremely difficult to determine which has contributed the most to modern day Latin America culture. The Inca were more culturally developed and generally had a better understanding of what was going around them. There were still a lot of feudalistic practices going on in the Inca Empire. A poor man never made it to the ranks of a noble person and a noble’s son always was a noble. There were more benefits, economically and religiously, for the nobles. Still, to this day, there are a few countries today that still have the very rich people and the very poor people and very little in between.
The Aztec had a very simple society. Slaves, commoners, and nobility. Even still, the Aztec gave the poor people chances at achieving high society status. This fairness and practice of not judging someone on their financial status was beneficial for the Aztec. Highly qualified people were able to show what they could do and the overall efficiency improved. Even in religion, the Aztec had determined who would continue into the afterlife and what they did on Earth had an impact on what decision would be made. The Inca automatically assumed that all nobility would go to the sky regardless of what they did on Earth.
All things considered, I think the Inca contributed more to the modern day culture because it seems as though the Inca society of then is more like Latin America culture now minus the technology.