Mexico VII: Aztecs 2--Religion and Rituals

Program Information

Series: A Moment in Time
Duration: 00:04:01
Year Produced: 2010
Description:

In the early decades of the 1500s, Spanish explorers, or Conquistadors, moved from the Caribbean coast into central Mexico. There they encountered the Aztecs, a deeply religious people with a complex structure of rites and ceremonies.

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Transcript

Lead: In the early decades of the 1500s, Spanish explorers, or Conquistadors, moved from the Caribbean coast into central Mexico. There they encountered the Aztecs, a deeply religious people with a complex structure of rites and ceremonies.

Intro.: A Moment in Time with Dan Roberts.

Content: The Aztecs were one of most advanced civilizations in the Americas. When the Spanish made contact they were utterly amazed by the Aztecs’ high developmental level of math, astronomy, agriculture and, in particular, architecture. Much of the architecture was related to religion. Aztecs believed the massive sculptures and towering temples were pleasing to the gods and they were a form of human respect and tribute.

Religion was an important part of daily life of the Aztecs. They worshiped literally hundreds of gods, with their chief deity being the Sun God. Part of their pantheon came from nature--sun, wind and water--while other gods represented concepts such as virtue, war and destiny. The Aztec priests were powerful religious and political leaders and created a disciplined structure of worship to control and guide believers and society in a religious system of 13 heavens and nine underworlds. Aztec religious rituals and tradition, however, were not unique but were absorbed from other Mesoamerican tribes.

Historians know a great deal about the religious traditions of the Aztecs because--before this native American population was killed off by war, privation and disease--Spanish priests working with Aztec clerics documented ceremonies, rituals, and beliefs in the years immediately following the conquest. Of particular interest to the Europeans was the practice of human sacrifices, which was central to Aztec religion. They believed that the gods were nourished through human blood and particularly by the “living” hearts of sacrificed humans. When the ever-militaristic Aztecs conquered other tribes, captive soldiers--not killed in battle--often paid the ultimate price as sacrifices during Aztec religious ceremonies.

Next time: Cortez and the Spanish Conquest

At the University of Richmond, this is Dan Roberts.