Feb 26, 2013

Fascinating Aztec Facts

The Westerners who came up with the name Aztecs likely took it from one of the original places that the Aztecs lived around the twelve century, called Aztlan, which was in the Northern part of Mexico. However, the Aztecs themselves actually referred to themselves as Mexica, which is actually where the name for the country of Mexico originally came from.

The Aztecs had their own language called N’ahuatl. The alphabet for this language was a form of picture writing. Knowledge about how to write things down was very specialized and was mostly performed by learned scribes and priests who had the needed training.

Records were kept on paper made of bark, or deer skin. The writing was usually performed using charcoal and then colored with vegetables and other substances. They kept tax records, historical records, records of religious sacrifices and other ceremonies and even poetry. Sometimes they put their writings together in a makeshift book that they called a codice.

Aztec men were allowed to have more than one wife, however, there were certain strict rules governing these relationships. The first wife the man took was considered his “principal” wife, and was the only one he went through marriage ceremonies with. The other wives were secondary, but still recognized in the official records. While the first wife was considered the most important, the man was still expected to treat all of his wives with equal respect. The man was the head of the household, but women still had power in the relationship and were well treated in Aztec society. Extra wives contributed to the wealth of the family and were considered a mark of great status and afforded them a high position in the culture. The Aztecs allowed divorce in some situations, but adultery by either party was punishable by death.

While the Aztecs put strong emphasis on parents teaching their children properly, they also had mandatory public schooling for all children. Those of a noble class had different schools to attend and schools were also separated by gender. Boys of nobility would be sent to the Calmecac School where they learned from the priests about history, astronomy, art, and how to govern and lead. Boys of lower caste were sent to the Cuicacalli School, which was much more focused on preparing them for possible service in the military as warriors. Girls were sent to separate schools and much more of their education was focused at home where they were taught domestic duties such as cooking and weaving.