Aztec and Inca Religious Zeal

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Aztec and Inca Religious Zeal

The Aztec and Inca peoples lived in militaristic and expansionist societies whose ideals were fueled by their religious convictions. Expansionism was necessary for both societies to support their religious beliefs. The religious zeal of these two civilizations became something that the leaders of the empires could not control. These empires were built through ideologically driven conquests, which became the cornerstones of their societies and something beyond the control of the rulers.

Every imperialistic nation has a motive for expansion. Military, materialism, and missionary are three of the biggest motives foe expansion that imperialistic countries use to expand their borders. Conquests that are based strictly on militaristic or materialistic goals make up long-lasting empires that rule for centuries without decline. These two motives require that some semblance of a government be set up in conquered territories so that the ruling country may use these territories as they wish. Furthermore, once these types of conquests are started, emperors are able to stop them as they wish. Ideological conquests, however, are driven by deep-down religious convictions that emperors and rulers have little power over. Furthermore, conquests that are driven by ideologies do not require the conquerors to establish working governments in their wakes. Therefore, imperial land-holdings that were acquired through ideologically driven conquests sometimes require re-conquering.

The Aztec and Inca empires were built through various ideologically driven conquests, which became ingrained in their societies and grew beyond the emperors’ control. The Aztec’s expansion was promoted by their need for human sacrifices in order to keep the world working in the proper order. The Mexica people’s, who founded the Aztec empire, rise in power coincided with their tribal god’s, Huitzilopochtli, rise in the pantheon of gods to one of the creator gods (Bakewell, 23). The further Huitzilopochtli rose in the pantheon the more sacrifices were needed to keep the universal balance. The Mexica people inherited the use of human sacrifices from their predecessors, the Toltecs, but Huitzilopochtli was a Mexica creation. Mexica imperialism was due to “the elevation of Huitzilopochtli and the formulation of an imperial cult that united the patron deity, ...

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...bility and support ended up ruining their empire. Split inheritance was so ingrained in Inca society that it took on a life of its own and could not be stopped by anyone. In the minds of the Incas the short-term benefits of the split inheritance system far out-weighed the long-term detriments of which they arguably were not aware.

Both the Incas and the Aztecs were part of empires that were built by religious ideologies that required the expansion of a state. These ideologies had similar benefits like a better after-life, material riches, and social mobility, and similar disadvantages. The disadvantages included not allowing for government of conquered territories and over-extending each empire’s sphere of influence to the point that political stability was impossible. Each society had a potential savior of the empire in the end, but the religious ideologies of the people were far too strong for any emperor to oppose.

Works Cited

Bakewell, Peter. A History of Latin America. Blackwell Publishers Inc., Malden, MA. 1998

Conrad, Geoffrey W. and Demarest, Arthur A. Religion and Empire: The Dynamics of Aztec and Inca Expansion. Cambridge University Press. New York, NY. 1984
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