City-States, Laws, Punishment, Expansion, Tribute
1400 CE, the Aztec government began conquering neighboring tribes. The
Aztec population had grown. They needed many things to manage their
growing population. They needed new cities to house their population.
They needed new lands to feed their population. They needed new captives
to feed their hungry gods. Schools needed to be run. Storehouses needed
to be filled. Temples needed to be built. The government had its hands
full trying to satisfy all these needs.
War was the answer. When the Aztecs conquered a tribe, they demanded
tribute in the form of food, clothing, precious stones, building
supplies, and captives. The first four the Aztecs kept for themselves.
The last they gave to their gods. Other
tribes hated and feared the Aztecs. Sometimes, they simply ran away in
fear rather than fight.
Emperor & Palace: The Aztecs had an emperor, a king who
ruled over all the people. The emperor lived in the imperial palace in
the capital city of Tenochtitlan. The palace was huge. It even had its
own zoo. The ground floor
of the palace housed government offices and the shops of the most
talented craftsman in the Aztec empire.
Aztec empire grew, under the direction of government officials, Aztec
engineers built many fine cities. A noble family controlled each city.
Although the noble family was supposed to assist the emperor, the truth
is that each noble family pretty much ran things in their own city the
way they wanted. Thus, the Aztecs, like the Mayas, were governed by
Home Rule / Crime and Punishment:
With their own people, the Aztec rulers were quite severe. Aztec courts
decided on the punishment those who broke the law would receive.
Drunkenness was the worse crime. The punishment for being drunk was
death. Thieves were put to death. Laws were tough, and they were written
down. Codices warned of the punishment you would receive for breaking
One Time Forgiveness Law: The Aztecs had an interesting law.
Once, and only once, you could confess your crime to the priests of
Tlazolteotl and you would be forgiven. No punishment could be given to
you. Timing was everything. You could only do this once. And you had to
do it before you were caught. If evidence came to light after you
confessed, you were safe. You had already been excused from punishment
for that crime. However, if you ever committed other crime, you would be
punished to the full extend of the law. Aztec laws were very harsh.
Aztecs for Kids