The Aztecs might have been noble, but they were also savages *UPDATED*

The British Museum has staged a huge exhibit about the Aztecs. The Daily Mail has recognized that opening by publishing a very interesting article about the Aztecs and their clash with, and ultimate destruction because of, the Spaniards.

The article is a useful reminder of something Danny Lemieux has raised at this blog before, which is the fact that many Native American tribes were not the tree-hugging, spirit loving nobles our children are taught to believe we, the Americans, destroyed. It’s so much more complicated than that. Take the Aztecs, for example.

The Aztecs had a civilization of extraordinary sophistication, one that, in many ways, far surpassed the Europeans. Its cities were bigger, they had glorious architecture, and, unlike European cities, they were immaculate and well run. There was enormous wealth there. The social structure was sophisticated.

Why, then, were the Spaniards unimpressed? Two reasons. One was undoubtedly the inherent racism of the time. The other, though, was the large scale human sacrifice and cannibalism the Aztecs practiced. The Spaniards may have been warlike and had their Inquisition, but even the Spanish were disgusted by a religious structure that demanded the sacrifice of up to 80,000 people in connection with a single king’s coronation.  This made it easy to conclude that the Aztecs were inferior, incapable of salvation, and worthy of conquest.

Not surprisingly, surrounding Indian tribes, whose citizens, captured in war, made up the bulk of the sacrifices, were also less than thrilled by the visual beauties of the Aztec kingdom. That’s why Cortez didn’t just act with his 167 Spaniards and a few horses. Instead, Cortez was swiftly able to gather many allies anxious to hasten the end of a violent, blood-soaked, totalitarian regime. That small pox jumped into the fray was an unexpected benefit from the Spanish point of view, and simply proved who had the “right” god.

In a way, one can views the Aztecs not as noble savages, but as the Nazis of their time.  Like the Nazis, they were efficient and ran a beautiful country, but under that efficiency was a totalitarian regime that fertilized its roots with the blood of its citizens and its enemies.

UPDATE:  As I’ve said a couple of times in the comments, this post wasn’t meant to put a heroic gloss on the Spanish, for whom I hold no brief.  Instead, I wanted to use it as a counterpoint to this type of Leftist idiocy, which still prevails in our American schools, and which dehumanizes the complex Native American cultures by casting them as plaster saints, brutally smashed by irredeemably evil Western imperialists.  It was so much more complicated — and therefore so much more interesting — than the PC garbage that passes for education in today’s schools.

  • Charles Martel

    I want to thank SADIE for inspiring me, as well as Bookworm for having this site in the first place, and Tiresias, Ariel, Ymarsakar and all you other wonderful crazy posters for helping me get to this milestone. Love you all!

  • Charles Martel

    Where’s my door prize?

  • Charles: We, the little people here, were glad to do our bit so that you, the brightest star in the commenters’ firmament, could emblazon your shimmering words on our collective consciousnesseseses (whatever….).

    But seriously, I’m just a little disappointed, because what I really wanted to hear (read?) from you was the “You like me! You really like me” speech, with some appropriate tears dripping across the bottom of the computer screen. Anything less leaves me feeling . . . I don’t know . . . a little emotionally cheated.



    You can claim your prize at TA DA Central Headquarters. A lovely gift basket filled with, of course, your official TA DA Button, hand crafted by artisans, who have been funded by the goodwill and under the tutelage of the UN. Some lovely idol carvings of indeterminate tree dwellers and huggers. Yes, there’s much more, Charles. Hold on, you are being sent as an Ambassador to …. yes, Charles to… (wait a moment the phone is ringing, I am getting additional information and facts for you).
    Grab your passport, keep it handy and current and just as soon as you write that check and deposit it to my Nigerian account, I can offer you riches beyond your wildest dreams.

  • BrianE

    You leave the room for just a second and bam, there goes the glory.

    I don’t know what happened to Tiresias– I think still looking for Queen Maud land or some such, but Y and Ariel are in the other room arm wrestling.

  • Ariel

    Yes, Charles, you may sally forth to the fields of golden poppies where heroes recline dreaming dreams mere mortals shall never know.

    After writing that, I shall join the Order of the Flagellants. Before Book requests it.


    Book, if I did my part right, Charles will be shedding more than tears right now. My guess he just wet his pants laughing and knocked over his beer and will be looking for a new keyboard in his gift basket.

  • SADIE: Yes, I know the strict work that goes into safeguarding TaNaKh; the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings. And although the scribes and the priests were doing this for the glory of G-d, I am myself thankful that the Old Testament has indeed survived incredibly – dare I say almost miraculously – intact over the centuries and millennia.

    Jewish canonicity does, indeed, exist. says as much, at any rate. How accurate this website is, I won’t claim. But the fact remains that TaNaKh = Old Testament. The Jews did have a fairly similar idea as to what constituted canon and what did not. And of course, having two great honking stone tablets engraved with the Decalogue would tend towards Divine authorship.

    Speaking of, though, the term ‘convert or die’ is a peculiarly Islamic phrase, and one would be hard-pressed indeed to find instances of this before AD 600. Just another instance where the barbarians infect our culture, what to do?

    It really had nothing to do with the Great Commission, though. The command was to the *disciples* to go and make other disciples. Now, here’s a secret; Jesus had three years worth of the Twelve and many many others following Him around. They knew exactly how He made disciples (hint: it was NOT by the sword).

    By saying “As the Father has sent Me, so I send you”, Jesus is as much saying that His followers (i.e. it’s our turn now) are to go and make disciples of all nations. He even specifies how they are to do so; baptise them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

    Again, no sword. The problem with the church was Emperor Constantine turning it into a state organ. Christ’s church was never meant to become Caesar. Bad, bad Constantine! It’s pretty obvious that when the church tries to do the state’s work, and the state tries to do the church’s work, neither church nor state get their work done.

    You should be able to appreciate this: King Saul got into a lifetime of trouble due to his trying to perform Samuel’s office. Well, obviously you’re gonna have problems when you have people with police powers trying to enforce religious laws.

    Bookworn: History is incredibly interesting, as long as you teach it right. It’s when you have revisionists trying to muddy the waters, argh, that’s when you feel like taking a belt and strapping the whole lot of ’em.

    But history’s also depressing as heck. Man killing man, man sieging towns, man overruns town and rapes, pillages, plunders, man setting up empires, man dying without clear succession (or even with), rinse, repeat. We’re not all that different, today, except our choices of weapons.

  • Charles Martel


    Soiled pants, ruined keyboard.

    SADIE. . . . . . .

  • Ariel


    But history’s also depressing as heck

    It is also uplifting, full of nobility. The Indian wars in America show both the debasement of man and the nobility, on both sides…I’ve read of BIA agents who should rot in hell, and others who put their careers on the line to help the Indians in their care. It depends on where you dwell and how wide your perspective. Don’t let the evil obscure the good. Too many of the revisionists let their vision thus be obscured.

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  • Chad Hunt

    I don’t have unlimited patience for people who blather about “leftist idiocy” – they’re practically always mere right-wing shitheads – but you do have a point about the Aztecs, who were nothing short of sickening in their savagery and brutality. When you read about their religious rites, the extravagance of their barbarity just blows your mind. Sure, the Spaniards may have exaggerated the number of victims murdered by Aztec priests, but the actual practices have all been conclusively confirmed by archaeological evidence and by the surviving testimony of the Aztecs themselves. They certainly did rip living hearts from chests by the thousands, put the decapitated heads of the victims on public display, cannibalized people, murdered children – they would even flay people and then wear the bloody, slimy skin over their own until it rotted off – in honor of their gods. In other words you had an entire culture in which behavior that puts the most depraved serial killers to shame was accepted and encouraged and lauded as vital and necessary.

    The Spaniards were disgusting, greedy, filthy scumbags as well, but the Aztecs DID deserve what they got. I only wish so much hadn’t been lost to archaeological research.