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blood sports, Aztec vs. Europe

"The second myth is that in its appetite for death as spectacle the Triple Alliance was fundamentally different from Europe. Criminals beheaded in Palermo, heretics burned alive in Toledo, assassins drawn and quartered in Paris -- Europeans flocked ot every form of painful death imaginable, free entertainment that drew huge crowds... In most if not all European nations, the bodies were impaled on city walls and strung along highways as warnings. 'The corpses dangling from trees whose distant silhouettes stand out against the sky, in so many old paintings, are merely a realistic detail,' Braudel observed. 'They were part of the landscape.'"
-- Charles Man, 1491

Mann estimates England had twice the per capita execution rate of the Mexica, and France and Spain were even more bloodthirsty.

And the Mexica had had a bigger and cleaner city than any in Europe, that dazzled the conquistadors; public water projects more like those of the Romans than anything in medieval Europe; a developing philosophy; compulsory schooling for boys and girls alike...

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( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 14th, 2015 03:34 am (UTC)
Interesting, my knowledge of the pre-contact New World is sadly sparse, and I shall now work to remedy this more. In light of this, I'm grimly amused that with the exception of Aliette de Bodard's SF stories set in Mexica (in her Xuya universe) and (to a lesser extent) Andre Norton's Quest Crosstime, I've never seen an alternate modern, future, or steampunk Aztec civilization that wasn't hideously bloody and barbaric.

Hmm, perhaps I'll do some reading and then create a gaming setting. Given that I'm the developer for Aeon, and there's the possibility for crosstime weirdness in the Trinity Continuum, maybe I'll do an alternate SF Mexica supplement for that, or maybe for BRP (my two most likely options for something I can actually get published).

First though, time to do some reading... I'd welcome recommendations for history books that isn't all about how horrible the Aztecs were.
Jul. 14th, 2015 03:45 am (UTC)
http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2002/03/1491/302445/ is the original "1491" essay, that got expanded into the 2005 book; I have the 2011 edition, which research updates from since then. The book has a chapter "Frequently Asked Questions" largely on the Mexica and then Cortez, whence the quote, including talking about the city and the philosophy (and saying there's more surviving material in Nahuatl than in classical Greece -- I assume written down after the Conquest.) There's lots of endnotes and a huge book bibliography, but it doesn't lend itself to a quick "here's where to read more about the Aztecs".

GURPS Aztecs from 1993 was probably decent, and definitely full of details, though the only thing I remember clearly is the compulsory education for boys and girls, and maybe the war-leader/peace-leader system common in North America. (IIRC, Moctezuma was the war-leader, not the civilian administrator. Or something like that, game of telephone of simplification, here.)

And it has a more focused bibliography, though obviously not including any of the more recent research, which is apparently sizable.

_1493_ is also pretty good, but about the Columbian Exchange and such. I quasi-blogged that before, under the obvious tag.

Edited at 2015-07-14 03:45 am (UTC)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )


Damien Sullivan

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