When considering the Aztec Empire as a historical system of power, governance, and authority that implemented such things as specific techniques (such as city-state taxes as opposed to direct rule), economic interdependence (through limited communication to establish dependency upon the Empire center), and other aspects of the empire (such as warriors rewarded for prisoners who the people used for sacrifices, land and labor owned by kings and nobles with common people used for labor to pay tributary to the Empire), how would this help to identify the similarities among events separated by significant chronological, culture, and geographicdistance and/or also to contextualize events, people and intellectual developments?
I agree with much of the above posts, in that Aztec rule as an empire followed the most practical methods of controlling lands and populations. Empires that have tried to maintain direct military and political control over all of the far reaches of their holdings, without an effort to assimilate them into something like subservience have usually been relatively short lived.
I think other tribes and peoples recognized the technological advancement of the Aztecs, and themselves took the path of least resistance in acquiescing to their rule.
I think it is fascinating to discuss how earlier systems of colonial power and authority operated and how they compare to the European colonial age. Certainly the Aztecs represent a successful empire and the way they managed issues such as the distance between the periphery and the exterior are worthy of attention. Of course, we see some of these aspects in other colonial powers and the way that they coped with the same issues.
I think that you could argue that the Aztec way of maintaining an empire is similar to methods used by other empires that existed at different times and in very different places. The idea of not trying to rule the rest of the empire directly was widely used because it was a good way to overcome the problems of long-distance control during a time when technology did not really allow the center to maintain any sort of timely communication with the periphery.