What was the Toltec society's influence on later societies?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Bentley and Ziegler make the argument that the organization and process of empire building that was present in the Toltec society exerted a great influence on later societies.  The Toltec emergence is seen with the destruction of the Teotihuacan.  The Toltec might have recognized that power and expansion can be significant forces in the development of empire. The Toltec understood military might as an attribute.  They were able to rule significant areas of central Mexico through a centralized focus that enhanced expansion and control over what was previously fragmented areas.  Bentley and Ziegler suggest that with Tula as the Toltec capital city and center of trade, the Toltec were able to demonstrate power and sustain their own growth as an empire. Tula became the center of the Toltec world.  When Tula fell into civil strife, Bentley and Ziegler argue that the Toltec empire withered.  They became a nomadic people.  The Toltec recognized the need to keep expanding and establish connection with other areas and regions of people.  Their ability to develop outreach to other areas in the region enabled them to establish and grow their own empire.

The Toltec's influence on later societies can be best seen with the replication of these traits in the Aztec culture.  Like the Toltec, the Aztecs featured a capital city as the center of their culture and empire. Tenochtitlan became the identifying aspect of the Aztecs and was seen as the origin from which expansion would develop.  Mirroring the Toltec's emphasis on Tula, the capital city became the central point in an empire's emergence and development. The Aztec use of outreach was evident in how their empire was dependent on central administration and localized implementation. Additionally, the Toltec's use of force and the ability to use it in empire building was something that the Aztecs understood, mirroring the same type of expansion techniques.  The Toltec use of a large army with centralized control can be seen as an influence with the Aztecs.  

Another way in which the Toltec influence can be seen in later societies is evident in the use of recorded history.  The legend of Tolpiltzin- Quetzalcóatl and the militaristic form of destruction seen in origin narratives of the Toltec helped to justify war and conquest.  This same type of embrace is seen in the Aztec culture. Additionally, the Toltec warning and fear in the Tolpiltzin- Quetzalcóatl narrative could be seen in the Aztec perception of the Spaniard Cortes.  The influence of the Toltec idea of both justifying their militaristic ways and also possessing a healthy fear of them is something that the Aztecs replicated. 

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