Notably, the modern concept city-states, economic, and political systems of Egypt and Aztec are deeply rooted in their ancient civilizations. While historical accounts of such civilizations continue raising controversial debates, anthropologists have specifically shown interest in investigating certain knowledge gaps in the literature. For instance, a growing trend demonstrates lack of consensus among researchers on issues concerning political systems and leadership styles adopted by these ancient civilizations. In this light, the paper intends to examine the political trends and leadership styles exercised by leaders in the ancient Egypt and Aztec, pondering how the political elites in these civilizations obtained political capital by controlling and manipulating economic, ideological and coercive resources.
According to Fagan (2019), the unification of lower and Upper Egypt marks the down of the Egyptian civilization. Both sides made a solemn agreement to end political turmoil, leading to the unification of the polarized Egypt in 3100B.C. Fagan (2015) writes that a new state emerged, founded on territory and symbolic geography, implying a state of harmony between Seth and Horus, the gods of upper and lower sides respectively. It implies, in this context that the power elites from both sides believed that exploiting ideological sources, for example, the gods, would promote peace and harmony in their nation. These ideological sources, in the view of Fagan et al. (2015), were vital in giving political and legitimacy power to leaders in the lower and upper sides, thereby expanding their territories. During hard times, the power elites would consult Horus and Seth to fix natural calamities, such as diseases, wars, and famine, among others (Fagan et al., 2019). The central argument, in this perspective, is that religious leaders and kings were respected and honored because they had direct link with supernatural powers or beings. Besides, such individuals would exercise authority over their minors. In the ancient Egypt, therefore, being an ideological capitalist was a rare quality that would earn a person political wealth.
The monarchical style of leadership favored economic prosperity in the ancient Egypt through agriculture and irrigation. Even though technology had not advanced in the ancient period, evidence in the literature demonstrates that Egyptians practiced sustainable irrigation under certain initiatives of Pharaoh. For example, the political leader invented traditional methods of lifting water for irrigation, resulting in high crop yields. Of note, Egyptian farmers would offer significant ratio of their harvests to Pharaoh, who in turn, would acquire most wealth of the nation. In the Unified Egypt, wealth was a primary determinant of political power. More specific, leaders were generally capitalists, who controlled the economy using their wealth. It is essential to note, in this dimension that leadership in the ancient Egypt heavily relied on economic resources (Chazan, 2019). However, residents of the ancient Egypt would face starvation during extensive droughts, since primitive technology in the past could not provide alternative source of water for animals and irrigation in the unified territory. As such, sources of power would collapse during economic turmoil, owing to shortage of food. In addition, droughts and wars would cause distortion of the economic structure within the ancient Egyptian territories, thereby rendering Pharaoh powerless. Chazan (2017) opines that Egyptians would lose faith in a leader with dysfunctional divine influence. Nevertheless, the coercive forces in the ancient Egypt disobeyed Pharaoh, implying that political powers would face criticism and pressure whenever ideological resources fail to solve disasters. Power elites in the ancient Egypt strongly believed in a government with full access to and control over natural resources (Chazan and Michael, 2017). Also, Fagan (2019) expounds that by controlling majority of the country’s wealth and natural resources, power elites in the ancient Egypt would exercise control over environmental catastrophes, which is the main economic aspect of political power in the ancient Egypt.
Evidence in the literature suggests that Aztec empire thrived between 1345 and 1521. Like in the ancient Egypt, elites in the ancient Aztec obtained power from political, ideological, and economic sources (Gaydarska and Bisserka, 2017). Agriculture was the primary source of wealth, making it an economic engine and the main source of power for political elites in the Aztec civilization. Agricultural, especially farming in Aztec majorly prioritized production of corn or maize (Fagan, 2015). Maize farming was significant in the Aztec civilization that elites dedicated a goddess to the maize. Worth noting, corn was highly prioritized by the Aztec elites that it remained a key determinant in the country’s political landscape. However, warfare and army intertwined with other power sources in Aztec society. From birth, Aztec would raise every male child to join its army and political system in adulthood (Chazan, 2017). As a result, Aztec’s political system revolved around warfare, thereby resulting in economic and political control of new lands. Moreover, Fagan (2016) records that coercive forces and warfare did go beyond economic and political aspect of Aztec civilization. Power elites in Aztec society used human sacrifices as religious or ideological means of obtaining political capital. Human sacrifices would motivate power elites to exercise absolute control over the country’s territories (Gaydarska and Bisserka, 2017).
According to Chazan (2017), sources of political capital in Aztec civilization were majorly biological, whereby individuals with biological connection to leaders would obtain power. Even so, elites in power would have to demonstrate capability through achievements (wealth). For example, Fagan (2016) posits that Aztec’s social stratification combined one’s achievements and ascriptions. In this respect, Aztec’s means of recognizing political elites is quite contrary to the system adopted in the ancient Egypt. While elites in the former relied on divine power to gain political power, elites in the latter are recognized at birth (Fagan and Brian, 2016). The basic argument in the Egyptian case is that a king is the head of a divine office and thus can give orders to people. It denotes that personal achievements did not qualify one to become a leader in ancient Egypt. Often, Aztec would tame enemy warriors and offer war slaves as human sacrifice. Such sacrifice, the elites in Aztec civilization believed was a way of acquiring political wealth. As a result, the elites in Aztec empire were majorly the custodians of political power, who were had biological relationship with the first Mexican leaders (Gaydarska and Bisserka, 2017).
Egypt and Aztec exist among the ancient empires that greatly influenced the current political trends and material acquisition in the modern Egypt and Aztec socio-political climates. Based on the evidence shown above, elites in both civilizations acquired power through ideological, coercive, and economical sources. While agriculture and farming remain the basic economic power in these ancient empires, it is crucial to note the difference in their political structures and leadership trends. While Egyptian empires believed in divine ownership of power, the Aztec civilization embraced the use of biological connections and personal achievement in defining their power elites.
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