In Charles River Editors' History for Kids series, your children can learn about history's most important people and events in an easy, entertaining, and educational way.
Many ancient civilizations have influenced and inspired people in the 21st century. The Greeks and Romans continue to fascinate the West today. But of all the world's civilizations, none have intrigued people more than the Mayans, whose culture, astronomy, language, and mysterious disappearance all continue to captivate people.
From the moment Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes first found and confronted them, the Aztecs have fascinated the world, and they continue to hold a unique place both culturally and in pop culture. Nearly 500 years after the Spanish conquered their mighty empire, the Aztecs are often remembered today for their major capital, Tenochtitlan, as well as being fierce conquerors of the Valley of Mexico - who often engaged in human sacrifice rituals.
During the Age of Exploration, Native American tribes fell victim to European conquerors seeking legendary cities made of gold and other riches, attempts that were often being made in vain. And yet, of all the empires that were conquered across the continent, the one that continues to be most intimately associated with legends of gold and hidden riches is the Inca Empire. The Inca Empire, which flourished in modern day Peru and along the west coast of South America, was the largest Native American empire in pre-Columbian America until Pizarro and the Spanish conquistadors conquered them in the 16th century. What ultimately sealed their doom was the rumor that huge amounts of gold were available in regions south of the Andes Mountains.
Like the Aztecs, the Spanish burned much of the Inca's extant writings, but it is estimated that as many as 35 million once fell under their banner, and the empire’s administrative skills were so sharp that they kept accurate census records. Their religion, organization, and laws were also effectively centralized and tied to the rulers of the empire, and their military mobilization would have made the ancient Spartans proud. After the Spanish conquest, several rebellions in the area attempted to reestablish the proud Inca Empire over the next two centuries, all while famous Europeans like Voltaire glorified the Inca Empire in optimistic artistic portrayals.
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