The ways in which leaders in the Mali, Aztec, and Spanish Empires strived to expand their influence and power demonstrates how the three cultures were more similar than different. Sundiata, Moctezuma, Charles V and Fernando Cortes did have similarities in the ways they tried to develop their powers but there was also an extensive difference in the way these empires obtained their influence. These rulers attempted to expand their boundaries by having an efficient army, strong trading system, but differentiated when it came to expanding influence with religion.Having a strong military enabled the leaders to control the population, defend the empire, and gain land. This is seen through the king of Mali, Sundiata, whom by building alliances with people of the region not only did he expand the empire’s army but brought prosperity to the kingdom.
Prior to his kingship, his exile and obstacles gave him the opportunity to get to know the people of other civilizations and expand his military. For example, Sundiata’s military was strengthen when “Moussa Tounkara, king of Mema, gave Sundiata half of his army…He now had five army corps at his disposal, namely, the cavalry and infantry of Mema, those of Wagadu, and three forming the army of Tabon Wana Fran Kamara” (Sundiata P.50).
With a strong military, Sundiata was able to beat the Soumaoro and destroy the Sosso and extend Mali’s boundaries. The Spanish were also similar in using military and allying with the Tlaxcalans. Cortes was sent out by Diego Velazquez to see the conditions of the New World but once he discovered the the Aztec empire and their riches, he began his conquest and began his defeat of the Aztec empire. Cortes allied with Moctezuma and it is shown when he says “There came to me six lords from amongst the principal vassals of Montezuma, accompanied by two-hundred retainers…
they remained with me until the end of the war” (Cortes p.34). There was a Spanish-Tlaxcalan alliance that augmented soldiers in the army giving the Spanish the ability to attack the surrounding tribes by surprise, imprison them, and set houses on fire. In the Aztec empire, the civilization was similar by the fact that Moctezuma wanted to conquer and enslave his neighboring civilizations and increase his power prior to allying with the Spanish. Having an efficient army gave the three empires of Mali, Spanish, and Aztecs the capacity to defeat their enemies, gain land, and have more authority. Another factor these empires shared in expanding their power was their effort to achieve a strong economy. This is shown through Sundiata’s leadership in his return to the capital of Mali, Niani, when he focused on improving agriculture “Vast fields if millet, rice, cotton, indigo, and fonio surrounded the villages” (Sundiata p.81).
This productive farming was a big contributor to Mali’s trade system because these resources contributed to the economy that open doors to new trade routes. The Spanish Empire was similar in the sense that Cortes was in search of a resources in the New World. Although, he did not use agriculture to strengthen their empire, he informed King Charles of the wealth Moctezuma’s empire had had in his letter. Cortes informed King Charles V of the Aztecs wealth when he said “he sent word that I should say what I wanted him to give him to give to your Highness as an annual tribute, of gold, silver, stone, slaves, cotton, and wearing apparel.
..he sent me by them a thousand dollars of gold” (p.33). This factor plays an important role because Cortes is captivated by the resources the people of Tenochtitlan possess. Gaining access to the resources the Aztecs possessed was essential in expanding the Spanish Empire. This is because the land eventually becomes part of Spain which contributes to their economy and trading system.
Identical to the Empire of Mali, the Aztecs a strong trading system that enabled their power and culture to thrive. Hernan cortes compares the City of Tlaxcala to that of Granada, but emphasizes how the Aztec markets were much more supplied and had an efficient trading system when he says, “I came to a city…and it contains many more people than that of Granada…everything is to be found in this market in which they trade.
..there are jewelry shops, for gold..they sell wood and coal…”(Cortes p.
32). Even though the methods in improving their empire’s economy were different, the three empires strived to have resources that will be beneficial to their trading system and thus expand their power. Despite the similarities these three empires had, there was an vast difference the leaders developed their power with religion. For example, Sundiata was muslim but he was not a devout muslim. Religion played a small factor for converting those who were non-muslim but it was not an important factor in the conquest and expansion the Mali empire.
Similar to the the empire of Sundiata, Montezuma and the Aztecs who were devout believer in the Gods, offered sacrifices, and often had religious rituals, did not see religion as one of the main motives to develop their power. On the other hand, religion was one of the main motives the Spanish used to expand their power. The goal of the Spanish was to convert those non-christians into Christianity but Cortes used it as a justification for his actions. In the second letter to Charles V, Cortes says “I burned down more than a hundred villages… As we carried the banner of the cross and were fighting for our Faith, in the Service of Your sacred Majesty, to your royal good fortune God gave us such victory that we slew so many people without sustaining any injury”(p.25).
Even though Cortes was a devout Catholic, religion was used to justify his torture and overall the defeat of the Aztec empire. Cortes believed that God was on his side and therefore he would win all the battles against his opponents. Due to religion being used as a justification to develop their power, once the Spanish empire acquired the land and the Aztecs were forced to convert to Christianity. The methods the leaders in the Mali, Aztec, and Spanish Empires strive to develop their power demonstrates how these empires were more similar to one another. Sundiata, Moctezuma, and Fernando Cortes had a strong military that enabled the leaders to defend the empire and gain land. The way the three emperors strengthen their military was by building alliances which helped the empires defeat enemies, gain land and have more authority. Another similarity these empires possessed were the efforts to a strong economy. Although the three rulers had different methods, the emperor’s strived to have resources that will be valuable to the economy and expand their power.
Although the empires possessed these similarities, Sundiata and the Aztecs did not see religion as a main motive to develop their power. Whereas the Cortes did use religion to conquest and defeat the Aztec empire.