The Concept of Time and History:
Aztec and other Civilisations.

The Aztecs had a concept of time much different to that which we understand:

"linear time is a Judeo-Christian concept shared by few peoples in past ages... As an example of linear time one may cite Jesus' crucifixion, ... a once and-for-all historical event, never to be repeated. When a Christian of our day participates in the re-enactment of that event, he commemorates Christ's suffering in illo tempore, relived in terms of liturgical time. But this is a distinct concept which in no way postulates that the event itself recurs."

(Davies, 1987:8)

Cyclical Time.

"Cyclical time is deeply rooted in the human imagination." (Davies 1987:9)

Conversely, the Aztecs understood time to be cyclical. This is a concept familiar to other civilisations as well;

"In China the cyclical concept was basic to Taoism. In India the idea of cosmic cycles (yugas) is a fundamental tenet of Hinduism; a complete cycle, a mahayuga, lasts twelve thousand years and ends with a violent destruction of the world that is repeated ever more dramatically at the end of every thousandth cycle.

It is less often realised that the Ancient Greeks, the very precursors of our own civilisation, carried the concept of circular time to its ultimate conclsion. Pythagoreans, Stoics, and Platonists all agreed that within each aeon, or cycle of duration, the same events were reproduced over and over again. [For example,] Aristotle's pupil, Eudemus, envisioned a complete return of time so that repeatedly in future aeons he would be sitting and talking with exactly the same students, debating the same topics.

(Davies, 1987:9)

This concept of cyclical time can be taken even further to the extreme in 'less advanced' societies such as the Balinese. Davies describes how they not only have a ritual and lunar calendar, but percieve themselves to be living in a 'timeless present'.

The Aztec Concept of Cyclical Time.

This can be explained in terms of repeating cycles which each lasted fifty two years.

Further, "their capital, Tenochtitlan, was viewed as a re-creation of Tula; their empire was simply a resurgence of Toltec power, and this idea of repetition was fundamental to the Aztec world view. Moreover, while they may have been aware of events occurring in a fairly distant past, they were infinitely less concerned than we are about just how long ago they took place." (Davies 1987:9)

Interpreting the Concept of
Time and History.
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