The Maya believed that their king was given the right to rule by the gods. The leaders of the Maya were called the “halach uinic” or “ahaw”, meaning “lord” or “ruler”. There were also powerful councils of leaders who ran the government. They were chosen from the class of nobles.
The Aztec government was similar to a monarchy where an Emperor or King was the primary ruler. They called their ruler the Huey Tlatoani. The Huey Tlatoani was the ultimate power in the land. They felt that he was appointed by the gods and had the divine right to rule.
Unlike the Aztec Empire, the Maya had no central controlling government . Rather, each Maya city-state had its own individual ruling family that controlled the city and surrounding rural area.
One of the most famous Maya rulers was K’inich Janaab Pakal , whom we know today as ‘ Pakal the Great ‘. He was king of Palenque for 68 years, longer than any other ruler in the Ancient Maya world!
Blood was viewed as a potent source of nourishment for the Maya deities, and the sacrifice of a living creature was a powerful blood offering. By extension, the sacrifice of a human life was the ultimate offering of blood to the gods, and the most important Maya rituals culminated in human sacrifice .
The ancient Maya never used coins as money . Instead, like many early civilizations, they were thought to mostly barter, trading items such as tobacco, maize, and clothing.
Mayan Government . The Mayans developed a hierarchical government ruled by kings and priests. They lived in independent city-states consisting of rural communities and large urban ceremonial centers. There were no standing armies, but warfare played an important role in religion, power and prestige.
Scholars have suggested a number of potential reasons for the downfall of Maya civilization in the southern lowlands, including overpopulation, environmental degradation, warfare, shifting trade routes and extended drought. It’s likely that a complex combination of factors was behind the collapse.
Maya society was rigidly divided between nobles, commoners, serfs, and slaves. The noble class was complex and specialized. Noble status and the occupation in which a noble served were passed on through elite family lineages.
Although the Mayan people never entirely disappeared—their descendants still live across Central America—dozens of core urban areas in the lowlands of the Yucatan peninsula, such as Tikal , went from bustling cities to abandoned ruins over the course of roughly a hundred years.
The Maya believed that when people died, they entered the Underworld through a cave or a cenote. When kings died, they followed the path linked to the cosmic movement of the sun and fell into the Underworld; but, because they possessed supernatural powers, they were reborn into the Sky World and became gods.
K’inich Janaab’ Pakal the Great
The elites were the ones who ruled the government and waged war. But their responsibilities also included religious and intellectual pursuits, like serving as priests , studying astronomy, and maintaining the Mayan calendar. Below the Mayan nobles were commoners.