The idea of a caste system originated in India and has become popular in regions around the world over the course of history. Two of these areas include the Mesoamerican/Andes cultures in present day South America and Europe during the middle ages. The actual classes, or estates, differed for these two regions, but religion played a role in both social structures, and the system affected Mesoamerican as well as European women. Most cultures of the Mesoamerican region held four different classes, but medieval Europe only had three states.
At the bottom of the Mesoamerican class system were the slaves, prisoners of war, and sometimes farmers. These people were despised by the upper classes and had very few rights, if any. Next were the merchants and artisans who played a vital role in influencing economy and culture. A prominent civilization that did not have the merchant and artisan class was the Incans, who did not support trade. The priests and warriors were second highest, responsible for advising the top class: kings and nobles.
Similar to the Mesoamerican cultures, medieval Europe had a very low bottom estate called the peasantry. This class consisted of those who worked to support the upper classes. An example of some of their work would be food production. Next was the nobility, which included the knights who had power to own slaves and land.
They also had influence on politics, economics, religion, and culture. The very top of the three estates was the church. Unlike the second and third estates, anyone could choose to be in this estate, as opposed to being born into one’s estate. Priests, those who prayed, etc. held great power over medieval Europe, not just in the spiritual realm, but in politics as well. While the Europeans put the church at the very top of their class system, the Mesoamericans put their religious leaders second to the top. The Catholic church ruled over Europe during the middle ages. People from any estate could choose to devote themselves to priesthood, putting them in the first estate. Priests were in the second class in Mesoamerica. They advised the kings and nobles, who had power over them. The temples that were built can be seen as reminders of the power of the religious leaders and religion itself. Human sacrifice played a part in some cultures near the Andes, and military leaders were responsible for capturing prisoners of other countries to be sacrificed by the priesthood.
Religion was extremely important, touching every aspect of the Mesoamericans’ lives, but the political leaders were still separated from them and above them. In contrast, the Catholic church was the government in medieval Europe. In addition to politics and religion, the social class also had affect on women. Mesoamerican women were somewhat respected, for a female would occasionally receive nobility and they could inherit property and pass it to heirs. Polygamy was popular among the nobles, but the peasants were monogamous. Peasant women in regions near the Andes could do field work, but spent more time raising children, preparing food, etc. in the household. Like the Mesoamerican women becoming nobility, medieval European women could enter the first estate of church. In addition to the class a European woman was born into or chose, she would also be classified as virgin, wife, or widow. The Indian caste system was the basis for the social structures that developed in Europe in Mesoamerica. Although differences are evident in the actual classes and the way religion played a role in the formation of these classes, women were treated very similarly in both cultures. Poverty was a problem in both regions.
Cite this Role of caste system in Mesoamerica and medieval Europe comparative
Role of caste system in Mesoamerica and medieval Europe comparative. (2016, Oct 09). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/role-of-caste-system-in-mesoamerica-and-medieval-europe-comparative/