Aztec Warriors

Aztec Warriors

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Details Showing the Brutality of the Aztec Empire in Mesoamerica

Aztec warriors were used to slay prisoners in mock gladiatorial combat as part of their festivals to the gods. Wikimedia

9. The Aztecs used mock gladiators as one means of worshiping the god of night

Tezcatlipoca was a god of night and darkness, including the dark arts of sorcery and witchcraft, and was associated with north. He was considered the most powerful of the Aztec gods, given his ability to disrupt harmony among the gods and people, creating war, which brought the Aztecs tribute for their empire, food for their people, slaves for their fields, and victims for their sacrifices. Although he was not the god of water he had the power to create drought, and he exulted in discord and confusion. Known by many names to the Aztecs, he was feared for his ability and proclivity to disrupt lives. He was worshiped through several rituals, one of which consisted of a young victim being leashed to a stake or wall, armed with wooden weapons, and forced to face armed Aztec warriors in combat, which was deliberately drawn out in order to entertain the god for as long as possible.

Another form of worship was the selection of a victim at the end of the month of Toxcatl (late April to early May). The young man selected was dressed as Tezcatlipoca and spent the ensuing year adorned in his attire and treated as if he were the capricious god among the living. He was given the gift of several women to be his companions throughout the year, and was given a flute to play whenever he appeared in the city, drawing attention to his presence and homage from his fellow Aztecs. When Toxcatl began the following year, the young man appeared at the Great Pyramid and following a feast of celebration signifying the rebirth of the year (spring) he ascended the pyramid, broke the flute over his head, and was taken by the priests to be killed in sacrifice to Tezcatlipoca. After the ritual was completed the young man&rsquos successor was selected, which was considered a great honor among the Aztecs.

Aztec Warrior Ranks

Advancing in rank as an Aztec warrior afforded increased social and military influence. Various articles of clothing were awarded to each rank, allowing the warrior to distinguish themselves in civilization and on the battlefield. These costumes became increasingly ornate as a warrior advanced to higher ranks. Notable examples of costumes that high ranking warriors would wear are the Jaguar and Eagle.

In order to advance in rank, Aztec warriors were expected to show fearlessness, bravery, and most importantly the ability to capture enemy soldiers. As young warriors captured more enemy soldiers they would be afforded additional benefits and ranks. There were four possible ranks a warrior could achieve. In order of lowest rank to highest, the rank progression was Tlamani, Cuextecatl, Papalotl (butterfly), and Cuauhocelotl (Jaguar or Eagle).

Warriors who reached the highest rank of Jaguar or Eagle were granted land, societal influence, guards, rare jewelry, and supplies normally reserved for elite members of Aztec society.

Advancement of warriors through the ranks


There were two main objectives in Aztec warfare. The first objective was political: the subjugation of enemy city states (Altepetl) in order to exact tribute and expand Aztec political hegemony. The second objective was religious and socioeconomic: the taking of captives to be sacrificed in religious ceremonies. These dual objectives also influenced the kind of warfare practiced by the Aztecs. [1] Most warfare was primarily political and was driven by the expectations of the Aztec nobility for the Tlahtoāni [t͡ɬaʔtoˈaːni] to provide economic growth through expansion and the expectation of the commoners to have a chance of moving up in society through successful warfare. The first action of a ruler elect was always to stage a military campaign which served the dual purpose of showing his ability as a warrior and thus make it clear to subject polities that his rule would be as tough on any rebellious conduct as that of his predecessor, and to provide abundant captives for his coronation ceremony. [2] A failed coronation campaign was seen as an extremely bad omen for the rule of a Tlatoani and could lead to rebellions of city states subjected by earlier rulers and to the Aztec nobility distrusting his ability to rule — this was the case for Tizoc who was poisoned by the Aztec nobles after several failed military campaigns. [3]

Flower War Edit

The second kind of warfare practiced by the Aztecs was referred to as Flower war (xōchiyāōyōtl [ʃoːt͡ʃijaːˈoːjoːt͡ɬ] ). This kind of warfare was fought by smaller armies after a previous arrangement between the parties involved. It was not aimed directly at the enemy city-state (altepetl) but served a number of other purposes. One often cited purpose is the taking of sacrificial captives and this was certainly an important part of most Aztec warfare. Friar Diego Durán and the chronicles based on the Crónica X states that the Xochiyaoyotl was instigated by Tlacaelel during the great Mesoamerican famine of 1450-1454 under the reign of Moctezuma I. These sources state that Tlacaelel arranged with the leaders of Tlaxcala, Cholula, and Huexotzinco, and Tliliuhquitepec to engage in ritual battles that would provide all parties with enough sacrificial victims to appease the gods. Ross Hassig (1988) however poses four main political purposes of xochiyaoyotl:

  1. This kind of warfare gave the Aztecs a chance to demonstrate their military might. Since the Aztec army was larger than their adversaries that were normally smaller city states and since the numbers of combatants on each side were fixed, the Aztec army was sending a much smaller percentage of their total forces than their opponents. Losing a Flower War would then be less damaging for the Aztec army than for its opponents.
  2. This also meant that an objective was attrition — the large Aztec army could afford to engage in small scale warfare much more frequently than their opponents, who would then gradually tire until they were ripe for actual conquest.
  3. It also allowed a ruler to maintain hostilities, at low intensity, while occupied by other matters.
  4. Mainly Xochiyaoyotl served as propaganda both towards other city-states and to the Aztec people allowing the Aztec rulers to continuously demonstrate their might with a constant influx of war captives to Tenochtitlan. [citation needed]
  5. Most importantly, the flower war served as a function of capturing victims to perform ritual sacrifice. To the East of the growing Aztec empire was the city-state of Tlaxcala. The Tlaxcalans were a powerful people who shared their culture and language with the people of the Aztec empire proper. They were closely related to the empire, though never actually conquered by it. An agreement was made with the Tlaxcalans to have ritual battles called xochiyaoyotl. The flower war is a ritual war for Aztec people taking victim back and sacrifice them to their god Xipe Totec (Tezcatlipoca).

Warriors were essential to Aztec life and culture. At birth, an Aztec boy would receive two symbols of being a warrior. A shield would be placed in his left hand, and an arrow would be placed in his right. After a short ceremony the newly born boy's umbilical cord, shield, and arrow would be taken to a battlefield to be buried by a renowned warrior. These parts would symbolize the rise of a warrior. Each shield and arrow would be made specifically for that boy and would resemble his family and the gods. These birth rituals show the importance of warrior culture to the Aztecs.

As for girls, at birth their umbilical cord would be buried usually under the family fireplace, representing the woman's future life to be in the home taking care of household needs.

Since all boys starting at age 15 were trained to become warriors, Aztec society as a whole had no standing army. Therefore, warriors would be drafted to a campaign through a Tequital (a payment of goods and labor enforced by the government). Outside of battle, many warriors were farmers and tradesmen. They would learn their trade from their father. Warriors would be married by their early twenties and would be a vital part of Aztec daily life. They would work a certain trade usually passed on through family status. Warriors would be lower class citizens, that when called upon would engage in battle. Being a warrior did, however, present a way to move up in Aztec society. The warrior's life was a chance to change one's social status. [ contradictory ] If they were successful as a warrior they would be presented with gifts and recognized publicly for their accomplishments in battle. If they reached the rank of Eagle or Jaguar warrior they would be considered as nobles. They would also become full-time warriors working for the city-state to protect merchants and the city itself. They resembled the police force of Aztec society. they joined when they where 20 but they started to train at 15 stated before

Aztec culture valued appearance, and appearance defined people within society. Warriors had a very distinct appearance. Their dress would be in relation to their success and triumph on the battlefield. Gaining ranks as an Aztec warrior was based on how many enemy soldiers that warrior had captured. A warrior who had taken one captive would carry a macuahuitl, and a chimalli without any decorations. He would also be rewarded with a manta, and an orange cape with a stripe, a carmine-colored loincloth, and a scorpion-knotted designed cape. (Daily, 145). A two-captive warrior would be able to wear sandals on the battlefield. He would also have a feathered warrior suit and a cone-shaped cap. The feathered suit and the cone-shaped cap appearance are the most common within the Codex Mendoza. A four captive warrior, which would be an eagle or jaguar warrior, would wear an actual jaguar skin over his body with an open slot for the head. These warriors would have expensive jewelry and weapons. Their hairstyle was also unique to their status. The hair would sit at the top of their head and be parted into two sections with a red cord wrapped around it. The red cord would also have an ornament of green, blue, and red feathers. The shields were made of wicker wood and leather, so very few survived.

The Aztecs didn't normally maintain tight territorial control within their empire but nonetheless, there are examples of fortifications built by the Aztecs. Prominent examples are the strongholds at Oztuma (Oztōmān [osˈtoːmaːn] ) where the Aztecs built a garrison to keep the rebellious Chontales in line in Quauhquechollan (modern-day Huauquechula) near Atlixco where the Aztecs built a garrison in order to always have forces close to their traditional enemies the Tlaxcalteca, Chololteca and Huexotzinca and in Malinalco near Toluca. The latter is where Ahuitzotl built garrisons and fortifications to keep watch over the Matlatzinca, Mazahua and Otomies and to always have troops close to the enemy Tarascan state - the borders with which were also guarded and at least partly fortified on both sides. [ citation needed ]

The Aztec army was organized into two groups. The commoners were organized into "wards" (calpōlli) [kaɬˈpoːlːi] that were under the leadership of tiachcahuan [tiat͡ʃˈkawaːn] ("leaders") and calpoleque [kalpoːleʔkeʔ] ("calpulli owners"). The nobles were organized into professional warrior societies. Apart from the Tlatoani, the war leaders of the Aztecs were the High General, the Tlacochcalcatl [t͡ɬakot͡ʃˈkaɬkat͡ɬ] ("The man from the house of darts") and the General the Tlācateccatl [t͡ɬaːkaˈtek.kat͡ɬ] ("Cutter of men"). The Tlacochcalcatl and Tlacateccatl also had to name successors prior to any battle so that if they died they could be immediately replaced. Priests also took part in warfare, carrying the effigies of deities into battle alongside the armies. The army also had boys about the age of twelve along with them serving as porters and messengers this was mainly for training measures. The adjacent image shows the Tlacateccatl and the Tlacochcalcatl and two other officers (probably priests) known as Huitznahuatl and Ticocyahuacatl, all dressed in their tlahuiztli suits.

Training Edit

The formal education of the Aztecs was to train and teach young boys how to function in their society, particularly as warriors. The Aztecs had a relatively small standing army. Only the elite soldiers, part of the warrior societies (such as the Jaguar Knights), and the soldiers stationed at the few Aztec fortifications were full-time. Nevertheless, every boy was trained to become a warrior with the exception of nobles. Trades such as farming and artisan skills were not taught at the two formal schools. All boys who were between the ages of ten and twenty years old would attend one of the two schools: the Telpochcalli or the neighborhood school for commoners, and the Calmecac which was the exclusive school for nobles. At the Telpochcalli, students would learn the art of warfare, and would become warriors. At the Calmecac students would be trained to become military leaders, priests, government officials, etc.

The sons of commoners were trained in the Tēlpochcalli [teːɬpot͡ʃˈkalːi] "house of youth". Once a boy reached the age of ten, a section of hair on the back of his head was grown long to indicate that he had not yet taken captives in war. At age fifteen, the father of the boy handed the responsibility of training to the telpochcalli, who would then train the boy to become a warrior. The telpochcalli was accountable for the training of approximately 419 to 559 youths between the ages of fifteen and twenty years old. [4] While the boys were in training, they were given basic duties, such as cleaning the house and making fires. The youth were tested to determine how fit they would be for battle by accompanying their leaders on campaigns as shield-bearers. War captains and veteran warriors had the role of training the boys how to handle their weapons. This generally included showing them how to hold a shield, how to hold a sword, how to shoot arrows from a bow and how to throw darts with an atlatl. [5] Boys in training were only considered real men when they captured their first warrior. [6]

Sons of the nobles were trained at the calmecac [kalˈmekak] ("lineage house") and received sophisticated training in warfare from the most experienced warriors in the army, as well as in general courtly subjects such as astronomy, calendrics, rhetorics, poetry and religion. The calmecac were attached to temples as a dedication to patron gods. For example, the calmecac in the main ceremonial complex of Tenochtitlan was dedicated to the god Quetzalcoatl. Although there is uncertainty about the exact ages that boys entered into the calmecac, according to evidence that recorded the king's sons entering at the age of five and sons of other nobles entering between the ages of six and thirteen, it seems that youth began their training here at a younger age than those in the telpochcalli did. [7]

When formal training in handling weapons began at age fifteen, youth would begin to accompany the seasoned warriors on campaigns so that they could become accustomed to military life and lose the fear of battle. At age twenty, those who wanted to become warriors officially went to war. The parents of the youth sought out veteran warriors, bringing them foods and gifts with the objective of securing a warrior to be the sponsor of their child. Ideally, the sponsor would watch over the youth and teach him how to take captives. However, the degree to which the warrior looked after and helped the noble's child depended greatly on the amount of payment received from the parents. Thus, sons of high nobility tended to succeed more often in war than those of lower nobility. [8]

Stratification and ranks Edit

Broadly, Aztec army ranks were similar to the modern Western rankings of “General” and "Major”, as were the groupings of warriors into categories such as “enlisted men” or “officers”. However, while parallels can be drawn between the organization of Aztec and Western military systems, as each developed from similar functional necessities, the differences between the two are far greater than the similarities. The members of the Aztec army had loyalties to many different people and institutions, and ranking was not based solely on the position one held in a centralized military hierarchy. Thus, the classification of ranks and statuses cannot be defined in the same manner as that of the modern Western military. [9] The commoners composed the bulk of the army the lowest were porters (tlamemeh [t͡ɬaˈmemeʔ] ) who carried weapons and supplies, next came the youths (identified by the top knot hairstyle they wore) of the telpochcalli led by their sergeants (the tēlpochyahqueh [teːɬpot͡ʃˈjaʔkeʔ] "youth leaders"). Next were the commoners yaoquizqueh. And finally, there were commoners who had taken captives, the so-called tlamanih. [t͡ɬaˈmaniʔ] "captors".

Ranking above these came the nobles of the "warrior societies". These were ranked according to the number of captives they had taken in previous battles the number of captives determined which of the different suits of honor (called tlahuiztli [t͡ɬaˈwist͡ɬi] ) they were allowed to wear, and allowed them certain rights like being able to wear sandals, jewelry, alter their hairstyles, wear warpaint, carry flowers onto the battlefield, pierce, and tattoo themselves. These tlahuiztli became gradually more spectacular as the ranks progressed, allowing the most excellent warriors who had taken many captives to stand out on the battlefield. The higher ranked warriors were also called "Pipiltin".

Warrior societies Edit

Commoners excelling in warfare could be promoted to the noble class and could enter some of the warrior societies (at least the Eagles and Jaguars). Sons of nobles trained at the Calmecac, however, were expected to enter into one of the societies as they progressed through the ranks. Warriors could shift from one society and into another when they became sufficiently proficient exactly how this happened is uncertain. Each society had different styles of dress and equipment as well as styles of body paint and adornments.

Tlamanih Edit

Cuextecatl Edit

Two captive warriors, recognizable by their red and black tlahuiztli and conical hats. This rank was introduced after the military campaign against the Huastec led by Tlahtoāni Ahuitzotl.

Papalotl Edit

Papalotl (lit. butterfly) were warriors who had taken three captives this rank wore "butterfly" like banners on their backs. [ citation needed ]

Eagle and Jaguar warriors Edit

Aztec warriors were called a cuāuhocēlōtl [kʷaːwo'seːloːt͡ɬ] . The word cuāuhocēlōtl derives from the Eagle warrior cuāuhtli [kʷaːwt͡ɬi] and the Jaguar Warrior ocēlōtl [o'seːloːt͡ɬ] . Those Aztec warriors who demonstrated the most bravery and who fought well became either jaguar or eagle warriors. Of all of the Aztec warriors, they were the most feared. Both the jaguar and eagle Aztec warriors wore distinguishing helmets and uniforms. The jaguars were identifiable by the jaguar skins they wore over their entire body, with only their faces showing from within the jaguar head. The eagle Aztec warriors, on the other hand, wore feathered helmets including an open beak.

Otomies Edit

The Otomies (Otōntin) [oˈtoːntin] ) were another warrior society who took their name from the Otomi people who were renowned for their fierce fighting. In the historical sources, it is often difficult to discern whether the word otomitl "Otomi" refers to members of the Aztec warrior society or members of the ethnic group who also often joined the Aztec armies as mercenaries or allies. A celebrated member of this warrior sect was Tzilacatzin.

The Shorn Ones Edit

The "Shorn Ones" (Cuachicqueh [kʷaˈt͡ʃikkeʔ] , plural. Cuachic, singular) was the most prestigious warrior society – their heads were shaved apart from a long braid over the left ear. Their bald heads and faces were painted one-half blue and another half red or yellow. They served as imperial shock troops and took on special tasks as well as battlefield assistance roles when needed. Over six captives and dozens of other heroic deeds were required for this rank. They apparently turned down captaincies in order to remain constant battlefield combatants. Recognizable by their yellow tlahuiztli, they had sworn not to take a step backward during a battle on pain of death at the hands of their comrades. [10]

Because the Aztec empire was maintained through warfare or the threat of war with other cities, the gathering of information about those cities was crucial in the process of preparing for a single battle or an extended campaign. Also of great importance was the communication of messages between the military leaders and the warriors on the field so that political initiatives and collaborative ties could be established and maintained. As such, intelligence and communication were vital components in Aztec warfare. The four establishments principally used for these tasks were merchants, formal ambassadors, messengers, and spies. [11]

Merchants Edit

Merchants, called pochteca (singular: pochtecatl), were perhaps the most valued source of intelligence to the Aztec empire. As they traveled throughout the empire and beyond to trade with groups outside the Aztec's control, the king would often request that the pochteca return from their route with both general and specific information. General information, such as the perceived political climate of the areas traded in, could allow the king to gauge what actions might be necessary to prevent invasions and keep hostility from culminating in large-scale rebellion. As the Aztec's empire expanded, the merchant's role gained increasing importance. Because it became harder to obtain information about distant sites in a timely way, especially for those outside the empire, the feedback and warning received from merchants were invaluable. Often, they were the key to the Aztec army's successful response to external hostility. If a merchant was killed while trading, this was a cause for war. The Aztecs' rapid and violent retaliation following this event is testament to the immense importance that the merchants had to the Aztec empire. [12]

Merchants were very well respected in Aztec society. When merchants traveled south, they transported their merchandise either by canoe or by slaves, who would carry a majority of the goods on their backs. If the caravan was likely to pass through dangerous territory, Aztec warriors accompanied the travelers to provide much-needed protection from wild animals and rival cultures. In return, merchants often provided a military service to the empire by spying on the empire's many enemies while trading in the enemy's cities. [13] They were able to earn their protection while further helping their empire.

Ambassadors Edit

Once the Aztecs had decided to conquer a particular city (Altepetl), they sent an ambassador from Tenochtitlan to offer the city protection. They would showcase the advantages cities would gain by trading with the empire. The Aztecs, in return, asked for gold or precious stones for the Emperor. They were given 20 days to decide their request. If they refused, more ambassadors were sent to the cities. However, these ambassadors were used as up front threats. Instead of trade, these men would point out the destruction the empire could and would cause if the city were to decline their offer. They were given another 20 days. [14] If they refused the Aztec army was sent immediately. There were no more warnings. The cities were destroyed and their people were taken as prisoners.

Messengers Edit

The Aztecs used a system in which men stationed approximately 4.2 kilometres (2.6 mi) apart along main roads relayed messages from the empire to armies in the field or to distant cities and vice versa. For example, the runners might be sent by the king to inform allies to mobilize if a province began to rebel. Messengers also alerted certain tributary cities of the incoming army and their food needs, carried messages between two opposing armies, and delivered news back to Tenochtitlan about the outcome of the war. While messengers were also used in other regions of Mesoamerica, it was the Aztecs who apparently developed this system to a point of having impressive communicative scope. [15]

Spies Edit

Prior to mobilization, formal spies called quimichtin(lit. Mice) were sent into the territory of the enemy to gather information that would be advantageous to the Aztecs. Specifically, they were requested to take careful note of the terrain that would be crossed, fortification used, details about the army, and their preparations. These spies also sought out those who were dissidents in the area and paid them for information. The quimichtin traveled only by night and even spoke the language and wore the style of clothing specific to the region of the enemy. Due to the extremely dangerous nature of this job (they risked a torturous death and the enslavement of their family if discovered), these spies were amply compensated for their work. [16]

The Aztecs also used a group of trade spies, known as the naualoztomeca. The naualoztomeca were forced to disguise themselves as they traveled. They sought after rare goods and treasures. The naualoztomeca were also used for gathering information at the markets and reporting the information to the higher levels of pochteca. [17]

Ranged weapons Edit

Ahtlatl: (perhaps lit. "non-sling") This weapon was meant to represent the Aztec God Opochtli. The Aztec dart thrower (known by the Spanish as estólica) was a weapon used to hurl small darts called "tlacochtli" with greater force and from greater range than they could be thrown by hand. This weapon was considered by the Aztecs to be suited only for royalty and the most elite warriors in the army, and was usually depicted as being the weapon of the Gods. Murals at Teotihuacan show warriors using this effective weapon and it is characteristic of the Mesoamerican cultures of central Mexico. Warriors at the front lines of the army would carry the ahtlatl and about three to five tlacochtli, and would launch them after the waves of arrows and sling projectiles as they advanced into battle before engaging into melee combat. The ahtlatl could also throw spears as its name implies "spear thrower".

Tlacochtli: The "darts" launched from an Atlatl, not so much darts but more like big arrows about 5.9 feet (1.8 m) long. Tipped with obsidian, fish bones, or copper heads.

Tlahhuītōlli: The Aztec war bow, constructed in a self bow fashion from the wood of the tepozan tree, about 5 feet (1.5 m) long and stringed with animal-sinew. Archers in the Aztec army were designated as Tequihua.

Mīcomītl: The Aztec arrow quiver, usually made out of animal hide, it could hold about twenty arrows.

Yāōmītl: War arrows with barbed obsidian, chert, flint, or bone points. Typically fletched with turkey or duck feathers.

Tēmātlatl: A sling made from maguey fiber. The Aztecs used oval shaped rocks or hand molded clay balls filled with obsidian flakes or pebbles as projectiles for this weapon. Bernal Diaz del Castillo noted that the hail of stones flung by Aztec slingers was so furious that even well armored Spanish soldiers were wounded.

Tlacalhuazcuahuitl: A blowgun consisting of a hollow reed using poisoned darts for ammunition. The darts used for this weapon were made out of sharpened wood fletched with cotton and usually doused in the neurotoxic secretions from the skin of tree frogs found in jungle areas of central Mexico. This was used primarily for hunting rather than warfare.

Aztec Warriors: Rankings

To advance in rank in the military the warriors required much skill, bravery, and the capture of enemy warriors. Every time a warrior increased in their rank they received special clothing and weapons from the emperor. These prizes were similar to medals and were recognized by everyone in Aztec society.

Here is a summary of rankings: (List from History on the Net)

  • Tlamani: One captive warrior. Received an undecorated obsidian-edged club and shield, two distinctive capes and a bright red loincloth.
  • Cuextecatl: Two captive warriors. This rank enabled the warrior to wear the distinguishing black and red suit called a tlahuiztli, sandals and a conical hat.
  • Papalotl: Three captive warriors. Papalotl (butterfly) was awarded a butterfly banner to wear on his back, conferring special honor.
  • Cuauhocelotl: Four or more captive warriors. These Aztec warriors reached the high rank of Eagle and Jaguar Knights.

Status of Aztec Jaguar Warriors

On the battleground, Aztec Jaguar Warriors were the leaders of the military along with the Eagle Warriors. They lead the armies and formed the military strategies. Even off the battlefield, they were expected to be the leaders and were considered highly respected members of society. Their rank was on par with the Aztec nobility and they were often granted land by the emperors. These lands became their private property and their subsequent generations could inherit it. After becoming Jaguar warriors, they were also given certain other privileges such as drinking of pulque, taking of concubines, and dining at the royal palace. Another privilege of the Aztec Jaguar Warriors was participation in gladiatorial sacrifices.

Aztec Warriors Stratification and Ranks

Aztec warriors were divided into various ranks or groupings of warriors. The lowest rank usually consisted of the porters who carried various weapons and supplies. This group was derived from the common people. Next came the young men from the common people who had received military training at the “telpochcalli”. Another rank was for commoners who had taken captives. Above these ranks of the common people were various societies of the noble warriors such as the eagle and jaguar societies. These were ranked according to the number of captives they took.

Aztec Jaguar Warrior and Eagle Warrior Knights

Aztec Jaguar Warrior & Eagle Warrior knights were part of the Aztec military elite societies, veteran Aztec warriors who had captured at least four enemies.

As a militaristic society, the Aztec civilization placed great importance upon a citizen’s achievement in battle. The taking of enemy captives in battle could raise a warrior up into the ranks of the Eagle and Jaguar Warriors, in turn giving him the status and rights associated with the honored elite of Aztec society.

The Brotherhood of Jaguar & Eagle Aztec Warriors

Much of what is known about the Aztec Jaguar and Eagle Warriors derives from the Florentine Codex, a work compiled by Bernardino de Sahagún during his time as a missionary in the New World. Sahagún studied Aztec religion and culture, both of which were directly linked to warfare and Aztec warrior societies. He saw the Eagle and Jaguar Warrior societies as a couple, one rarely being mentioned without the other, a point of view that has not changed to this day.

Jaguar and Eagle Warriors possessed more similarities than differences. While each order had its own distinct attire, both shared an equal rank in society and fought in the same manner. They were also granted the same rights by the king. According to historian Ross Hassig, these included “the right to wear otherwise proscribed jewelry and daily military attire, dress in cotton and wear sandals in the royal palace, eat human flesh and drink octli in public, keep concubines, and dine in the royal palace.”

They were also connected on a religious level by the gods Nanahuatzin and Tecciztecatl, the sun and the moon and the mythological significance of the eagle and the jaguar. As historian Annabeth Headrick states, mythology “connects the eagle and jaguar knights with creation, the two most important celestial bodies, self-sacrifice and the admirable quality of bravery.” The two warrior types are often merged in contemporaneous references, being referred to as the Eagle-Jaguar society.

Promotion to Aztec Eagle and Jaguar Warrior Ranks

To win advancement into the military orders of the Jaguar and Eagle Warriors, an individual had to first capture at least four enemies in battle (these warriors were then known as tequihuahqueh). The emphasis was placed firmly upon taking live captives as dead enemies served no purpose in Aztec ritual sacrifice. The perceived worth of an enemy varied according to the military status given to his tribe the capture of four highly esteemed enemy warriors was a notable feat, while a larger number of lesser captives was required for a warrior to become a Jaguar or Eagle knight.

The orders of the Eagle and Jaguar Warriors comprised mainly of hereditary nobles. However, these nobles were still required to prove themselves in battle before being promoted. Commoners could also be promoted to the Eagle and Jaguar ranks, but such an achievement was exceptional. Commoners lacked the typical Aztec warrior training given to young nobles, making them less well equipped, both in terms of weaponry and skills, to excel in battle.

War Suits of the Aztec Jaguar and Eagle Knights

The decorative war-suits worn by Aztec Jaguar and Eagle Warriors served little protective purpose, with standard cotton body armor worn beneath the battle dress. Eagle and Jaguar war-suits were made primarily from feathers, while actual jaguar skins were thought to have been used only by non-noble warriors. Animal parts such as claws, fangs, beaks and talons were used to adorn the war-suits, particularly the fearsome looking helmets.

Aztec war-suits did not necessarily utilize realistic colors in their animal designs. Historian Ian Heath states that “The Codex Mendoza shows that jaguar war-suits came in a variety of colours – mainly blue (75%), but also yellow, red, and white – though the markings were always black, the collar red, and the breechclout white.” Eagle Warrior war-suits followed a similar pattern.

Aztec Eagle and Jaguar Warrior Weaponry

Warriors gaining promotion into the ranks of the Jaguar and Eagle knights would previously have specialized in one particular Aztec weapon type, as was the way of Aztec training. It is likely that this favored weapon would have remained a warrior’s weapon of choice after promotion, though increased status may have given greater access to more advanced weaponry.

Slings, clubs, spears, the atlatl and the bow and arrow were commonly used within all of the military orders. However, the Aztec sword, or macuahuitl, increasingly became the first choice of many noble and elite warriors. Images of Eagle and Jaguar knights from the Aztec codices frequently show these warriors carrying a macuahuitl.

Elite Aztec Warriors and Battle Deployment

Aztec Eagle and Jaguar Warriors were often placed at the forefront of a battle, but behind the elite shock troops of the Cuahchicqueh and Otontin orders. Eagle and Jaguar knights were disciplined, reliable and feared by their enemies. As veterans of the battlefield, they would sometimes be placed in small numbers within units of inexperienced warriors in order to reduce the risk of the lesser soldiers breaking formation under pressure.

7. Marcus Cassius Scaeva

Marcus Cassius Scaeva basically appeared out of thin air and into the Roman Army. It probably wasn’t magic like it seems, but his history didn’t matter to historians until after he became part of the EDGY Empire (same kind of EDGY, different Empire) and started kicking ass and taking names. Marcus Cassius fought for Julius Caesar. If it wasn’t for him and men like him, Caesar would have never been the military success he was.

Caesar decided to take Marcus Cassius and his men to Britain to see if there were any battles that needed winning on that side of the pond. It looked like just another cloudy British day with not much to write home about so Caesar and the men left Marcus Cassius to stand guard at the ship. Alone.

He didn’t stand there for long before he was attacked by British soldiers. Marcus Cassius fought as hard as he could, catching arrows in his shield and killing many Brits. Marcus Cassius couldn’t fight them all off, even though he had trained with some of the times finest gladiators, there were just too many of them. When the battle was finally over, a tattered and broken Marcus Cassius made his way to Caesar’s camp and fell to Caesar’s feet to ask for forgiveness. He apologized for losing his armor (and almost his life).

Luckily Caesar had more important things to laugh about. So he gave Marcus Cassius a promotion to Centurion and they were off to fight another war. The Roman Civil War to be exact. Marcus Cassius had a little less than 500 men under his command. When they saw 6000 Pompeian soldiers heading their way, Marcus Cassius’ men were ready to head home to their wives and children, but Marcus Cassius was a warrior and gave his men a quick pep talk and told them that today was as good a day to die as any. And so they fought.

It is said in that battle, Marcus Cassius killed so many men his sword became blunt and dull. That’s a lot of meat slicing. When his sword wasn’t effective anymore, he just started picking up large rocks and bashing people’s skulls in. He continued to fight even after his armor was peppered with arrows and his shield had no room for even one more arrow in it. Then it happened. An arrow hit him in the face. In the eye to be exact. Anybody else would have called it a day, but not Marcus Cassius, he let out a war cry and pulled the arrow out of his eye socket and continued fighting.

After about an hour, Marcus Cassius got weak from all the blood loss and fell to his knees. The opposing legion called a timeout from the fighting to check on Marcus Cassius and see if he was finally ready to surrender. When they got within arms reach, Marcus Cassius used his worn down sword and killed them both. After that battle, which was a complete success for Marcus Cassius, Caesar went on to defeat Pompey and awarded Marcus Cassius a very large purse.

Marcus Cassius went on to fight numerous battles even after Caesar’s death. There is no record of Marcus Cassius’ death, but in my mind, he retired from battle and died an old man on his porch reading the Sunday paper with the one eye he had left.

Aztec Warrior Drawings

Much of what we know about the warfare in pre-conquest Mexico we know from Aztec warrior drawings and personal accounts of the conquest. When the Spanish first conquered the Aztecs, some of them took care to learn about the culture of the empire by having the native people write down various aspects of life, including warfare.

The Spanish added their own notes to the works, and since then many others have attempted to interpret the history of the Aztec warrior in various ways. This page will just give you a few more drawings - a hint of what's out there.

There was Aztec warrior art just in the way that the warriors dressed. The warriors dressed in various ways, often wearing a uniform of sorts that showed the group that they belonged to. An eagle knight would wear a stylized eagle helmet, for example. The warriors often wore protective gear, such as quilted clothing that impeded the spears and arrows of the enemy.

Another group of warriors were the jaguar knights. See in the picture above one of the soldiers with a jaguar head and skin. The soldiers are each carrying a maquahuitl, a common Aztec weapon.

Warriors that distinguished themselves in battle could be a part of a ceremonial war. You can see here, the fighters each wearing clothing according to rank. Generally, the higher the rank the more elaborate the outfit would be.

This last drawing shows a part of the conquest. The Spanish and their allies are to the right. The Aztec warriors had made a stand on the temple, and were being overrun by the Spanish.

More Aztec warrior drawings

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Watch the video: The Aztec Empire VS The Spanish Conquistadors (May 2022).