Aztec Empire was a military empire and thus warfare was one of the most crucial aspects of the empire. The very sustenance of the empire depended largely on a steady inflow of tribute and war captives.
Aztec warriors were accorded a status on par with the nobility and achievement on the battleground was one of the surest ways of upward social mobility. In the main, the armed forces of the Aztecs consisted of the commoners and nobles comprising of warriors and generals.
Aztec Eagle Warriors were well respected members of the militaristic Aztec society. Aztec Eagle Warriors were elite warriors of the Order of the eagle and as such had a status similar to that of a nobleman in Aztec society. Read more about the Aztec Eagle Warriors >>
Aztec Jaguar Warriors were the top warriors in Aztec society on par with the Jaguar warriors. Aztec Jaguar Warriors were military leaders and strategists who were highly regarding on the same level as the nobility. Read more about the Aztec Jaguar Warriors >>
Aztec Warriors were highly regarded by Aztec people and were on par with the Nobility class in Aztec society. Aztec Eagle and Jaguar warriors were considered to be elite Aztec warriors who had leadership and military strategy planning skills. Read more about the Aztec Warriors >>
Among the weapons the Aztecs used from a distance, the most effective Aztec weapon was the atlatl. It was a wooden spear thrower used to throw light sticks of wood tipped with sharp edges, often by adding a piece of bone or obsidian at the end. Read more about the Aztec Weapons and The Atlatl >>
Warfare in Aztec Society
Warfare for the Aztec society was important politically as well as theologically. On the political front, wars meant subjugation of more city-states and steady inflow of capital which was crucial for proper functioning of the empire.
On the religious front, wars provided war captives who were used for human sacrifices during the religious ceremonies and festivals. For the nobles, warfare meant subjugation of more cities and exaction of tribute. For the common people, on the other hand, it meant more opportunity of upward social mobility.
Aztec Warfare Battle Tactics and Techniques
Aztecs made use of various strategies and tactics in their warfare. The battle was started with the beating of drums and blowing of conch-trumpets and bone flutes. Smoke signals were used to coordinate attacks between different divisions of the army.
The front part of the army consisted of the common soldiers armed with bows and strings. This was followed by warriors from various societies. Young soldiers in the training phase were at the rear of the army and were only allowed to participate once the victory was ensured.
How did the Aztecs Prepare for Warfare
Aztecs made elaborates preparations for Aztec warfare before the battle. Before the actual fight, the Aztecs made use of diplomacy where ambassadors were dispatched to the enemies trying to persuade them for peaceful settlement of tribute.
It was also common to send spies in the enemy region to gather strategically important information. This detailed preparation between the battles provided them a clear edge over the enemies.
Famous Aztec Wars: The Flower Wars
One of the most important concepts in Aztec warfare was of Flower Wars. This was not a specific war but various battles which were fought with the specific purpose of capturing the prisoners.
These wars were initiated by the Emperor Tlacaelel at the height of the power of Aztec Empire. He emphasised on human sacrifice for gods and this meant more and more war captives were needed to be sacrificed.
Thus began the concept of Flower Wars against various other city-states in order to ensure steady supply of captives for human sacrifice.
Famous Aztecs Wars: The Battle of Otumba
The Battle of Otumba was one of the most important battles between the Aztecs and the invading Spanish Conquistadors. The Spaniards were led by Hernan Cortes who landed on the coast of Mexico in March 1519.
Initially, they were welcomed by the Aztecs but soon differences arose and Cortes and his men were driven out of the city. Cortes and his forces arrived at the plains of Otumba where they encountered the Aztec army. The Aztecs suffered from the absence of horses in their ranks and after a fierce battle, had to retreat.
Training for Aztec Warfare
Extensive training was undertaken for Aztec warfare due to the central importance of warfare in the Aztec empire. Every male member of society had to undergo basic military training at the school.
There were separate schools for the common people and the nobility but the common feature was the military training that was required for both. Veteran warriors trained the young boys in these schools in war tactics and various strategies.
Aztec Warfare Weaponry
The weapons used in Aztec warfare were of various kinds, including both short range and long range weapons. Use of weapons in Aztec warfare also reflected the division of society into different social classes.
Thus common people used different weapons from the nobles and warriors. The most common weapon used by the common people was the Aztec dark thrower which shot small darts with great force.
The standard weapon used by the warriors was called Macuahuitl which was a wooden sword with sharp obsidian blades. Various other short and long range weapons were also part of Aztec warfare.
Aztec Warfare and Fortifications
Aztecs made use of fortifications in warfare but it was not central to Aztec warfare. For instance, Aztecs maintained various fortifications at Oztuma where a garrison was built to keep the rebellious Chontales in check.
Another fortification was built in Quauhquechollan near Atlixco in order to deal with the traditional enemies of Tlaxcalteca, Chololteca and Huexotzinca. It was a normal practice in Aztec warfare to built fortifications near the enemy city-states to provide swift mobility of troops in the event of war.
Aztec Warfare: Organisation of Warriors and Rankings
There were various ranks in Aztec army which categorised the warriors into various classes. The porters who carried weapons during battles formed the lowest rank.
The next higher rank was of young soldiers still under training at the schools. After that came the rank of common soldiers called yaoquizqueh.
The commoners who captured war prisoners enjoyed higher rank. Above all these ranks of the common people were various warrior societies comprising of Aztec nobility.
Decline of Aztec Warfare
Aztec warfare declined as a result of onslaught of the Spanish Conquistadors. The Spaniards had superior war technology in the form of canons and one of the decisive advantages they enjoyed was the use of horses.
These were new things for the Aztecs and they could not effectively counter their impact. The culmination of Aztec decline came about when Hernan Cortes and his men conquered the capital city of the Aztecs.
Aztec Warfare Summary
Warfare in Aztec empire was of crucial importance both in terms of political and religious significance. It ensured steady inflow of tribute for political stability and war captives to be used in human sacrifices during religious ceremonies.
Aztecs males were trained in basic military tactics at school under the supervision of experienced warriors. Just like the society, the Aztec army was also divided into various ranks which reflected their social standing. Aztec warfare saw the use of a variety of weapons including both short and long range weapons.