Aztec were a great warring civilisation. Wars were waged not just to conquer and annex new lands and regions to the Empire, but also to bring captives to the city of Tenochtitlan for human sacrifices.
Capturing of sacrificial victims was considered an esteemed achievement among Aztec warriors. These warriors were divided into a number of ranks based on their performance and their units bore unique names.
Aztecs believed that the god of the night sky, Tezcatlipoca, was represented by the symbol of a jaguar. Based on this, the most accomplished Aztec warriors wore costumes similar to the jaguar skin. They were an elite unit of the Aztec fighting army and were notable for bringing in the largest number of sacrificial captives. The most important condition for becoming a jaguar warrior was to capture as many as twelve warriors in two consecutive battles.
Eagle warriors were another elite unit of Aztec military, at par in esteem with the jaguar warriors. Eagle warriors dressed up as eagle, so that their costume comprised of claws and a beaked headdress. Their costume was further adorned with feathers which they believed gave them more powers. These warriors served as scouts during an active war as well as frontline combatants. They were distinguished by their daring deeds in the battlefield, which primarily comprised of capturing large numbers of captives for sacrifice to Aztec gods.
The Shorn Ones
Shorn Ones were another unit of Aztec warriors who had their heads shaved and carried a long braid at the back of their head. They were reputed for never stepping back in the battlefield. Reaching the rank of the Shorn Ones usually required capturing six or more warriors. The Shorn Ones usually refused to receive any titles of seniority and remained combatants so that they could continue to wage war on the battlefield.
Tlamanih was another type of Aztec warrior. The title means “captor” and it referred to such warriors who had captured one captive for the gods.
Cuextacatl was a title for such Aztec warriors who successfully captured at least two captives. They were identified by their conical hats.
Papalotl was a title accorded to such Aztec warriors who captured three captives during battle. Their title means “butterfly” and they wore the symbol of a butterfly on their banners.
Otomies were another type of Aztec warriors who were notable for their fierce fighting abilities. It has been theorised that Otomies probably referred to such warriors who hailed from the regions allied to the Aztecs and were not directly a part of the Aztec society.
Aztec Warriors Summary
The Aztec Empire heavily relied on warfare to bring more domains under its control and to expand its power. For this purpose, various ranks and titles for Aztec warriors existed. These were usually meant to recognise the bravery of the warrior and their tact on the battlefield. Among the most eminent Aztec warrior units were the Eagle and Jaguar warriors. The Shorn Ones were also considered a fierce unit of Aztec warriors.