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Aztec Military

Warfare was a vital part of everyday life for the Aztecs. They did not have a professional army but their military officers were professional. Every boy who was able was trained to fight. In readiness for adult life boys were taught about fighting and weapons at school. To fight in battle was considered a duty and an honor to fight in battle. The soldiers took the students to the battle and showed him how to take a prisoners. Manhood was achieved after he captured his first prisoner.

The Aztec's courage and strength helped them build their empire and establish themselves as the fiercest of all the tribes in the Valley of Mexico. The Aztecs were constantly at war with nearby tribes and easily defeated them. When war was declared it was ahappy time and was realized as a time to demenstrate their warrior skills in battle. Soldiers wore costumes that were designed to frighten their enemies. They were dressed as jaguar warriors with ocelot skins and eagle warriors who wore a helmet that was like the beak of the bird of prey. Regular troops had costumes with patterns and had emblems from feathers and leather. The jaguar and eagle warriors were considered nobility. Their elaborate costumes were worn to show the their strength and importance in Aztec society.

The Aztecs and their enemies fought with spears, slings, bows, and arrows. Razor sharp blades were chipped from obsidian and mounted on weapons like wooden clubs. But, obsidian blades soon lost their edge and were easily broken. The Aztecs wore close-fitting breastplates and used wooden shields for protection. Brightly colored feathers adorned the warrior's leather or wooden shield. Below the shield was leather strips for protection of his legs. Their armor was padded cotton made into suits fitted to the body. The Aztecs went to war in part because they believed the gods had given them all Mexican lands. They also fought to get more supplies and land for their growing population. And they warred to have victims to sacrifice to the gods.

A place was chosen for the battle where the armies met. The fighting was started after insults and more cries were called out and drums and conch shell trumpets were played. The battle was most likely short and was stopped when the weaker side surrendered and prisoners were taken.

The object was to disable an enemy by hitting his legs so he could be taken prisoner. So, there were very few casualties. After the battle the opponents' town was looted and the people captured. Captives were brought to Tenochtitlan. Prisoners were the war trophies since they were used as sacrifices in religious ceremonies. Soldiers would sometimes want death as their right after they had been captured. A defeated soldier became part of a family and was treated like a son until it was time for him to be sacrificed. The Aztecs sacrificed thousands of people each year.

2010 Aztec.com. All rights reserved. Graphics by Scott Hunter. Produced by Aztec Systems Corp.