The fearsome Aztec warriors of what is now central Mexico were highly feared at their time of prominence, their dedicated warrior training and love of warfare made them dangerous foes for any man, tribe or army.
For an Aztec man, the most prestigious career he could have in his often short life was that a mighty warrior. To win the respect of your society on the battlefield was one of the quickest ways to achieve status, and few had more status in Aztec society than their finest warriors.
In the ancient Aztec society being born into nobility, known as pipiltin, was the highest form of status. But of course not every Aztec man is born into this favoured life, most Aztec boys would grow up as part of the macehualtin, the Aztec commoners.
Through warfare an Aztec man was able to rise above this commoner status and rise into a mighty warrior, by killing and capturing foes on the battlefield. By proving effective an Aztec warrior would be able to successfully advance his military career, and of course this was controlled by the amount of captives he could procure from the battles and wars fought and waged by the Aztecs.
Maybe one day a might Aztec warrior could rise up from a novice youth, to a general, commanding general, chief or even the tlacatecubhtli, which in ancient Nahuatl translates to 'the lord of the warriors', a rank that was considered so powerful it was on a par with a mighty Aztec emperor.
The famed Eagle and Jaguar warriors were a warrior order in the ancient Aztec military. Read more about the Aztec Eagle and Jaguar Warriors >>
The Otamies were an elite Aztec order, available to only the finest Aztec warriors of the time. Read more about the Aztec Otamies >>
If an Aztec warrior was a member of the Shorn Ones then they were the best of the best. Read more about the Aztec Shorn Ones >>
The Aztecs favoured light armour, in the warm heat of Mesoamerica it was important to stay cool. Read more about the Aztec Warrior Armour >>
The priests in Aztec times were not only religious men but also superb warriors as well. Read more about the Aztec Warrior Priests >>
The Aztec military was very structured, with varying ranks and orders available to join. Read more about the Aztec Warrior Ranks >>
The Aztec warriors trained diligently for the battlefield, their bravery and skill would be noted. Read more about the Aztec Warrior Training >>
The Aztec people settled in the valleys of Mexico back in the 6th century, and the foundations of an empire began. It would be much later in the mid 13th century when the Aztec people hit their stride, and the Aztec warriors would fight and go to war for their society.
The Aztec people were very war focused. It was important for them to go to war to not only expand and ensure the success of their empire, but also to capture prisoners of war. These prisoners of war would often be used as sacrifices in one of their many religious practises that defined the Aztec peoples.
The Aztec were highly militarized and it was an important part of their life. They had multiple rankings and orders that were earned and achieved by each individual Aztec. The Aztec military had in essence traditional military style rankings, but they also added additional elements, rankings and orders that an Aztec warrior could achieve or gain membership too. To achieve these rankings, or to join the orders required feats of bravery, skill and talent in battle. The primary foundation of these feats would be the capturing of sacrificial victims, which was hugely important to the Aztec people and their religious beliefs and practises.
For the Aztec warriors the ability to transcend their born status was truly possible, even commoners had the ability to achieve and move through the many rankings and order employed by the Aztec military.
The Aztec people were not metal forgers, this in turn affected the type of weaponry they built and used. Without iron, the commonly found metals were typically not suitable for blade construction, so the Aztecs used a local volcanic rock called Obsidian to create sharp edges. These rock blades would be attached to wooden batons, creating a sword of sorts known to the Aztecs as the Macuahuitl. The Aztecs also employed plenty of other weaponry on the battlefield too, slings, spears, bows and arrows and clubs and maces were all common place.
The warriors of the ancient Aztec people, wore suitable armour for their environment. Light but protective cotton vests known as ichcahuipilli would offer the basic protection for all warriors, with war suits known as the tlahuiztli being used by the higher ranking warriors. Shields were a must have also, for deflecting blows and protecting a warrior from projectile attacks. For the very elite warriors helmets were common, often fashioned from wood into a revered animal visage, these helmets were protective and useful for provoking fear into the Aztecs foes.
Not only were the priests an integral part of Aztec society, performing religious rituals, ceremonies and helping in government matters, they were also fine warriors. The Aztec warrior priests shared many traits with the traditional warriors of the Aztec army. Both had the opportunity for progression through sacrificial captures of enemies, and both were adept at swinging a Macuahuitl with intent.
Some of the most revered warriors in the times of the ancient Aztecs, the Eagle and Jaguar warriors were also some of the most elite and battle ready warriors in the Aztec army.
To gain order to this high status order of warriors, a feat of great bravery would be required, and the ability to capture numerous sacrifices in continuous battles. Only the best warriors were allowed into this order, but once there they would reap the benefits, Eagle and Jaguar warriors were afforded many perks in Aztec society.
The only warriors in Aztec society that were more revered than the jaguar and eagle warriors were the elite classes of the shorn ones and the otamies. The shorn ones were the pinnacle of the Aztec warrior classes, but joining was not possible for everyone. Brave feats and many captives would be required to join, and likely to join meant you were already a member of the otamies, the rank just below the might shorn ones.
Brutal and fearsome, with highly decorative outfits, battles in Mesoamerica were likely colourful affairs when the Aztec warriors were involved. With a structured path for growth in the army, this very military focused society worked hard to train their future warriors, with the hope they would eventually rise to join one of the many elite Aztec warrior orders.