Aztec Military

When a boy was born his umbilical cord was cut off and dried and then buried on a battle field showing that his life would be dedicated to warfare. Every boy was trained to fight. When the soldiers were not fighting though, they were ordinary people with regular jobs.

An important part of everyday life for the Aztecs was warfare. To be ready later in life, boys learned about fighting and weapons at school. To fight in battle was an honor. Warriors helped teach in the schools. The warriors took the students to the wars and taught them how to take a prisoner and kill. A boy became a man after he captured his first prisoner or killed his first man.

The Aztec's courage and strength helped them build their empire and make them the toughest of all the tribes in Central America. They easily defeated attacks from other tribes. When enemies would declare war on the Aztecs, there was great joy. War was seen by Aztec warriors as a time to show their skills in battle. Soldiers dressed in costumes designed to scare their enemies such as the jaguar warriors who wore jaguar skins and eagle warriors who wore a helmet shaped like the beak. Ordinary soldiers wore costumes decorated with patterns and had decorations made from feathers and leather.

War was much different for the Aztecs than it is today. First, a place for the battle was chosen by the two enemies. Then the two enemies met on the field and there was shouting and dancing between the two enemies while drums and shell trumpets were played. Then the fighting began. The battle was usually short and ended with the surrender of the weaker side and the taking of prisoners.

The plan was to hurt an opponent by striking at his leg so he could be easily taken prisoner. Because of this, there were many battles where not many were killed- - it was better to make an enemy your slave than to just kill him. After the battle the enemies' town was robbed and destroyed and the people were captured. Prisoners were the real war trophies since they were used as sacrifices in religious festivals. Many soldiers taken prisoner would be sacrificed (killed) to the Aztec gods. Others became slaves and became part of a family and was treated like a son until it was time for him to be sacrificed or released.

The Aztecs and their enemies used spears, slings, bows, and arrows to fight at close range. Razor sharp blades were chipped from obsidian (stone) and put on clubs. A newly made obsidian blade was sharper than a steel sword! But, obsidian blades soon lost their edge and were easily broken. The Aztecs wore very little armor.