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Aztec Military

The Role of the Aztec Warriors

Aztec warriors served the ruler of the empire. In the Aztec Empire, warfare contributed to both political purposes as well as ritual purposes. The political purpose was to defend the empire as well as expanding it. The ritual purposes supported the belief of the Aztec gods; it was believed that the gods granted the Aztec rulers the right to rule. After battles to appeal to the gods, the warriors would sacrifice prisoners. The Aztec’s were almost always in war, so that meant there many prisoners, especially since it was encouraged to capture others. Warfare brought power and much wealth to the Aztecs, the wealth helped pay for the updates they had to their magnificent capitol city.

A Typical Aztec Warrior

A life of an Aztec warrior started at a young age, it started with a good education and training on the battlefield. The Aztec men were expected to become great warriors. When you were done with your training and were allowed into the military, you were ranked from commoners to elite. The lower ranks wore Ichcahuipilli which is a quilted cotton armor that is 1-2 fingers thick (this may seem like it’s not fit for war, but in this case it was considering the weather and how much they travel). The purpose of Ichcahuipilli is to protect the warrior from obsidian blades found on swords and other weapons, arrows and bows, and atlatl darts. For those warriors who were lucky enough, they received small shields made of wood and twisted fibers, with painted designs and some even had feathers hanging from their weapons. The most highly skilled fighters were eagle and jaguar warriors. Those who were eagle and jaguar warriors wore costumes resembling the honorable animals, they were named after (this had to do with their culture). The eagle represented the forces of light which represented with the males; the jaguar represented the forces of the dark which represented with the females. Your rank depended on your skill and social class. It was possible to receive a higher rank, which involved the capturing of the opponents.

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Aztec warriors had multiple weapons that could be used at war. The signature weapon for the Aztecs was the Atlatl. An Atlatl was a dart with great accuracy, and it had greater penetration than bows and arrows or slings. However most warriors were armed with weapons such as clubs that had wooden balls at the end and had obsidian blades attached, hatchets, bows and arrows, slings made of maguey fiber and hurled rocks.

             Macuanuitl

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 Atlatl

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Tepoztopilli

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La Noche Triste 

La Noche Triste is spanish for  “The Sad Night”, which describes the night of the battle. This battle is how the Spaniards decided to return to the Aztec’s capital. They attempted to restore their position, but did not succeed in doing so. Thinking Moctezuma could control his people they forced him upon a roof. However his people did not listen and somewhere from the crowd he was injured and claimed to have died days later. When the word got out Moctezuma passed away, his people grew angry and started a revolt. The Aztec’s trapped the Spaniards in the city; and they cut off their food supply. One night the Spaniards planned an escape, they built a bridge, after they crossed, the streets seemed quiet… and then out of nowhere the Spaniards were attacked. For the rest of the night they battled with the Aztec’s, the battle managed to move all the way to the shore, multiple people were killed and untold riches were lost in the sludge at the bottom of the shallow lake nearby.

Battle of Tenochtitlán

Hernán Cortés was determined to reach Tenochtitlán. Cortés led his forces to the capital where  they were amazed by the treasures the city holds. Moctezuma welcomed Cortés to his capital. Eventually tensions rose, and the Spanish scorned the Aztec’s religion and wanted them to be Christians. The longer the Spaniards stayed in the city, the more treasure of the Aztec’s they saw. The Spaniards decided that they were going to imprison Moctezuma so they can claim the Aztec’s and their riches. Moctezuma was forced to give up his land and treasures to the Spanish. Meanwhile more Spanish conquistadors arrived on the coast ready to take control of the Aztec’s as well. In the end the Aztec’s overpowered the Spaniards and drove them out of their capital, but in the process of doing so, half of the Spanish were killed as well as the Aztec ruler: Moctezuma.

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