The Aztecs had no professional army but they
had professional military officers. When a boy was born his umbilical
cord was cut off and dried and then buried on a battle field
signifying that his life would be dedicated to warfare. Every
able bodied boy was trained to fight. Soldiers were ordinary
A vital part of everyday life for the Aztecs
was warfare. All able body men were trained to be warriors. In
readiness for adult life boys learned about fighting and weapons
at school. To fight in battle was considered a duty and an honor.
Warriors helped teach in the calmecacs. The warriors took the
students to the wars and taught him how to take a prisoner captive.
A boy became a man 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. They easily defeated
attacks from neighboring tribes. Declarations of war were greeted
with joy; it 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 ocelot skins
and eagle warriors who wore a helmet shaped like the beak of
a bird of prey. Ordinary troops wore costumes decorated with
patterns and had war emblems made from feathers and leather.
A site was chosen for the battle and the armies
met. The fighting began after insults and more cries were called
out and drums and conch 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 disable an opponent by striking
at his leg so he could be easily taken prisoner. Thus, the battles
left very little casualties. After the battle the enemies' town
was looted and the people were captured. Prisoners were the real
war trophies since they were used as sacrifices in religious
festivals. Soldiers sometimes demanded death as their right after
they had been captured. A soldier became part of a family and
was treated like a son until it was time for him to be sacrificed.
Aztec jaguar and eagle warriors were members
of the nobility. Their elaborate costumes were worn to show the
wearer's strength and importance in the Aztec society. The warrior's
leather or wooden shield was decorated with brightly colored
feathers. Below the warrior's shield hung leather strips to protect
his legs. Their wooden clubs were edged with extremely sharp
blades of obsidian. A thong held the club to their wrists.
The Aztecs and their enemies used spears,
slings, bows, and arrows to fight at close range. Razor sharp
blades were chipped from obsidian and mounted on weapons. A freshly
made obsidian blade was sharper than the Spaniards steel swords.
But, obsidian blades soon lost their edge and were easily broken.
The Spaniards used steel swords, guns, and cannons that could
take out many Aztecs at a time. The Aztecs wore close-fitting
breastplates and used wooden shields for protection. The Spaniards
armor was better suited for fighting in Europe, the Aztecs' lightweight
breastplates were sometimes substituted for their hot and heavy
YOU KNOW That after
four years dead warriors would come back to earth as a hummingbird
or as a butterfly.