Aztec Military Hierarchy

Hierarchy is established in military systems to provide organization. Orders can be sent through the ranks by those of higher rank or status to their inferiors who will carry them out without question. For the Aztec this was no different, but with the importance of the military for cultural reasons the military hierarchy affected many levels of society.

Hierarchy was established from the day of birth for young boys, as the date of their birth gave a glimpse into the future as how mighty a warrior they would be. Whether they would be mighty or not however, they would still be sent from their homes during their childhood to start their life as warriors for the empire. Children of noble birth started their education at a young age, usually between six and thirteen, at a school called a calmecac. The program of this school was rigorous, covering not only combat training from Jaguar Knights and Eagle Warriors, but also the academic study of calendars, math, reading, and writing. Religious education was also a part of the curriculum as religion ties into all aspects of Aztec life. For everyone else in Aztec society, young boys would receive little training at home until they reached the age of fourteen. Then, they would be taken to telpochcalli. This is the military school for the common folk which are ran by older military veterans. Here, these children would be put in various tactical situations, teaching them troop movement, hand-to-hand combat, and mastery over numerous weapons. [1]

Once trained and proven as warriors, students of both schools could officially join the military as soldiers. Like all military systems there are prestige systems to raise your way through the ranks, whether it is through time put into service, brave deeds or other valiant actions. The Aztec system was a little different because ones rank was determined by the number of opponents they have captured on the battlefield. This was usually easier for students of the Calmecac School due not only to their superior training, but also to the social standing of their family. This is evident in the number of Jaguar Warriors that are of noble descent, compared to Jaguar Warriors who were commoners. To even become a Jaguar Warrior, a common soldier would need to capture four prisoners. Capturing a single prisoner was hard enough, but capturing any prisoners single handedly meant a promotion. It was not straight to Jaguar or Eagle Warrior, which are top of the line, but a promotion nevertheless which meant an upgrade in weaponry, armor, and title.

With promotion came responsibility, and the hierarchy holds separate jobs for high ranking soldiers besides simply being a warrior. Some veteran warriors of above average status would be teachers at the telpochcalli, while even older veterans would put up their weapons and become tacticians. Jaguar warriors and Eagle warriors held a large variety of roles in the temples in Tenochtitlan. Some would act as guards for these temples, while others played a more direct role in religious activities, like during the gladiatorial sacrifices at the Tizoc Stone, where Jaguar warriors would attack an armed captive that was tied to the stone. The calmecac school was a part of a temple, so Jaguar warriors would also train children through these temples. The study into this military hierarchy is important for understanding the Aztec and what they held as important aspects of life. With how engrained the military is in their society, whether it is training all male children to be warriors or the amount of respect and jobs given to these warriors, it is clear how important war was to their culture.