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The nobility not only earned privileges bur could gain valuable land holdings. There were different statuses among soldiers, including elite units such as the Eagles and Jaguars which have been treated at length by many authors. Uniforms and Weaponry Seen on the battlefield, the Triple Alliance army was an impressive sight.
The prirnarv source or uniform information is the Codex Mendoza, a pictorial Aztec history in the Bodleian Library at Oxford University Anawalt: in press. Iniforrns were neither random, nor picked at the whim of the soldiers.
One company will wear them in red and white, another in blue and yellow, and others in various ways. Behind hiI11 is the Quet;wlrcflfmmitl.
When the tlatoani emperor appeared in the field he was ricbJy arrayed in garments which identified his name, imperial status, and connections with his men patron deity-often some form of royal or mythical lineage ancestor. The enormous quetzalfeather head-dress in the Vienna Museum of Natural Historj gi es an indication of the magnificence of warrior garb. Its glittering appearance could be recognized ca.
Leaders also wore the ehutul; a kind of protective vest and skirt which impeded blows to the legs: exposed legs offered opportunities for crippling potential captives. The officer corps was highlj ranked, with titles corresponding to general, colonel, captain, and so forth.
Officers wore elaborate capes or mantles called the timatli. The captains also wore ery large back-ornaments or 10 body standards so that as representatives of their units, they could be seen easily from the rear of the battleline by their superior officers.
The men themselves were is. The cuahchicqueh, or shock troops, wore a yellow tlahuizli. Members of the priesthood also engaged in combat and wore outfits corresponding to their ability. Shields were made ofv icker and painted, or covered in patterns of exotic feathers. These corresponded to the uniforms. The preferred tactic was to bring -as many troops as possible up in a line and charge the enemy. Drums and conch shell trumpets were used to announce advances; troops were then directed by a system of banners which corresponded to their regimental and status marking, orders being signalled from an adjacent hill where the commanding general himself would supervise the attack.
Weaponry varied in the Mexica army. The preferred weapon was the maquahuul, a heavy wooden club edged down two sides with razor-sharp obsidian blades. Its usage had been characteristic of traditional warfare among elite champions who settled their disputes without the involvement of their people. Its effectiveness naturally depended on the per onal skills of its owner in hand-to-hand combat. Aztec histories relate the eventual employment of foreign light infantry armed with slings and bows, however.
It was their job to shower the enemy before the initial attack until the vanguard could close with them. These shock troops tcuahchicqueh sing. They were then followed by the splendidly-outfitted veterans.
Battle Tactics The opening of combat usually took place at a range of around 50 yards. Troops then closed at the run, raising an ear-shattering clamour by beating their shields and shouting their community names. The ability to attack from high ground was consequently advantageous and was. Turning a flank in battle was difficult; the Aztec were generally successful because of the sheer numbers of men they could bring to the front thus extending their line without v cakening their centre.
Pictorial sources portray soldiers bearing shield devices indicari ve of the higher statuses having captured four or more of the enemy as leading the attack. Lesser status men were assigned to back up these heroes to learn their battIe skills through observation, and to provide temporary relief for the veterans who could fall back into I ine for rest during the engagement.
Once engagement had been achieved battles could last or hours, depending upon how many men the enemy could circulate at the front. The troop, tended to form wider-spaced ranks in combat in order to wield the maquahuitl more effectively.
The brutal nature of this weapon made combat bloody and dismemberment common. As seasoned warriors confronted each other in hand-to-hand fighting the men behind them harassed the enemy with a kind of combination spear and pole-axe tepozliJpali.
Capture of the enemy was an important motivation, and men tended to prefer death on the field to the prospect of captivity and sacrifice; consequently it was the younger and more inexperienced soldiers who were captured, hustled to the rear, and immobilized with heavy wooden collar.
The Aztec ruins of the central plaza of Tenochritlan. Tile officer carries Il tepoztopilli. Officers moved up and down the rear of the line carefully observing how much ground was gained by heir men. If a weakness in the enemy was detected announced by whistling among the men , flag signals were made and reserve units were directed into the fray to try to force a breach. Consequently the ztecs had worked out a system of feints and concealment.
The feint retreat in order to lure an enemy into an inferior position was considered to be the most superior form of the art of war in Mesoamerica. It could only be done with highly trained units operating in perfect unison, for it of en entailed backward movement while still maintaining a viable battle line.
The purpose of such complex manoeuvres was to turn the devious into the direct, and to ensure an economy of force for the coup de grcr. The Aztec practised several variations of the feint.
The pre-imperial Mexica lord Itzcoatl conquered the town of Cuitlahuac in around AD I by outfitting youths as an invading army, and sending them across a lagoon adjacent to the town by canoe. The army of Cuitlahuac moved forward to meet the attack, but suddenly found themselves surrounded by the regular Mexica army, which had heen concealed in ,1 marsh.
On other occasions boys as young as T2 were dressed as army units. During a war with Chalco they took up positions which led the enemy to think that they were to receive an assault on their right flank and to move to counter it.
This gave the regular army the opportunity to attack the weakened left flank. Ruses were used in combination with reserve troops concealed in tall standing corn, which grew in vast quantities around the communities being attacked. Trenches and holes were also dug and large numbers of men were hidden under straw. When Motecuhzoma I faced a fearsome Huaxtec army of over , men in he ordered 2, of the cnaluhicqueh to dig holes and conceal themselves under straw.
The regular army executed a successful feint at their centre and began to disengage and retreat, leading the Huaxtec into the prepared position. Positional war, or war for the possession of some defined battlefield area, was only practised when holding ground was considered ad- antageous. Once surrounded, an enemy was left with a means of escape in order to invoke a panic retreat by a prescribed route. The enemy could then be attacked when he was most Seven level s of secular military a chic vernerr l" are described in the Codex Mendoza.
The first top is a no vice who has captured one captive. Hc wears the plain ichcahuipilli or cotton quilted armour vest. The second is a cuextecatl two captives who wears a red uniform with black bands and a conical hB t adopted from the Huextcc.
The third wears the ichcahuipil li with a butterfly fall standard. The fourth wears a red jagllaJ" suit. The Efr.. From this status a soldier was eligible to become a commanding otlicer, or he could join tile sixth rank of cuahchicqueh, elite battalions that served as shock troops. The last figure is tbat of a general in Ill] elaborate cloalc. Urban Warfare Once the battle line was broken or the commanding officer was slain, the defeated army might flee back to their town. For the most part the armies of the Triple Alliance did not encounter fortifications.
Siege warfare was not highly developed because supply lines were insufficient to keep an Aztec army in static positions for e tended periods of time.
If the enemy had ufficicnt warning they could erect earthworks and palisades, hut these were scaled with ladders; battering rams were used on gates, and walls were undermined with picks. But the city itself was a most ingenious form of defence. This was part of the defensive strategy of communities. Once inside, an invader would not be able to penetrate the city centre without knowing a specific route; he could be lured into dead-ends to be trapped and attacked from all sides and above.
This was certainly true of Tenochtitlan. On numerous occasions the Tlaxcallans and Spanish were nearly annihilated in street fighting. It took them months to subjugate the city and then only after each house had been taken individually and dismantled. Carved of hardwood, it W8. Ie is constructed of quetzal tcather plumes. This was gathered by the pochteca or groups of itinerant traders who served as both ambassadors and spies. They were continually visiting the market centres fro;n one end of Mesoamerica to the other.
Since markets were customarily built adjacent to sacred precincts the pochteca were most familiar with the direct routes through the ci y. Sacred precincts were often walled and the temple pyramids contained within them could be manned as refuges or citadels. Such pyramids could be over roo feet in height, with steep sides and stepped platforms along which troops could arrange themselves, showering weapons and rocks onto the intruder until such rime as relief could be sent from other parts of the city.
Excavations at Tlaltelolco and the Tenochtitlan Ternplo Mayor provide excellent examples of these defensive capabilities. During the reign ofAxayacati Tenochtitlan shared control over their island city with the community of Tlal tel oleo, which had its own ruler named Moquihuix.
Tlalrelolco sought to dominate Tenochrirlan. Moquihuix accused a group of Tenochca princes of raping Tlaltelolcan women. He composed a plan by which he sought to overthrow xayacatl. Moving through the streets at night, the Tlaltelolcans attacked the Tenochca, but were repulsed. War broke out, and the Tenochca drove the Tlaltelolcans into confined areas of the city where they were surrounded and killed.
Moquihuix retreated to the sacred precinct of his ci ty and fortified himself, placing troops upon the pyramids arranged in the plaza. After several hours Axayacatl succeeded in breaching the walls and personally drove Moquihuix up the steps of his Temple Iayor; at the summit they duelled. Axayacatl slew Moquihuix by driving him off the back of the pyramid, where hefell to the plaza below. Policy in Victory The ruthlessness of the Aztec depended in large part on how determined a resistance an opponent put up.
The burning of fields and the destruction of stores could lead to the abandonment of a community which wa counter-productive to the gathering of tribute. Local kings were not executed, because they were the source of community authority needed to organize payment of the tribute.
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