Eagle warrior

Eagle warriors or eagle knights (Classical Nahuatl: cuāuhtli) were a special class of infantry soldier in the Aztec army, one of the two leading military orders in Aztec society. These military orders were made up of the bravest soldiers of noble birth and those who had taken the greatest number of prisoners in battle. Of all of the Aztec warriors, they were the most feared. Eagle warriors, along with the Jaguar warriors, were the only such societies which did not restrict access solely to the nobility, as commoners "macehuales" were occasionally admitted for special merit. The "Eagles" were soldiers of the sun, for the eagle was the symbol of the sun.

The life of Aztec warriors was one of constant battle, as the primary purpose for this continual warfare was to take prisoners to be sacrificed to their gods. As the Aztec empire expanded, however, the expansion of the empire in size and power became increasingly important. .


All Aztec boys, both free commoners and nobility, learned about weaponry and warfare as part of their basic education. Until the age of fourteen, the education of children was in the hands of their parents, but was supervised by the authorities of their Calpulli. Periodically they attended their local temples, which tested their progress. However, only the best students could progress to become eagle warriors.

Rite of passage

At the age of 17, young Aztec men became warriors and entered formal military training. The recruits were expected to be brave and noble. Those who were of noble lineage also received training in religion, politics, or history by the priests. To achieve adult status, a boy had to capture his first prisoner.

Aztec warriors could move up in ranking by capturing enemies. After capturing four enemies, they were eligible to become either a jaguar or eagle Aztec warrior knight.

Weaponry and battledress

The warriors used a number of weapons, including an atlatl, bows, spears and daggers. The Aztec blades were made by setting obsidian within wood. The stone was sharper than steel but quickly lost its edge. Firestones were flung at enemies using slings made of wool. Most Aztec weapons were intended to stun and capture opponents rather than to kill them.

The uniform of Eagle warriors signified both courage on the battlefield and physical strength. The Aztecs wore a lightweight close-fitting breastplate which suited the Mesoamerican climate. Their shields were round, brightly coloured and decorated with feathers. A warrior's legs would be covered with leather strips, an archaic version of greaves. As headgear, Eagle warriors wore the heads of eagles, including an open beak, and used eagle feathers as adornments.

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