The Flower Wars Of The Aztec Empires

Samuel Reason

Known as the Flowery War or The Flower War was a type of ritual battle that happened during the time of the Aztec Triple Alliances. It was thought to have happened during the mid-1450s, fought between the alliance and its enemies up until the Spaniards arrived. This would have been with neighboring cities such as Tlaxcala, Huejotzingo, and Cholula. However, in these wars, the fighting would follow strict ritual conventions.

The origin of the concept is disputed, however, it is confirmed that the war was all agreed upon by each state. Most of what we know about the Flower War is written by a Texcoco nobleman by the name of Ixtlixochitl, he states that it had to due with famine and crop failure. The Aztec empire was going hungry and the priests advised the gods were unhappy. The only solution was to offer the gods numerous sacrifices of many men. Therefore, the cities engaged in ritual warfare where the losers would be given up to be a human sacrifice to the gods.

While engaging in a Flower War, the armies would meet at a preset date and a selected place. They were always on sacred sites, the start of the fighting would always be announced by an immense burning. The two armies would burn huge fires of paper and incense between them. In a flower war battle, no ranged weapons such as darts, stones, or bows would be used. Every combattant would use a battle-ax weapon known as the macuahuitl. This was because it required skill and the need to be close to the enemy.

Furthermore, both armies used an equal amount of soldiers and many of the soldiers would be from noble families. This was because the Aztecs believed dying in the flower war would be nobler than dying in a typical war.

Historians still debate the purpose of these ritual wars. Some say that it was simply for real battle training. Whereas, others advise it was for religious sacrifice. For example, when one of Cortez’s captains asked the leader of the Aztec empire Moctezuma II why they had never conquered the weaker state of Tlaxcala outright. He was told that Tlaxcala was a convenient place to gather the required sacrifices and train their soldiers. Others mention that during the flower wars that the Aztec army would regularly besiege Tlaxcalan towns or cut off their supplies. Suggesting that these wars were supposed to conquer the Tlaxacalans but simply couldn’t for some reason.

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