The Progress of an Aztec Warrior

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The image of "The Progress of an Aztec Warrior" taken from the Codex Mendoza gives us some idea of the highly ritualized, even religious, character of Aztec warfare (Austin 209). The dress adopted by Aztec warriors was hardly protective: from the depictions in the Codex Mendoza it appears that they fought mostly naked. Although protected by a shield, otherwise they were adorned with feathers, flowers, and animal skins, indicating that the warrior's identity was in some way dedicated to the totemic animal-gods of the Aztec religion. But the ideology of warfare was practically inculcated in the Aztecs from birth. Inga Clendinnen notes that childbed was conventionally designated a battlefield, where a woman could 'take a captive' by capturing a baby. The midwife greeted the birth of a male child with warcries and a formal exhortation, addressed to the child, but directed, of course, to the panting, newly delivered mother, who was emphatically not given the baby to hold: "My precious son, my youngest one…heed, hearken: thy home is not here, for thou art an eagle, a jaguar…here is only the place of thy nest…out there thou hast been consecrated…War is thy desert, thy task. Thou shalt give drink, nourishment, food to the sun, lord of the earth…perhaps thou wilt receive the gift, perhaps thou wilt merit death by the obsidian knife…The flowered death by the obsidian knife [that is, death on the killing stone] (Clendinnen 17) Because the Aztec mode of warfare was focused on

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