Flower war
A flower war or flowery war is the name given to the battles fought between the Aztec Triple Alliance
Aztec Triple Alliance
The Aztec Triple Alliance, or Aztec Empire began as an alliance of three Nahua city-states or "altepeme": Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan...

 and some of their enemies: most notably the city-states of Tlaxcala
Tlaxcala (Nahua state)
Tlaxcala was a pre-Columbian city state of central Mexico.Tlaxcala was a confederation of four altepetl — Ocotelolco, Quiahuiztlan, Tepeticpac and Tizatlan — which each took turns providing a ruler for Tlaxcala as a whole.-History:Tlaxcala was never conquered by the Aztec empire, but was...

, Huejotzingo, Atlixco
Atlixco is a city and a municipality in the Mexican state of Puebla. It is located only 24 km south of the city of Puebla, yet it is 300 meters lower in altitude, at 1840 m. This drop in altitude causes a noticeable change in the weather of the city compared to the surrounding regions of the...

 and Cholula
Cholula (Mesoamerican site)
Cholula , was an important city of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, dating back to at least the 2nd century BCE, with settlement as a village going back at least some thousand years earlier. The great site of Cholula stands just west of the modern city of Puebla. Its immense pyramid exceeds the Pyramid...



In his Durán Codex, Diego Durán
Diego Durán
Diego Durán was a Dominican friar best known for his authorship of one of the earliest Western books on the history and culture of the Aztecs, The History of the Indies of New Spain, a book that was much criticized in his lifetime for helping the "heathen" maintain their culture.Also known as the...

 states that the Flower wars were instigated by the Aztec Cihuacoatl
Cihuacoatl (position)
The cihuacoatl was a supreme leader or advisor within the Aztec system of government....

, Tlacaelel
Tlacaelel I was the principal architect of the Aztec Triple Alliance and hence the Mexica empire. He was the son of Emperor Huitzilihuitl and Queen Cacamacihuatl, nephew of Emperor Itzcoatl, and brother of Emperors Chimalpopoca and Moctezuma I.During the reign of his uncle Itzcoatl, Tlacaelel was...

, because of a great famine that occurred during the reign of Moctezuma I
Moctezuma I
Moctezuma I , also known as Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina, Huehuemotecuhzoma or Montezuma I , was the fifth Aztec emperor - king of Tenochtitlan...

, which could only be assuaged through the means of human sacrifice. As a result, a treaty was signed between Tenochtitlan (the Aztec capital), Texcoco, Tlaxcala and Huejotzingo, to engage in ritual battles which would provide fresh victims. However another source, noble historian Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin
Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin
Domingo Francisco de San Antón Muñón Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin , usually referred to simply as Chimalpahin or Chimalpain, was a Nahua annalist from Chalco...

, mentions an earlier Flower War between Mexica
The Mexica were a pre-Columbian people of central Mexico.Mexica may also refer to:*Mexica , a board game designed by Wolfgang Kramer and Michael Kiesling*Mexica , a 2005 novel by Norman Spinrad...

 and the Chalca.

The sixteenth century chronicle a History of Tlaxcala, by Tlaxcalan Diego Muñoz Camargo
Diego Muñoz Camargo
Diego Muñoz Camargo was the author of History of Tlaxcala, an illustrated codex that highlights the religious, cultural, and military history of the Tlaxcalan people.-Life:...

 contains a legend of a powerful Tlaxcalteca warrior called Tlahuiçole, who was captured, but because of his fame as a warrior he was freed and then fought with the Aztecs against the Tarascans
Tarascan state
The Tarascan state was a state in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica, roughly covering the geographic area of the present-day Mexican state of Michoacán. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Mexico it was the second-largest state in Mexico. The state was founded in the early 14th century and lost its...

 in Michoacan
Michoacán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Michoacán de Ocampo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 113 municipalities and its capital city is Morelia...

. He received honors, but instead of returning to Tlaxcala he chose to die in sacrifice. There were eight days of celebrations in his honor, and then he killed the first eight warriors. Still insisting on being sacrificed, he fought and wounded 20 more warriors before being defeated and sacrificed.


The exact nature of the Flower Wars is not well determined but a number of different interpretations of the concept exist. One popular idea of the Flower Wars is that it was a special institutionalized kind of warfare where two enemy states would plan battles through mutual arrangement in order to satisfy the religious needs of both combatants for war captives to use in sacrificial rituals
Human sacrifice in Aztec culture
Human sacrifice was a religious practice characteristic of pre-Columbian Aztec civilization, as well as of other mesoamerican civilizations such as the Maya and the Zapotec. The extent of the practice is debated by modern scholars...

, but also, possibly, to train young warriors and enable social mobility which for the lower classes was primarily possible through military service. This view is based on a number of quotes from early chroniclers and also from the letters of Cortés
Cortes is surname of Spanish and Portuguese origin. Cortes or Cortés may also refer to:-Institutions:* The Cortes , the national legislative assembly of Spain...

. However in recent years this interpretation has been doubted by scholars such as Nigel Davies and Ross Hassig, who argues that "the mutual arrangement" of the flower war institution is dubious, and suggest that the Flower War was in fact a low-intensity, sustained conflict with the Aztec side trying to wear down the Tlaxcalteca in order to later conquer them entirely.

Though Hassig suggests that interpretations of the Flower Wars have been exaggerated, he accepts that captives of these wars were in fact sacrificed. Hassig believes that captives of the Flower Wars were not the only sacrificial victims, that such captives were involved in only some Aztec rites, and that they were not involved in the ostentatious 1487 ceremony dedicating the last form of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan
Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan
The ' was one of the main temples of the Aztecs in their capital city of Tenochtitlan, which is now Mexico City. Its architectural style belongs to the late Postclassic period of Mesoamerica...


Aztec warriors were trained to prefer capturing their enemies in battle to killing them. This behaviour has been cited as a cause of the defeat of their civilization by the Europeans. To the Aztecs' amazement, the Spanish
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

Conquistadors were Spanish soldiers, explorers, and adventurers who brought much of the Americas under the control of Spain in the 15th to 16th centuries, following Europe's discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus in 1492...

es and their allies actually tried to kill their enemies in battle. But this idea has been largely dismissed by Matthew Restall, who makes clear that the Aztec warriors quickly adapted their strategies to this kind of warfare and fiercely resisted the Spanish forces.

It has been suggested that the taking of prisoners during these military encounters may have been a function of institutionalized terror on the part of the Aztec state rather than the normal course of warfare. Those who were captured served the interests of their captors much better when their deaths were removed from the battlefield and made into a civic and religious spectacle. This terrific example supposedly served as a means by which a ruling Aztec dynasty demonstrated political power and coerced its citizenry toward certain social norms. Though religion played a major role, it may have been overemphasized as the sacrifices were also legal, state-sanctioned events.

The motives behind the these conflicts is still in question. Much of the speculation over their cause stems from a belief that the Aztec military superiority was sufficient to have overcome their enemies had they only wished to do so. Why then, was the violence so protracted, if not for some purpose the Aztecs found in its longevity? However, this supposed Aztec martial supremacy is now also being questioned. Although the Tlaxcala-Pueblan Valley eventually fell to the Aztec Triple Alliance, it may have been that this region was simply too resilient for the Aztecs to pacify in the struggles prior to 1518-19. In the Nahuatl language a difference is made between the so-called Flower War (xochi yaoyotl) and a real, or mortal “angry” war (cocoltic yaoyotl). Whether one may have evolved into the other is unclear.
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