Warfare in Ancient Civilizations Warfare Term Paper

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The Mayans, the Itzcouatl, Tepanecas, the Aztecs of Tenochtitlan were warring civilizations, intolerable of encroachment (Spinden, p. 209). The latter three groups formed defensive alliances, and divided their spoils of war (Spinden, p. 209).

Spanish historians often liken Tenochtitlan to the seat of an empire and speak of the ruler as one who had the power of an absolute monarch while other and more recent writers have declared that the tribal organization of the Aztecs was essentially democratic. The truth doubtless lies between these extremes. The people were warlike by nature and all men, except a few of the priesthood, were soldiers. Honors depended largely upon success in war and warriors were arranged in ranks according to their deeds. The common warriors formed one rank and next came those who had distinguished themselves by definite achievements which gave the right to wear certain articles of dress or to bear certain titles. The chiefs were elected for an indefinite term of office from the most distinguished fighters and could be removed for cause (Spinden, pp. 209-210)."


The Mayan records indicate that they were a defensive society, and that even after they broke into social groups, they did not tolerate territorial encroachment (Spinden, p. 150). "The Temple of the High Priest's Grave is a developed example of the new style bearing the date December 31, 1339 a.D. The elaborate Group of the Columns with the famous Temple of the Warriors, may be still later (Spinden, p. 150)." It was no different in the other regions of Mesoamerica, and there was a need to protect the vital resources of crops and other natural resources upon which their civilizations depended upon. The Mesoamerican groups were no less influenced in their warring by their gods, goddesses, and pagan beliefs. "Warriors killed in battle go to the House of the Sun (Spinden, p. 234)." This is a common theme found in Mayan and Aztec artwork (Spinden, p. 234). It suggests that battles were fought in part to satisfy the gods of the men's strength and virility that was required to secure a place in eternity, House of the Sun.

The weaponry of the Mesoamerican groups are ceremonial type axes, spears, and knobby clubs (Spinden, p. 58). Spears, too, were typical of the Mesoamerican warriors (Spinden, p. 58). Joyce O. Hertzler (1936) points out ancient civilizations were more prone to war because of their communication styles and mechanisms from place to place, and because they did not have widespread contact beyond their own civilization's groups (Hertzler, p. 7). Hertzler points out, too, that the ancient civilizations that left voluminous amounts of writings, hieroglyphics, and other ancient sources of history, all point to the fact that the ancients were groups that quarreled, made war upon each other, invaded, and conquered one another for dynastic control (Hertzler, p. 81). That this internal or civil war precedent among ancient civilizations would escalate into civilization against civilization with mankind's ability to travel beyond his own geographical space is perhaps by way of the civil wars historically predictable and expected.

The invention and spread of agriculture coupled with the domestication of animals in the fifth millennium set the stage for the emergence of the first large-scale, complex urban societies. These societies appeared almost simultaneously around 4000 B.C. In both Egypt and Mesopotamia. Within five hundred years stone tools and weapons gave way to bronze, and with bronze manufacture came a revolution in warfare (Gabriel, Richard a and Metz, Karen S., 1991, p. 1)."

The need to offset nature when it took its toll on one civilization's crops, or be it the imperialist notion of expansion, mankind's progress in creating a higher stability within his own society or civilization, likewise meant the destabilization of other society's as ancient civilizations moved from civil war, to invading war for purposes of acquiring power, land, and resources.

In summary, it would be fair to say that mankind's propensity for waging war is one that can be traced to the ancient tribes of every civilization on earth. It might also be surmised, especially given the role of religious deities and pagan beliefs, that the impetus to make war arose out of superstition as much as it did out of the need to offset nature with resources. Mankind is an archeological and historically proven warring species.

Works Cited


Freeman, Charles. Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999. Book online. Available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=35516993.Internet. Accessed 26 August 2008. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=24390253

Gabriel, Richard a., and Karen S. Metz. From Sumer to Rome: The Military Capabilities of Ancient Armies. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1991. Book online. Available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=24390253.Internet. Accessed 26 August 2008. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=62057071

Hertzler, Joyce O. The Social Thought of the Ancient Civilizations. 1st ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1936. Book online. Available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=62057071.Internet. Accessed 26 August 2008. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=61876787

Lamberg-Karlovsky, C.C., and Jeremy a. Sabloff. The Rise and Fall of Civilizations: Modern Archaeological Approaches to Ancient Cultures. Menlo Park, CA: Cummings Publishing, 1974. Book online. Available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=61876787.Internet. Accessed 26 August 2008. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=78144506

Sabloff, Jeremy a. And C.C. Lamberg-Karlovsky, eds. Ancient Civilization and Trade. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1975. Book online. Available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=78144510.Internet. Accessed 26 August 2008. http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=104407478

Spinden, Herbert J. Ancient Civilizations of Mexico and Central America. New York: Biblio and Tannen, 1968. Book online. Available from Questia, http://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=104407482.Internet. Accessed 26 August 2008.

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