Human sacrifice was seen as essential for the preservation and prosperity of humankind.
Most victims were war captives, for the Aztecs control ed their growing empire by sacrificing prisoners seized in battle, by taking hostages from defeated peoples as ran som against future revolt, and by demanding that subject states provide an annual tribute of people to be sacrificed to.
It was difficult to provide enough war captives so other types of people, including criminals and slaves, were sacrificed.
Additional y, unsuccessful generals, corrupt judges, and careless public officials were sacrificed.
The Mexica state religion needed constant warfare for two reasons.
One was to meet the gods' needs for human sacrifice and the other was to acquire warriors for the next phase of imperial expansion.
To support rulers, nobles, warriors, and the imperial bureaucracy, defeated peoples had to pay tribute in food.
The economic basis of Mexica society is agriculture.
The conquered peoples had to produce workers for the construction and maintenance of the Aztec infrastructure.
New markets for traders' goods were opened by warfare.
The Aztecs had few social distinctions during their early migrations, but society changed by the 16th century.
The warrior aristocracy exercised great authority as the social structure came into being.
The emperor appointed generals, judges, and governors from among his servants who had earned reputations as war heroes.
The great lords were dressed luxuriously and lived in palaces.
They acted as provincial governors on the emperor's behalf.
In their territories, they main tained order, settled disputes, and judged legal cases, oversaw the cultivation of land, and made sure that tribute was paid.
The governors were in charge of troops during the war.
The functions were similar to those of feudal lords during the Middle Ages.
Just as nobles in France and England were able to wear fur and carry swords, so were the tecuhtli in Mexica societies.
The growth of a strong mercantile class led to an influx of tropical wares and luxury goods.
The upper classes enjoyed the lifestyle that these goods contributed to.
The class of war riors was beneath the nobility of military leaders and imperial officials.
The sons of nobles were more likely to become warriors because of their fathers' positions in the state.
The boys were trained for war at the age of six.
They were taught to fight, to live on little food and sleep, and to accept pain without complaint.
In the middle of the 16th century, Mexica artists painted a picture of adults supervising young people at each age in a book.
The basic amount of food the artists thought was appropriate for these adolescents was included.
The painting was made after the Spanish conquest, so that it represents an idealized past rather than the current reality.
One of them was a member of the nobility.
The majority of the population was made up of the macehualtin.
The members of this class carried heavy public burdens not required of noble warriors, because they performed all sorts of agricultural, military, and domestic services.
Unlike nobles, priests, orphans, and slaves, macehualtin paid taxes.
Macehualtin in the capital had certain rights, such as holding their plots of land for life and receiving a small share of the tribute paid by the provinces to the emperor.
After the end of the classical period, weak and defense less people placed themselves under the protection of strong warriors, just as European peasants had become serfs, according to some social historians.
Unlike serfs in western Europe, the tlalmaitl did military service.
They were accorded more respect than slaves and enjoyed some rights as citizens.
The lowest social class was the slaves.
Like Asian, European, and African slaves, most were captured in war.
Aztecs who stole from a temple or plotted against the emperor could also be enslaved and people in serious debt sometimes sold themselves into slavery.
Female slaves became their masters' concubines.
Mexica slaves were different from European ones in that they could have goods, save money, buy land, houses, and even slaves for their own service, and purchase their freedom.
Most slaves gained their freedom when a male slave married a free woman.
In Mexica society, important roles for women of all social classes were limited to the domestic sphere.
Men and women were married several years earlier in Mexica.
Parents used neighborhood women as go-betweens when selecting their children's spouses.
Save for the few women who would serve the temple, marriage and the household were a woman's fate, and marriage represented social maturity for both sexes.
A successful birth launched celebrations lasting from ten to twenty days.