The Aztec Empire, spanning 1300 to 1521, was a behemoth covering 200,000 sq km, overseeing 371 city states across 38 provinces. This intricate tapestry of city states boasted diverse customs, religions, and laws.
Loose Alliances, Common Threads
Aztec Emperors allowed city-states autonomy in governance, demanding only tribute. Despite the decentralized rule, a shared Emperor and heritage fostered similar yet distinct laws, leading to varied jurisdiction.
Crime and Punishment sans Prisons
Nomadic roots prevented a prison system, forcing the evolution of a unique justice system. Punishments, including strangulation and burning, reflected the severity of rule violations.
Hierarchy in Governance
Mimicking monarchy, The Aztec Empire government featured the divinely appointed ‘Huey Tlatoani’ as the head. The Cihuacoatl managed daily affairs, while priests, judges, and military leaders played crucial roles.
Most crimes faced local trials, with serious offenses brought to the capital’s ‘teccalco’ court or even the Emperor’s Palace for nobles. Swift and local jurisdiction enhanced efficiency.
Death, the Grim Verdict
A plethora of crimes, from homicide to theft, warranted the death penalty. Adultery, theft from temples, and serious judicial misconduct all led to capital punishment.
Creative Cruelty in Punishment
With no prisons, punishments were inventive. Death by temple altar, strangulation, or stoning were common. Nobles faced harsher penalties, and lesser crimes resulted in home demolition or head shaving.
Legal Evolution in Texcoco
Texcoco, under Nezahualcoyotl (1402-1472), developed an 80-law legal system, emphasizing evidence over social status. This legal framework established societal control.
Children Under the Aztec Legal Gaze
Children under ten were legally immune but faced punishments for disrespect. Nobility’s offspring risked death for being disrespectful, cowardly, or wasteful.
Brutality towards Prisoners of War
Captives faced brutal treatment, indicating a punishment element. Grisly executions included bonfire immolation, heart extraction, and creative warrior duels.