What are the comparisons in status of women in the Aztec empire versus the role of women in other military societies previous to this time?

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gpane eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The role of women in the Aztec civilization was in many respects similar to that of women in most other historical warrior societies worldwide, insofar as they remained generally subordinate to men. Warrior societies by definition tend to be male-dominated, although there have certainly been some significant examples of female warriors and warleaders throughout history. 

The different sections of Aztec society had very strictly defined roles. Women were trained from early in life to fulfil domestic duties; they were expected to marry, make a home and bear children. The Aztec society was quite rigidly patriarchal; women remained subservient to the male members of their family. Similarly, men dominated public life while women could not take part in politics and government, nor could they inherit property. 

Despite their generally subordinate role, however, women were respected, indeed venerated as being the mothers of warriors, and if they happened to die in childbirth, they were given the same kind of honour bestowed upon warriors who died in battle. Therefore the militaristic nature of Aztec society did accord women a certain special status. This is comparable to other historical warrior societies. Women might appear to have had a secondary role in daily life but they were seen to have a most important central purpose.

However, in some warlike states, women enjoyed greater power than in the Aztec civilization; there is some evidence of this in the earlier warrior society of the Toltecs. Also, in another famous Mesoamerican civilization, that of the Maya, women seem to have played a fairly significant public role - even taking the lead in war at times. Consider also a case like Sparta, the famous ancient Greek state dedicated to warfare, where women appear to have enjoyed far greater freedoms than in other Greek states, and even underwent rigorous physical training like their male counterparts. This obviously was very different from the lives of Aztec women.