History Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for historians and history buffs. Join them; it only takes a minute:

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

If you discount the germs and the gunpowder, how did the average Aztec warrior match up against the average Spaniard facing him? As I understand it European metallurgy was considerably more advanced, but was it decisive or did it just give them an advantage? Were the Aztecs able to pierce Spanish armor? Were their weapons effective against Spanish tactics?

A vital part of Cortez's battle plan included rallying local tribes to his cause, but then again even a few dozen Navy SEALS wouldn't be able to stand up to a continent's-worth of angry locals, so needing allies in the New World is kind of a given. But facing off against a similarly-sized group of Aztec warriors, how likely would a Spanish victory be?

share|improve this question
Here's a modern recreation of what would happen if an atlatl dart hit spanish steel armor. The angular design of the armor appears to encourage the darts to glance off. An in-depth discussion can be found here – Twilight Sparkle Feb 20 '14 at 6:31
up vote 9 down vote accepted

Aztec weaponry comprised wooden clubs and spears tipped with flint, obsidian and occasionally copper. These weapons could inflict blunt trauma damage to Cortez's troops, and could penetrate the gaps in the Spanish armour with a lucky blow, but had little chance of actually inflicting significant damage to the armour itself.

Combined with the natural advantages of a mounted knight over an infantryman, and the Aztec's only hope was a massive brawl in which the Spaniards lost all advantage of their superior weaponry and mobility. The best hope of generating such would of been to lure the Spaniards into an enclosed area and trapped them there.

This was a conflict of a barely out of the Stone Age culture against one that had left the Stone Age behind nearly 3,000 years earlier.

share|improve this answer
"The best hope of generating such would of been to lure the Spaniards into an enclosed area and trapped them there." Is that why the Spanish lost about 1,000 (out of about 3,000) troops in the initial battle at Technoctitlan, and only 100 or so on the return march? – Tom Au Jan 15 '14 at 22:28

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.