Flowery Wars

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Flowery Wars

Flowery Wars, (guerras floridas) a term derived from the Nahuatl xochiyaoyotl (flower-war) referring to the semiritual battles between the Aztec and other states of ancient Mexico for purposes other than conquest. Contenders fought at a prearranged site and used tactics that demonstrated individual skills. Flowery wars provided military training and offered both sides an opportunity to capture prisoners for religious sacrifice. Such captures, once thought to have been the wars' primary purpose, are now seen as a minor one. More important were the strategic functions: to test the relative military strength of the contending forces, to keep one opponent occupied so that Aztec forces could concentrate on defeating another, and to intimidate potential enemies through a display of military strength. The earliest recorded flowery wars were between the Aztec and Chalco in the fourteenth century. Later and more deadly ones include many between the Aztec and the Valley of Puebla states in the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries.

See alsoAztecs; Nahuas.


The best treatment is in Ross Hassig, Aztec Warfare (1988), which deals with flowery war in the context of Aztec warfare in general. Other studies include Frederic Hicks, "'Flowery War' in Aztec History," in American Ethnologist 6 (1979): 87-92; and Barry Isaac, "The Aztec 'Flowery War': A Geopolitical Explanation," in Journal of Anthropological Research 39 (1983): 415-432.

Additional Bibliography

Aguilar, Raúl Fuentes De la guerra florida al combate de los flores (1994).

                                                       Frederic Hicks