Duhaime's LawGallery - The Law In Pictures


Military Justice - Aztec Style, Mexico, 1550

  • Object type: Painting
  • Formal Title: Human Sacrifice, Magliabechi Codex
  • Creator: unknown Aztec artists
  • Date Created: 1550
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Current Location: Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, Italy

This is one page of 92 taken from the Codex Magliabechiano, named after Antonio Magliabechi, a 17th century Italian manuscript collector, and is presently held in the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale, Florence, Italy.

The Codex - there were others (see Aztec Court in Session) - was commissioned by the Spanish who had just crushed the Aztec civilization and destroyed most of their culture including written records.

Perhaps with some regret, the Spaniards later sought to have some record of the civilization so they commissioned local artists who would have then drawn pre-conquest scenes from memory with strict orders to make it as real and life-like as possible.

Perhaps the most brutal was the fate the Aztecs reserved for captured enemy soldiers. The Aztecs preferred to cripple their enemies rather than cripple them outright. Then, the injured solider became like an adopted son to the victor and was well treated until they were lined up at a high stone altar.

One by one, led up the stairs and in practiced surgical manoeuvres, and special tools, the priest quickly opened the living soldier's chest and cut out the still beating and blood-spurting heart, and threw it to the sky as an offering to their gods. The Aztecs then ate parts of the victims body. It was all too much for the Spaniards so saw the Aztecs as evil incarnate.

The Aztecs bled themselves too often leaving small strings in wounds to easily re-bleed.

This so-called religious ceremony sickened the Spanish. Other than their lust for Aztec gold, they used this barbaric form of military punishment to justify their scorched earth policy and the destruction of the Aztec civilization. But the Spanish disgust was a tad hypocritical considering the nature, extent and torture employed by their own religious Spanish Inquisition, even then in full swing.


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