Was the conquest of the Aztec Empire morally justified?

Feb 2011
There is no doubt that Aztecs practiced human sacrifice, their level of development was akin to that of the early civilizations in the Old World who also practiced human sacrifice (and also built pyramids for that matter). However, their worst atrocities need to be taken with a grain of salt. We know of them through the records of their enemies and those who extinguished them, except maybe stories transmitted by word of mouth but such stories tend to take a backseat to recorded history, and for good reason. The Aztecs couldn't give us their own version of the story.


Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
Slovenia, EU
However, Cortez military success is quite impressive, even considering there was an Aztec Civil War just preceeding the Spanish invasion. This Civil War was on the level of the ACW or the Caesar/Pompey Civil War. The Aztecs had a very advanced military system in terms of organization: I'd even say they were comparable to the Roman Empire in that regard. Their weapons, however, were far less advanced than the Spanish.
I suppose you think Inca civil war between Huascar and Atahualpa. Aztecs were having no civil wars (if we don't count Tenochtitlan/Tlatelolco rivalry with some bloody mess involved).


Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
Slovenia, EU
Considering the religious practices of the Aztecs, i'd say getting rid of them was a benefit to human civilisation.

Theres few civilisations you can think of as being without merit and deserving extermination but the Aztecs made great strides in being in the top 5 alongside the Nazis.

We're talking about a culture that believed in the rights of Tlaloc.

Theyd buy children from their mothers, torture them because as a deity Tlaoc needed the tears to fertilise the ground before their religious immolation

To steal from wiki

According to the accounts of some, they assembled the children whom they slew in the first month, buying them from their mothers. And they went on killing them in all the feasts which followed, until the rains really began. And thus they slew some on the first month, named Quauitleua; and some in the second, named Tlacaxipeualiztli; and some in the third, named Tocoztontli; and others in the fourth, named Ueitocoztli; so that until the rains began in abundance, in all the feasts they sacrificed children

Oh and of course Xipe Totec where the victims was skinned and a priest danced round the Temple wearing it.

The conquistadors might have brought atrocities in destroying Aztec culture and government but they brought a far better future than the daily atrocities of living with Aztecs.

Sorry, have i mentioned in previous threads that i detest the Aztecs?
Do you know what were numbers of sacrificed children and of the flayed? I've read only of thousands of hearts extractions.
Sep 2014
So, recently I was reading a thread on this forum asking the question of whether Hernan Cortes was a psychopath. And whilst reading it, I was surprised by how many people seemed to view his actions as legitimate due to the conduct of the Aztecs - both towards their own people via human sacrifice and their belligerence towards their neighbours.
But I'd like to see how people at large view this issue. Did the behaviour of the Aztec Empire justify Cortes' (And the other peoples he aligned with) actions?

For myself, I cannot agree that it was. From a pragmatic standpoint, I can understand that Cortes found himself in an advantageous position in which he could become fabulously wealthy, and can understand his reasoning. But when one considers the beautiful art the Aztec Empire left behind, their architecture, their theology, even their unique means of farming on the waterways, I do feel pity for what became of them, and feel it is a shame they lost so much. But I am sure people will have their own opinions on the matter.
To the Native people the Aztecs were murdering, it was not only justified but long over due. The Aztecs were a ruthless people and the Spaniards did not do it by themselves. But if it's any consolation, the Aztecs were the first Native Americans to learn how to ride the horse, and their capital is a very important world city.


Ad Honorem
Jan 2011
South of the barcodes
Do you know what were numbers of sacrificed children and of the flayed? I've read only of thousands of hearts extractions.
Tlaloc sacrifices were relatively rare by Aztec standards, maybe one or two a year for each shrine, horrendously more if there was a drought. I think the only Tlaloc shrine theyve excavated in depth had 45 or so bodies in it, mostly children under 8.

To be honest its not the killing thats a problem, or the torture or the cannibalism there have been enough cultures that killed people en masse, the Romans were good at it after all.

The point is that the Aztecs believed the killing and the torture was tied into the health and well being of their gods, if they stopped the Gods would fail and the world would end. Sacrificing crying children wasnt something they liked or disliked it was an essential duty, tears fertlise the ground so the rains come so the majority live.
They need warrior sacrifices so they make an arrangement with neighbouring cities to have competitive wars so each city gets sacrifices.

The Romans killed people for entertainment, other cultures killed people for land, agricultural space, for dominance or just for loot. It was a passing event that could be stopped by better rains, an improvement in the agricultural system or a new leader.

The Aztecs literally could not stop their sacrifices, it was tied into their whole world view and culture, if we stop the world ends. The chances of there being a liberal reformed Aztec was about zero, they werent going to start sacrificing corn or animals because what would happen if they got it wrong and the world ended? Anyone trying a Martin Luther in Aztec territory was the first up the Pyramid.

The only reason they stopped is because the Conquistadors came along and stopped them, if necessary by tying them to poles and setting fire to them. Aztec belief is that you sacrifice your children so the world can live, you take hearts. The Catholics come along and say no,God sacrifices his son so you can live and here is his sacred heart! Thats a religious and moral concept the Aztecs could understand.

Well that and the Spaniards had set fire to the priests, demolished the temples and stopped the sacrifices and strangely the world hadnt ended! Well it had for the priests but that was their problem.