Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Civil Service-Qualification by Examination

One of the greatest concepts of Imperial China was that of the Civil Service Exam. Begun in a limited form in the Han Dynasty, it was formalized and improved by the Sui and fully implemented by the T'ang Dynasty.  Originally intended to show the education level of the job candidate, the concept evolved into the current form where workers should be qualified to do the job. 

The idea that a government employee should be qualified for the position that they held was in direct contrast to the traditional ideas of nepotism and favoritism where family and friends were given choice positions because of their "connections' rather than their ability to do the job. Simply put, Civil Service personnel have passed a test that shows they are qualified to complete the tasks of the government job they hold.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Barriers to Invading Ancient China

For thousand of years the culture of China has survived to form one of the most enduring civilizations in World History. One of the many reasons for this success has been the barriers to large invading armies that surround China. These can be divided into two groups, major natural barriers and man made barriers.
Seas- Japan, Yellow, East China South China
Mountains- Himalayas, Altan
 Rivers- Huang, Yangtze
Jungles of South East Asia
 Deserts- Gobi, Taklimakan
Man made:
The Great Wall and the Grand Canal
Barriers are just that, difficult terrain for an enemy army to cross. Determined armies can succeed in crossing them but at such a cost in men and materials that can be deemed to high for all but the most determined foes.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Major Dynasties of China

For thousands of years China has been ruled by a vast amout of dynasties.  While some ruled for centuries and others for decades, all have had an impact upon the histopry and culture of this ancient society.  Below are listed the major dynasties, there were others and all have detailed histories that exceed the limited nature of this posting.


ca. 1650-1027 B.C.E.
First Dynasty, known for skilled work with bronze tools and art. Chinese writing created, ancestor worship becomes the central religion.
Inventions: Silk refining
1027-256 B.C.E.
Feudal system of government introduced; seen as a golden age of peace by Confucius and later philosophers. Rulers “Mandate of Heaven” first appears.
Inventions: Crossbow (450)
Warring States Period          
481-221 B.C.E.
Huge armies controlled by warlords divide China; as a counter, Confucius creates his philosophy of respect/ancestor worship/kindness/obedience.
Inventions: Sun Tzu writes the Art of War, first military textbook
Qin (Ch’in)
221-207 B.C.E.
                                    Pronounced Chin, First Emperor, unites China, completes the
Great Wall, repression of knowledge/philosophy, creates imperial plan of rule; although
the shortest dynasty, so firm is Qin’s legacy of imperial control that China is forever named for
the 1st Emperor: Qin Shi Huang-di.
Inventions: Wheelbarrow (220), Unifies the written language, measurements & money of China
207 B.C.–220 C.E.
Creates Civil Service, state run factories control manufacture of luxury, commercial and military goods.
Inventions: Horse Collar (150 BC), Writing paper, blast furnace (100 AD),
cast iron, cast iron plow, fishing reel (200)
Period of Disunity
Jin Dynasty 265-316 fails to unify China, foreign invasions and civil strife abound, as a counter point, peaceful Buddhism becomes popular.
Inventions: Rudder (400), matches (577)
Reunites northern and southern China, digs the Great Canal between the Yangzi and Yellow Rivers, repairs the Great Wall.
Cultural renaissance, improve civil service exams to reward merit, China again becomes a regional and world power, Lao Zi creates Daoism, a religion of natural harmony.
Inventions: Gunpowder, Brandy  (650), woodblock printing (760), paper money (760)
Five Dynasties
Northern China ruled by foreigners, southern China divides into petty kingdoms, Liang, Tang, Jin, Han & Zhou.
A reunited China reaches its highest level of civilization to date, first “industrial revolution” with iron factories, Song were strong patrons of the arts and sciences with many advances seen in the latter.
Inventions: Bicycle chain (976), movable type (1041),
mechanical clock (1088), compass (1100), medical encyclopedia (1111), Windmill
Yuan (Mongols)
Foreign dynasty of “Barbarian” Mongols, Kublia Khan fails in two attempts to conquer Japan, Beijing becomes capital, entire Silk Road is under Mongol (Pax Mongolica) control increasing trade and allowing Europeans (Marco Polo) to visit China.
Inventions: Guns (1288)
Last Chinese dynasty, Admiral Zheng He explores from China to Madagascar with a fleet of a 100+ junks, unimpressed with the rest of the world, the Ming close their borders, forbid further exploration and make it a crime to leave China.
Qing (Manchu)
Foreign dynasty from Manchuria, in constant fear of Chinese revolt, the Qing cling to the past traditions, for the first time Chinese technology falls drastically behind Western/European, by the 1800’s European military might ellipses Chinese, twice conquering Beijing and looting the Forbidden City, forcing the Qing to make massive humiliating political/economic concessions to Western powers including the Westernized Asian nation of Japan. The last emperor is deposed in 1912.
Chinese Republic
  Never a true republic, China was largely controlled by local warlords, communists, puppet governments and Japanese troops.
People’s Republic of China
After decades of conflicts including civil strife, Japanese invasion, World War II, and open civil war, the Chinese Communist Party takes total control of China with its own form of “dynasty.” 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

The Mandate of Heaven-the right to Rule the Middle Kingdom

The Mandate of Heaven is the divine (God ('s) given) right to rule the Middle Kingdom given to the Emperor, it is given based on four principles:
  1. The right to rule is granted by Heaven (realm of the Jade Emperor).
  2. There is only one Heaven therefore there can be only one ruler.
  3. The right to rule is based on the high virtue (Confucian principles of quality of his leadership) of the ruler.
  4. The right to rule can be passed down to family members of the dynasty but is not limited to one dynasty. (poor quality rulers/dynasties can lose the Mandate of Heaven and be replaced. The mere fact that a leader has been overthrown is itself proof that he has lost the Mandate of Heaven.)

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hannibal of Carthage

In 247 BCE, the year before the start of the 1st Punic War a son was born to Carthaginian general Hamilcar Barca, the proud father named his young boy...Hannibal.  In the wake of Carthages' loss to Rome in the 1st Punic War, Hamilcar with his young son, set the ground work preparing for the next war by establishing Carthaginian control over much of the rich province of Spain. At the age of twenty-six,  Hannibal took control of the Carthagian forces in Spain and readied for war with Rome. In 219 BCE, he judged the time was ripe and lured the Romans into war by attacking and looting one of their client city states-Saguntum. The decisive conflict between Roma and Carthage for supremacy of the Mediterranean had begun-the 2nd Punic War.

From 218-209 BCE, Hannibal's brilliant tactics out maneuvered the Romans and brought the Republic nearly to its knees.  His passage through the Alps and massive defeats of the famed Roman Legions at the battles of  Trebia, Lake Trasimene and Cannea (where the Roman Army of over 85,000 was virtually annihilated) are still studied by historians and military experts today.  Yet with all his victories the Romans continued to thwart Hannibal's goal of total victory.  New armies were raised, improved tactic were installed (including the "Fabian Strategy" where attrition not pitched battles wore the forces of the enemy down), better generals were chosen and the war was taken to the shores of Africa by the Romans.

In his last great battle, at Zama in 202 BCE, Hannibal was finally defeated by a Roman General, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus. Forced to abandon the Carthage he loved, Hannibal fled to the perceived safety of the Eastern Kingdoms, but the long arm of Rome followed him and circa 183 BCE, one of the greatest military leaders in history died by his own hands rather than be taken prisoner by his hated enemies the Romans.  He had failed to save Carthage (which would be totally destroyed by Rome in 146 BCE), but through his greatness he earned immortality for himself and the memory of his once great nation.

The Cataphract-Heavy Armored Cavalry

The cataphract was the Ancient Worlds "tank." Heavily armored and armed, the cataphract was the ultimate shock force of well formed and trained armies, as only these could afford large units of these tremendously expensive cavalrymen. They were used the greatest and most effectively in the armies of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire and Persian Empire in the centuries before the formation of the European knights. For centuries, cataphracts ruled the battlefields of the East while Western Europe was in the throws of the Dark Ages.

Greek Fire


The greatest secret weapon of Eastern Roman Empire was Greek Fire, a ship born terror weapon that ignited on contact and burned on water. Fired from a brass tube, the flaming liquid was as devastating to morale as it was to the wooden ships of the era. It is thought to have been invented by a Jewish Syrian Engineer named Callinicus (Kallinikos) in the mid 7th century. To keep it from enemy hands, the secret formula was known to a very small number of people (around three) . This is also the reason the formula is unknown today for by the mid 13th century, some tragic event killed all those with the knowledge before it could be passed on.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Barbarians then Countries Now

For centuries the Roman Legions fought waves of "Barbarian" invaders from the East that attacked the Roman Empire looking for loot, as well as new lands to settle and claim for their own.  In the end, the Western Roman Empire was completely overrun by the Barbarian tribes and the face of  Europe was changed forever. While many of the barbarian tribes have faded from history their names have come down through time in the form of countries and territories whose modern names remind us of those who brought the Western Roman Empire to her knees.  Here are a few of the most recognizable of theses once infamous (to the Romans) barbarian tribes:

Helvetii- Confederation Helvetica (Switzerland)
Ottoman Turks-Turkey
Bavarii-Bavaria (Germany)
Burgandians-Burgundy (France)
Lombards- Lombardy (Italy)
Jutes-Jutland (Denmark) 
Saxons-Saxony (Germany)

And while not a country, one barbarian tribal name comes down to the present day a a word synonymous with wanton destruction for the fun of the doing the destruction, the dreaded Vandals have become the term vandalism.


Thursday, October 18, 2012

The Arch of Victory

Since the age of Rome, great triumphal arches have been built to glorify the conquests of a great leader.  One of the oldest known was the 29 BCE Arch of Augustus that once graced the road by the Temple of Vesta in Rome.  The arch commemorated the victory of Augustus over Marcus Antonius at Actium.  The arch no longer exists and only coins of the era give any idea as to its design. 
Around 1806, Napoleon ordered the construction of the 19m tall by 23m wide, L'arc de triomphe du Carousel.
The L'arc de triomphe du Carousel was built to honor the great French victories of the previous year.  It was modeled after the 23m tall by 25m wide, 203 C.E. victory arch of Roman Emperor Septimius Severus.
For his greatest arch, in 1806, Napoleon decided to create the gigantic-Arc de Triomphe, one of the largest arch's ever built (the 1982, triumph arch in Pyongyang is 10 m higher) to honor military victories. Based on the 1st century 15m tall Arch of Titus, the Arc is a massive 50m tall and 45m wide and took over 30 (although construction was halted for nine years due to regime changes) years to complete.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

"Carthage Must Die"

For more than a century the two greatest powers of the Western Mediterranean Sea, Rome and Carthage competed for supremacy.  Three brutal wars were fought between the two powers, the 1st Punic War (246-241 BCE), the 2nd Punic War (218-201 BCE) and the final, 3rd Punic War (149-146 BCE). 

In the 1st Punic War (Punic came from Punicus, the Latin word for Phoenicians as the Carthaginians were called by the Romans.) was a victory for Rome who won her first overseas province, Sicily, the beginning of the Roman Empire.  In the 2nd Punic War, Rome overcame several massive defeats at the hands of the Great Carthaginian General Hannibal and again defeated the Carthaginians. 

During the uneasy peace after the 2nd Punic War  many Romans felt the only lasting solution to the the dangers of Carthage was the total destruction of the city.  The great Roman senator, Cato the Elder, expressed this deep hatred through his famous comment "Carthago delenda est," ("Carthage must be Destroyed") that he added to the end of every speech he made in the Senate.  The death of Carthage came in the 3rd Punic War, where 80% of her population died, the rest were sold into slavery, the city was burned to the ground, the soil plowed with salt and the land cursed (the Romans really hated Carthage).  With her greatest rival destroyed, Rome was now the sole major power in the West and well on the road to becoming one of the greatest Empires in World History.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Renaissance Cannon - Death with a Bang

"Vive le Roi," (Long Live the King), cannon of the armies of the king of France. Note the fleur de lys design embossed on the barrels.
A deadly serpent ready to strike.
Ottoman splendor that brought death to the enemies of the Sultan.
Early bombards such as this spelled doom to the tall Medieval castles that had protected the nobles for centuries.
The development of artillery was a trial and error process.  Some ideas such as this early breech loading design were centuries ahead of their time (in other words, a good idea that couldn't safely work with the metallurgy of the era)
But some improvements were very successful as this improved bombard clearly shows.
The last sight any enemy would want to see, the mouth of one of the improved artillery pieces right before it goes BOOM!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Renaissance Armor-High Point of Personal Protection

From elite (and expensive) Imperial plate armour, ribbed for extra strength (don't worry about the open space between his legs-it and his bottom would have been covered by more flexible chain-mail armour),...
to common (cheap) leather and metal gorget (protected the throat and upper chest) ...
and simple brigantine (leather with metal studs), armour has protected warriors for thousands of years.  Here we have samples of the best of the Renaissance armour makers work. These are but a few of the hundreds of full and partial suits found at the Musee de l'Armee at Hotel des Invalides.
One size did not fit all, quality suits of plate were tailored for the individual user, one reason for their tremendous cost.
Suits of full plate were even made for wealthy young boys for training as well as protection should they accompany their fathers onto the battle field.
And lets not forget our four legged friends, armour for them could cover as little as their foreheads...
our encase both them and their riders in complete metal protection.
Those that could afford the best, purchased full plate for both man and beast (at a cost in modern dollars of over a quarter million).
But an new technology was to soon be so effective as to render the wearing of expensive plate armour useless-the flintlock musket. Easier to use than previous weapons and deadly up to seventy-five yards through even the best armor of the day.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ancient Chinese Inventions-an Ancient Cultures Gifts to the World

From its earliest days, the Chinese Culture has been inventive, creating many of the Worlds greatest inventions.  From humble pasta to the greatest war discovery in 5000 years, gunpowder, the creative minds of the people of China have produced many of the foundations of the products our Modern World that we take for granted. The Silk Road trade routes were often the source of introducing these new concepts to the other cultures of Asia, Europe and North Africa.  While the inital inventions often had little resemblance to their modern decedents,  the original creations were none the less remarkable achievements for their time periods.  Listed here are some of the more important inventions that have been credited to the Chinese:

Pasta-circa 2000 BCE

Crossbow- 5th Century BCE, Zhou Dynasty

Sun Tzu's The Art of War-circa 5th Century BCE, Warring States Period

Wheelbarrow-3rd Century BCE, Qin Dynasty

Horse Collar- 2nd Century BCE, Han Dynasty

Writing Paper- 1st Century CE, Han Dynasty

Blast Furnace- 1st Century CE, Han Dynasty

Cast Iron- 2nd Century CE, Han Dynasty

Seismograph- 2nd Century CE, Han Dynasty

Cast Iron Plow- 2nd Century CE, Han Dynasty

Fishing Reel- 2nd Century CE, Han Dynasty

Ships Rudder-3rd Century CE, Period of Disunity

Matches-6th Century CE, Period of Disunity

Porcelain- 6th Century CE, Sui Dynasty

Toilet Paper- 6th Century CE, Sui Dynasty

Gunpowder-7th Century CE, T'ang Dynasty

Fireworks-7th Century CE, T'ang Dynasty

Brandy-7th Century CE, T'ang Dynasty

Woodblock Printing- 8th Century CE, T'ang Dynasty

Paper Money-8th Century CE, T'ang Dynasty

Bicycle Chain-10th Century CE, Song Dynasty

Movable Type-11th Century CE, Song Dynasty

Mechanical Clock-11th Century CE, Song Dynasty

Compass-12th Century CE, Song Dynasty

Medical Encyclopedia-12th Century CE, Song Dynasty

Windmill-12th Century CE, Song Dynasty

Guns-13th Century CE, Yuan Dynasty

Monday, June 4, 2012

Cardinal Richelieu Master of 17th Century European Politics

Armand Jean du Plessis, Cardinal-Duc de Richelieu et de Fronsac (1584-1642), Chief Minister of France -1624-1642. An expert at Machiavellian Politics and intrigue... " I have made the King (Louis XIII) the most powerful monarch in Europe...while I am the most powerful man in France" Chooses Nationalism over religion during the Thirty Years War when he supported the Protestant factions over the Catholic Hapsburg Alliance. Thus were the major ideological wars of religion replaced by wars for the national interest. The Age of Enlightenment was at hand.

Louis XIII (1601-1643), King of France 1610-1643. A weak king under the constant influence of others, first his mother, Marie de Medici and later the powerful Cardinal- Richelieu.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Hidden Gold, Lost Cities, Endless Quest-El Dorado.

For centuries the lure of vast treasures, lost civilizations and cities of gold hidden in the wilds of the New World have fevered the minds of explorers and adventurers, congealing in the magic term-El Dorado.  El Dorado ("the gilded one"), untold riches hidden from the greedy clutches of the Europeans by Ancient civilizations long lost to the knowledge of the rest of the World. Thousands have searched and died in failed attempts to find El Dorado.   One time it was the "Seven Cities of Gold" in the South West, others involved hidden Inca cities in Peru or the fabulous wealth of Queen Calafia and her female warrior empire.  The Jungles of the Amazon basin (also thought to be the home the the ferocious female warriors)  were a favorite destination for countless expeditions.
File:Muisca raft Legend of El Dorado Offerings of gold.jpg
Yet, no matter how many searched or the lives lost, none have come back with the treasure of El Dorado.  The lure remains, the search continues the explorer travels on and on until

" his strength                            "Over the Mountains
Failed him at length,                          Of the Moon,
He met a pilgrim shadow-                Down the Valley of the Shadow,
"Shadow," said he,                           Ride, boldly ride,"
"Where can it be--                            The shade replied--
This land of Eldorado?"                   "If you seek for Eldorado!"

From Eldorado  by Edgar Allen Poe 1849

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Conquistador's-Warriors for Glory, God and Gold

From the 15th to 17 centuries a class of warriors roamed the globe searching for glory, wealth, the wish to spread the Catholic faith and new worlds to conquer for the Empires of Spain and Portugal-the Conquistadors. These warriors for glory, God and gold, believed they were spreading civilization and the True Faith to the barbarian pagans they conquered.

Armed with the latest weapons and armor yet developed in Europe and battle tested in both the Old and New Worlds, the conquistadors were a potent force in the capture of new colonies and destruction of numerous native cultures.
File:Balboa südsee.jpg
 Across three continents, the conquistadors helped to spread the Roman Catholic faith as their armies always contained missionaries as well as warriors. (Note the image of the Virgin and Child on the flag and the soldiers in prayer in the background.)
File:Colonization of the Americas 1750.PNG
By the end of the 17th century the Spanish and Portuguese Empires were on every known inhabited continent.  Most of the New World was in the control of these two imperial titans, as was the vast natural wealth of these land.  Other European countries were quick to follow the example of the conquistadors, and soon most of the New World was claimed as colonies by the powers of the Old World.  The wealth they took would flow for centuries into the coffers of the Europeans further enriching their nations and encouraging yet more colonial expansion.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Columns-Keys to Grand Government Buildings

The Greeks designed three classic forms of columns for their largest buildings.  These were easily identified by the designs on their capitals (the top part upon which the weight of the roof rests).  These were the Doric, Ionic and Corinthian styles.

Doric Column is the simplest design with little or no embellishment on the capital.  The colums were also wider at the bottom and most often is without a elaborate base, resting directly on the support floor.

Ionic Columns have the distinct scroll design, or volute as the Greek would call it, at the capital.

The Corinthian Column is the most elaborate of the three.  Classic Corinthian columns are slender, usually fluted (vertically grooved), decorated with a capital of leaves (most often the acanthus) and scrolls.

The Hoplite

Well trained and armed with a short sword and eight foot long thrusting spear as well as armored with bronze helmet, shield, greaves and a cuirass of bronze, linen or leather, the hoplite was the ultimate Greek warrior from the 5th to 4th centuries BCE.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Privateer

Privateers were privately owned ships that were equipped and crewed at private expense but were given official government licence to attack, raid and harass the enemies of said government in time of war. Privateers were de-facto legal pirates that were supposed to be treated a legitimate combatants if captured.File:Lettre-de-marque2.png
Privateers achieved their authority through the "Letter of Marque." The letter of Marque was a government commission and permission to a private citizen to build their own warships. The use these warships was to gain "prizes" (captured enemy ships and their cargo) that would be sold in friendly ports.  The government received up to twenty-five percent of the profit gained by the privateer from these auctions.  This greatly added to the number of ships available to wage war upon an enemy for virtually no cost to the government.
File:NPG Drake.jpg
The most famous privateer was Sir Francis Drake, sailing the Golden Hind, he became the first Englishman to sail around the globe (1577-79).  In his attacks upon Spanish shipping on that voyage he brought home a treasure reported to be worth more than the entire yearly expenditures of the English Government (the capture of the Nuestra Señora de la Concepción  alone netted more than 15 million dollars in today's money in gold, silver and jewels). His backers earned a 4700% return on the money they invested in his ships and crew for this epic voyage. He so angered the Spanish through his successful raids that they offered a 20,000 ducat reward for his capture (over 7 million dollars). It was never collected.
File:Confaince Kent fight.jpg
Merchant ships were large, slow targets for the smaller and faster privateers who preferred to capture rather than destroy these valuable targets.  The lure of easy pickings brought many a privateer to sea during major conflicts (more than 1200 Letters of Marque were issued by the Americans during the Revolution alone).
File:Chasseur vs St Lawrence.jpg
Privateers tried to avoid battle with warships as the latter were usually better armed and carried little cargo of value. But occasionally the warships caught up with the privateers as in this action between the American Chasseur vs HMS St. Lawrence in the War of 1812.  The American won, an unusual occurrence for privateers.
File:Privateer Savannah.jpg
Privateers came in all sizes, brigs and sloops were the most common but they could be small as this Confederate privateer during the American Civil War demonstrates.  The American Civil War was the last major action by privateers, the Industrial Revolution, improvement's in Naval technology and communications reduced the need and increased the risk to the point that privateering was no longer profitable.  Future wars would see more deadly ships and subsurface vessels whose goal would be to destroy, not capture enemy commerce.  The age of legal piracy was over.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Aztec Warrior

From the common conscript soldier to the elite "knights" of the Jaguar and Eagle Warriors, the Aztec Army was a brave confident force that had only known victory for over a century of conflicts-until the arrival of the Spanish in 1519.
File:Jaguar warrior.jpg
This Jaguar Warrior clearly illustrates the two pieces of equipment most commonly used by Aztec warriors, the small shield and the stone edged wooden Maquahuitl sword.
File:Codex Mendoza folio 67r bottom.jpg
Commanders with standards from the Codex Mendoza. Note the elaborate costumes, use of feathers and the razor sharp stone tipped tepoztopilli spears (usually five and an half feet long) of the officers.
File:Codex Mendoza folio 65r.jpgRanks awarded for captured prisoners and imperial officers, Codex Mendoza.
The capture of prisoners was one of the main goals of Central American Pre-Colombian wars. Those who were most successful quickly rose in rank and privileges within the army and society. Here in the codex are listed the stages of honors given to a warrior for the increasing numbers of prisoners captured. Note the sixth honor is entry into the elite Jaguar Warrior Class. The Lower eight figures are officers of the empire. The rank is delineated by the ever more elaborate feathers and costume design of the officers.
File:Florentine Codex IX Aztec Warriors.jpg
Warriors armed with the Maquahuitl (obsidian sword) and shield, note the eagle warrior in the lead, from the Florentine Codex.
Ranged weapons were varied and included :
The atlatl,a spear thrower that allowed longer range than a basic hand thrown spear.
The tlahuitolli, bow, ranged from light weight with short range weapons to some heavy weight that reportedly had a range of several hundred yards. All bows fired the mitl-stone tipped arrow.
The tematlatl was a sling made from maguey fiber. This was the ranged weapon most feared by the Spanish as it was often aimed at the unprotected face with deadly accuracy.
In addition to the maquahuitl and tepoztopilli, Aztec soldiers had access to a variety of additional wood and stone hand weapons.
The huitzauhqui was a club/mace sometimes with obsidian blades. These were about the size of a modern baseball bat but could be up to twice this size when yielded by a very strong warrior.
The tecpatl was a double bladed dagger with a nine inch length, excellent for close in fighting.
A weakness of all Aztec weapons was their stone and wood construction. The former dulled or chipped readily and the latter was no match against steel blades.
Protective gear/armor of the Aztecs was very minimal. It was designed to be light and give a limited protection against the stone tipped weapons of the Aztecs traditional Central American enemies. This equipment was basically made of two items the Chimalli and the Ichcahuipilli.

The Chimalli were small round shields made of wood or woven cane stalks often covered with cloth or feathers. The could be elaborately decorated for warriors of importance.

The Ichcahuipilli was a form of quilted cotton armor and inch or two thick. This padding was normally worn over the chest and back with the arms and legs unprotected. This gave such good protection against Indian stone tipped arrows that many Spanish soldiers would adopt this armor and continue to wear this style of protection when facing Indians well into the 18th century.
Eagle and Jaguar Warriors from the Codex Mendoza.

The tlahuiztli were the distinctive costume suits worn by the elite warrior classes. These usually covered the entire body including the head which often was covered in a form of helmet. These suits give a limited additional armor covering-especially if the costume included leather animal skins.
While adequate against their traditional enemies, the protective gear of the Aztec warriors was virtually useless against the steel weapons, iron tipped crossbow bolts, musket and cannon balls of the Spanish.
Aztec weapons could and did maim and kill their enemies who were similarly armed and protected. But in most conflicts capture of enemies was much preferred over killing them-dead men could not be sacrificed to the gods. So it is not surprising that the majority of Aztec weapons could be readily used to stun an opponent to ease in his capture. This tactical choice and the limited strength of Aztec weapons and armor, would prove a great hindrance to their army when they met the modern armed forces of the Spanish.