Aztec Laws

The Aztecs had a sophisticated and strict system of law and order.

The emperor and his closest advisers and nobles probably made the laws. There were laws against murder, theft, crimes against the state (treason) etc., as you would expect. There were also laws against being drunk in public, practicing witchcraft, and cheating on a husband or wife.

Punishments varied, but the death penalty was common. Death sentences were usually carried out by strangulation or by cutting out the criminal’s heart in sacrifice to the gods. Other punishments included being held in a cage, having your head shaved in public, or being put into slavery. Interestingly, nobles, priests, and higher-level citizens were usually punished more severely than common folk.

There were several levels of courts in the Aztec court system. Serious or important cases were heard by higher courts, as were cases involving nobles and other high level citizens. Lesser cases or trials of the lower classes were usually heard in lower courts.

Judges heard and decided the court cases. They were appointed for life by the chief justice, and the emperor appointed the chief justice. Cases were heard in public, and the accused were allowed to defend themselves.

As the supreme leader of the empire, the emperor had the final say in any case.