The Maya Warrior Code
In order to understand the Maya warrior code, it is helpful to first understand that their military was actually much more complex than most people may realize. Each city-state had its own army, but the structure and hierarchy in each city was fairly similar. At the head of each war band was a chief, known as a nacom, who was elected to a three year term by the other warriors. Most of the warriors were holcans, who were full-time, professionals. Besides the actual system, and more important than it, were the actual values and beliefs that the average Maya warrior followed.
Among the most common Maya words known to modern scholars that relate to warfare is chuk or Chuc , which means “to capture.” To the Maya warrior, it was better to capture one’s foes than to kill them because wars were usually fought to acquire human sacrifice victims instead of the gain of new territory. Maya warriors gained status among their peers and in their cities with the more enemy warriors they captured and conversely, Maya warriors saw it as an honor to be captured in battle, as long as they fought valiantly. The Maya preferred to sacrifice the best of their enemies, which usually meant elite males. Since being a sacrifice victim was an honorable way to die, Maya warriors usually went into battle with a fearless attitude – if they were successful and claimed captives, then they gained prestige in their city, but if they were captured then they would join the gods shortly! The Maya spirituality and military structure gave the Maya warriors purpose, but it was their diet and training regime that made them a physically fit fighting force.
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