The Assyrians vs. The Aztecs – Comparing Their Brutality

Note: This article is for educational and informational purposes only.




❝Their dismembered bodies I fed to the dogs, swine, wolves, and eagles, to the birds of the heavens and the fish in the deep. What was left of the feast I ordered them to be cast upon the heaps.❞  – Attributed to King Sennacherib of Assyria


Across the annals of human history, civilizations have risen and fallen, leaving behind a trail of achievements and atrocities. The price of progress has been and will always be heavier than the progress itself. 


Among these civilizations, the Assyrians of Mesopotamia and the Aztecs of Mesoamerica stand out for their incredible brutality, etched into the historical record through graphic accounts and archaeological evidence. Their cruelty knew no borders.




The Assyrians


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The Assyrian Empire dominated the ancient Middle East from the 11th to the 7th century BCE – beginning soon after the global bronze age collapse. It was eminent for its military might and the cruel treatment of its enemies, criminals, etc. It was, by far, the deadliest military force the world has yet seen. Their conquests involved slaughters, looting, rape, execution, slavery, and horrific feats of torture – earning them a sinister reputation. 



Credit: DakkaDakka




One of their most famous inscriptions provides an insight into their brutality:

“I cut their throats like lambs; my horses plunged into their blood like a river; I filled the plains with the blood of their warriors as if they were grass.” 


The Assyrians followed a policy of widespread deportations, uprooting entire populations from their homelands and resettling them in distant regions of the empire. It remained a potent tool of their subjugation.


Perhaps the most chilling aspect of Assyrian brutality was their penchant for graphic violence and torture. Assyrian royal inscriptions and palace reliefs depict in vivid detail the gruesome punishments inflicted upon captives and rebels. These included flaying, impalement, rapes, tearing pregnant women’s stomachs to take out and torture the infantile, mass beheadings, alive burnings, and the construction of vast pyramids of severed heads as a warning to those who dared defy the Assyrian rule.


The psychological impact of such displays cannot be overstated, as they were carefully choreographed to instill fear and compliance among the empire’s subjects.



Also Read: Ashwamedha Yajna, the Mysterious Horse Sacrifice in Ancient India



(Warning – Strong Graphics Ahead – Credit: Internet Archive and Medium) Here are some of the most brutal demonstrations of Assyrian brutality:











The Assyrians may be gone, but the echo of their cruelty still resonates, a stark reminder of the depths of human barbarity.



The Aztecs



Over to the Atlantic Ocean, the Aztec civilization of Central America also built its empire on a foundation of violence and human sacrifice. The scale of the human sacrifices performed by these Mesoamerican civilizations (except the Mayans) makes China’s human sacrifices and dark-age Europe’s witch/wizard/Jew burnings look mellower. 


The Aztecs, who dominated the region of present-day Mexico from the 14th to the 16th century CE, held a worldview deeply rooted in their religious beliefs and the perceived need to appease their gods by offering human lives.





The scale of human sacrifice practiced by the Aztecs was utterly staggering, a bloodletting of horrific proportions. During major ceremonies and the reconsecration of temples, the streets would run crimson as thousands upon thousands of captives were ritually butchered, their still-beating hearts violently torn from their chests as grisly offerings to their deities. The infamous Templo Mayor in Tenochtitlán, the Aztec capital, stood as a veritable altar of death, its towering sacrificial stone forever drenched in the vital fluids of the sacrificed, the remains of innumerable victims uncovered during excavations a chilling testament to the institutionalized massacre.


Yet beyond even the frenzied religious motivations, the Aztecs wielded brutality itself as a weapon, as a means of asserting their cruel dominance and extracting tribute from the subjugated peoples under their barbaric rule. 


The named Flower Wars, or xochiyaoyotl, saw no seeds of life planted, but only ritualized slaughters aimed at capturing a constant stream of prisoners to feed the sacrificial pyres, conquest giving way to industrialized murder. This systematic culture of violence served not merely to procure victims, but to instill abject horror and forced obeisance among the Aztec tributaries.



Also Read: Why The Native Americans Were Doomed To Begin With



(Warning – Strong Graphics Ahead – Credit: Internet Archive, ListVerse, and more) Here are some of the most brutal demonstrations of Aztec human sacrifices and brutality:











Is a Comparison of Cruelty Fair?


While the underlying motivations and cultural contexts differed between the Assyrians and Aztecs, their brutality shared striking similarities. Both civilizations employed violence as a tool of control, using graphic displays of cruelty to subdue and terrorize their subjects and enemies alike. The psychological impact of such practices cannot be underestimated, as they were meticulously designed to shatter the will of those who dared resist.


However, it is crucial to note that the brutality of these ancient empires should not be viewed through a lens of moral relativism or dismissed as products of their time. The Assyrians and Aztecs stand as stark reminders of humanity’s capacity for humanity, surpassing cultural boundaries and serving as cautionary tales against the normalization of violence and oppression.



The Bottom Line


Credit: Doland DBz


The Assyrian and Aztec civilizations represent two of the most brutal empires in human history. Despite centuries passing, studying these mighty civilizations still captivates scholars and history lovers.


No doubt, the Assyrians and Aztecs used brutal methods to gain and keep power. Violence and fear were powerful tools of control. But it’s the enduring charm of fraying their complex societies that truly fascinates today.


Behind the conquest lies a rich culture of architectural wonders, and social intricacies defying mere brutality tales. Their antiquity keys to understanding human societies’ nuanced natures and how power, ideology, and evolution interplay.


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