Aztec Social Hierarchy

The Aztecs were people belonging to certain ethnic groups in Mexico during the 14th and 16th centuries. The Aztecs followed a strict social hierarchy structure which means that the people were divided in ranks on the basis of their social standing, respect, wealth, job status and other such factors.

The major classes among which the Aztecs were divided were the Nobles, the commoners, the serfs and the slaves.  Within each class, there was subdivision and hence a hierarchy within each level.  While the nobles were the highest on the pyramid, the slaves came at the bottom level. To understand the social hierarchy among the Aztecs, you can read the following given information:

aztec social hierarchyThe Nobles

This was the highest class among the Aztecs and was also the most respected. It mainly consisted of government leaders as well as military leaders.  It also included the high level priests and the Lords. All these Nobles were rich and wealthy people and often owned their own lands.  The priests had their own internal class system and these persons were asked to refrain from having alcohol and to be celibate.  To understand the hierarchy within this class, you can read the following give information:

  • Government leaders
  • Military leaders
  • High level priests
  • Priests
  • Lords
  • Landowners
  • Judges
  • Military commanders

The Commoners

This was the second level class among the Aztecs and consisted of farmers, merchants, artisans and low level priests.  The artisans as well as the traveling merchants were very wealthy individuals and enjoyed respect and prestige among the others within this class.  The commoners generally resided in calpulli or the neighborhood wards. They had decent jobs and made a sufficient amount of income for themselves. To know more about the hierarchy within this class, read on:

  • Artisans
  • Travelling
  • Travelling merchants
  • Low level priests


The Aztecs traditionally kept serfs and slaves. The serfs were those people who worked on the land which was owned by the nobles.  Mostly, people become serfs as a part of punishment for the crimes they committed.  Often, the prisoner of wars also become serfs or slaves. This was the bottommost class among the Aztecs.

Slaves had the right to marry and also to have children.  It was the slave-owners who were responsible for feeding and housing the slaves. Mostly slaves could not be resold and were freed only when their owners died.  No Aztec was a born slave and could not inherit this status from his/her parents.