Eagle warriors or eagle knights (Classical Nahuatl: cuāuhtli) were a special class of infantry soldier in the Aztec army, one of the two leading military orders in Aztec society. These military orders were made up of the bravest soldiers of noble birth and those who had taken the greatest number of prisoners in battle. Of all of the Aztec warriors, they were the most feared. Eagle warriors, along with the Jaguar warriors, were the only such societies which did not restrict access solely to the nobility, as commoners macehuales were occasionally admitted for special merit. The Eagles were soldiers of the sun, for the eagle was the symbol of the sun.
Formal military training began at the age of 17. Those who were of noble lineage also received training in religion, politics, or history by the priests. To achieve adult status, a boy had to capture his first prisoner. After capturing four enemies, they were eligible to become either a jaguar or eagle Aztec warrior knight. If they succeeded in capturing six prisoners, a warrior became eligible for promotion to the rank of general.
Aztec warriors could move up in ranking by capturing enemies. After capturing four enemies, they were eligible to become either a jaguar or eagle Aztec warrior knight. These military orders were primarily comprised of nobility. Warriors who were of a commoner background, however, could enter into the ranks of nobility by capturing enemy warriors. But, this form of promotion was uncommon. In addition, there were two orders of Aztec warriors, otontin and cuahchicqueh. These Aztec warriors were considered to be elite and vowed to never retreat from battle.
To win advancement into the military orders of the Jaguar and Eagle Warriors, an individual had to first capture at least four enemies in battle (these warriors were then known as tequihuahqueh). The emphasis was placed firmly upon taking live captives as dead enemies served no purpose in Aztec ritual sacrifice. The perceived worth of an enemy varied according to the military status given to his tribe; the capture of four highly esteemed enemy warriors was a notable feat, while a larger number of lesser captives was required for a warrior to become a Jaguar or Eagle knight.