Aztec Rulers: Moctezuma, Fifth Tlatoani

Life: 1398-1469 Reign: 1440-1469
Name: Angry Like a Lord
Moctezuma and his brother Tlacaelel were at the heart of the Mexica nobility and served as generals under Itzcoatl. They were part of a militant political faction that had raised Itzcoatl to the throne. They stood in opposition to their other brother and ruler Chimalpopoca. After Chimalpopoca’s assassination Moctezuma, Tlacaelel and their group took power for their faction, Moctezuma followed Itzcoatl as the next ruler. Moctezuma and Tlacaelel had big ambitions for the growing Mexica people.

Moctezuma depicted during his crowning in 1440, from the Tovar Codex.

In 1469 he died in Tenochtitlan, according to History of the Chihcimeca Nation. The Catholic writer Duran notes he became ill, worsening by the day. Just before his death, according to Duran, the famines ended and a military conquest had been completed. Duran also notes he was buried in the courtyard of his palace along with his treasure. Quickly after his death, the ruler of Texcoco, Nezahuacoyotl, sent for Axayacatl, grandson of Itzcoatl and Moctezuma, who would be the next ruler. If not overshadowed by Moctezuma II, the first Moctezuma would likely be better known as a great Aztec ruler.

Moctezuma’s Accomplishments

  • Solidified the Triple Alliance and Tenochtitlan’s status as the dominant group.
  • Built network of aquaducts to supply Tenochtitlan and Texcoco.
  • Was first “Hue Tlatoani” or Great Speaker, as speaking on behalf of Triple Alliance partners.
  • Expanded empire out of Valley of Mexico to Gulf Coast (Huastec and Totonac people)
  • Natural Disasters, Moctezuma was faced with a flood (1449), locusts (1446), drought and frost (1450-54). Notably the drought forced the empire to its knees.
  • Years of Peace 1440-1453
  • Codified the class system, real estate, clothing, etc.
  • Created legal and educational policies (part of class codification)

Itzcoatl <<- Moctezuma ->> Axayacatl

Aztec Rulers – Itzcoatl: Fourth Ruler of Tenochtitlan

1380-1440 – Reign: 1427-1440
Name: Obsidian Serpent
Itzcoatl established the Triple Alliance, or what is casually referred to as the Aztec Empire. After his likely nephew Chimalpopoca was killed it freed the Mexica people from their loyalty to the Tepanec Empire. Itzcoatl, unencumbered by loyalty to his Tepanec ancestors, led a war against Maxtla, the ruler of the Tepanec capital in Azcapotzalco. The king of Texcoco, legendary cultural icon Nezahuacoyotl joined the Mexica ruler in this war. After the war was won a new alliance, which included the altepetl, or family-ruled city of Tlacopan, emerged. The three rulers, Itzcoatl, Nezahuacoyotl and Totoquihuatzli formed the Triple Alliance that would rule the Valley of Mexico until 1521.

Itzcoatl, fourth ruler of Tenochtitlan.

After cementing the alliance and control of the northern valley and lakes, Itzcoatl moved south into lakes Xochimilco and Chalco. But first he took down the reigning altepetls of Culhuacan and Coyoacan. Then they moved on to chinampa towns of Cuitlahuac, Mixquic and others.

With the entire Valley in their control, the lords of the Triple Alliance established their titles and districts. Itzcoatl took the title of Lord of the Culhua, Totoquihuatzli of Tlacopan took on the Tepanec lands and people and Nezahuacoyotl remained as ruler the Acolhua people east of Texcoco. With their power consolidated the Triple Alliance took on the people of Cuahnahuac.

Itzcoatl depicted in the Tovar Codex, his name-glyph, an obsidian serpent, over his right shoulder.

Itzcoatl died in 1440 and was succeeded by his nephew Moctezuma I.

Itzcoatl’s Accomplishments

  • Established the Triple Alliance
  • Conquered Culuhua and Coyoacan
  • Overthrew Tepanec subjugation
  • Conquered Chinampa People of lakes Chalco and Xochimilco
  • Built a causeway
  • Expanded infrastructure and buildings of Tenochtitlan
  • Established new religious and political hierarchies

Chimalpopoca <<- Itzcoatl ->> Moctezuma