General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 25 May 2018/9 Alligator
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Article suitable for older students

Dr. Anastasia Kalyuta

Question for May 2018

If someone tried to commit suicide, would they have been punished? Asked by Bannockburn Primary School. Chosen and answered by Dr. Anastasia Kalyuta.

Pic 1: Statue of Tlahuicole by Mexican artist of mixed Nahua/Spanish origin Pedro Patiño Ixtolinqui. It stands today on the highway leading to Tlaxcala
Pic 1: Statue of Tlahuicole by Mexican artist of mixed Nahua/Spanish origin Pedro Patiño Ixtolinqui. It stands today on the highway leading to Tlaxcala (Click on image to enlarge)

No, on the contrary: in certain circumstances one was expected to commit suicide or voluntarily to accept death. For example a high-ranking warrior, war leader or ruler who was taken prisoner by an enemy shouldn’t even try to escape and to return alive to his homeland, for such behavior was considered an act of cowardice, and he would be executed in his homeland. Therefore, he had only two options: to commit suicide or to be sacrificed. The most poignant case is the story of Tlahuicole (pic 1), the high-ranking Tlaxcatlec warrior captured by the troops of Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin. In recognition of his military prowess he was spared and even trusted to carry out a campaign against the Purépecha (Tarascans), the western neighbours and rivals of the Mexica. However, according to the version of Tlaxcallan historian Diego Muñoz Camargo he preferred to die in gladiatorial combat, whilst another colonial historian Diego Durán states that he leapt from the main temple of Tenochtitlan.

Pic 2: The younger brother of Moctezuma I lies naked at the foot of a ceremonial pole-and-platform, having thrown himself from the top after being captured by the Chalca (whose ruler is seated on the left). Tovar Manuscript fol. 107
Pic 2: The younger brother of Moctezuma I lies naked at the foot of a ceremonial pole-and-platform, having thrown himself from the top after being captured by the Chalca (whose ruler is seated on the left). Tovar Manuscript fol. 107 (Click on image to enlarge)

Other famous Aztec suicides include:_
• The third ruler of Mexico-Tenochtitlan Chimalpopoca who hanged himself in prison (the 17th century historian Juan de Torquemada saw a picture depicting this in a pre-Hispanic painted codex, now lost, and documented the death of Chimalpopoca in detail in his work Monarquía Indiana, completed in 1611)
• The last independent ruler of Tlatelolco Moquihuixtli who like Tlahuicole threw himself from the top of the city’s main temple after a fatal defeat in war against the Mexica-Tenochca around 1478 CE
• Tlacahuepan, younger brother of Motecuhzoma Ilhuicamina (Moctezuma I) who also committed suicide after being captured by the Chalca people (pic 2)
• Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin (Moctezuma II) whose death was a ‘surprise’ to the Spanish if we can believe Bernal Diaz. Diaz even suspected that Motecuhzoma might have ordered the poisoning of his wounds which weren’t serious.

Picture sources:-
• Pic 1: Photo downloaded from: http://mapio.net/pic/p-59971367/
• Pic 2: Image scanned from Manuscrit Tovar, UNESCO/ADEVA, Graz, Austria, 1972.

The full story of how Moctezuma II died...

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