General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 24 Sep 2017/13 Flint
Text Size:

Search the Site (type in white box):

Article suitable for Top Juniors and above

Aztec slaves (Florentine Codex)

Freedom: run for it!

‘[An Aztec] slave could always be sure of food and shelter, and - unlike a free man - escaped the twin burdens of military service and taxation. Many slaves rose to positions of responsibility, acting as overseers or estate managers, and Aztec law allowed them to acquire land, property, and even slaves of their own... Itzcóatl, one of the greatest leaders of Tenochtitlan, was elected king even though his mother was a slave... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Illustration by Felipe Dávalos
Illustration by Felipe Dávalos (Click on image to enlarge)

‘The principal slave market was in Azcapotzalco where the trade was so well organized that the dealers were among the richest of the merchants... An ordinary slave with no special skills cost about 20 cotton mantles (no mean price, for a poor man could live for almost a year on that sum), but a good dancer could fetch 30 or even 40 mantles...

Illustration by Felipe Dávalos (can you spot the runaway?!)
Illustration by Felipe Dávalos (can you spot the runaway?!) (Click on image to enlarge)

‘Most of the slaves who reached the markets had come from distant lands, often outside Aztec territory... A slave who got as far as the market had one last chance of regaining his freedom.

Illustration by Felipe Dávalos
Illustration by Felipe Dávalos (Click on image to enlarge)

‘If he could escape from the market place and reach the sanctuary of the ruler’s palace he became a free man, and the law gave him a sporting chance by forbidding anybody except the owner or the owner’s son to try and catch him. Any other person who interfered in the chase was punished by being enslaved himself.’

Mexicolore’s Activity Sheet no. 8 - a slave’s fun for freedom
Mexicolore’s Activity Sheet no. 8 - a slave’s fun for freedom (Click on image to enlarge)

(Top Image from the Florentine Codex, info from “Everyday Life of the Aztecs” by Warwick Bray) - follow the link below to read Professor Bray’s contribution to ‘Ask the Experts’ on common Aztec crimes.

The 3 illustrations above, commissioned by Mexicolore from Mexican artist Felipe Dávalos, are available as a free download to teachers: just click on the PDF link below.

Acrobat logo Download Activity Sheet 8

Common Aztec crimes

Feedback button

Here's what others have said: