General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 22 Sep 2017/11 Vulture
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Aztec officer in the Codex Mendoza sporting ‘medals’

Bloody medals

It looks very much as if this Aztec officer, in the Codex Mendoza, is sporting medals earned on the battlefield - much as veteran soldiers do in modern armies. But he isn’t... (Written/compiled by Ian Mursell/Mexicolore)

Aztec Constable’s title glyph
Aztec Constable’s title glyph (Click on image to enlarge)

In fact the glyph identifies him individually by title, in a section of the Codex contrasting the training received by young warriors in the telpochcalli school for commoners with that received by noble priest-warriors in the calmécac élite school. At this stage in the section, we are looking at important imperial Aztec officers, Constables who carried out death sentences and executions, and Generals in the Mexica Army. The officer shown here is a Constable - identifiable because of his
• plain cape, with contrasting-coloured borders
• black body paint
• black-shading-to-brown face paint
• tubular earplugs
• long hair tightly bound by narrow white or red ribbons whose ends are knotted at the nape of the neck

The same officer shown as a higher court judge
The same officer shown as a higher court judge (Click on image to enlarge)

What’s his title? He’s been called ‘Raining Blood’, ‘Blood Rain’, ‘Dried Blood’, ‘Shedder of Blood’... (in Náhuatl Ezhuahuácatl). Clearly his name glyph shows four drops of red-striped liquid - a vivid depiction of bloodshed! As to whether he was a commoner or a noble, there’s some doubt about this. Sahagún (who compiled the Florentine Codex) states in one place that all Constables were commoners, but elsewhere he refers to Ezhuahuácatl titles as those of nobles. And here (right) he’s shown (a few pages further on in the Codex Mendoza) clearly as a noble appeals court judge, sitting on a reed seat with backrest and wearing a turquoise diadem.

Commoner or noble? Perhaps we’ll never know. But obviously his work revolved around judging crime and meting out punishment. Now why only 3 drops of blood when he’s working as a judge...?!

• Information adapted from The Essential Codex Mendoza by Frances Berdan and Patricia Rieff Anawalt, University of California Press, 1997
• Images scanned from our copy of the 1938 James Cooper Clark facsimile edition of the Codex Mendoza, London (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford)

emoticon All down to the weather: you could tell trouble was brewing on the horizon when your Aztec neighbour told you: ‘Uh oh, it’s “Bloody Rain” again...!’

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