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Lands conquered under Moctezuma II, Codex Mendoza

Motecuhzuma Xocoyotzin (2)

CONQUERED LANDS: EXPANSION UNDER MOCTEZUMA II (Written/compiled by Julia Flood/Mexicolore)

Although many people have implied that Moctezuma was a retiring king, more contemplative than bellicose, colonial codices point out that he was an accomplished warrior and managed to extend the tributary system rather than lose land, like Tizoc before him. Campaigns under his name travelled south to Tapachula in the Xoconochco region (in the modern state of Chiapas) and the Chontal Maya states of Xicallanco in Tabasco. This is where Cortés would find La Malinche, noblewoman and interpreter, during the conquest. Some kingdoms remained defiant, such as the Tarascans to the west, and the neighbouring Tlaxcallans. Nevertheless, the Aztec empire was at its largest when the Spanish arrived in 1519.

In the main picture you can see a page from the Codex Mendoza. It shows all the lands that Moctezuma conquered. Many territories regularly rose up against the Aztecs and had to be conquered again. For this reason their names were repeatedly painted into codices, part of the tally of conquests made during the reigns of different Huey Tlatoque. The state of Huexolotlan, for example, appears in the Codex Mendoza under the conquests of the emperors Ahuítzotl (1486-1502), and Moctezuma (1502– 1520).

Model ‘huey tlatoani’ (’great speaker’), National Anthropology Museum shop; replica Aztec headdress in the Museum, Mexico City
Model ‘huey tlatoani’ (’great speaker’), National Anthropology Museum shop; replica Aztec headdress in the Museum, Mexico City (Click on image to enlarge)

One of the great things that Moctezuma did was to conquer the South-eastern region of Xoconochco, a place full of great riches. There, one could find precious blue/green Quetzal feathers, gold, jaguar skins and cocoa beans. These were great luxuries for the Aztecs, who could not produce them in their cold highland capital.

Moctezuma is written of as a just, even ruler, unlike Ahuítzotl who was less predictable. The previous king was said to greatly enjoy the company of women, a delight professed to be shared by warrior types. Although Moctezuma is reported to have been married to “thousands of women”, this was to form marital alliances through the daughters and nieces of provincial chiefs and smaller kings who ruled their regions whilst under Aztec domination.

Moctezuma on his ‘icpalli’ (throne) facing his daughter Tecuichpo and son Tlacahuepantzin; Codex Cozcatzin, folio 2
Moctezuma on his ‘icpalli’ (throne) facing his daughter Tecuichpo and son Tlacahuepantzin; Codex Cozcatzin, folio 2 (Click on image to enlarge)

Only two wives were allowed to be “of the mat”, or “official” wives, they were Tezalco and Acatlán. Their superior position amongst the wives was unquestioned and they were both of Toltec descent.

• Main picture, Part 1: Screen mural by Roberto Cueva del Río, photo by Ian Mursell
• Scans of Moctezuma Xocoyotzin and youth entering Calmécac, from the Codex Mendoza (original in the Bodleian Library, Oxford), from our copy of the 1936 James Cooper Clark facsimile edition
• Model of Moctezuma II by George Stuart - photo by Mary Harrsch - courtesy of George Stuart’s Historical Figures Gallery
Miguel Covarrubias illustration scanned from Alfonso Caso’s book ‘The Aztecs: People of the Sun’ (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1958)
• Tovar Manuscript illustrations scanned from our copy of the ‘Manuscrit Tovar’ (Ed. Jacques Lafaye) published by ADEVA, Graz, Austria, 1972
• Ahuitzotl’s death: see caption credit
• Templo Mayor wall: photo by Ana Laura Landa/Mexicolore
• Codex Ixtlilxochitl image scanned from our copy of the facsimile edition published by ADEVA, Graz, Austria, 1976
• Scans of Tenochtitlan’s sacred precinct, Tizoc and Lands conquered by Moctezuma (this page) (Codex Mendoza) supplied by Julia Flood
• Tlatoani model + headdress (this page): photos by Ian Mursell
• Codex Cozcatzin image scanned from our copy of the INAH facsimile edition edited by Ana Rita Valero de García Lascuráin, Mexico 1994

This article was uploaded to the Mexicolore website on Dec 11th 2007

Read about Moctezuma’s death during the Spanish Conquest

Reportret’s ‘Reconstructed Portrait’ of Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin
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