AZTEC EMPERORS (HUEY TLATOANI)
The Aztec Empire was a civilization in central Mexico that thrived in the time before the arrival of European explorers during the Age of Exploration. Throughout its history as a civilization the Aztec Empire expanded across much of central Mexico and other surrounding areas, to become the most dominant and powerful people in the region. Tenochtitlan was the center of this vast empire.
Mesoamerican city-states or ‘altepetl’ (as they were referred to as in the Aztec language of Nahuatl) were the basic structure of the Aztec Empire. Following the Aztec’s founding and construction of their capital city and altepetl of Tenochtitlan in the Valley of Mexico in 1325, they quickly established their authority across the other societies in the valley. At the time the Valley of Mexico was populated by many different powerful civilizations and altepetl, including: Chalco, Tepanec, Tlacopan, Texcoco, Culhuacan, and Chichimec. Several of these civilizations were also on the shores of Lake Texcoco, including the Culhuacan, which were on the south shore. The spread of Aztec authority throughout the region meant that the Aztec Empire expanded and came to control, many of these different societies and their altepetl.
Each altepetl was ruled by a leader referred to as a ‘tlatoani’, which translates to as ‘Speaker’. The tlatoani was an important figure in Mesoamerica city-states because they essentially controlled and organized the government, military and economy of the altepetl. In general, each tlatoani were from the higher classes and had links to the royal families present in the society at that time. As such, authority over an altepetl usually stayed within a single powerful family and passed down through hereditary lines. Also, tlatoani served in their position for life. The second in command of the altepetls was referred to as the cihuacoatl. This person also came from the higher classes and assisted the tlatoani by organizing different aspects of the altepetl. The leader of the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan and the one who ruled over all of the other altepetls in the Aztec Empire was called the ‘huey tlatoani’ or ‘Great Speaker’. The huey tlatoani played an important role in Aztec history and the expansion of the Aztec Empire. They primarily ruled over the Aztec Empire as a whole. For instance, the huey tlatoani oversaw the tribute system present in the Aztec Empire, the military and any wars that were carried out, and the expansion of the empire to new regions. Since the huey tlatoani was concerned with the affairs of the overall empire, the cihuacoatl in Tenochtitlan carried out the administration of the city itself. Today, historians refer to the huey tlatoani as Emperors since they oversaw all aspects of the far-reaching Aztec Empire.
While the huey tlatoani had significant power in the government of the Aztec Empire it’s also important to recognize the role and power of the Aztec Council. The Council was made up of four members who advised the huey tlatoani on matters related to the military, economy and tribute system. As well, the Council was generally made up of members of the nobility. As such, new huey tlatoani were usually previous members of the Council. The Council provided an important role for the wealthy classes to have control over different aspects of the society while also influencing the heuy tlatoani.
LIST OF AZTEC EMPERORS (HUEY TLATOANI)
As stated above, the Aztec civilization existed from 1325 when the city of Tenochtitlan was founded until 1521 when the Aztec were conquered by Spanish conquistadors under the leadership of Hernán Cortes. During that period of time, the Aztec were ruled by 11 different huey tlatoani. These emperors are listed below. Click on the links to learn more.