Moctezuma I, also known as Motecuhzoma I Ilhuicamina, was the Aztec’s fifth tlatoani (ruler). He ruled between 1440 and 1469 which is where he is recorded on the Biblical Timeline Chart with World History. His name means the “Archer of the Sky” and the “Angry Lord” in the Nahua language. During his reign, he led his army in conquering large portions of central and eastern Mexico. His expansionist policy also turned the Aztec state into an empire.
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The Emperor of the Aztec Triple Alliance
King Moctezuma I was the grandson of the first Mexica king Acamapichtli. His father was King Huitzilihuitl, and his mother was Queen Miahuaxihuitl. He succeeded his uncle, King Itzcoatl, as ruler of the Mexicas when the king died in 1440. The elders and priests of the Mexicas elected him as the new ruler. They celebrated his accession with a great feast. The people favored him after he gave away some of his wealth to nobles and commoners alike during the feast.
One of the most important people who attended the celebration was Moctezuma’s cousin King Nezahualcoyotl of the city of Texcoco. During the feast, King Nezahualcoyotl asked his cousin to enter into an alliance with him as Texcoco was always invaded by other tribes. Moctezuma agreed to help Texcoco, but he also wanted to keep the Mexica’s fearsome reputation. To make sure that their common enemies would still fear the Mexicas, Moctezuma and his warriors pretended to attack Texcoco. Nezahualcoyotl was in on the secret and he, as well as his people, also pretended to submit to the Mexicas so that they could formalize the alliance. From then on, the city of Texcoco became the Mexica’s independent ally.
The Temple of Huitzilopochtli and the War Against the Chalcas
Moctezuma then decided to build a temple for the Mexica’s god Huitzilopochtli, so he ordered his warriors to stop all wars against other tribes. He also required the cities that the Mexica conquered to contribute labor and construction materials to the new temple. The rulers of the other cities agreed. They began the construction of a magnificent temple that took around twelve years to build.
After twelve years, the chief designers of the temple wanted to carve a sculpture of their god. So they told the workers to look for a large stone. But the Valley of Mexico did not have a stone large enough for the statue, while the nearest place where they could get this kind of stone was in the territory of the distant Chalca people. Moctezuma then sent his men to the Lord Cuateotl, the Chalca leader, to request for this kind of stone, plus workers as tributes to Tenochtitlan. Lord Cuateotl was unhappy with Moctezuma’s demands. He replied that he would not send tributes to Tenochtitlan. He also warned the Mexica king that his people were ready to defend themselves if they were attacked by Tenochtitlan.
This reply angered Moctezuma, and he immediately ordered his soldiers to prepare for battle against the Chalcas. They met in a fierce battle, but the Chalcas asked for a five-day rest to worship their god when it looked like that the Mexica would defeat them. Moctezuma agreed to this request, and they, too, worshipped Huitzilopochtli. When they met again, the Mexicas completely defeated the Chalcas in Cocotitlan that they were forced to ask for another reprieve. The Mexicas did not grant their request and instead, Chalca warriors were burned to death, and their hearts were cut out as sacrifices to the god Huitzilopochtli. The Mexicas also conquered the Chalca territory and its people.
Expansion and Death
The Chalcas were not the only ones who bowed down to the Aztecs as they also conquered eastern Mexico which was occupied by the Huastec people, as well as the state of Oaxaca. The Aztec king reigned for thirty years and made the empire very wealthy. He died in 1469 and was succeeded by King Axayacatl.
Picture By enwiki/Maunus – en wiki http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Aztecexpansion.png, Public Domain, Link
Aguilar-Moreno, Manuel. Handbook to Life in the Aztec World. New York: Facts on File, 2006.
Brundage, Burr Cartwright. A Rain of Darts: The Mexica Aztecs. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1972.
Hardoy, Jorge Enrique. Pre-Columbian Cities. New York: Walker, 1973.
Lee, Jongsoo. The Allure of Nezahualcoyotl: Pre-Hispanic History, Religion, and Nahua Poetics. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2008.
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