Tenochtitlán Facts
History and Facts of Tenochtitlán
 

 

 

 

TizocTizoc

Tizoc was the seventh emperor of the Aztec Empire and served from 1481 to 1486.

He is famous for having the shortest and most unsuccessful reign of all the emperors in Aztec history.
Considered weak by Aztecs and outsiders alike, Tizoc suffered military defeat and constant rebellions throughout his reign.

It is believed that he was poisoned in a plot by Aztec noblemen, including his brother, in order to preserve the powerful reputation of the empire.

Tizoc was born in the capital city of Tenochtitlán in the 1450s. He came from a distinguished line of Aztec nobles; he was the nephew of the fourth Aztec emperor, Itzcóatl, and the brother of the sixth emperor, Axayacatl. Educated in Tenochtitlán, Tizoc served as a warrior captain following his childhood. Under his emperor brother, he became the commanding general of the Aztec armies. Despite his many promotions, Tizoc never earned a reputation as a particularly successful military commander.

Following the death of Axayacatl, a council of Aztec noblemen elected Tizoc to serve as the seventh emperor. Tradition demanded that the newly selected emperor wage a military campaign against a neighboring kingdom. The prisoners gained from those battles would then be sacrificed at the emperor's coronation celebration.

This first campaign represented the single most important event in an emperor's life, as the highly religious and warlike Aztecs viewed it as an omen of the coming reign. The campaign also permitted the new ruler to prove his abilities as a strategist and renew military ties with the city-states allied with the Aztecs. The coronation wars were considered essential in maintaining the integrity of the alliance that had enabled the Aztecs to conquer most of central Mexico.

Tizoc decided to wage his coronation war against the towns of Metztitlan and Itxmiquilpan in the northeastern portion of the central valley of Mexico. The Aztec Army, commanded directly by Tizoc, fought a large battle in a narrow valley near Metztitlan.

As a result of cramped fighting space, Tizoc only fielded a few hundred of his warriors at the same time. This neutralized the main advantage that the Aztecs had always enjoyed over their enemies, overwhelming numerical superiority.

The defenders fought the Aztecs from a superior defensive position, and several hundred Aztec warriors were killed and many more wounded. In the end, the campaign resulted in only 40 prisoners for Tizoc's coronation celebration.

The militaristic and superstitious Aztecs immediately had doubts about their new emperor's abilities. Their worries were confirmed when the failed campaign was followed by a long series of military defeats.

Within a year of his coronation, Tizoc was widely considered a weak and inept ruler. His shortcomings as a military commander furthermore led to a marked decrease in the trade and tribute that flowed into the Aztec capital. The resultant shortage of luxury goods greatly affected the Aztec nobility, who began to resent their leader.

Under Tizoc's leadership, the Aztec Empire went into a brief period of decline. Not only did it lose territory and manpower in unsuccessful wars, but many of the towns and provinces conquered previously by the Aztecs rebelled against the ineffective Tizoc.

A serious rebellion in the towns of Chicpantlan and Tlaollan forced Tizoc to send an Aztec army to the gulf coast in 1483. Additional towns in the region rebelled in 1484, with the townspeople of Tzinacantepec killing an Aztec tribute collector. Tizoc had great difficulty in suppressing those rebellions but eventually succeeded through sheer force of numbers by the end of 1485.

Besides his military failures, Tizoc distinguished himself in no other way during his time as emperor. He instituted no changes or reforms to the Aztec imperial army, society, or administration. His sole contribution to the architecture of the capital came with the commissioning of the stone of Tizoc.

Like the famous Aztec calendar stone, the stone of Tizoc is a huge round basalt disk. Six feet in diameter and four feet high, the stone commemorated Tizoc's victory over neighboring tribes. Interestingly, the image of Tizoc appears 15 times on the stone. The artwork clearly represented an attempt to glorify his military conquest despite an otherwise lackluster series of military campaigns.

By 1486, the Aztec Empire had been seriously weakened by Tizoc's failures, and its army was beginning to lose its reputation as an unbeatable fighting force. The resultant loss of fear led to a further series of rebellions in subject townships, which seriously weakened Tizoc's legitimacy as both emperor and military commander. That weakness inspired many of the Aztec nobility, including kinsmen, to conspire against him.

According to Spanish sources, members of Tizoc's own court at Tenochtitlán attempted to save the Aztec Empire from ruin by poisoning his food. Whether poisoned or not, Tizoc died at a very young age in 1486, despite his evident good health. Following his death, a council of nobles chose his warlike brother, Ahuitzotl, as the next emperor. Many modern scholars hold Ahuitzotl responsible for the death of his brother, but there is little conclusive evidence of his involvement.

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