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Tlahtoāni of the Aztec Empire
Grabado de la Fundacion de Mexico.svg
Sacred War emblem
StyleWēyi tlahtoāni
First monarch Acamapichtli
Last monarch Cuauhtémoc
Residence Tenochtitlan
AppointerCouncil of Elders

Tlatoani (Classical Nahuatl : tlahtoānipronounced  [t͡ɬaʔtoˈaːniˀ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ), "one who speaks, ruler"; plural tlahtohque [t͡ɬaʔˈtoʔkee̥] or tlatoque) is the Classical Nahuatl term for the ruler of an āltepētl , a pre-Hispanic state. It is the noun form of the verb "tlahtoa" meaning "speak, command, rule". As a result, it has been variously translated in English as "king", "ruler", or "speaker" in the political sense. Above a tlahtoani is the Huey Tlahtoani, sometimes translated as "Great Speaker", though more usually as "Emperor" (the term is often seen as the equivalent to the European "great king"). [1] A cihuatlatoani (Nahuatl pronunciation:  [siwaːt͡ɬaʔtoˈaːniˀ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen )) is a female ruler, or queen regnant. [2]


The term cuauhtlatoani refers to "vice-leader". [3] The leaders of the Mexica prior to their settlement are sometimes referred to as cuauhtlatoque, as well as colonial rulers who were not descended from the ruling dynasty.

The ruler's lands were called tlatohcatlalli [t͡ɬaʔtoʔkaːˈt͡ɬaːlːiˀ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ), and the ruler's house was called tlatohcacalli [t͡ɬaʔtoʔkaːˈkalːiˀ] ( Loudspeaker.svg listen ) [4]

The city-states of the Aztec Empire each had their own tlatoani, or leader. He would be the high priest and military leader for his city-state and would be considered its commander-in-chief. The tlatoani was the ultimate owner of all land in his city-state and received tribute, oversaw markets and temples, led the military, and resolved judicial disputes. [5] He would often be a descendant of the royal family, but in some cases, he would be elected. [6] Since the Tlatoani was allowed to have several wives, his legacy would be easily maintained. After being established as the tlatoani, he would be the tlatoani of his region for life. The tlatoani was chosen by a council of elders, nobles, and priests, which would select from a pool of four candidates.

Commanding hierarchy

Tlatoani Nezahualpiltzintli; the king of Texcoco. Nezahualpiltzintli.jpg
Tlatoani Nezahualpiltzintli; the king of Texcoco.

The cihuacóatl was the second in command after the tlatoani, was a member of the nobility, served as the supreme judge for the court system, appointed all lower court judges, and handled the financial affairs of the altepetl. [5]

Tlatoani during times of war

During times of war, the tlatoani would be in charge of creating battle plans, and making strategies for his army. He would draft these plans after receiving information from various scouts, messengers, and spies who were sent out to an enemy āltepētl (city-state). Detailed information was presented to him from those reports to be able to construct a layout of the enemy. This was essential because this ensured the safety and success of each battle.

These layouts would be heavily detailed from city structures to surrounding area. The Tlatoani would be the most informed about any conflict and would be the primary decision maker during war. In modern terms, in the US, the Tlatoani would be the commander-in-chief, which is the president of the United States. The commander-in-chief is responsible for the armed forces or a military branch by exercising commands that must be followed. [7]

He would also be in charge of gaining support from allied rulers by sending gifts and emissaries from his city-state. During warfare the tlatoani would be informed immediately of deaths and captures of his warriors. He would also be in charge of informing his citizens about fallen or captive warriors, and would present gifts to the successful ones.

Tlatoque of Tenochtitlan

Weyi Tlahtoani Moctezuma II, the sixth Emperor of the Aztec Triple Alliance Moctezuma Xocoyotzin.png
Weyi Tlahtoani Moctezuma II, the sixth Emperor of the Aztec Triple Alliance

There were eleven tlatoque of Tenochtitlan. Beginning with Itzcoatl, the tlahtoani of Tenochtitlan was also the hueyi tlahtoani of the Aztec Empire.

  1. Acamapichtli: 1376–1395
  2. Huitzilihuitl: 1395–1417
  3. Chimalpopoca: 1417–1427
  4. Itzcoatl: 1427–1440
  5. Moctezuma I: 1440–1469
  6. Axayacatl: 1469–1481
  7. Tizoc: 1481–1486
  8. Ahuitzotl: 1486–1502
  9. Moctezuma II: 1502–1520
  10. Cuitláhuac: 1520
  11. Cuauhtémoc: 1520–1521

See also

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  1. Lockhart (2001, p.238); Schroeder (2007, p.3). See also the entry for "TLAHTOANI" Archived 2007-06-14 at the Wayback Machine , in Wimmer (2006)
  2. Schroeder (2007, pp.3–4). See also the entry for "CIHUATLAHTOANI" Archived 2007-06-08 at the Wayback Machine in Wimmer (2006).
  3. Schroeder (1991, p. 188).
  4. Nahuatl dictionary (1997). Wired humanities project. Retrieved January 1, 2012, from link
  5. 1 2 "Aztec Political Structure". Tarlton Law Library . Retrieved 10 March 2020.
  6. "pre-Columbian civilizations". Encyclopædia Britannica . 2016-11-22. Retrieved 2017-05-22.
  7. "Aztec and Maya Law". Tarlton Law Library . Retrieved 11 March 2020.


Further reading