Axayacatl (/ˌæksəˈjɑːkətəl/; Classical Nahuatl: āxāyacatl [aːʃaːˈjákatɬ] (About this soundlisten); Spanish: Axayácatl [aksaˈʝakatɬ]; meaning "face of water"; c. 1449–1481) was the sixth tlatoani of the altepetl of Tenochtitlan and Emperor of the Aztec Triple Alliance.

6th Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan
Ruler of the Aztec Triple Alliance
Axayacatl as depicted in the Codex Azcatitlan
Reign3 House – 2 House
PredecessorMoctezuma I
Bornc. 1449 (1449)
Died2 House
1481 (aged 31–32)
FatherPrince Tezozomoc
MotherPrincess Atotoztli II
Map showing territorial expansions of the Aztec Empire under each of the Aztec rulers. Expansions during the reign of Axayacatl are indicated in blue.[1]


Early life and backgroundEdit

Axayacatl was a son of the princess Atotoztli II and her cousin, prince Tezozomoc. He was a grandson of the Emperors Moctezuma I and Itzcoatl. He was a descendant of the king Cuauhtototzin.

He was a successor of Moctezuma and his brothers were Emperors Tizoc and Ahuitzotl and his sister was the Queen Chalchiuhnenetzin. He was an uncle of the Emperor Cuauhtémoc and father of Emperors Moctezuma II and Cuitláhuac.

Rise to powerEdit

During his youth, his military prowess gained him the favor influential figures such as Nezahualcoyotl and Tlacaelel I, and thus, upon the death of Moctezuma I in 1469, he was chosen to ascend to the throne, much to the displeasure of his two older brothers, Tizoc and Ahuitzotl.

It is also important that the Great Sun Stone, also known as the Aztec Calendar, was carved under his leadership. In the year 1475 there was a major earthquake that destroyed many homes in Tenochtitlán.[2]

Military actions and deathEdit

Using as a pretext the insulting behavior of a few Tlatelolcan citizens, Axayacatl invaded his neighbor, killed its ruler, Moquihuix, and replaced him with a military governor. The Tlatelolcans lost any voice they had in forming Aztec policy.

Moquihuix's death as depicted in the Codex Mendoza.

Axayacatl largely dedicated his twelve-year reign to consolidating his militaristic repute: he led successful campaigns against the neighboring altepetl of Tlatelolco in 1473 (see Battle of Tlatelolco) and the Matlatzinca of the Toluca Valley in 1474, but was finally defeated by the Tarascans of Michoacán in 1476. Despite some subsequent minor triumphs, Axayacatl's defeat at the hands of the Tarascans irreversibly marred his image, as it constituted the only major defeat suffered by the Aztecs up to that moment. In spite of his young age, he fell gravely ill in 1480, passing away a mere year later, in 1481, whereupon he was succeeded by his brother Tizoc.

Axayacatl the poetEdit

Axayacatl wrote two poems. The first, Ycuic Axayayatzin (English: "Song of Axayacatl") is a defense against his brothers and critics; the second, Huehue cuicatl (English: "Song of the Ancients") is a lament written after his defeat in Michoacan.[3]

In popular cultureEdit

  • The Obsidian and Blood series by Aliette de Bodard are set in the last year of the reign of Axayacatl and the first years of the reign of Tizoc, with their youngest brother Ahuitzotl appearing as a primary character.


  1. ^ Map based on Hassig (1988)
  2. ^ Evans, Susan Toby; Pillsbury, Joanne (1998). Palaces of the Ancient New World (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. p. 16. ISBN 0-88402-300-1.[permanent dead link]
  3. ^ Miguel Leon-Portilla (1978). Trece Poetas del Mundo Azteca [Thirteen Poets of the Aztec World] (in Spanish) (2nd, 1972 ed.). Mexico City: Universidad Nacinal Autonoma de Mexico. pp. 133–153.

See alsoEdit


  • Davies, Nigel (1980). The Aztecs (2nd ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Davies, Nigel (1987). The Aztec Empire: The Toltec Resurgence. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press.
  • Hassig, Ross (1988). Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2121-1.
  • Townsend, Richard F. (2000). The Aztecs (revised ed.). London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28132-7.
  • Weaver, Muriel Porter (1993). The Aztecs, Maya, and Their Predecessors: Archaeology of Mesoamerica (3rd ed.). San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0-01-263999-0.

External linksEdit

Regnal titles
Preceded by
Moctezuma I
Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan
3 House – 2 House
Succeeded by