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Tlatoani (Classical Nahuatl: tlahtoāni Nahuatl pronunciation: [t͡ɬaʔtoˈaːni] (About this sound listen), "one who speaks, ruler" plural tlahtohqueh [t͡ɬaʔˈtoʔkeʔ]) is the Classical Nahuatl term for the ruler of an altepetl, a pre-Hispanic state. It may be translated into English as "king".[1] A cihuātlahtoāni (Nahuatl pronunciation: [siwaːt͡ɬaʔtoˈaːni] (About this sound listen)) is a female ruler, or queen regnant.[2]

Tlatoani of Aztec Empire
Grabado de la Fundación de México.svg
Sacred War emblem
Style Huēyi tlahtoāni
First monarch Acamapichtli
Last monarch Cuauhtémoc
Formation c. 1376
Abolition 1521
Residence Tenochtitlan
Appointer Divine right

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

The ruler's lands were called tlahtohcātlālli [t͡ɬaʔtoʔkaːˈt͡ɬaːlli] (About this sound listen)[4] and the ruler's house was called tlahtohcācalli [t͡ɬaʔtoʔkaːˈkalli] (About this sound 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. He would be considered their commander and chief. As the Tlatoani he would make every decision for his city-state from taxes to warfare. He would often be a descendent of the royal family; however in some cases he would be elected[5]. 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. He would be selected from a pool of four candidates.


Tlatoani during times of warEdit

The Tlatoani during times of war 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 altepetl (city-state). Detailed information was presented to him from those reports to be able to construct a layout of the enemy.

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.

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.

Tlatoani of the Aztec EmpireEdit

There was a total of eleven Tlatoani that held the crown at different periods of time in the 145 year reign of the Aztec Empire.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Lockhart (2001, p.238); Schroeder (2007, p.3). See also the entry for "TLAHTOANI", in Wimmer (2006)
  2. ^ Schroeder (2007, pp.3–4). See also the entry for "CIHUATLAHTOANI" in Wimmer (2006).
  3. ^ Schroeder (1991, p. 188).
  4. ^ a b Nahuatl dictionary (1997). Wired humanities project. Retrieved January 1, 2012, from link
  5. ^ "pre-Columbian civilizations". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 2017-05-22. 


Berdan, Frances F.; Richard E. Blanton; Elizabeth Hill Boone; Mary G. Hodge; Michael E. Smith; Emily Umberger (1996). Aztec Imperial Strategies. Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. ISBN 0-88402-211-0. OCLC 27035231. 
Gibson, Charles (1964). The Aztecs Under Spanish Rule: A History of the Indians of the Valley of Mexico, 1519–1810 (Reprinted 1976 ed.). Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-0196-2. OCLC 190295. 
Lockhart, James (2001). Nahuatl as Written: Lessons in Older Written Nahuatl, with Copious Examples and Texts. UCLA Latin American studies, vol. 88; Nahuatl studies series, no. 6. Stanford and Los Angeles: Stanford University Press and UCLA Latin American Center Publications. ISBN 0-8047-4282-0. OCLC 46858459.  (in English) (in Nahuatl)
Schroeder, Susan (1991). Chimalpahin and the Kingdoms of Chalco. Tucson: University of Arizona Press. ISBN 0-8165-1182-9. OCLC 21976206. 
Schroeder, Susan (2007). "The Annals of Chimalpahin" (PDF). In James Lockhart; Lisa Sousa; Stephanie Wood. Sources and Methods for the Study of Postconquest Mesoamerican Ethnohistory (PDF e-book online publication) (Provisional version ed.). Eugene: University of Oregon Wired Humanities Project. Retrieved 2008-05-16. 
Wimmer, Alexis (2006). "Dictionnaire de la langue nahuatl classique" (online version, incorporating reproductions from Dictionnaire de la langue nahuatl ou mexicaine [1885], by Rémi Siméon).  (in French) (in Nahuatl)
  • Barbara A. Somervill. Great Empires of the Past: Empire of the Aztecs. New York: Chelsa House, 2010.
  • Carrasco, David. Daily Life of The Aztecs: People of the Sun and Earth. Connecticut: Greenwood Press, 1998.
  • Carrasco, D. 1998, 139.
  • Sahagun, Bernardino de. Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain. Translated and edited by Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble. 13 vols. Santa Fe: School of American Research, and University of Utah, 1950-1982.
  • Sahagun, Florentine Codex, VIII: 52.
  • Somervill, B. 2010, 78.