Anonymous: Codex Mendoza, page 67r - a night reconnaissance and 4 Aztec generals (1542)

(Bodleian Library, Oxford, UK)

A page from the 'Codex Mendoza', an Aztec codex which was after the Spanish conquest of Mexico. The book was created by Indian scribes who still had first-hand knowledge of pre-conquest conditions twenty years after the fall of the Aztec empire and gives us important information regarding the history of the Aztec emperors, Aztec daily life, lists of tribute paid by conquered cities, uniforms of the Aztec army etc. This page falls into 3 sections:

top section: 

a group of scouts from the Aztec army are sent to a rebel town to reconnoitre, at night. The group of scouts divide themselves into 2 groups: 1 group check the local marketplace (the red circle), crosses the river, goes past several houses to the local temple where they rejoin the other group of Aztec scouts. The entire group of Aztec scouts then pass the marketplace and the house of the local chief. One of the Aztec scouts is carrying a conch-shell (a quiquiztli) in case he needs to sound the alarm.

middle section:
alarmed by the activities of the Aztec scouts, the vassals of the rebellious lord plead for mercy to the Aztecs in order to avoid total destruction of their town. Peace is restored when the rebels promise to pay tribute as was in the past. the three sitting figures on the left are the subjects of the rebellious lord, the most right figure is the Aztec representative (this is indicated by the shield and 4 arrows)

bottom section:
4 high ranking officers of the Aztec army, From left to right:
- a Tlacatecatl - 'he who command the warriors', the highest ranking commanding Aztec general. This general is wearing a red feathered warrior suit and a umbrella-shaped quaxolotl back device. the shield he is wearing is a teocuitlaxapo shield.
- a Tlacochcalcatl - 'The man from the house of darts', an army general in charge of the arsenal of the Aztec army. During a military campaign he was usually in charge of the army and made all the military decisions and planning. The Tlacochcalcatl was a member of the 'council of four' - a group of men who gave advice to the emperor and also elected the new emperor. This position was a very prestigious one and an important step towards becoming the next Aztec emperor. The warrior is wearing a so-called 'Tzitzimitl-uniform', Tzitzimitl ('frightful specter') being a female skeletal Aztec deity of the stars. The red line across his chest is a symbolic sacrificial slit with his liver coming out. The general also carries the ihuiteteyo shield (a shield with 7 balls and feathers) - this shield is in heraldic terms the coat of arms of the Aztec Empire
- a Huitznahuatl - 'Thorned Speech', A constable, some sort of judge who helped the Aztec emperor in judicial cases. This officer is wearing a green feather suit, carries a cuexyo shield (The most common Aztec shield design)and has a single pamitl back device
- a 'Ticocyahuacatl' - 'keeper of the bowl of fatigue'. Also a member of the council of four and one of the emperor's constable executioners. He is wearing a yellow feathered suit, is carrying a xicalcoliuhqui shield (1 of the most common Aztec shield designs) and also has a single pamitl back device
Book from around 1542.


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