Acamapichtli, the First Aztec King (Reigned 1376–95)


The Tovar Codex, attributed to the 16th-century Mexican Jesuit Juan de Tovar, contains detailed information about the rites and ceremonies of the Aztecs (also known as Mexica). The codex is illustrated with 51 full-page paintings in watercolor. Strongly influenced by pre-contact pictographic manuscripts, the paintings are of exceptional artistic quality. The manuscript is divided into three sections. The first section is a history of the travels of the Aztecs prior to the arrival of the Spanish. The second section, an illustrated history of the Aztecs, forms the main body of the manuscript. The third section contains the Tovar calendar. This illustration, from the second section, depicts Acamapichtli, holding a spear or scepter, standing on a reed mat. Above him is a hand holding reeds. To the right are jaguar skins. Acamapichtli (reigned 1376–95), whose name means handful of reeds, was a descendant of the Toltec emperors; his selection as the first ruler of the Mexico-Tenochtitlan dynasty gave authority to the Aztec rule. He is dressed in the clothes of the highest priests. The designs on his sandals are associated with the god Quetzalcoatl and with his Toltec ancestors. The jaguar, the eagle, and the serpent were potent symbols of Aztec religion.

Last updated: June 18, 2015