Itzcóatl, the Fourth Aztec King (Reigned 1427–40)


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, shows Itzcóatl, holding a spear or scepter, standing on a reed mat and next to a basket-work throne. He hides his right hand under his tilma (cloak). Above him is an obsidian serpent. Itzcóatl (reigned 1427–40), whose name means obsidian serpent, was the fourth king of the Aztecs. He is dressed in the clothes of the highest priests and is credited with destroying the old Nahuatl records, consolidating legal authority in a totalitarian leader, and with establishing the practice of "flowery wars," which were waged to attain human sacrifices.

Last updated: October 26, 2012