The Battle of Azcapotzalco


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 the Battle of Azcapotzalco. Two groups of soldiers are shown fighting with war clubs and shields in the foreground of the image. At the far left is a jaguar warrior, one of the elite soldiers of the Aztec, with the glyph of a flowering cactus above him. Next to him is a figure representing Axayácatl (known from the glyph for water and hill above him). At the right is a figure in a conical hat and another jaguar warrior. Behind the soldiers is a dwelling with three women who make a sign of mercy with their hands. Another woman stands ready to defend them. At right an infant is being sacrificed by a priest at a temple while two victims lie dead on the ground. Azcapotzalco, capital city of Tecpanec on Lake Texcoco, was the site of a battle in 1430 between Itzcóatl, the fourth Aztec emperor (reigned 1427–40, allied with Netzahualcoyotl, a Texcocan lord) and Maxtla (son of a Tepanec lord to whom the Aztec had been subservient), who had had the previous emperor assassinated. Upon the defeat of Maxtla, the three cities of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan formed the new Aztec empire of the Triple Alliance.

Last updated: June 18, 2015