Short History of Mexico - Arthur H. Noll

Aboriginal Mexico

The earliest authentic date in the history of Mexico is 1325,—generally accepted as the year in which the Mexicans, or Aztecs, ended their wanderings about the shores of Lake Texcoco, and settled upon the site of what was afterwards Tenochtitlan, and is now the City of Mexico. Traditions and myths are sadly mixed up with the realities of these events, as we shall hereafter see; but the best authorities agree in accepting that year as the beginning of Mexican history, and relegating all accounts of the previous occupants of the Mexican Valley to the realm of archaeology. Such accounts can therefore claim no serious attention from the present writer, whose purpose it is to relate only what is actually known of the history of Mexico. Archaeology is no proper pursuit for the hurrying traveller in Mexico. Reserving that for leisure hours at home, he will find plenty of books from which to gather the conflicting theories held by different men as to who were and whence came the Mayas, the Qquiches, the Toltecs, and the Chichimecas; who built the cities whose ruins are the occasion of so much wonder to the travellers in Yucatan,—cities said to have been overgrown with dense forests before the Spanish conquest,—or who built Mitla, the ruined city in the State of Oaxaca; and by whom and for what purpose the so-called "pyramids "of San Juan Teotihuacan were erected, or the similar mound in Cholula.

The seven families of Nahuatlacas who arrived in the lake region of the Mexican Valley in the beginning of the fourteenth century, whom we call Aztecs, or Mexicans, and of whose subsequent movements we have to some extent authentic records, brought with them certain traditions which are partially corroborated by the researches of archeologists. From these traditions it would appear that they had originated in a country unknown save by the name Aztlan (and that merely means "the place of the Aztecs"), and indefinitely located "somewhere north of the Gulf of California," perhaps in the locality where are found the remarkable cliff houses of Colorado and New Mexico.

They began their southerly march about the middle of the twelfth century, and stopped for a time in what is now Arizona of the United States, leaving there certain monuments. The ruins of Casas Grandes attest that they made that a stopping-place also. Again they settled in a country known as Culhuacan, and it is there that they appear to have formulated their religion, adopting as their god of war Huitzilopochtli. That being the name of one of the Chichimecan rulers of that century, it suggests the possibility of their having made a tribal hero do duty as a tribal deity. Huitzilopochtli furnished the nucleus for the subsequent development of the Aztec mythology.

It was under the leadership of their war god that the Aztecs proceeded on their way from Culhuacan, leaving signs of another resting-place in what is known as the "Quemada," about twenty miles south of Zacatecas. At the end of nine years they left the Quemada, and by a very circuitous journey reached the mountain regions of Toluca, and finally arrived in Tula in 1196. Twenty years later they arrived at Zumpango, thirty miles north of the site of their future capital. They were well received by the chief of Zumpango (called by Spanish writers, in their fondness for conferring high-sounding titles upon the chiefs of these early tribes, "the Lord of Zumpango"), and a marriage was arranged between his son and a daughter of one of the Mexican families to whom the Spanish writers (conceiving that the Mexicans had already attained to the dignity of an hereditary government, instead of being a mere roving band) give the dignified title of "Aztec princess." It was from this marriage that the military chiefs of the Mexicans in the succeeding century were descended.

The wanderings of the Mexicans were renewed, and seven years later they passed by way of Tezoyocan and Tolpetas to Tepeyacac (Guadalupe-Hidalgo), then on the northwestern shores of Lake Texcoco. After twenty-nine years of occupancy of this locality they were driven out by the Chichimecas,—a powerful tribe already established in the Valley of Mexico, speaking a language differing dialectically only from that spoken by the Mexicans. They fled to the rocky promontory of Chapultepec, looking down upon the waters of Texcoco. Sixteen years later they sought refuge in a group of islands in the western extremity of Lake Acocolco (Aculco), where they eked out a miserable existence for fifty-two years. The Culhuacas made them slaves; but because of assistance rendered to their masters in the wars between the Culhuacas and the Xochimilcas, they were enabled to regain their liberty, and collected themselves together at Huitzilopocho (Churubusco), and went to Mexicalzingo and Ixtacalco. It was after two years that they proceeded to the selection of a permanent home and the foundation of a pueblo which was to be the scene of their subsequent development.

In the marshy islands near the western borders of Lake Texcoco, representatives of the poor tribe of Mexicans, wandering about in search of a place of rest, saw an eagle standing upon a nopal  (prickly-pear cactus) strangling a serpent. This was received as a sign that the gods had selected that spot for their future home. Accordingly there was established upon that spot, in the year 1325, the nucleus of the pueblo of Tenochtitlan; that is, "the place of the Tenuch"  or nopal. The name by which their pueblo was subsequently called, and by which its successor is now known, was derived from Mextli, which either means the moon, or was another name given to Huitzilopochtli.

Although this legend of the foundation of Tenochtitlan has been so generally accepted as to give to Mexico a design for its escutcheon,—representing the eagle, the serpent, and the nopal,—yet there is a far more plausible explanation given for the selection by the Mexicans of such an unpromising site for their local habitation as the marshy islands of the lake borders. Upon entering the lake region of the Valley of Mexico, they found four tribes already settled there,—the Aculhuas or Texcocans, the Tecpanecas, the Xochimilcas, and the Chalcas. The present towns of Texcoco, Xochimilco, and Chalco mark the sites occupied by three of these tribes. The site occupied by the Tecpanecas was on the western borders of Lake Texcoco, where now stands Atzcapotzalco. These tribes all spoke the Nahuatl language,—the language of the Mexicans,—with only dialectic differences. It became necessary for the newcomers—the Aztecs—to select a place for their home, not only offering them at least a scanty means of subsistence, but also capable of ready defense from the inroads of their neighbors, under their system of warfare. This was afterwards demonstrated as their pueblo grew and causeways were constructed,—at first glance intended only to afford them a ready means of reaching the mainland, but upon closer study really designed to place the pueblo at a greater distance from the mainland. For these causeways acted as dams, and deepened the waters of the lake west of the pueblo,—more especially in the direction of its nearest neighbors, the Tecpanecas of Atzcapotzalco.

Having thus followed the Aztecs through their traditional wanderings, and arrived with them at the point marking the beginning of their history, we find certain attempts to account for the earlier occupants of the high tablelands of Mexico which cannot be wholly ignored, though none of them can with safety be set down as matters of sober history. That which treats of the Toltecs furnishes as a beginning-point the suspiciously early date of 720, and supplies us with the unpronounceable names of a succession of nine rulers, and an account of the destruction of the "monarchy" in 1103. A succession of nine rulers, occupying the throne on an average more than forty-two years each, and altogether nearly four hundred years, bears prima facie  the impress of improbability. The site and ruins of the capital of this so-called "monarchy" still remain at Tula, or, as it was anciently called, Tollan, fifty miles north of the City of Mexico, on the present line of the Mexican Central Railway. The tribe had risen out of the densest obscurity one hundred and thirty years previously, and had spent that length of time in wanderings,—remaining long enough in one locality, fifty-nine miles northeast of the Mexican capital, to bestow upon it the name of Tollantzingo (Tulancingo), the place of the Toltecs, The name Toltecs signifies, according to some, "the builders," and suggests that the title may have been conferred posthumously—so to speak—upon the race by their successors, when the latter came to see the remains of the buildings left by their antecedents.

One notable event in the history of the Toltecs seems well authenticated and is deserving of mention here. It is the discovery or invention of pulque  in the "reign" of the eighth Toltec chief, Tepancaltzin, during the latter half of the eleventh century. Xochitl, the daughter of Papantzin, was the discoverer, and upon being presented by her father before the chief of her tribe, who was not more delighted with the beverage than with the beauty of the discoverer, she was elevated at once to a place in his household. To one who knows Mexico, and what a hold this beverage (the juice of the maguey, Mexican aloe, or agave Americana, in a certain stage of fermentation) has had upon the affections of the people for eight centuries, it will occasion no surprise to learn that to this event is accorded a permanent place in history, while the details of the rebellion where in Tepancaltzin and his "queen" were killed, and the Toltec government was overthrown in 1103, have been allowed to sink into oblivion. From 1103, although Topiltzin, probably the leader of the rebellion, succeeded to the chieftaincy, anarchy seems to have prevailed in Tula, until the fair land of the Toltecs was nearly depopulated by famines, plagues, and wars, and the few survivors emigrated to Yucatan or Guatemala, leaving behind them in Tula monuments to mark them as a race somewhat advanced in civilization. The Chichimecas ("eagles," as their name signifies, according to one of many etymologies suggested) were the successors of the Toltecs. They were less advanced in civilization, and came from Amaquemecan (Amecameca), at the foot of the two famous mountains Popocatepetl and Ixtaccihuatl. An effort has been made on the part of some historians to give to the Chichimecas the earliest place in history, and to establish them in the "kingdom of Huehuetlapallan" with a long line of "kings," the thirteenth of whom, Icoatzin, established the Toltec government by placing his second son, Chalchiuhtlanctzin, in the chieftaincy in the year 720, thus making the Toltec "dynasty" subservient to that of the Chichimecas. But the location of the "kingdom of Huehuetlapallan" cannot be identified, and the events attributed to that "kingdom" would carry it back 1,796 years before the Christian era, and are not even to be regarded as traditions, but are reduced to the character of myths. No reliance is to be placed upon the accounts of the Chichimecas prior to their settling upon the lands left unoccupied by the departure of the Toltecs from Tula. From Tula they wandered off, first to Cempoalla and Tepepolco, and finally reached Tenayucan (Texcoco) on the east side of the lake Texcoco, where they established themselves and elected a ruler, Xolotl the Great (or, as his name signifies, "the sharp eyed or vigilant person"). He is said to have attained to the chieftaincy in 1120. A succession of four chiefs in Tenayucan carries the history of the Chichimecas down to the time of the settlement of the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan; but as one hundred and twelve years are given as the length of the reign of Xolotl the Great, faith in this history is greatly weakened.

It was by Xolotl the Great that the colony of Tecpanecas was established at Atzcapotzalco. It was composed of a tribe or family of Aculhuas, to the two principal "chiefs" of which he gave his two daughters in marriage. This colony was organized, according to the best accounts, in 1168, and either elected a chief or at least accepted one of Xolotl's appointment.

Still another tribe was settled in the lake region, and is accounted for as follows: It was composed of survivors of the Toltecs upon the overthrow of Tula in 1103, who received the name of Culhuas. The place of their settlement still bears the name of Culhuacan. This tribe was destined to play a prominent part in the history of the Aztecs. The first in its line of ten chiefs dated ' his "reign" from 1109.

In the most reckless manner the Spanish writers have employed such terms as "empire," "kingdom," "king," "queen," "lord," and "prince," in their attempts to write the history of ancient Mexico. When any one comes to identify the sites of these "empires "and "kingdoms," and finds them not only completely surrounded by the mountains which enclose the Valley of Mexico, but all bordering upon the marshy shores of a lake scarcely more than fifteen miles in diameter, he sees how little reliance is to be placed upon the many accounts given of the occupants of the Mexican Valley prior to the fourteenth century,—accounts which have been partially harmonized above. Destructive as such a course must be of much of the romantic interest attaching to the early history of Mexico, it is much safer to regard the occupants of the Mexican Valley as petty tribes, probably all of Nahuatl stock, settled in pueblos  or villages so disposed as to afford means of pursuing horticulture, as well as to protect the inhabitants from the incursions of their neighbors. Their political rulers were doubtless no more than caciques, more probably the heads of families. As the house of lumber built by the Toltecs at Tollantzingo was "large enough to accommodate the entire nation," it is not likely that the entire nation at Tollantzingo included more than a few families. So it was, probably, with the Aztecs and their neighbors; and setting out with this in our minds we shall more clearly comprehend what follows in the history of the Aztecs.

It was about thirteen years after the settlement of Tenochtitlan by the seven Nahuatl families that a petty quarrel that had broken out during the previous wanderings of those families bore fruit in a schism, and one of the families established itself at Tlatelolco, while another faction removed to Chapultepec. We find Spanish authors treating these factions as separate and hostile "kingdoms." But Tlatelolco was separated from Tenochtitlan by a narrow canal only, and enjoyed, in common with Tenochtitlan, isolation from the mainland; and Chapultepec was distant only a league from either pueblo, so that there was scant room for hostilities between rival "kingdoms "; and we must reserve for some time our judgment regarding the power or government of any of these families or tribes until the Aztecs, first by confederation and afterwards by victorious arms, gained an actual ascendency in the Mexican Valley.

For a long time the Mexicans of Tenochtitlan subsisted on fish, birds, and such wild vegetables as the marshy borders of the lake afforded. But with the increase of population a need of other commodities grew up. To supply this demand they approached the Tecpanecas for the purpose of securing commercial relations with them, and also to secure the use of one of the springs on the mainland. The desired concessions were made by the Tecpanecas, but on the condition that the Mexicans should pay tribute to them. An inscription upon the aqueduct that now brings the waters from the great spring at Chapultepec to the fountain known as Salto del Agua, in the southwestern part of the present City of Mexico, refers to this peculiar relation of the Aztecs and the Tecpanecas, though in language far from accurate. It states that—

"The course of this aqueduct is that of the aqueduct made by the Aztecs in the reign of Chimalpopoca, who was granted the right to the water of Chapultepec by the King of Atzcapotzalco, to whom the Aztecs were tributary until the reign of Izcohualt (1422-33, A. D.), when they secured their independence."

Besides the tribes which have been mentioned there were others scattered throughout the lands beyond the mountains, shutting in the Mexican Valley. As to the origin of these it would be useless so much as to hazard a guess. The Otomites, "distinguished for their barbarity," occupied the mountains of Ixmiquilpan. The Tarascos, or Michoacanos, occupied a locality distinctly marked by a state name still preserved, their capital being Tzintzuntzan, on the shores of Lake Patzcuaro. The Zapotecas still occupy their ancient seat in the mountains of Oaxaca, and have furnished in the present century one of the greatest characters in Mexican history.

It must not be supposed that all lingual traces of the occupants of Mexico in the fourteenth century have disappeared. Even in the streets of the capital some of the languages then spoken may now be heard. There are nearly two millions of people in the country who speak the Aztec or Mexican language proper; there are two-thirds of a million who speak the Othomi. The Maya-Qquiche is spoken in Yucatan and parts adjacent by about four hundred thousand persons, the Zapoteca in Oaxaca by half a million, and the Tarascan by a quarter of a million in the State of Michoacan. Other languages and dialects are in use, and the whole number of Mexicans speaking native languages (some of them speaking the Spanish also) is very nearly four millions. To the Aztec language the more accurate term Nahuatl  is sometimes applied. Geographical names derived from these ancient languages are aids in establishing some of the facts in the obscure periods of Mexican history. "Cingo" and "an" or "lan" are characteristic terminations in the Nahuatl language, signifying "place." It is generally safe to refer localities bearing names with either of those terminations to the period of the Nahuatl occupancy.

The seven Nahuatl families who composed the settlement at Tenochtitlan were reduced, as we have seen, to five, by the defection of the colonists of Tlatelolco and Chapultepec. Although the names of two "kings of Azteca" have been furnished us by Spanish writers, prior to the year 1375, it is by no means likely that these so-called "kings" were more than great warriors, if indeed they were more than heads of families, or caciques. And it was in the year above-named that the first approach to a governmental organization was effected in Tenochtitlan, and that was by means of the election, by popular vote, of a Tlaca-tecuhtli, which means, literally, "chief-of-men." Acamapichtli ("Handful- of-reeds"), the person selected for this important office, so far from being a king or an emperor, as he is distinctly named in some histories, or an autocrat or despot, as he has been generally represented to us, was simply the head war-chief of the Mexican tribe settled in Tenochtitlan, holding his office for life or good behavior. Upon his successors in office, a little over a century later, when Mexico, at the head of a military confederacy composed of all the tribes of the Valley, was accustomed to levy tribute upon weaker tribes beyond the mountain wall, the further duty was imposed of collecting this tribute. But from the earliest times any tendency on the part of the Tlaca-tecuhtli towards assuming a political dictatorship was held in check by a civil coadjutor, his equal in rank, and whose office was also elective. The principal occupation of the Mexicans was war, and their government may be best described as a military democracy. There was no office or dignity connected with its internal polity that was hereditary. Every office was dependent upon popular vote, and that was influenced by the merit of the candidate on the field of battle. And even the Tlaca-tecuhtli and his civil coadjutor were subject to a still higher authority,—a "council-of-chiefs," of which they were, ex-officio  members, and which was the actual governing body of the Mexicans.

During the twenty-eight years in which Acamapichtli held the office of Tlaca-tecuhtli the population of Tenochtitlan increased and the condition of the pueblo was materially improved. Canals took the place of the irregular water-courses hitherto separating the several islands selected as the site of Tenochtitlan, and the erection of stone buildings is said to have begun. Acamapichtli was the descendant of the Aztec who married in Zumpango. He had two wives, to whom were born the next two "chiefs-of-men" elected by the people of Tenochtitlan. The first of these was Huitzilihuitl ("Hummingbird"), elected in 1403,—four months after the death of his father. His marriage with the daughter of the chief of the Tecpanecas of Atzcapotzalco served to strengthen the commercial alliance between the Mexicans and the Tecpanecas. He also married a daughter of a family of Quauhnahuac (Cuernavaca). It has been stated that a system of jurisprudence grew up during the time of Huitzilihuitl. Upon his death, in 1414, he was buried at Chapultepec ("the hill of the grasshoppers," as its name signifies),—probably the first warrior chief to find a resting place in that historic ground, and to give to Chapultepec the name of "the royal burial place of the Aztecs." He was succeeded in office by Chimalpopoca ("Smoking Shield"), his brother. He died in 1427, a prisoner in the hands of the chiefs of the Tecpanecas and of Tenayucan. These two tribes had joined their arms against Tenochtitlan,—a breach of faith on the part of the Tecpanecas, for by the terms of their commercial treaty the Mexicans and the Tecpanecas were allied for their mutual protection in case of war.

Izcohualt or Izcoatzin ("Obsidian-snake"), the son of Acamapichtli, was next elected Tlaca-tecuhtli, and it was under his military leadership that the Mexicans overthrew the power of the Tecpanecas. For by this time the Mexicans had learned something of war, offensive as well as defensive, and besides wishing to punish the Tecpanecas for their treachery in taking up arms in collusion with Tenayucan against Tenochtitlan, they were anxious to free themselves from the burden of taxation imposed upon them by the Tecpanecas under the commercial treaty. Securing the assistance, therefore, of the Culhuas, who had suffered oppression at the hands of the Tecpanecas, and were willing to enter into any plan for their destruction, Izcohualt with his fighting-men overthrew the treacherous tribe, destroyed Atzcapotzalco (which was thenceforth made the slave market of Tenochtitlan), leaving a remnant of the tribe to settle at Tlacopan (a name now corrupted into Tacuba), thus giving rise to what has been considered the "kingdom of Tlacopan," supplanting the "kingdom of Atzcapotzalco." The local government of the Tecpanecas, established at Tlacopan was not disturbed, but they were made tributary to the Mexicans from whom they had before exacted tribute, and the Mexicans acquired unencumbered possession of the springs at Chapultepec, of which they had long had the use. The Mexicans furthermore controlled the military power of the conquered tribe.

The temporary alliance between Tenochtitlan and Culhuacan for the purposes of this war became a permanent military confederacy immediately afterwards, with the Mexicans as the leading power. The Tecpanecas, by the terms of the conquest, were a party to it. It was but natural that, a career of conquest being thus opened, and the power of the Mexicans having been strengthened by the federation of two other tribes, the effort should be made to extend it. The Xochimilcas, the Chalcas, and the Chinampanecas (the families residing on the Chinampas, or floating gardens), were by a war wholly unprovoked on their part made to submit to the military control of Tenochtitlan and pay tribute to the Mexicans. Whereupon one tribe only in the Mexican Valley remained hostile to the Mexicans,—the Aculhuas of Tenayucan, possibly their equals in military strength. These were brought into the confederacy by treaty, thus avoiding any loss of military strength to either which war would have involved. Tenochtitlan maintained the military supremacy in this confederacy, probably because of the superiority of its defensive position, and thus the Tlaca-tecuhtli of Tenochtitlan became the chief warrior of the confederacy. The local governments of Tenayucan and Tlacopan remained undisturbed, for a time at least, the tribute derived from subsequently conquered tribes being divided between the three confederated tribes in the following proportions,—significant of the relative importance of the three pueblos: to Tenochtitlan and Tenayucan each two fifths; to Tlacopan one fifth.

Izcohualt—who is probably entitled to no more than a portion of the credit for this consolidation of the military powers of the lake region of the Valley of Mexico equal to that of the other warrior legislators, but who nevertheless receives all of it in history by reason of the royal title conferred upon him by Spanish writers—died in 1436 at an advanced age. He was succeeded by Moteczuma I, ("Wrathy Chief"), who was a son of Huitzilihuitl by his marriage with the daughter of the Quauhnahuac chief. He is also called Ilhuicamina, "who- shoots-h is- arrow-heavenward," according to some,—"the scanner of the heavens," or "the star-gazer," according to others,—from which latter it is inferred that he added to his military skill the science of astronomy. His election was the result of the distinction which he won in the wars with the Tecpanecas, the Xochimilcas, and the Chalcas. He died in 1464, and was succeeded in his office of "chief-of-men" by Axayacatl ("Face-in-the- Water") the Terrible, a nephew of Acamapichtli. It had by this time become customary, upon the induction of a new Tlaca-tecuhtli into office, to sacrifice captives obtained in war with neighboring tribes, and raids were accordingly made for that purpose immediately after the election. Moteczuma I. is recorded as having done this, and, following his example, Axayacatl descended upon the Pacific coast and penetrated the territories of the Tecuantepecas as far as Coatulco (Huatulco), a port frequented by Spanish ships the following century. He secured captives in Tochtepec and Huexotzinco, and levied tribute upon both of these pueblos. But the principal event of his military administration was the overthrow of the pretensions of the pueblo of Tlatelolco. It had been reckoned, in the military confederacy, as part of Tenochtitlan. But in the year 1473, Moquihuix, the last war-chief of Tlatelolco, attempted to organize a conspiracy to supplant Tenochtitlan and make Tlatelolco the capital of the confederacy. His wife was a relative of Axayacatl, and divulged his plans to the Tlaca-tecuhtli and sought refuge with him from her husband's wrath. Moquihuix accomplished no more than the destruction of one of the temples of Tenochtitlan, and fell in the battle which ensued. The Tlatelolcans were terribly punished for their leader's temerity. The body of Moquihuix being brought to Axayacatl, he opened the breast, took out the heart and held it up in triumph, then offered it to the gods. The rights of separate government and of bearing arms were taken from the Tlatelolcans, and they were made cargadores  (carriers of supplies) for the Mexicans. They were afterwards relieved from some of the degrading terms of their punishment, and because of a demand for more warriors to carry on the campaigns of the Mexicans for obtaining captives, they were allowed to bear arms.

Axayacatl the Terrible was succeeded in 1477 by Tizoc ("Wounded Leg"), his brother, whose military administration was brief and obscure. One event stands out prominently in the meager annals of his times,—the defeat of the Mexicans in their attempt to carry their arms into Michoacan. Tizoc was poisoned in 1486, at the instigation of the war-chief of Ixtapalapan. His assassins were publicly executed in the great plaza of Tenochtitlan, and he was succeeded by Ahuizotl ("Water-rat"), another brother of Axayacatl, the first event of whose military administration was the completion of the great temple begun in the time of his predecessor. The ceremonies of dedicating this new temple and of inducting the new Tlaca-tecuhtli into office were attended with a barbaric splendor eclipsing anything preceding it. It is said that seventy-two thousand slaves, taken by Ahuizotl in war against rebellious subjects in Tlacopan, and in raids upon the Zapotecas and other tribes, were sacrificed. Hence it is that he is called "Ahuizotl the Cruel" and his name is even now used in Mexico as a synonym for cruelty.

It was in 1498 that Ahuizotl, deeming the waters of Lake Texcoco so low as to endanger the defenses of Tenochtitlan, and also the free intercourse between that pueblo and Texcoco on the opposite shore, ordered the construction of an aqueduct that would refill the lake from the natural reservoirs in Chapultepec. He succeeded, not only in refilling the lake, but in inundating his city,—the floods rising even in his own bed-chamber and endangering his life; from which incident it might seem that his name, "Water-rat," was significant. This is the opening page of a long chapter of struggles with water in the Mexican Valley, wherein the attempt has been made to reduce, rather than increase, the quantity of water.

In 1502 Ahuizotl was succeeded by Moteczuma II, ("Wrathy Chief"), who was the son of Axayacatl the Terrible, and was a truly remarkable character, with whom we have much to do. He was thirty-four years of age, and has been by some described as reared to the sacerdotal life, and hence filled with superstitions not without their influence upon the subsequent history of his tribe. But such a statement seems incompatible with the recorded distinctions won for himself in the wars conducted by his father. In the second year of his military administration he led the armies of Mexico-Tenochtitlan upon a campaign against the Tlaxcalans to obtain captives for sacrifice at the dedication of a new temple, built, or at least completed, at that time. The Tlaxcalans (not composing a republic, as has frequently been stated, but a populous tribe occupying such an admirably defended position in the mountains east of Tenochtitlan as to maintain their immunity from the incursions of the Aztecs) defeated the Mexicans, and in the war the son of Moteczuma was slain. Moteczuma succeeded, however, in leading his armies as far as Michoacan on the north and Nicaragua and Honduras on the south, and caused the Mexicans of Tenochtitlan to be feared everywhere throughout the land.

The Tlaca-tecuhtli of Tenochtitlan, though by no means an emperor or king, was the most prominent personage in the land, and the man of the greatest influence, when the advent of the Europeans changed the entire aspect of affairs. In the year 1517 Francisco Hernandez de Cordova discovered Yucatan, and the following year news was brought to the Tlaca-tecuhtli at Tenochtitlan of ships sailing along the Gulf coast, containing a different race of men from any before seen in Mexico. They comprised the exploring expedition of Juan de Grijalva, the Cuban navigator.

While the public mind was exercised over this sudden appearance of the white men, there were signs in the earth and in the sky which led the Aztecs, naturally superstitious as they were, to look forward to some dread calamity, some important crisis in the affairs of their race and government. There were hurricanes, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions in the Valley of Mexico. A comet appeared in the heavens. There was an eclipse of the sun. The great temple in Tenochtitlan burned without any cause being ascertained. Ominous dreams afflicted the Tlaca-tecuhtli, and it is even soberly stated that one of his near relatives who had died returned from the grave to visit him. All these signs filled the Aztecs with uneasiness, and they could not avoid connecting these phenomena with the extraordinary appearance of the European ships. The uneasiness increased when in the following spring (1519) a small array of Europeans landed upon the coast, directed their march toward Tenochtitlan, and began the series of events which together comprise that fascinating chapter in the history of the New World, known as THE CONQUEST OF MEXICO..

Before entering upon the history of the Conquest, it would be well to look at the pueblo of Tenochtitlan, as it appeared to the Spaniards in the early part of the sixteenth century. Nearly two centuries of occupation by the Mexicans had wrought great changes in the marshy banks of Lake Texcoco, where they had taken up their permanent abode in 1325. The poor pueblo of Tenochtitlan had become a pueblo, comparable—according to the Spanish visitors—with the fairest European capital. The first settlement had undoubtedly consisted of four buildings, each capable of sheltering a large division of the tribe after the defection of the Tlatelolco and Chapultepec factions. The pueblo preserved up to the time of the Conquest four divisions, undoubtedly built up around and upon the four communal houses first erected, these divisions being known as Moyotlan, Teapan, Aztacalco, and Cuepapan,—probably meaning, respectively, "the place of the mosquito," "the place of the god," "the place of the heron's house," and "the place of the dike." These four divisions were succeeded, upon the rebuilding of the city, after the Conquest, by the wards or parishes of San Pablo, San Juan, Santa Maria la Redonda, and San Sebastian.

To the limited amount of ground first occupied, more was added from time to time by filling in; and at the same time the waters were, as we have seen, deepened and broadened on all sides of the pueblo by means of the causeways, designed not so much to provide means of access to the mainland as to isolate the pueblo and increase its defenses.

The earliest built of these causeways was known as Acachananco, and was that running south and connecting with the mainland at Huitzilopocho (Churubusco). From a point on this causeway named Xoloc (near what is now known as San Antonio Abad) another causeway ran to Cuyuacan. A causeway running nearly in direct continuation of the first connected the pueblo with the mainland at Tepeyacac (Guadalupe-Hidalgo) on the north, while the most famous as well as the shortest was that running westerly, nearly at right angles to the other two and connecting Tenochtitlan with Tlacopan (Tacuba). Most probably this last-named causeway separated Moyotlan from Teapan, while the other two causeways formed the dividing line between those two quarters and Aztacalco and Cuepapan. Each of these quarters contained a teocalli  or temple, and at the meeting-place of the three great causeways, and belonging equally to each of the four quarters, stood the great teocalli, pyramidal in form, with its due apportionment of ground surrounded by its great wall of stone,—the coatapantli, or serpent wall. Tepeyacac, Huitzilopocho, and Cuyuacan, the termini of two of the causeways, as well as Ixtapalapan and Mexicalzingo, were military outposts, none of them containing much population. Chapultepec was a sacred spot As we have seen, it furnished the fresh-water supply of Tenochtitlan, and was also used as a place of sepulture. Tlatelolco was the equivalent of a fifth ward of the city, though probably larger than any of the other four. The Chinampas produced the vegetables necessary for the subsistence of the population of Tenochtitlan, and the tributary pueblos far and near furnished the other necessaries of life and all that constituted the wealth of Mexico.

The houses of Tenochtitlan were constructed at first of reeds and bamboo, such as are now seen in some parts of Mexico, even as near the capital as the Chinampa pueblos of Santa Anita and Ixtacalco. Later, turf and adobe  (sun-dried brick) were used, and as we have seen, stone began to be used for buildings in the time of Acamapichtli. We learn from Peter Martyr, of the seventeenth century, that the houses of the common people were commodious, each being designed to shelter several families,—residence by families being characteristic of the' Aztecs. They were of one story only, and had thatched roofs. They were built of stone to the height of several feet, as a protection against the rising waters of the lake. The superstructures were of adobe and timber. Canals to some extent took the place of streets, a broad canal separating Tenochtitlan from Tlatelolco.

Besides the teocallis  there was in each quarter of Tenochtitlan and in Tlatelolco a tecpan  or house for the public business of the quarter, and there was a tecpan  devoted to the business common to all the quarters of the city. Buildings were also provided for the residence of the Tlaca-tecuhtli and his family. Gardens probably surrounded the teocallis  and the tecpanes. But there could have been no such pleasure-grounds in Tenochtitlan as have been described by some writers. In fact, we may well be at a loss to account for the existence of sixty thousand families in Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, or even sixty thousand souls (as has been otherwise more modestly reported as the population at the time of the Conquest) within the acknowledged bounds of that ancient place, the pueblo here described.

By reason of its peculiar position and its artificial isolation Tenochtitlan was at the time of the Conquest the strongest military position ever occupied by the Indians. To reduce it, a mode of warfare was required altogether superior to that of the Aztecs.

Probably the generally accepted accounts of the civilization to which the Aztecs had attained at the time of the Conquest are, like those of their national government, greatly exaggerated. They were in the middle status of barbarism, two ethnic periods back of their contemporary Europeans. Nevertheless, they were certainly well advanced in the constructive and decorative arts, and were in the possession of some industrial processes unknown to the artisans of the present day.