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6th Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan
Ruler of the Aztec Triple Alliance
Axayacatl as depicted in the Codex Azcatitlan
Reign 1469–1481
Predecessor Moctezuma I
Successor Tizoc
Born c. 1449 (1449)
Died 1481 (1482)
Spouse Xochicueyetl
Issue King Moctezuma II
King Cuitláhuac
Father Prince Tezozomoc
Mother Princess Atotoztli II

Axayacatl (/ˌæksəˈjɑːkətəl/; Classical Nahuatl: āxāyacatl [aːʃaːˈjákatɬ] (About this sound listen); Spanish: Axayácatl [aksaˈʝakatɬ]; meaning "face of water"; c. 1449-1481) was the sixth tlatoani of the altepetl of Tenochtitlan and ruler of the Aztec Triple Alliance.


Early life and background[edit]

Axayacatl was a son of the princess Atotoztli II and her cousin, prince Tezozomoc. He was a grandson of the Emperors Moctezuma I and Itzcoatl. He was a descendant of the king Cuauhtototzin.

He was a successor of Moctezuma and his brothers were Emperors Tizoc and Ahuitzotl and his sister was the Queen Chalchiuhnenetzin. He was an uncle of the Emperor Cuauhtémoc and father of Emperors Moctezuma II and Cuitláhuac.

Rise to power[edit]

During his youth, his military prowess gained him the favor influential figures such as Nezahualcoyotl and Tlacaelel I, and thus, upon the death of Moctezuma I in 1469, he was chosen to ascend to the throne, much to the displeasure of his two older brothers, Tizoc and Ahuitzotl.

It is also important that the Great Sun Stone, also known as the Aztec Calendar, was carved under his leadership. In the year 1475 there was a major earthquake that destroyed many homes in Temochtitlán.[1]

Military actions and death[edit]

Using as a pretext the insulting behavior of a few Tlatelolcan citizens, Axayacatl invaded his neighbor, killed its ruler, Moquihuix, and replaced him with a military governor. The Tlatelolcans lost any voice they had in forming Aztec policy.

Axayacatl largely dedicated his twelve-year reign to consolidating his militaristic repute: he led successful campaigns against the neighboring altepetl of Tlatelolco in 1473 and the Matlatzinca of the Toluca Valley in 1474, but was finally defeated by the Tarascans of Michoacán in 1476. Despite some subsequent minor triumphs, Axayacatl's defeat at the hands of the Tarascans irreversibly marred his image, as it constituted the only major defeat suffered by the Aztecs up to that moment. In spite of his young age, he fell gravely ill in 1480, passing away a mere year later, in 1481, whereupon he was succeeded by his brother Tizoc.

Map showing territorial expansions of the Aztec Empire under each of the Aztec rulers. Expansions during the reign of Axayacatl are indicated in blue.[2]


  1. ^ Evans, Susan Toby; Pillsbury, Joanne (1998). Palaces of the Ancient New World (PDF). Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. p. 16. ISBN 0-88402-300-1. 
  2. ^ Map based on Hassig (1988)

See also[edit]


  • Davies, Nigel (1980). The Aztecs (2nd ed.). Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 
  • Davies, Nigel (1987). The Aztec Empire: The Toltec Resurgence. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 
  • Hassig, Ross (1988). Aztec Warfare: Imperial Expansion and Political Control. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. ISBN 0-8061-2121-1. 
  • Townsend, Richard F. (2000). The Aztecs (revised ed.). London: Thames and Hudson. ISBN 0-500-28132-7. 
  • Weaver, Muriel Porter (1993). The Aztecs, Maya, and Their Predecessors: Archaeology of Mesoamerica (3rd ed.). San Diego: Academic Press. ISBN 0-01-263999-0. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Moctezuma I
Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan
Succeeded by