Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Montezuma I (#78)


Huehuemotecuhzoma, or Montezuma I, was born around the year 1398 BC in the Aztec Empire. He was to son of emperor Huitzilihuil, ruler of the Aztec people. The story goes that Montezuma's mother, Miahuaxihuitl, became pregnant after swallowing the jewel. Montezuma married his mother's niece, Chichimecacihuatzin. 


Montezuma came to the throne in 1440 after his brother, Itzcoatl, died. Starting where his brother left off, Montezuma solidified an alliance between Tenochtitlan, the Aztec home city, and two neighboring people groups from the cities of Texcoco and Tlacopan. This alliance, known as the Triple Alliance, stated that the three cities would fight together and that 4/5 of the land would be divided between Texcoco and Tenochtitlan and the remaining 1/5 would be given to Tlacopan. With this alliance, Montezuma began to expand the empire. When the Triple Alliance conquered the Huastec and Totonac people, the Aztecs gained access to the Gulf Coast. Though most defeated people groups were treated well and were allowed to keep their land, Montezuma could be harsh. In 1458, Montezuma led an attack on the city-state of Coixtlahuaca after several Aztec merchants were mistreated. After defeating Coixtlahuaca and the allies of the city, Montezuma killed the city's ruler and made his family slaves. Montezuma I provided one of the largest periods of expansion in the history of the Aztec Empire, earning him the title of 'Archer in the Sky' from his people.


Under Montezuma I, the Aztec heartland contained about one million people. This included Tenochtitlan and nine provincial centers surrounding the capitol. In 1449, Lake Texcoco, which surrounded Tenochtitlan, flooded the city. That same year, weather damaged the crops and famine struck the Empire. Montezuma and Nezahualcoyotl, the ruler of Texcoco, led the construction of a dike to control water levels and reduce the salt content of the lake. By lowering salt levels, the lake could be used for farming. After ten years, the dike was finished, but Montezuma continued to make improvements. He built a three-mile-long aqueduct to help bring water to Tenochtitlan and also improved irrigation systems throughout the empire. Finally, Montezuma helped to set down rules of conduct. These rules spoke on everything from defining social classes, conduct in battle, and regular rules regarding criminal activity. This helped Montezuma to control his rapidly expanding empire.

The End

Montezuma died under unknown circumstances in the year 1469. Montezuma is in our book because he created one of the two great American Empires, the other being the Inca Empire under Huayna Capac. Montezuma helped to establish Aztec dominance in Mesoamerica and helped to bring stability to the Aztec empire through his improvements to the empire. Please not that this is NOT the Montezuma who was defeated by Hernan Cortes and was killed by his own people.

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