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Tlatoani (also tlahtoāni ; plural: tlatoque ) is an Aztec title . Originally the Mexica , as the Aztecs called themselves, but also other Nahua tribes, including the Pipil in Cuzcatlan (today El Salvador), generally referred to the ruler of an empire as tlatoani . Their own rulers called them huey tlatoani (also hueyi tlatoani or uei tlatoani). With their rise, however, this importance narrowed and was now primarily used for the rulers of the Aztec metropolis Tenochtitlán .


In Nahuatl , the Aztec language, tlatoani means something like "he who speaks" , "he who commands" or "he who rules" . This term reflects the great importance the Aztecs attached to speech - their language only knew one word for "governing" and "speaking". The adjective huey means "big". As a result, the title huey tlatoani is often translated as "honored speaker" or "great speaker" .

After the Spanish conquest of Latin America, "Aztec Emperor" or "Aztec Emperor" was used as a name for the Aztec rulers.

Function and tasks

The tlatoani was head of government , commander in chief of the armed forces and high priest in personal union . Together with the cihuacóatl - who was primarily responsible for internal affairs and the judiciary and represented the tlatoani on certain occasions - he represented the highest state power.

The tlatoani was - like the cihuacóatl - appointed by members of the Aztec hereditary nobility ( pipiltin ). In order to be eligible for the shortlist, the potential contender had to have proven himself in the war beforehand. This was to ensure that the officer had the necessary leadership skills. The title was awarded for life and was - unlike many other cultures of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica - not hereditary. Nevertheless, the office remained practically within a single family: all tlatoque of Tenochtitlán descended from the first elected Aztec ruler Acamapichtli (1376-1395), who is therefore generally considered to be the founder of the Aztec dynasty.

Despite his many offices, the tlatoani did not rule as sole ruler. Its resolutions had to be approved by a council of elders. He met daily with elders, priests and military commanders of the various units ( calpulli ) to discuss government affairs with them.

Characteristic of the way of life of a tlatoani was u. a. the polygamy to generate a privilege that was reserved for the highest representatives of the noble caste, highest blood relatives - - and a pointedly asked flaunting luxury.

The tlatoque of Tenochtitlán

Genealogy of the ruling family of Tenochtitlan (rounded frame = women). Pink: tlatoque, violet: Cihuacoatl, yellow: colonial tlatoque from the ruling family. Relationships to other places: AZ = Azcapotzalco, TE = Tetzcoco, TL = Tlatelolco

In the pre-colonial period there were eleven tlatoque from Tenochtitlán. The real existence of often the first tlatoani designated Tenoch , the legendary founder and namesake of the city, is controversial. The last independent tlatoani , Cuauhtémoc , was executed on 28 February 1525 on the orders of Hernán Cortés for (alleged) high treason after the Spanish conquest of Mexico was over . Thereafter the Spaniards used seven more tlatoque , five of them from the old Tenochtitlán dynasty, which however no longer exercised political power.


  1. Acamapichtli († 1391), 1371–1391 Tlatoani
  2. Huitzilíhuitl († 1417), 1391–1417 Tlatoani
  3. Chimalpopoca († 1427), 1417–1427 Tlatoani
  4. Itzcóatl († 1440), 1427–1440 Tlatoani
  5. Motēcuhzōma Ilhuicamīna (Moctezuma I) († 1469), 1440–1469 Tlatoani
  6. Axayacatl († 1482), 1469–1482 Tlatoani
  7. Tízoc († 1486), 1482–1486 Tlatoani
  8. Auítzotl († 1502), 1486–1502 Tlatoani
  9. Motēcuhzōma Xōcoyōtzin (Moctezuma II.) († 1520), 1502–1520 Tlatoani
  10. Cuitláhuac († 1520), 1520 Tlatoani
  11. Cuauhtémoc († 1525), 1520–1525 Tlatoani
  12. Diego Velázquez Tlacotzin († 1526), ​​1520-1525 Cihuacóatl ; Tlatoani employed by Cortés from 1525–1526
  13. Andrés de Tapia Motelchiuh , 1526–1530 governor of Tenochtitlan, in the absence of princely descent not as Tlatoani i. e. S. recognized
  14. Pablo Xochiquentzin , 1532–1536 governor of Tenochtitlan, in the absence of princely descent not as Tlatoani i. e. S. recognized
  15. Diego de Alvarado Huanitzin , 1539-1541 Tlatoani
  16. Diego de San Francisco Tehuetzquititzin († 1554), 1541–1554 Tlatoani
  17. Cristóbal de Guzmán Cecetzin († 1562), 1557–1562 Tlatoani
  18. Luis de Santa María Nanacacipactzin († 1565), 1563-1565 Tlatoani