TenochtitlanTenochtitlán Facts

Montezuma I

Moctezuma I

Montezuma I, the fifth emperor of the Aztec Empire, ruled during ca. 1440-1469 and represented the Mexica people's first real independence and power.

He was a shrewd and wise warrior and statesman, a noble leader who properly governed his people and created order and stability for the quickly developing Mexica state.

Montezuma was born ca. 1390 in Tenochtitlán, the capital city of the Aztec Empire. He was the son of Huitzilihuitl, who ruled the Aztec Empire from ca. 1403 to 1417. After Huitzilihuitl died, his brother Chimalpopoca succeeded him.

Montezuma loyally served his uncle and became his top general. Likewise, when Itzcóatl succeeded Chimalpopoca in 1427, Montezuma proved to be one of his strongest supporters and helped him achieve numerous military victories against other regional powers, leading to the expansion of the empire.

During Itzcóatl's reign, Tenochtitlán allied itself with the rival cities Texcoco and Tlacopan, and the triple alliance conquered the competing city of Atzcapotzalco in 1428. Itzcóatl was responsible for first outlining the basic shape of the Mexica domain.

After his death in 1440, Montezuma was elected to succeed him, and it fell to the new emperor to fill in that outline, thereby establishing the direction of Mexica hegemony for the next four rulers. It took the Spanish, during Montezuma II's reign of 1502-1520, to decisively interrupt that thrust toward widespread power in the region.

In the early years of his reign, Montezuma I embarked on a successful campaign against the city of Chalco and expanded Aztec territory with several other victorious expeditions.

However, during the mid-1440s, many trials awaited Montezuma, including pestilence, floods, frosts, and snow that destroyed his people's crops. In addition, a four-year drought caused tragic starvation among his people.

Montezuma managed them all as well as anyone could. When prosperity finally returned, Montezuma successfully resumed the expansion of his domain through trade, negotiation, and war. Under Montezuma, the Aztec Empire expanded beyond the Valley of Mexico and took control of much of central Mexico.

During his reign, Montezuma improved living conditions by bringing fresh water to Tenochtitlán, establishing penal and social laws, and setting high standards for civic and social advancement. He also encouraged the development of a sophisticated culture secure in its history and proud of its present accomplishments.

He is famous for reworking the Mexica calendar and recording Mexica history, and he constructed magnificent sculptures, beautiful temples, and rich botanical gardens.

When Montezuma died ca. 1469, he was succeeded as emperor by Axayacatl, the grandson of Itzcóatl. By the end of the century, during the reign of Ahuitzotl, the Aztec Empire has expanded as far as Oaxaca, the Gulf Coast, and Guatemala. Thus, when Montezuma II, the Aztec ruler at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, took power in 1502, he ruled over a vast region.