This illustration shows Chimalpopoca, holding a spear or scepter, standing on a reed mat and next to a basket-work throne. Above him is a smoking shield.
Chimalpopoca (reigned 1417–27), whose name means smoking shield, was the third emperor of the Aztecs. He is depicted here dressed in the clothes of the highest priests, again a reflect of the theocratic nature of the Aztec confederacy.
Chimalpopoca was the son of Huitzilihuitl, the previous ruler, but there are some sources that say he was a son of Acamapichtli, the first ruler of Tenochtitlan, making him Huitzilihuitl’s brother. Gerónimo de Mendieta, in his Historia Eclesiástica Indiana, notes the discrepancy and concludes that Huitzilihuitl, Chimalpopoca and Itzcoatl (Chimalpopoca’s successor) must have been brothers, based on his understanding on the Aztec system of succession which was not strictly hereditary, but elected.
As Fray Bernardino de Sahagún observed: the Mexicans “are held to be barbarians and of very little worth; in truth, however, in matters of culture and refinement, they are a step ahead of other nations." We explore the history and legacy of the Nahua and Maya civilizations, both of which challenge our preconceptions.