Dale Frank Andrade
Spring 2004
Legal Systems Very Different From Our Own
Professor David D Friedman


Book I. Cultural Evolution and General Structure of the Aztec Legal System: p1
  1. Introduction p 3
  2. History p 3
  3. Social Structure
  4. Nobility p 8
  5. Middle Class p 11
  6. Commoners p 14
  7. Evolution and Structure of the Aztec Legal System
  8. Judicial System p20
  9. Judges p 23
  10. Judicial Review p 25
  11. The In Courtroom Experience p 26
  12. Other Personnel Involved in the Administration of Justice p 27
  13. The Pochteca and the Law of the Marketplace p 29

Book II. A Dan in the Life of an Aztec Citizen: p 32
  1. Dawn p 32
  2. Midday p 39
  3. Family law p 39
  4. Criminal Law p 44
  5. Homicide p 44
  6. Theft p 45
  7. Adultery p 46
  8. Misc. Criminal Offenses p 48
  9. Property Law p 49
  10. International Law: The Law of War p 51
  11. Night

Conclusion p 55

Nothing but flowers and songs of sorrow
Are left in Mexico and Tlatelolco
Where once we saw warriors and wise men.

We wander here and there
In our desolate poverty.
We are mortal men.
We have seen bloodshed and pain
Where once we saw beauty and valor.

We are crushed to the ground;
We lie in ruins.
There is nothing but grief and suffering
In Mexico and Tlatelolco,
Where once we saw beauty and valor.

Have you grown weary of your servants?
Are you angry with your servants,
O Giver of Life?
Aztec Poem[1]

Book I: Cultural Evolution and General Structure of the Aztec Legal System

I. Introduction

So laments an Aztec poet over the fall of his once mighty empire. An empire forged in manifest destiny and brought low by the Spanish lust for gold. The word “Aztec” evokes images of soaring pyramids, bloody human sacrifice and rampaging conquistadors. The Aztecs were eloquent orators, hard workers, fierce fighters and excelled in mathematics, agriculture and engineering. They were a people of motion who sought to better themselves through constant growth, expansion and change. This sense of change was not governed by whim, but through a series of complex laws handed down from generation to generation.

II. History

The word Aztec is a generic term referring to several Nahuatl-speaking groups that inhabited the Valley of Mexico from 1250-1519.[2] The people we think of as Aztecs referred to themselves as the “Mexica” and were fierce warriors, cunning diplomats, skilled builders and shrewd merchants.[3] The Mexica forged an empire of 15 million people that spanned two oceans and extended from the northern deserts of Mexico to Oaxaca in the south but for all the might, they eventually attained, the Mexica were a people of humble origin.
The Mexica began their journey to greatness in a semi-mythical land they called “Aztlan” (“Place of Herons”).[4] Aztlan’s exact location is unknown, but could have been as near as 60 miles to the Mexico Valley or as distant as the American Southwest.[5] It took nearly 200 years for the Mexica to migrate from Aztlan to the Valley of Mexico, a journey that began around A.D. 1111 and ended around 1325.[6] During this journey, the Mexica developed the reputation as fierce warriors with bizarre customs and were considered barbarians by all they encountered.
Over the course of this journey, the Mexica were lead by three priests and a priestess who were divinely inspired by the god Huitzilopochtli to seek a new promised land. As time passed, dissenters began to defy the ruling priests and sought to break away from the main body of Mexica to settle down at one of the sites along the way. It is out of this turbulent time that Mexica law begins to take shape. Mexica priests were said to be divinely inspired to seek the promised land by Huitzilopochtli and defiance of their edicts was to defy god. This affront required the immediate sacrifice of the offending party to satisfy Hutizilopochtli and served to maintain order in the tribe.
The Mexica eventually arrived in the Valley of Mexico and became ensnared in the Machiavellian politics of the city-states surrounding lake Texcoco. They first settled on a hilltop called Chapultepec, but were twice ousted from this location because their neighbors feared their military prowess and reviled their bizarre customs.[7] From Chapultapec, the Mexica fled into a miserable region festooned with volcanic activity and overrun with snakes.[8] Their ability to thrive in this region so impressed the city-state of Culhua, that it employed the Mexica as mercenaries who developed an even more fearsome reputation for martial prowess.[9] Throughout this time of wandering and strife, strict discipline and order needed to be maintained in the tribe, lest they be overwhelmed by the superior numbers of their neighbors or the brutality of the environments they were forced to endure. It is my belief that this mentality stayed with them throughout their tenure in the Mexico Valley, forming the bedrock of the order driven society they later created.
Unfortunately for the Culhua, the Mexica asked its king to make his daughter the mistress of the Mexica and bride of their god.[10] This was allowed, and the king traveled to the temple of the Mexica to celebrate the wedding. He fled in horror upon learning that his daughter had been sacrificed and that a nearby priest was wearing her skin.[11] In his fury, the leader of Culhua forced the Mexica to retreat into the marshes of lake Texcoco where they saw an eagle seated upon a prickly pear cactus. This sight was the signal for the Mexica’s long journey to end and the Mexica settled this island and named it Tenochtitilan (“Place of the Fruit of the Prickly Pear Cactus”).[12] The year was 1325, and little did the surrounding city-states know that Tenochtitlan was poised to become the heart of the most powerful empire Mesoamerica had ever seen.
From 1325-1428 the Mexica were a semi-independent client state of the Tepanic city of Azcaportzalco. Azcaportzalco was a potent city-state, whose star was on the rise and had no little success conquering city-state after city-state. The Mexica paid tribute to Azcaportzalco in resources and military service, a state of affairs continued for over a century. During this time, the Mexica learned the laws and customs of the nearby societies and gained the tools they required to become a legitimate force in the Mexico Valley. They formed a web alliances through political marriages that gradually strengthened their position in the Mexico Valley, the most important of which was that of a Mexica noblemen to a princess from their old rival Culhua.[13] Culhua was an ancient power who’s bloodlines reached all the way back to the Toltecs. This descent was considered vital to a leaders ability to rule and the marriage allowed Mexica nobility to claim legal and political legitimacy.[14]
The Mexica waited patiently and honed their military skills in campaign after campaign until one day; a succession crisis arose in Azcaportzaco allowing the Mexica to ally with the city-state of Texcoco, to overthrow their former masters. In 1428, the Mexica, allied with Texcoco and Tlacopan formed the “triple-alliance, which became the dominate power in Mesoamerica for the next 90 years.”[15]
The price of continual expansion was the development of enemies and resentment to the rule of the triple-alliance. The Aztecs had numerous enemies, the two most potent of which were the mighty Tarascan Empire to the West and the besieged Tlaxcala within. Herman Cortez and his conquistadors arrived on scene to find a potent empire of “heathens” filled with gold for the taking. Upon arrival in Tenochtitlan, many conquistadors thought they were dreaming as they observed a bustling city of over 250,000 people, with vast markets pulsing with commerce on an unimagined scale. This dream quickly came to an end when the Spanish observed the Aztec practice of mass human sacrifice. In 1519, Cortez, in alliance with enemies of the Triple Alliance launched an invasion that completely destroyed Tenochtitlan and with it, Aztec civilization.
During their period of imperial expansion, the Aztecs developed a complex bureaucratic state with an immense population and an ever-shifting series of tributary subjects. This, combined with the complex social structure and moral ideals of the Aztec people, necessitated the creation of an intricate legal system that was as efficient as it was harsh to govern its people. This web of law was both oral and, codified by scribes in pictorial form. The Aztecs maintained extensive written records including official correspondence between the capital and outlying regions and had vast archives. Government archives contained legal codes, records of lawsuits between villages and individuals, tribute maps, genealogies, histories, philosophical works government reports, extensive economic documents and anything else that may be of import.[16] Unfortunately, most of this vast storehouse of knowledge was destroyed during the conquest or lost over time. The best remaining source of original books from the era were recovered from the Mixtec city of Oaxaca though most surviving texts tend to be post conquest works that were transcribed from the original or were written by Europeans with Spanish or Nahauatl margin notes.[17]
While the gulf of time, has taken most original copies of their legal code with them, careful analysis of Aztec culture was performed by a number of Spanish monks and administrators after the fall. These accounts were taken directly from former members of the triple-alliance and have been combined with archeological surveys of Mesoamerica, to produce a reasonably accurate picture of the Aztec legal system.

III. Social Structure

To understand their legal system, it’s important to understand the many complex social divisions within Aztec society. Aztec society is hierarchal, with an Emperor at the top and sacrificial captives at the bottom. The intermediate strata of society had their own set of responsibilities with social mobility being largely determined by heredity and prowess on the battlefield. Nobles and commoners had separate courts with guild courts in the middle to regulate infractions of commercial law or those by or against guild members. These caste differentiations were strictly maintained and enforced on pain of death.
a. Nobility
The nobility maintained high-level positions in the Aztec state whose positions were hereditary but had to be validated through personal achievement (typically on the battlefield).[18] All nobles were considered to be descendants of the Aztec god Quetzalcoatl and are therefore divinely ordained to rule.[19] The “Tlatoque (“rulers”) occupied the highest social rung in Aztec society. The “Tlatoque” were divided into Tlatoani (“speaker” or “he who speaks”), Tetecutin (“chiefs”) and Pipiltin (“sons of nobility”).[20]
Nobles were highly trained in special Calmecac noble schools, were required to participate in war, had a separate court system and were held to extremely high standards of personal conduct.[21] Nobles were expected to set the standard for those below, and failing to do so was severely punished. A number of laws were enacted to enforce the social distinctions between noble and commoner. Nobles were the only members of society allowed to live in two story houses or wear certain types of clothing, including cotton capes, gold headbands, gold armbands, lip plugs, ear plugs and nose plugs fashioned of precious gold or stones.[22] Sandals were limited to the emperor of Tenochtitlan, his second in command or certain warriors who were rewarded with the ability to wear cheaper versions than their noble cousins. No commoner was allowed to wear a garment that covered his shins unless their shins bore horrific wounds received in battle. Defiance of any of these edicts was punishable by summary execution.
Individual “Tlatoani” ruled the varied city-states and provinces throughout the empire and were responsible for “organizing military activities, sponsoring religious activities and adjudicating legal disputes not resolved in lower level courts.”[23] A Tlatoani “controlled the tribute of commoners in their jurisdiction, possessed privately owned patrimonial lands, and managed the labor and tribute of their rural tenants (mayeque).”[24] These patrimonial lands were the Tlatoani’s private property and could be sold at their discretion.[25] These lands would pass to their heirs upon death, or baring living heirs, would pass to the Tlatoani above them in the social hierarchy as a gift to the state.[26] The title of Tlatoani was inherited and depending on which city-state the Tlatoani was from, would pass from bother to brother or father to son.[27]
The most powerful of the Tlatoani was the ruler of Tenochtitlan. In the early days of the empire, he was basically “first among equals” in the triple-alliance, but by Cortez arrival, he was the absolute monarch of the Aztec state.[28] The position of emperor was hereditary and like all nobles was directly descended from Quetzalcoatl giving him supreme authority to create laws, unbound by mortal limitations.[29] The emperor was the final arbiter of unique or politically sensitive cases and only he or his duly designated representatives could issue death sentences.[30]
Each emperor had a council of four advisors that were close members of his family.[31] When an emperor died, a council of nobles, warriors and priests would elevate a member of the council to the supreme position, and fill the vacant spot on the council with another member of his family.[32] In addition to this internal selection process, the rulers of Texcoco and Tlacopan were required to give their consent.[33] A similar process was performed to select the new Tlatoani of Texcoco or Tlacopan with the ruler of Tenochtitlan giving his assent to their council’s choice of ruler.[34]
Once elected, the emperor’s responsibilities included three cardinal areas, diplomacy, warfare and justice.[35] While the emperor had supreme authority to guide the fate of the empire as he saw fit, he had a number of important advisory councils to assist him. The most important advisor was the Cihuacoatl (“woman-serpent”) whose position was filled by a close family member that managed the day-to-day affairs of the empire. The Cihuacoatl was responsible for “handling official finances, organizing military campaigns, determining rewards for warriors, serving as supreme judge and acting as ruler during the emperor’s absence.”[36]
To resolve general political matters, the emperor and his council of four were advised by a 10-20-man council composed of distinguished members of the community called the Tlatocan.[37] The council of four and the emperors Cihuacoatl advised the emperor on matters of diplomacy, while a council of elite warriors advise the emperor on matters of war.[38] Membership in the war council was composed entirely of Tequiua (warriors who had captured at least four enemy combatants) to ensure their worthiness for the position.
The next layer of Aztec nobility was composed of the greater body the Tlatoani the most important of which were the rulers of Texcoco and Tlacopan. Next in line were the rulers of the individual city-states and provinces of the empire. Each of these rulers was empowered to act on matters of diplomacy, war and justice, but owed fealty and paid tribute to the Tlatoani above them, creating a pyramid of loyalty whose apex was the emperor.
Next in line are the Tetecutin (“chiefs”) who were hereditary members of the noble caste that occupied high ranking military and political positions. They served as advisors to the Tlatoani and controlled agricultural lands in addition to having numerous lesser nobles and commoners attached to them.
Below the Tetecutin were the Pipiltin (“sons of nobility”) who were literally the children of the Tlatoani and Tetecutin. These nobles staffed the vast state bureaucracy, acted as military officers and served in the priesthood. Many of the empires important tribute collectors were Pipiltin and all could wear the specialized garments of the nobility and attend Calmecac noble schools.
b. Middle Class
Between the nobility and the commoners were the powerful Pochteca merchants and Toltecca artisans.[39] Each of these groups wielded immense power in Aztec society, but could not truly be classified as noble or commoner. The cardinal difference between the Pochteca and Toltecca was that Pochteca were completely excluded from the Aztec legal system and had their own internal system of justice that regulated both the marketplace and all criminal activity relating to Pochteca members.
The Pochteca were a semi-independent series of merchant guilds that held immense power in Aztec society and had the honor of being the only social class with a legal system separate from that of the Aztec state. They gained their independent status shortly after the mighty Aztec trade center of Tlatelocao rose up in revolt against Tenochtitlan. Emperor Axayacatl crushed the revolt and placed a viceroy on the throne.[40] The merchant groups of Tlatelocao struck a deal with Axayacatl, allowing them to be the official spies and merchants of the emperor while enjoying his patronage, forever defining the symbiotic relationship the Pochteca and emperor would share.[41] This alliance greatly strengthened the empires intelligence gathering capabilities, improved the economy and allowed the triple-alliance to create pretexts to expand their empire. This alliance continued throughout the empire, but was particularly effective under the emperor Ahuitzatl, who’s ultra lavish ceremonies required a vast influx of slaves and goods that could only be provided by his Pochteca allies.[42]
The Pochteca were responsible for all foreign trade in the empire, and typically dealt in high value, easy to transport items (regional merchants handled the rest).[43] There were 12 powerful guilds, each located in a different major city-state.[44] Each guild occupied their own separate districts of town, and possessed their own unique internal ritual and patron deities.[45]
Pochteca were skilled merchants, but were also trained as fierce warriors, as their trade missions often required them to be the vanguard of an Aztec invasion or travel through hostile foreign lands.[46] These guilds were extremely wealthy, but took great pains to conceal their wealth from the nobility. They feared destruction due to noble jealousy, so were very careful to launch and return from trading expeditions late in the evening, and even then, took care to conceal their goods as well as possible.[47] They were also careful not to wear the trappings of nobility in public, only reveling their wealth in the confines of their closed guildhalls.[48] For all their might and ability to escape the highly stratified legal/hierarchal system of imperial Aztec culture, they could not survive without their longtime partners, the Toltecca.
The Toltecca were craftsmen who provided luxury goods to members of the noble class. It was believed that Quetzalcoatl was the patron god of the Toltecs who were patrons of the arts, hence the name Toltecca.[49] Toltecca were organized into powerful guilds or worked directly for the state whose ranks included workers of precious metals and feathers, lapidary experts, stone-masons, painters and sculptors whose skills were in high demand by the Aztec nobility.[50]
Legally, the Toltecca enjoyed semi-independent status due to their privileged position, but were still governed by the mainstream Aztec legal system, unlike their Pochteca cousins. For the most part, membership in the Toltecca was hereditary and had its own internal system of education/training apart from mainline Aztec society. It was these guilds that created the Aztec nobilities most important symbols of office and the power of their position was not illusory. A close alliance was formed between the Toltecca and the Pochteca they would trade raw materials for finished products.[51]
The extra-legal power of the craft guilds can be seen in the influence they had on the Aztec state. The Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan allowed the feather workers guild, direct access to the imperial zoo to maintain their valuable supply of exotic bird feathers.[52] Goldsmiths were given access to the imperial treasury to ply their trade and painters and sculptors were paid wages well above those of commoners.[53] The most telling example of their sway was an incident in which the lapidary Toltecca informed the emperor that they required a specialized form of sand that could only be found outside the current boundaries of the empire. When the city-states in this area refused the emperors request for sand, he called a council of war and conquered them utterly.[54]
c. Commoners
Macehualtin (“free-commoners”) formed the bulk of Aztec society. They were the rank and file of the Aztec military, maintained agriculture and worked in non-luxury trades. They paid tribute to the nobility, could not wear the cotton clothing/capes the nobles wore and were forbidden to own, let alone wear, ornate jewelry (baring heroic military service in which it was legal for them to possess/sell it).
The Macehualtin were organized in Calpulli (“group of houses”) that formed administrative districts that paid tribute to the nobility and were allowed to maintain Mayeque’s (tenant farmers).[55] Calpulli were basically corporations that either owned farmland that it divided amongst its members or specialized in a particular craft.[56] The exact composition of a Calpulli is still under debate and while a Calpulli is defiantly a unit of territory, its size seemed to range from very small to very large.[57] One author believes that each Macehualtin family was grouped in units of 20 and then organized into units of around 100 households to form a Calpulli. [58] Whatever the size, each unit of territory was referred to as a Calpulli and had an informal pecking order that favored heroic fighters and always maintained its own temple and school for commoners.
Calpulli districts had a number of legal responsibilities, the first of which was to elect a Calpullec to act as headman of their district. The Calpullec was elected for life and was responsible for maintenance of agriculture, taking/updating the census maps for tribute purposes, providing personnel/resources for public works and rallying troops for military service.[59] He paid no taxes but was legally required to provide all food and drink for Calpulli meetings, which could be very expensive.[60] The Calpullec reported to the local tribute collector (likely a Pipiltin noble) on a daily basis to update the census or receive orders from the Tlatoani of the city-state. The Calpullec brought suit and represented his Calpulli in court on matters that affected the Calpulli as a whole while individuals could bring suit on their own behalf in personal disputes.[61]
Below the Macehualtin’s were the Mayeque (rural tenants) who were “commoners who worked on the private lands of the nobility” and composed approximately 30% of the imperial population.[62] Many Mayeque’s were people displaced by war and later distributed to successful nobles and warriors to support their households (including that of the emperor of Tenochtitlan).[63] The Mayeque were basically the serfs of imperial Aztec culture and paid tribute to their individual lords with a portion of their harvest or by providing services (fetch firewood, collect water or domestic service).[64] During times of war Mayeque were required to act as soldiers and their legal issues were resolved by the Aztec legal system as usual.[65] Mayeque were bound to remain on their lord’s property but there is no recorded punishment for one who left.[66]
Beneath the Mayeque were the Tlacotin (“slaves”) who unlike many ancient cultures composed only about 3% of the Aztec population.[67] Slaves were considered commoners and generally because they went bankrupt and had to sell themselves into slavery to survive, or became slaves in compensation for some crime they committed.[68] Aztec citizens could sell themselves or another member of their family into slavery to support them. Common activities incurring slavery were “unsuccessful gambling, theft, failure to pay tribute; or extreme poverty.”[69]
Aztec slavery had a number of legal benefits, including exemption from taxation and military service.[70] “Many slaves rose to positions of responsibility acting as overseers and estate managers, and Aztec law allowed them to acquire land, property, and even slaves of their own.”[71] It was not illegal for slaves to marry and there was no social stigma attached to such unions (one of Tenochtitlans greatest rulers mother was a slave, and he was elected emperor over his other brothers who were born of nobility).[72] Slavery was not hereditary with one exception for pacts of ancient servitude that required the children of this indentured servant to continue on as slaves. Even in these cases, the slave was not forced to stay with his master and was allowed to have his own home/family.[73]
Many slaves were brought in from foreign lands, to be sold in the central slave markets of the Mexico Valley. The government regulated the slave trade and it was illegal to sell an obedient slave against their wishes.[74] If a slave could escape their captors and make it to the Tlatoani’s palace, he would legally set free.[75] It was against the law for anyone other than the slave owner to try to capture the slave during his flight and such interference warranted immediate enslavement of the offending party.[76]
If a slave disobeyed their master, legal action could be brought against the uncooperative party. The offending slave would be brought before witnesses and given public warnings not to offend further.[77] If they continued to misbehave after three or four warnings, they would be fitted with a wooden collar and sold at the slave market. If the slave continued to be troublesome and had to be sold three times, he would be sold to the government for sacrifice, creating the ultimate three strikes rule.[78]
The final social rung of the Aztec hierarchy was made up of sacrificial victims captured in war. The empire engaged in a continual process of expansion through conquest and sacrificial captives served three primary purposes. First, they increased the prestige of the captor as they attained special status when they captured their first four captives. Second, the Aztecs firmly believed that their gods sacrificed themselves bodily to keep the universe intact and believed that slaves needed to be sacrificed in order to emulate this sacrifice and keep the universe in order. Finally, the mass sacrifice of sacrificial captives provided the Tlatoani of the various city states a visible reminder of the price of defiance. Sacrificial slaves had no rights, but were generally expected to die with dignity.

IV Evolution and Structure of the Aztec Legal System

War fueled the engine of the Aztec state and their legal system is a reflection this. “The maintenance of social order and social respect for the judicial, political and educational institutions was the cornerstone of the Aztec legal system.”[79] “The law protected morals, family, manners, and property, and required total respect for authority.”[80] Order and obedience were prized in the triple-alliance and fearsome punishments were devised for the disobedient.
Some authors argue that the Aztecs are the only culture aside from Ch’in China that can be truly said to embrace legalism.[81] The legalistic approach focuses on a mechanical application of rules to legal problems instead of looking at the totality of circumstances on a case-by-case basis. Evidence of this can be found in the willingness of the Aztec state to enforce its laws without regard to the social class of the offender according to pre-set rules. The famous ruler of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl was the first great legalist of Aztec society and created an 80-statute code, designed to augment the pre-existing code of Texcoco and provide a greater sense of order.[82] This code was added to by his son and later, Montezuma himself. However, true legalism can never exist, because it’s impossible to create a code that accommodates all circumstances. The Aztecs solved this through application of analogy and the concept of the “reasonable man”. The legal code of Texcoco has a special proviso after its rules are finished stating that “all other delicts and excesses they punished as a good man might see fit, coming around to what appeared to them most just and most in conformity with reason.”[83] This allowed the system to be predictable in application, yet flexible enough to accommodate new situations.
The Aztec legal system was largely based on a form of highly structured customary law that was enforced in the style of legalism with the overall view being that if a crime was committed, it must be punished whether or not the action had previously been defined as a crime.[84] There was no legislative body to pass laws, but the emperor had full authority to make decrees with the force of law.[85] This is similar to the imperial Chinese penalty of “defying the will of the emperor” or “doing what ought not to be done.” “Only major civil and criminal laws were written down and there were only available to judges (although judges did meet on a fairly regular basis to determine which laws to codify in pictographic form).[86] The remaining non-written laws were so thoroughly engrained in Aztec customary law that codification was unnecessary. These laws were simply passed down orally from generation to generation.
In general, the cardinal city-states of the triple alliance (Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan) had an independent legal system and didn’t impose their laws or customs on the city-states they conquered.[87] However, they did extract tribute, goods and soldiers from vanquished cities depending on how receptive they were to Aztec dominion.[88] In, theory, it may be easy to look at such as system and imagine a complete lack of legal uniformity between the city-states of the imperial Aztec realm but this was not necessarily the case.
The Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tlacopan created the rules that governed the triple alliance.[89] However, the rulers of Texcoco were extremely well respected and Texcoco soon became the heart of Aztec legal scholarship for the duration of the empire. The primary figures responsible for this state of affairs were Nezahualcoyotl and his son Nezahualpilli, who, ruled Texcoco for 91 years.[90] Each was a formidable ruler and imposed many laws for the maintenance of Texcoco and its other territorial possessions. The system they created was so well ordered that the rulers of Tenochtitlan and Tlacopan were said to have imported the Texcocan legal system wholesale and sent their more complex cases to Texcoco for adjudication.[91] Members of the triple-alliance followed Tenochtitlan’s lead on matters of war and religion, but consulted Texcoco on matters of law.[92]
a. Judicial System
The general structure of the Aztec judicial system is similar to the US system in a number of ways. It included courts of first instance, a number of appeals courts and even a few courts of special instance.[93] The emperor could hear any case of interest to him or that affected the empire.[94] The first court an Aztec would likely have recourse to go to was the Barrio court.
Barrio courts dealt with minor civil and criminal offenses and were located in small towns and each district of a major city.[95] Barrio judges were elected by the people of their Barrio and were drawn from the ranks of veteran soldiers who exhibited “a sound and righteous upbringing.”[96] This judge reported his verdicts to the appropriate trial level judge and had a group of elected neighborhood watchmen at his disposal who would look for crime and report back to the judge (they had no enforcement powers).[97] The barrio judge also had a group of police that served summons and arrested criminals at his direction.[98] When an arrest was made for a serious offense, the barrio judge would carry out a preliminary examination, and then transfer the case up to a Teccali court.[99]
Teccali courts met in Tenochtitlan and in each provincial capital of the empire.[100] The Teccali courts were permanently in session and their primary duty was to resolve cases sent to them by the barrio courts.[101] Their primary purview was the civil and criminal cases of commoners and they were believed to be staffed by 3-4 judges.“[102] The exact number of judges is still in dispute, but it is believed that each court had no less than a “president” and 2 judges.[103] The Teccalli courts verdict was final in civil cases, but criminal cases could be appealed to the appellate courts, whose verdict would be sent to the Supreme Justice (the Cihuacoatl “Woman Serpent”).[104]
The appeals court or Tlacxitlan heard criminal appeals from the Teccalli courts and was the court of first instance for nobles and warriors.[105] 3-4 judges staffed this court and its cases could be appealed to the Aztec Supreme Court or the Emperor himself.[106] The exact nature of this court and the Aztec Supreme Court is in dispute. Some sources say that the structure is as presented here, while another omits the Tlacxitlan court altogether and would transfer cases directly from the Teccali courts to the Supreme Court. The latter theory would assume the cases involving nobles would go directly to the Supreme Court, but I believe this would be highly inefficient due to the sheer number of people who fit into the noble class. Until we know more, it will be difficult to say either way, but I will continue under the assumption that the Tlacxitlan court is still present.
The Aztec Supreme Court heard criminal appeals from the Teccali courts and the appeals of nobles from the Tlacxitlan courts. It sat in Tenochtitlan and was composed of 12 justices, headed by the Cihuacoatl.[107] It was the Cihuacoatl who determined the final verdict and their verdict was final. No appeal could be had to any other Tlatoani or judge once the Cihuacoatl made his decision, but if the case was deemed important enough, the Cihuacoatl could refer the case upward to the Emperor himself.[108] The emperor held court every 12 days and had the aid of 2-13 advisors in rendering his final verdict.[109]
The Aztec court system also contained a number of courts of special jurisdiction including, commercial courts, domestic affairs courts, fiscal affairs courts, artisan’s courts, military courts and religious courts.[110] The most important special affairs courts were the commercial, military and religious courts. The commercial court had three levels and was referred to as the Pochteca Tlahtocan.[111] This court was run by the Pochteca guilds and each level was staffed with 12 judges.[112] These courts could be found in the marketplace, had jurisdiction over all commercial disputes and had enforcement powers up to and including summary capital punishment.[113]
Military courts were staffed by 4 judges and adjudicated all military disputes. These courts were mobile and could be conducted immediately after a battle.[114] The religious court only had one judge appointed to the position by the highest-ranking priest of that particular temple. Religious judges were called Teohvatzin and heard all cases involving priests.[115] There appears to be a tribunal housed in the emperor’s palace that adjudicated offenses committed by dignitaries.[116] It had jurisdiction over criminal offenses and serious misdemeanors committed by foreign dignitaries with adultery being specifically mentioned (adultery was a capital offense).[117]
b. Judges
Aztec judges were known by the title “Techuhtlatoque” which means “lords that govern the public well being and speak it”.[118] Judges were greatly respected members of the community and were seen as the literal embodiment of the emperor’s justice.[119] The emperor appointed judges, with the exception being barrio judges who were elected by their calpuli.[120] Many Aztec judges were members of the nobility and had numerous responsibilities outside their judicial capacity including military service, political duties and tending to their temple (priests could be judges).[121] Priest-judges would be a particularly fearsome sight as many priests were painted black and had long hair matted with dried blood from a long night of ritual bloodletting.
A high level judicial career required extensive training, which included legal training in a noble Calmecac school and a period of apprenticeship whereby apprentices would sit behind a judge to learn the system.[122] It was from this pool of apprentices that new judges were selected.[123] Once selected, a judge would sit for life and could only be removed for judicial misconduct.
Judges decided their cases from a 7-8 step tall, raised mezzanine housed in a room attached to or within the palace of the ruler of their particular region.[124] Lower court judges met daily while higher-ranking judges met more infrequently. A famous quote by the Spanish administrator Alfonse Zorita describes the daily ritual of Aztec judges and states that they “would seat themselves at daybreak on their mat dais, and immediately begin to hear pleas. The judge’s meals were brought to them at an early hour from the royal palace. After eating, they rested for a while, then returned to hear the remaining suitors, staying until two hours before sundown.”[125]
Aztec judges drew their salary from the proceeds of lands set aside for them by the state, which was supposed to make the judge less susceptible to bribery and corruption.[126] Judges were bound to render impartial verdicts and sentences without regard to the parties social status based solely on their wisdom. A judge was not allowed to accept gifts in any form and was bound by strong rules of ethics. A violation of these ethics could result in a number of penalties.
For minor offenses like drinking to excess, accepting bribes or negligence, the judge would be severely reprimanded by his fellow judges.[127] Further cases of misconduct could warrant having the offender’s house knocked down and his possessions confiscated.[128] If the misconduct continued, upon the third offense, the judge’s hair would be cropped (a sign of great shame and humiliation in Aztec culture) and he would be summarily stripped of his office.[129] If the offense was a serious one that earned the notice of the Tlatoani of his region, the ruler himself could summarily strip the judge of his position.[130] Serious offenses or major breaches of the standards of professional ethics meant death for the offender.[131] One story tells us of a judge who unfairly favored a noble over a commoner and lied about it to the ruler of Texcoco.[132] The ruler learned of this and had him hanged in addition to reversing the case in favor of the commoner.[133] Aside from direct punishments from a ruler, the Aztec judiciary was self-policing.[134]
c. Judicial Review
The Aztec word for justice is “tlamelahuacachinaliztli” which means “straight line to a point, or to straighten that which is twisted.”[135] While bound by written or customary law Aztec judges used their own common sense, reason and wisdom to render a judgment that seemed just and appropriate. Aztec judges were not ignorant of the principle of stare decisis and had created a body of case law that they could look to in determining future punishments.[136] This body of law was largely handed down through custom although major civil and criminal cases were recorded by scribes and made available to judges in the form of case/statute books.[137] One author argues that Aztec judicial decisions were designed to defend long established customs, as these customs “served to distinguish between good and evil, tradition that caused harm and tradition that enriched and served to develop society.”[138] Most judicial decisions simply upheld customary law or followed the rules lain out by the rulers of Tenochtitlan or Texcoco.[139]
d. The In Courtroom Experience
When charges were filed, the accused party was summoned before the court and given a chance to confront their accuser.[140] Parties represented themselves in court and while no lawyers were present they could bring a friend or relative to help plead their case.[141] Trials were public and based on an inquisitorial process that allowed the judge to question witnesses, defendants and plaintiffs.[142] Sources are divided as to whether torture was or was not allowed to extract confessions.
Parties were required to swear strict oaths in the name of Huitzilopochtili to tell the truth and did so by touching the ground and then their lips.[143] In this way, lying became an affront to the gods and was punished by death.[144] Witnesses are said to have told the truth out of respect for this oath in addition to having a healthy fear of the judge who was described as “very skillful in getting the facts and displayed much wisdom in their questioning and cross-examination.”[145] Judges were authorized to apply severe punishments to those who lied in court.[146] Those convicted of perjury were given the same punishment as the person they were trying to protect.[147] Documents, testimony, circumstantial evidence and confessions could be admitted into evidence.[148]
Scholars believe the maximum length of an Aztec court proceeding was limited to 80 days.[149] This limit was artificial because judges would meet in Tenochtitlan every four months (Aztec months were 20 days) to decide the most difficult criminal cases and these judgments were final.[150] Judges attended these meetings from each provincial capital that gave accounts of the court proceedings in their area.[151] The most difficult suits were brought up for discussion and debates were had on issues that affected the empire as a whole.[152]
e. Other Personnel Involved In The Administration of Justice
Aztec judges had a great deal of assistance in effecting their task of administering justice. Aztec judges had a stable of summoners, messengers and constables inform or arrest the accused. It is said that these people would “carry out their errands with the greatest diligence, by night or day, in rain, snow, or hail, without the slightest delay.”[153] As stated above, the Barrio judges had a form of neighborhood watch to keep them informed of what was going on in their neighborhood. Jailers were also present and prisoners awaiting trial were placed in wooden cages until their trial date. Aside from these jails no truly long term prison system was employed.[154] The two most important groups available to assist judges were their scribes and their constables.
Scribes were an ever-present fixture in the Aztec court system and served the important functions of recording lawsuits between villages, acting as stenographers in court proceedings and compiling codebooks for their judges. The Aztec’s use a complex pictorial writing system that required no small degree of skill to draw or understand, so a scribe that could accurately keep pace with an Aztec court proceeding was an impressive person indeed.[155] Scribes recorded “who the parties to the suit were, what it concerned, and the various claims, witnesses and the finding or sentence.”[156]
The enforcement arm of Aztec society is a little harder to classify for a variety of reasons. First, there are many conflicts in the sources as to what exactly constitutes a “constable” and second, the Aztec writing system made it very difficult to determine what class a “constable” belonged to.[157] It appears that the appellate courts or the Aztec Supreme Court had a circle of 12 constables at its disposal to send to send anywhere within the empire to arrest offenders that needed to appear before them.[158]
Below the Supreme Court level there appear to be at least four types of enforcement agents, all of which are associated with a particular form of execution method. All were part of the Achcauhcalli or “constables meeting house” and may have been recognizable by the unique way they arranged their hair with white ribbons.[159] The first constable class, were the Quauhnochtli (“Eagle Cactus Fruit”) who appear to be from the commoner class and are depicted as executing criminals in the marketplace by strangling or stoning them.[160] The second type were Tlilancalqui (“Keeper of the House of Darkness”) who may have been part of the high nobility and were involved in execution but we don’t know how.[161] The third class was the Atenpanecatl (“Keeper on the Edge of the Water”) who appear to be commoners that also publicly executed criminals in the marketplace through strangling, stoning and cutting people to pieces in a process similar to Imperial China.[162] The final class was the Ezhuahuacatl (“Raining Blood”) who smashed criminal’s heads in public.[163]
f. The Pochteca and the Law of the Marketplace
The one legally unique faction within Aztec society was the Pochteca merchant guilds who were basically a society within a society. They worshiped their own gods, married within their class and membership was strictly hereditary.[164] In exchange for taxation, these guilds were granted the power to regulate the marketplace, represent themselves before the emperor, judge all law suits relating to the merchant class and issue death sentences to those who violated their laws.[165]
The Aztecs had a dynamic economy of no small complexity that was facilitated by an interlinked series of marketplaces.[166] The Aztec economy was not heavily regulated by the central government and seems to have more or less been run on a local scale.[167] Each village of any size had at least one marketplace, while larger cities had multiple. Cortez was astonished at the sheer scale of Aztec market in Tlateloloco, observing that it was twice the size of its equivalent in Salamanca and held over 60,000 people.[168] Large markets would meet every 5 days while smaller ones would meet less frequently.[169] People would travel up to 15 miles to reach a market where they could buy, sell, get the local news and socialize with friends.[170]
For the most part, the Aztec economy was based on barter, but a number of items had an agreed upon value that came to recognized. The primary unit of exchange for expensive items was a length of cotton cloth called a quachtli.[171] Quachtli were basically capes and seem reminiscent of the woolen lengths of cloth used in Saga period Iceland.[172] Other media of exchange for expensive items were copper ax blades and quills filled with gold dust. [173] The primary unit of small-scale exchange was the Cocoa bean.[174] Sources indicate an exchange rate of between 100 and 300 Cocoa beans per cotton mantle depending on what period the transaction took place and a brisk counterfeiting market seems to have grown up around them.[175] Some markets were highly specialized while others were of a more general nature, but all were regulated by Pochteca staffed courts and their omnipresent market inspectors.[176]
A number of regulations applied to Aztec markets. First and foremost, no party could trade on the way to the market for fear of offending the market gods.[177] This tradition must have been fairly potent because it is still firmly in practice in parts of Mexico today.[178] Goods could only be sold in areas designated by the Pochteca market judge who required vendors to pay a market tax in quachtl mantles or cacao beans to sell their wares.[179] Impassive Pochteca market inspector’s similar to the Islamic Mutasih would mix with the crowd to make sure items were being sold at proper exchange rates and to monitor the quality of the products being sold.[180] The Aztec’s sold everything by number and measure instead of by weight, and inspectors would destroy false measures upon discovery.[181] Traders trying to pass off shoddy merchandise immediately had their entire stock of goods confiscated.[182]
Inspectors immediately took thieves and those selling stolen goods to the Pochteca run market court (conveniently located at one end of the market) where judgment and sentencing were rendered on the spot by a panel of 3-12 judges.[183] This court governed all disputes between traders, any issue that arose in the marketplace or was related to a member of the Pochteca.[184] Punishment was immediate, wrongdoers who were fined, sent for their families to bring quachtli mantles to pay up, while serious offenders were beaten to death in the center of the marketplace as an example to others.
Pochteca market courts also regulated all commercial transactions that took place in the marketplace. The Aztecs had a number of different types of contracts, including sales contracts, commission sales contracts, lease contracts, work contracts and loan contracts.[185] All contracts were created orally and became binding when witnessed by four people.[186] Loan contracts required collateral that could be in the form of goods, property, or a promise to become a slave upon default.[187] Usury in the medieval sense was technically illegal, but these laws appear to have been lightly enforced if enforced, at all.[188] Apparently “First lenders had first rights, and debts were passed to their heirs.”[189]
A major concern for the market inspectors was the presence of counterfeiting and counterfeiters had a number of ingenious ways to cheat the system. Many would mix in poor quality chilis or hole filled cotton quechtli mantles with newer, high quality ones.[190] Cacao beans were particularly susceptible to counterfeiting as vendors would remove the outer shell and fill it with dirt, heat shriveled beans to make them look larger, or create entirely false beans out of wax or amaranth dough.[191] These beans would then be mixed with real beans for sale in the marketplace. It is said a body of law was developed for dealing with counterfeiters, but it has been lost to antiquity. We might assume that counterfeiting falls under the “selling of substandard goods” category that requires forfeiture of the vendor’s property.[192]

Book II. A Day in the Life of an Aztec Citizen

The Aztecs had a highly complex social structure, where both formal and informal laws governed the life of the citizen from birth to death. A citizen of the empire was expected to live an obedient, ordered life in service of the state. A structured path was devised for them from the day they were born, to the day they died. This path is a fusion of rigorously ingrained customary law and brutally enforced statutory law. I will divide this journey into dawn, midday and twilight, symbolizing the Aztec legal journey through life.
a. Dawn
Few formal laws applied to an Aztec before he was born, but a number of customary prohibitions exist for his protection. Pregnant women were forbidden to lift heavy objects, take excessive sweat-baths or engage in excessive sex (they thought the fetus would be glued to the womb).[193] They were also sternly warned not to have an abortion because pregnancy was seen as a sign that the gods favored the women and to defy them is to incur their wrath.[194]
A number of other pre-birth taboos were given to Aztec women. They were advised not to eat tamales that stuck to the side of a cooking pot for fear that the child would do the same in her womb.[195] She shouldn’t go out at night without spreading ash, a pebble or wormwood on her chest because the wandering apparitions of women who died in childbirth would prey on her unborn child.[196] Prospective mothers should not look at a hanged person because the child will be born strangled by their umbilical cord.[197] She should also avert her eyes from an eclipse or the rising moon, because this action would cause her children to become hair-lipped (although placing an obsidian knife in her bosom would protect her from the rising moon part).[198] In the final months of pregnancy, the woman was to be provided with anything she requested and she was not allowed to sleep during the day or look at anything frightening, offending or red.[199] All were thought to result in birth defects, stillbirth or the death of the mother.[200]
From birth to age three, the complex web of legal and social rules that will soon govern his life only lightly affected an Aztec. Complex divinations were performed using the child’s day sign to determine both his name, and their most auspicious career path. An Aztec boy was presented with a small shield a bow and four arrows to symbolize his future as a warrior, while an Aztec girl was presented with a spindle to represent her future as homemaker.[201] After the appropriate ceremonies were complete, Aztec children were more or less free to enjoy their childhood until age three.
From age three to four, children received some degree of instruction as to what it was to be a good or bad child, but this was not yet the official training they would receive later. A good child was one who was healthy, strong and happy, while a bad child was sickly, maimed or violent in temperament.[202] It was believed that a family had to “stretch” their child on a regular basis if they were to grow properly during the year. This stretching spared neither male nor female and involved the parents pulling of the child’s hands, fingers, arms, legs, feet, neck, noses and ears.[203] Children also had to be stretched during earthquakes because it was feared that they would grow no further if stretching wasn’t performed quickly.[204] If one-stepped over a child, he had to quickly step backward over them or his growth would be stunted.[205] Children were also prevented from drinking before their older siblings for fear that they would cease to grow (in addition to reinforcing age distinctions).[206]
Formal education began around age five or six and it was considered vital that all children be taught to be obedient, respectful and honest.[207] Pages accompanied young noblemen to ensure that they would bow and issue proper greetings to those of higher station.[208] Commoners were instructed to work diligently and “do what pertains to your office, labor, sow and plant your trees, and live by the sweat of your brow. Do not cast off your burden, or grow faint, or be lazy; for if you are negligent and lazy, you will not be able to support yourself or your wife and children.”[209]
Children were now given tasks that included carrying water, collecting firewood, carrying bundles to the market, fishing and collecting maize grains from the floor of the marketplace.[210] Formal punishments did not seem to apply quite yet, but children of this age received lengthy speeches from their parents about what it meant to live in the Aztec world.[211] Children were taught that life was a painful and dangerous thing and taught to proceed with moderation, humility and diligence.[212]
At age seven, formal punishments began to creep into the child’s life. Children were again admonished to be obedient, honest, discreet, respectable, modest and energetic and modest in all things.[213] One nobleman laid out eight rules for his child which included avoiding excess rest, being prudent in travel, speaking slowly and deliberately, refraining from staring, not gossiping, responding immediately to summons, being moderate in dress and washing hands before eating and refraining from gluttony.[214] At this point, it seems that formal punishments were more of an intense reproach as opposed to the physical punishments that begin at age 8.
A variety of punishments were lain out for children of both sexes between the ages of 8 and 12. If scolding didn’t work, a parent could threaten to pierce their male child’s body with maguey spines at age 8, actually use the spines at age 9, beat him with a stick at 10, hold him over a fire and force him to inhale chili smoke at age 11 and bind him hand and foot, forcing him to lay on a wet mat in the cold at age 12.[215]
Girls between ages 8 and 12 were expected to be obedient, discreet and chaste. If scolding didn’t work, girls received punishments similar to those of their male brethren. At age 8, they were threatened with maguey spines, at 9, their hands may be pierced, at 10 a girl could be beaten with a stick for spinning cotton poorly, and from 11 and up, she could be forced to inhale chili smoke over a fire.[216]
The state seems to have had some interest in the rearing of its citizen’s children seeing as Aztec mothers feared punishments from Aztec judges if their daughters failed to act properly by age 14.[217] A girl’s skill at weaving was considered to be a direct index of her moral character. Properly woven outfits were a sign of good moral character, while crooked seams and edges indicated crooked or perverse character.[218] Cotton cloaks were a primary source of tribute and a potent symbol of the nobility, so one could infer that the powers that be had a vested economic and social interest in the weaving skills of their subjects.
Between the ages of 12 and 15, all children were required to attend cuicacalli (“house of song”) schools.[219] These schools were adjacent to major temples with classes beginning and hour before sundown and lasting late into the night.[220] Aztec children were taught to sing and dance and continued to do so throughout their stay in the cuicacalli school. It is believed that these schools served to provide a religious education.[221]
Aztec children were legally bound to obey and respect their parents such that parents could bring their children to court if they proved particularly deviant.[222] The range of punishments a court could issue included beatings, disinheritance (particularly worrisome for young nobles) and death although death, was reserved for the children of nobility who were disrespectful, cowardly or cheap.[223] Parents who could not afford additional children could obtain permission from the courts to sell their children into slavery.[224]
There were six deadly sins an Aztec youth was taught to avoid at all cost, including becoming a vagabond, thief, excessive ball player, gambler, gossip or drunkard.[225] Aztec society had little love for drifters or the idle, so being a vagabond was said to have severe supernatural consequences. Aztec youth were told that being a vagabond would warrant a visit by a Cihuapipiltin (deified soul of a woman who died in child birth) that would place them under a spell that contort one’s face and limbs and would cause him to foam at the mouth.[226]
Thieves will be dealt with in a later section, but suffice it to say that theft was severely frowned upon by Aztec society and typically warranted execution. Excessive ball playing and gambling is an interesting topic, because the negative connotation isn’t the sport itself, but the wagering affiliated with it.[227] There seems to be no small fear of gambling addiction in Aztec society and there are numerous stories of Aztec citizens having to sell themselves into slavery to get out of debts incurred by a bad throw of the dice or failure of a popular ball team. This problem seems to extend all the way to the Tlatoani themselves who wagered the fate of their entire kingdoms on the outcome of a singular ball game.
Gossips were described as “discourteous, evil-spoken, great talkers, big mouthed, belittling, sower’s of discord and spreaders of tales.[228] Gossips were thought to create social discord and were offensive to the public order. An Aztec child was counseled to speak clearly and on matters of import, and to perfect speech in the fashion of an orator, not a gossip.
Drunkenness is the final Aztec sin and features prominently in many of the Aztec codices.[229] There was great disdain for public drunkenness as it was viewed as robbing the individual of their faculty of reason and created great discord that was an affront to the state as a whole. Drinking was completely forbidden in Aztec society except on certain occasions. These occasions include childbirth, certain religious days and for people who were engaged in a particularly difficult form of labor. The main exception was for people who had children and grandchildren or were over the age of 70. These individuals could then who could drink as much as they pleased.[230] For a first offense of public drunkenness, the offending party had their head shaved and their house destroyed as they were thought unfit to associate with polite society.[231] Upon a commoner’s second offense, or a noble/public official’s first offense, the offending party was executed.[232]
Age 15 marks a significant turning point in the life of an Aztec male as he was admitted to a school of higher learning to obtain the skills he would need throughout the rest of his life.[233] Noble children attended the Calmecac schools while commoners attended telpochcalli. Calmecac schools provided the empire with its priests, generals, judges and senior administrators.[234] Each school required its students to work day and night under a curriculum that combined intense academic activity with grueling physical labor.[235] General skills imparted were, oration, songs, histories, calenderics, interpretation of dreams and omens, and combat training.[236] It is here that future judges learned their legal skills and priests entered the priesthood.
Punishments for dereliction were severe in calmecac schools. Students who drank wine, committed severe infractions of school rules or slept around were “burned, or strangled, or cast into fire alive or shot with arrows.”[237] Lighter infractions including failure to speak well or greet others properly were greeted with the drawing of blood from the student’s ears and sides with maguey spines or pieces of sharpened bone.[238]
Commoners were educated in tepochalli schools that were housed in their calpulli. These schools focused on military training as all adult males, noble and commoner alike, were required to serve in the Aztec military.[239] Punishments in these schools seem to approximate those of their calmecac counterparts. After five years of education, nobles and commoners alike were believed to be sufficiently educated to take their place in Aztec society and moved on to their next great venture in life...marriage.[240]
b. Midday
After leaving their youth behind in their respective schools, members of Aztec society would now be confronted with the full weight of Aztec customary and statutory law. Everything from marriage to warfare was regulated by custom or formal legal mechanism. Some primary areas of importance here are family law, criminal law, property law, fiscal law and international law.[241]
a. Family Law
Marriage was an important institution and its polygamous nature brought two primary benefits to Aztec society.[242] First, it allowed multiple noblewomen from other states to marry a single male noble from the triple alliance, to further cement diplomatic relations across the realm.[243] Second, a large number of widows are generated by a society constantly at war and polygamy allowed widows to stay in the family by marrying the brothers of their fallen husbands.[244] Polygamy was widespread among nobles but was more limited among commoners which may indicate that polygamous marriages were used to preserve political instead of social pairings. Aztec males were expected to marry by age 22 while females were expected to marry by the time they were 18.[245] Aztec marriages were primarily governed by customary law and were formed when a child’s parents entered into negotiations with another family and hammered out a marriage agreement.[246] The whole family took part in selecting a mate and was often assisted by a professional marriage broker.[247] Sources are divided as to whether a child had any say in who they were marrying.[248] Dowries were present, but sources are vague as to what their exact nature was.
There were two forms of marriage, conditional and unconditional.[249] Conditional marriages were basically contractual events that lasted until the birth of the first male child.[250] Once this child was born the couple could either stay married as normal or separate forever. In contrast, unconditional marriages continued forever and could only end upon divorce or death.[251]
The husband was the master of the house, but the wife retained her full rights as a citizen post marriage.[252] She could own property, make contracts, engage in business and file suit in the legal system.[253] Men’s lives were filled with labor, work or war while women maintained the household or pursued careers as professional matchmakers or priestesses.
While entrance into marriage had nothing to do with the formal legal system, exit did. A husband or a wife could petition the court for legal separation, but was required to attempt to reconcile their differences before a formal separation was granted.[254] Lack of reconciliation was no guarantee to the issuance of a divorce decree because some courts had a strict no divorce policy. A husband could file for separation on grounds of incompatibility of character, misconduct on the part of the wife, insanity of the wife, the laziness of the wife, infertility and financial default.[255] A wife could file for divorce if her husband beat her, deserted her or failed to provide for her children education.[256]
Once the couple separated, they would remain so forever and were not allowed to remarry each other (to do so was a capital offense).[257] They were however allowed to marry other people and were encouraged to do so.[258] Children were divided between their parents with sons remaining with the father and daughters with the mother.[259] Each party’s property was recorded upon entrance into marriage (by who is unknown) and its division depended upon who was at fault. If one party was guilty of splitting up the marriage, the offender forfeited half their share to the other spouse.[260] In particular, if a husband was found to have abandoned his wife, she would be granted her freedom, given half of all the property owned by the couple and granted custody of all the children.[261] In a no fault separation, the property was divided according to who brought the property into the marriage.[262]
There are two schools of thought on how the Aztecs handled issues of inheritance. The first school is highly speculative and may be somewhat suspect in its conclusions because little evidence has been recovered about how the Aztecs resolved their inheritance issues before the fall. This school may reflect the way intestate succession issues were resolved while the second school could be more illustrative of testate succession. School one speculates that when a party died, property descended through the male line from firstborn son, down the chain of male heirs.[263] Women had no rights of inheritance but the decedent’s brother was required to marry the widow and if no male heirs were present, the property would pass to the nearest male relative. In the absence of any surviving male relative, the property would escheat to the state (likely the emperor).[264]
The second school of thought on Aztec inheritance is derived from post fall observations of how surviving Aztec communities divided their property. A great number of wills were written by former triple-alliance members during the Spanish colonial period that may reflect the way inheritance issues were resolved during the empire.[265] Plots of land and homes could be devised in almost any conceivable way including “male to male, female to female, female to male or even among in-laws”.[266] Land sites had a tendency of being divided among several relatives instead of a single individual and it was not uncommon for bequests to be spread across three generations.[267] The great range of ways people were allowed to leave their property to is likely to have been present before the fall, but it is possible that the massive drop in population caused by smallpox may have made bequests to distant relatives more common.[268]
Household items were passed from mother to daughter while luxury items and important status symbols were passed from brother to brother.[269] The right to collect tribute payments could be passed to other relatives in the pattern above, including husband to wife.[270] Trustees were appointed to administer to property of minors.[271]
b. Criminal Law
The emphasis of criminal law was to instill respect for the social order, customs and legal institutions of the Aztec state.[272] It was believed that the state would soon disintegrate unless respect for its legal institutions from the emperor down to the family unit were properly drummed into the citizenry.[273] The Aztec state did not apply its criminal laws equally because nobles were believed to descend from the gods, represent the emperor and provide an example for the masses and were subject to more severe punishments than commoners.[274] The most severely punished crimes were homicide, theft, and adultery, all of which typically warranted execution.[275]

i. Homicide

Homicide was always a capital crime whether it was justified or not.[276] Killing another was viewed as usurping the authority of the emperor, who reserved the exclusive right to grant the authority to take life.[277] This crime was punished with execution, but the victim’s family could intervene by forgiving the condemned individual who would then be handed over to the family as their slave.[278]
ii. Theft
Theft was another major offense in Aztec society that often involved bizarre circumstances. Theft from merchants, temples, of the arms and insignia of military personnel or theft of items worth more than 20 ears of maize was punishable by death by strangulation.[279] Theft of items worth less than 20 ears of maize required restitution or the criminal was given to the victim as a slave.[280] However, enslavement was only available if the value of the items could be recovered, if not, the penalty was death (likely by strangulation).[281] Theft didn’t pay on either side, as handling stolen property was punishable by enslavement.[282] A safe harbor existed for children under 10 who were considered minors and not punished, but it’s unknown as to whether restitution could be demanded of this minor.[283] In addition to the type of the item stolen, the location of the offense was important.
Theft from a dwelling (burglary) was considered a serious offense and was typically defined as “theft accomplished by boring/breaking a hole in the victims dwelling.”[284] Aztec homes had no doors (doorways) or windows although their entryways used to be covered with curtains that had some type of chime or bell attached. These chimes and the alarm they raised could have been the impetus for Aztec burglars to bore their way into their victim’s homes. A first offense was punished by enslavement and the offender was required to serve the family they stole from.[285] However, if the thief stole a “considerable value” from the home (perhaps items worth more than 20 ears of maize) or was a repeat offender, he was executed by strangulation or “death by blows to the head with a club”.[286] Frequent thefts from the marketplace or countryside were also punished by death by strangulation or “death by blows to the head with a club”.[287]
Even more serious than theft from a dwelling was theft by sorcery. There are numerous tales of groups of sorcerers banding together to commit burglary. These groups were usually 2-20 people in size who typically employed the forearm bone of a woman who died in childbirth to magically freeze the occupants of a home. It is said it was “as if the victims were all dead, and yet they heard and saw everything that happened.”[288] The sorcerers would then sit down at the victim’s table, eat their food, steal their belongings and do “a great many foul things to the women of the house.”[289] Another form of sorcery (and seemingly more effective) would simply put the victim to sleep while the sorcerer robbed them. Upon capture the sorcerers were either hanged or were sacrificed in public by having their hearts torn out.[290]
Its hard to tell exactly what was going on during these mystical offenses, but aside from actual sorcery, one could assume that offenses involving large numbers of “sorcerers” were equivalent to our own home-invasion style robberies. Records left by Spanish monks tell us that the Aztecs firmly believed in the ability of a sorcerer to freeze them in their homes, but the monks themselves were convinced that it was terror and not sorcery that froze the victims.[291] Other offenses involving one or two people typically involved the perpetrators being caught with the offending charms/forearm bone while entering or leaving the home, creating the presumption that sorcery was employed in the crime.
iii. Adultery
Marital relations were extremely important to the Aztecs, as they maintained the population in addition to cementing important alliances between the city-states of the triple-alliance. Adultery was an offense against the state and while its penalties varied from city-state to city-state, they were always severe.
Adultery was a capital offense and was defined as sexual relations between a man and a married woman that was not his wife. There was no penalty for a married man who slept with an unmarried woman (like a concubine), but a married woman was guilty if she slept with another man, whether he was married or not.[292] The actual act generally had to have an eyewitness, but city-states following the Texcocan model allowed proof through indirect evidence. Penalties for adultery extend not only to the offending parties, but also to anyone who knew of the adultery and failed to report it to the authorities.[293]
A number of brutal penalties were devised to deal with an adulterous couple. One common punishment was to crush the offending parties head between two stones, although if the offended party forgave the adulterers, the punishment was not carried out.[294] In other areas, a more stratified system was set up, starting with adulterers who were caught in the act.[295] In these cases, both offending parties were stoned to death in the marketplace.[296] If the adulterers were sentenced on the basis of circumstantial evidence, they were strangled and dragged to a temple outside the city.[297] If the adulterers killed the husband of the adulteress, the adulterer was burned at the stake while having water and salt thrown on him, while the adulteress was strangled before him.[298] Finally, nobles who were caught were strangled and had their remains were cremated.[299]
Interestingly, a husband who killed the offending parties after catching them in the act, was himself executed for taking matters into his own hands and usurping the power over life and death, granted the Aztec judiciary.[300] In some areas, a husband who slept with his wife after she was convicted of adultery (but before execution) was himself punished.[301] For the most part, Aztec adultery laws were inviolate, with no exceptions being made for rank or title. The famous legalist and Tlatoani of Texcoco, Nezahualpilli, had his own son executed for sleeping with a married woman.[302] Another Texcocoan ruler had four of his sons and their mistresses slain for adultery, even though the mistresses were daughters of powerful nobles from Tenochtitlan.[303] A final, telling example is when the rulers of Tlaxcala executed one of their greatest generals and his mistress due to their adulterous acts.[304] It has been postulated that the adultery laws may have been used as a pretext to execute ones enemies.[305] While not impossible, no affirmative evidence appears in the sources to indicate that this was the case. The only exception to the mandatory execution rule was reserved for active duty soldiers serving in the military of Texcoco. In these cases, the soldier’s mistress was executed, and he was permanently banished to a distant frontier military post.[306]

iv Miscellaneous Crimes

Numerous other criminal offenses exist, beyond the main three above, the most important of which were rape and abortion (which includes anyone assisting with the abortion). Rape was as repulsive to the Aztecs as it is to most other cultures and abortion was viewed as usurping the power of the emperor (both were punishable by death).[307] Suicide had criminal penalties attached to it that applied to all social strata. In one instance, the Tlatoani of Tenochtitlan killed himself with poison out of fear that the city may come under attack.[308] His family was summarily stripped of noble status and no member of his family would ever be allowed to hold noble status again.[309] There doesn’t appear to be a set penalty for inciting another to commit suicide, but that may be folded into the homicide category. Other serious crimes include defamation of character, kidnapping, incest, sodomy, destruction of crops, pederasty, inciting public disturbances, sedition, use of the emperor’s insignia and many forms of witchcraft, all of which were capital offenses.[310]
Crimes against the crown were always capital offenses as were crimes threatening the public order. Treason was heavily frowned upon and those who plotted against the state were summarily executed. In one spectacular case, the offending party was sentenced to execution by being dragged through the streets until he died (although, by what, we don’t know, because the Aztecs had no horses or wheeled vehicles).[311] In another instance, Tlacateotzin, ruler of Tlatilolco, spread false rumors of an immanent attack. Upon learning of this act, he was sentenced to execution by his fellow Tlatoani.[312] Any other threats against the state, or threat of rebellion was typically dealt with by execution of the offending party, or full-scale invasion of the offending city-state.

v. Property Law

The emperor alone had the legal power to regulate real property, and all land in the Aztec domain was owned in his name. The emperor immediately acquired title to all new lands acquired through conquest and had the power to divide them as he saw fit between the nobility, warriors, institutions and Calpulli.[313] Most of the land given away by the emperor was parceled out from recently conquered territories.[314] An interesting feature of this system was that the original owners from the conquered lands still own, live on and pass their title to future generations, but simply share the profits with their new “lords”.[315] Land boundaries were clearly marked by special measuring sticks called varas that were about two yards in length.[316] These sticks were used to create the tax maps contained in each calpuli and tampering with these sticks was punishable by death.[317]
Below the emperor, nobles were allowed to purchase property from other nobles or have it granted to them by the emperor himself. Land purchased from other nobles was free of any obstruction and could be resold at will, but land acquired from the emperor may come with conditions attached.[318] These conditions include restrictions on resale, or a requirement that it forfeit back to the state after the nobles death or the death of a certain family member X number of generations in the future.[319] The same rules applied to Aztec warriors with the proviso that they couldn’t purchase land, and could only acquire it from the emperor for valorous service in battle.[320]
Institutions like the army, church and certain bureaucratic organizations could own lands granted to them by the emperor. These lands belonged to the institution, not its leadership, and were used to support the institution as a whole.[321]
The calpuli were the final major land holding body, and held land either in the name of an individual family or for the community as a whole.[322] Family land was occupied by a single family unit and was passed down from generation to generation.[323] If this land went to waste for two years a stern warning was issued to the family, if it went to waste for a third year ownership was transferred back to the community.[324] All members of the calpuli cultivated community lands, and monies derived from these lands were used to pay the community’s taxes.[325]
The core cities of the Aztec state didn’t produce enough food to sustain themselves so a great deal of food had to be imported. Each year, the empire would suffer at least one lean period and famines were greatly feared. To remedy this a sophisticated welfare system was created that allowed the leaders of the triple alliance to feed the populace in time of need from, huge storehouses constructed in Tenochtitlan.[326] Fear of famine was so great that strict penalties were devised for those who interfered with the state welfare system. In one account, the ruler of Texcoco, Nezahualcoyotl required corn, squash and beans to be planted along all roads and ponds for people in need.[327] Anyone who partook of these plantings out of greed instead of hunger was put to death.[328]

vi. International Law: The Law of War

The Aztec economy was fueled by the tribute of its conquered territories and employed obsidian sword diplomacy whenever possible in its dealings with neighboring city-states. The primary method of Aztec social advancement was for an Aztec warrior to capture a set number of the enemy to be sacrificed in Tenochtitlan. The typical number of captives needed to net high status/reward was 4, although only one was required if the captive was from Tlaxcala.
If a kingdom didn’t acquiesce diplomatically to the emperor of Tenochtitlan, he would typically declare open warfare, or use his trusted pochteca allies to create a pretext to attack. There are only two instances where the Aztecs failed to conquer their opponents. The first is in their interaction with the Tarascan Empire (too powerful to conquer) and the second is against their longtime rival Tlaxcala who then indulged in numerous “flower wars” designed to net captives for each side, but not to capture territory. The Aztec state had a very advanced body of international law relating to the declaration of war such that surprise attacks were far from the norm.[329]
All declarations of war had to come from the emperor in Tenochtitlan and a set ritual was employed in each instance. First, a delegation from Tenochtitlan was sent to the enemy state instructing the enemy ruler on the merits of joining the triple-alliance and the evils that could befall them if they chose not to embrace the protection of Tenochtitlan.[330] The enemy state would be allowed maintain its own government structure, it just had to build a temple to the Aztec god Huitzilopochtli, pay some amount of tribute and listen to Tenochtitlan in matters of international affairs.[331] The envoys then presented gifts and gave the ruler 20 days to decide whether they would join the triple-alliance or go it alone.[332] If this didn’t work, another set of envoys, this time from Texcoco would travel to the enemy ruler with a gift of arms and tell him in no uncertain terms that if he didn’t join the triple alliance, he would be killed and his warriors sacrificed to the man.[333] The ambassadors would present more gifts of weapons to the ruler, anoint his head for strength in battle and wait another 20 days for his response.[334] If the ruler still held out, a final delegation, this time from Tlacopan would arrive in the enemy state and appeal directly to the citizens to force their leader to give up, because war could only result in ravaging their lands, destroying their armies and forcing the populace to labor under brutal tribute as a vassal state of Tenochtitlan.[335]
If this final ploy failed, war would break out, (typically with the triple-alliance as the victor). City-states who capitulated paid light tribute, retained their own government structure and benefited from free trade with the triple-alliance while, true to their word, those who resisted had their armies sacrificed, leaders executed, temples burned and labored under heavy tribute.[336]
No paper on the Aztecs would be complete without some mention of their infamous practices of human sacrifice. The Aztecs believed that their gods physically sacrificed themselves to prevent the world from being destroyed and thought the universe was created and destroyed in cycles. They were so firm in this belief that, Aztec priests watched the sky every 52 years to make sure the stars continued to travel across the heavens (next cycle is 2022). The Aztecs believed that human sacrifices were necessary to emulate the sacrifice of their own gods to keep the wheel that was the universe, turning.
Captives in war were immediately carried back to Tenochtitlan for sacrifice with one exception being “Gladiatorial sacrifices” that occurred approximately once a month. Famous warriors or rulers of opposing states would be given fake weapons (stick with feathers tied to it) and forced to fight elite Aztec warriors for their freedom.[337] This typically involved a quick death for the Aztec captive, but one exception stands out above the rest. The Tlaxcala captain Tlahuicol was captured by the Aztecs in battle and forced to endure the Aztec gladiatorial sacrifice ritual. Armed with only a fake sword and his wits, he personally slew 8 elite Aztec jaguar and eagle warriors.[338] He was offered a generalship in the Aztec military, but chose to be sacrificed just to spite them.[339]

c. Night

Aztecs in their winter years were more or less bound by the same laws that applied to them in midlife and were expected to conduct themselves with dignity.[340] The elderly were looked to as respected repositories of knowledge and were an important component of many rituals in addition to being the primary agents of punishment for the young.[341] As previously stated, the main advantage of elder status was the ability to drink freely after having grandchildren or reaching age 70.[342]
It should be noted that the eventual destination upon death was determined by the way a person died, not by the way they lived, so threats of punishment in the afterlife were not available in Aztec culture.[343] There was however, a procedure for confession that absolved the wayward Aztec of the wrongs they had committed during life.[344] This confession could only be made once and was typically undertaken near death to absolve the elderly of the wrongs they had committed in life.[345] This confession was heard by an Aztec priest and typically involved a penance like fasting or piercing ones tongue with maguey spines.[346] Once this confession was complete, the penitent was absolved off all crimes they had committed and was prepared to meet death.[347]
Obviously, one’s legal issues tend to end after death, but aside from estate issues there was one major post mortem legal problem in Aztec society...tomb robbing. When a woman died in childbirth, she was believed to become deified and certain key parts of her body were given magical attributes.[348] It was thought that a lock of hair and the middle finger of the decedents left hand would make a warrior invincible in battle and that the forearm bone would magically freeze the occupants of a home, to allow easy theft.[349] Mourners would arm themselves with swords and shields to fend off roving bands of young men who sought to mutilate the corpse and the decedents husband and friends would stand watch over the grave for 4 days, allowing the body to loose potency and rest in peace.[350] Penalties during these melees could involve numerous laws, from theft, to witchcraft to murder.


The Aztec legal system was like the Aztec people, constantly in motion, yet solidly rooted in tradition. This system is both beautiful and terrible, providing equality under the law for noble and commoner alike, but embracing brutal human sacrifice. Today, there are over 1,000,000 Nahuatl speaking people living in Mexico, many of whom live in conditions similar to their distant ancestors. The Aztecs engaged in a constant struggle to find Eden by way of Oceania, and provide a fascinating glimpse into a system totally divorced from those of Europe and Asia.

Proud of itself
Is the city of Mexico-Tenochtitlan
Here no one fears to die in war
This is our glory.
This is Your Command,
Of Giver of Life!
Have this in mind, oh princes
Lest we forget it.
Who could conquer Tenochtitlan?
Who could shake the foundation of heaven?


Frances F Berdan & Patricia Rieff Anawalt, The Essential Codex Mendoza, (University of California Press 1997)

Warwick Bray, Everyday Life of the Aztecs, Dorset Press 1968

Mary G. Hodge and Michael E. Smith, Economics and Politics in the Aztec Realm, University of Texas Press 1994

Jerome A. Offner, Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco, Cambridge University Press 1989

Jacques Soustelle, Daily Life of The Aztecs of the Eve of the Spanish Conquest, Stanford University Press, Stanford California

Alfonso de Zorita, Life and Labor in Ancient Mexico, Rutgers University Press(Benjamin Keen trans.,1963).

History and Mythology of the Aztecs The Codex Chimalpopoca, The University of Arizona Press (John Bierhorst trans., 1992).

Frances F Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers1982

Michael E Smith., The Aztecs, Blackwell Publishers 1996

John Pohl, Adam Hook, Aztec Warrior AD 1325-1521, Osprey Publishing 2001

Francisco Avalos, An Overview of the Legal System of the Aztec Empire, Lexis Nexis 1994

Aztec Law and Punishment, Internet at

[1] Michael E Smith., The Aztecs, p274 (Blackwell Publishers 1996)
[2] Frances F Berdan & Patricia Rieff Anawalt, The Essential Codex Mendoza, p. xi (University of California Press 1997)
[3] id
[4] Frances F Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society, p3 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers 1982)
[5] id
[6] id
[7] id at p6
[8] id at p6
[9] id at p6
[10] id at p6
[11] id at p7
[12] id at p7
[13] id at p8
[14] id at p9
[15] id at p10
[16] Warwick Bray, Everyday Life of the Aztecs, p91 (Dorset Press 1968)
[17] id at 92
[18] Berdan, supra at p45
[19] id at p46
[20] id at 51-54
[21] id at 47
[22] id at 47
[23] id at 51
[24] id at 50
[25] id at 50
[26] id at 50
[27] Berdan supra at p 70
[28] Francisco Avalos, An Overview of the Legal System of the Aztec Empire, p2 (Lexis Nexis 1994)
[29] Frances F Berdan, The Aztecs of Central Mexico: An Imperial Society, p104 (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich College Publishers1982)
[30] id
[31] Berdan supra at p100
[32] id at 100
[33] id at 100
[34] id at 100
[35] id at 102
[36] id at 100-102
[37] id at 102
[38] id at 102
[39] id at 46
[40] Berdan & Anawalt supra at p19
[41] id at p19
[42] id at p22
[43] Warwick Bray, Everyday Life of the Aztecs, p148 (Dorset Press 1968)
[44] Michael E Smith., The Aztecs, p121 (Blackwell Publishers 1996)
[45] Bray, supra at p148
[46] Smith supra at p122
[47] id at p121
[48] Berdan supra at p33
[49] id at 26
[50] id 26
[51] id 28
[52] id 28
[53] id 29
[54] id 29
[55] Bray supra at p79
[56] id p79
[57] Berdan supra at 56
[58] id p79,
[59] id p80
[60] id p80
[61] id p80
[62] Berdan supra at p46, Bray supra at p80
[63] id p60
[64] id p60
[65] id p 60
[66] id p60
[67] id p61
[68] id p61
[69] id p61
[70] Bray supra at p81
[71] id p81
[72] id p81
[73] Berdan supra at p62
[74] Bray supra at p82
[75] id at p81
[76] id p81-82
[77] Berdan at p62
[78] id p62
[79] Francisco Avalos, An Overview of the Legal System of the Aztec Empire, p2 (Lexis Nexis 1994)
[80] Id
[81] Jerome A. Offner, Law and Politics in Aztec Texcoco, p66 (Cambridge University Press 1989)
[82] id
[83] id at p70
[84] Avalos supra at 2
[85] id
[86] id
[87] id
[88] id
[89] Jacques Soustelle, Daily Life of The Aztecs of the Eve of the Spanish Conquest, p123 (Stanford University Press, Stanford California)
[90] id at p124
[91] id
[92] id
[93] Avalos supra at p3
[94] id
[95] Bray supra at p83
[96] id
[97] Avalos supra at 3
[98] id
[99] Bray supra at p83
[100] id
[101] id
[102] Avalos supra at p3
[103] Bray supra at p83
[104] Avalos supra at p3
[105] id
[106] id
[107] id
[108] id
[109] Bray supra at p 83-84
[110] Avalos supra at p 3
[111] id
[112] id
[113] id
[114] Bray supra at p195
[115] Avalaos supra at p3
[116] Soustelle supra at p24
[117] id
[118] Avalos supra at 2-3
[119] id at 3
[120] id
[121] id at 2
[122] id at 4
[123] id
[124] Zorita supra at 125
[125] Berdan supra at p78
[126] Bray supra at p84
[127] Zorita supra at p128
[128] Bray supra at p84
[129] Zorita supra at p 128
[130] id
[131] Avalos supra at 4
[132] Zorita supra at p128
[133] id
[134] Avalos supra at 4
[135] id
[136] id
[137] id
[138] id
[139] id
[140] id
[141] id
[142] id
[143] id
[144] Bray supra at p84
[145] Zorita supra at p 128
[146] id
[147] Avalos supra at p6
[148] id at p4
[149] Zorita supra at p128
[150] Zorita supra at p 130
[151] Bray supra at p84
[152] id
[153] Zorita supra at p129
[154] Bray supra at p85
[155] id
[156] id at p128
[157] Berdan and Anawalt supra at p195
[158] Zorita supra at p129
[159] Berdan and Anawalt supra at p195
[160] id
[161] id
[162] id
[163] id at p195-196
[164] Soustelle supra at p61
[165] id
[166] Smith supra at p132
[167] id
[168] Bray supra at p111
[169] Smith supra at p118
[170] Bray supra at p110
[171] Soustelle supra at p28
[172] David D Friedman, website
[173] Bray supra at p112
[174] id
[175] id
[176] Smith supra at p117
[177] Bray supra at p110
[178] id at 111
[179] id p111, Avalos supra at p 7
[180] Bray supra at p111
[181] id
[182] id
[183] id, Soustelle supra at p28
[184] id
[185] Avalos supra at p8
[186] id
[187] id
[188] id
[189] id
[190] Smith supra at p 132
[191] id at p 125, Bray supra at p 112
[192] Aztec Law and Punishment, Internet at
[193] Berdan supra at p82
[194] id
[195] id
[196] id
[197] id
[198] id
[199] id
[200] id
[201] Berdan & Anawalt supra at p148
[202] Berdan supra at p85
[203] Berdan & Anawalt supra at p154
[204] id
[205] id
[206] id
[207] Berdan supra at p85
[208] id
[209] id
[210] id
[211] id at p 86
[212] id
[213] Berdan & Anawalt supra at p158
[214] id
[215] id
[216] id
[217] id at p164
[218] id at 166
[219] Berden supra at p88
[220] id
[221] Id
[222] Avalos supra at 6
[223] id
[224] id
[225] Berden and Anawalt supra at p 229-230
[226] id at p226
[227] id at p266
[228] id at p228
[229] id at p229
[230] id at p146
[231] internet supra at p 2
[232] id
[233] Berden supra at p88
[234] Bray supra at p63
[235] id
[236] Berden supra at p89
[237] id at p90
[238] id
[239] id at p90
[240] id
[241] Avalos supra at p 5
[242] Bray supra at p69
[243] id
[244] id
[245] Avalos at p 6
[246] id
[247] id
[248] id
[249] id
[250] id
[251] id
[252] Bray supra at p66
[253] id
[254] Avalos supra at p 6
[255] id, Bray supra at p66
[256] id
[257] Avalos supra at p 6
[258] Bray supra at p69
[259] Avalos supra at p 6
[260] id
[261] Bray supra at p69
[262] Avalsos supra at p 6
[263] id
[264] id at p 7
[265] Brendan supra at 71
[266] id
[267] id
[268] id at p72
[269] id
[270] id
[271] id
[272] id at p 6
[273] id
[274] id
[275] id at p5
[276] id
[277] id
[278] id at p 6
[279] id at p 5 and Offner supra at p276
[280] id at p 5-6
[281] Offner supra at p276
[282] internet supra at p 2
[283] id
[284] id at p276-277
[285] id at p277
[286] id at p276-277
[287] id at p276
[288] Soustelle supra at 57
[289] id
[290] id at 57
[291] Bray supra at p 181
[292] Avalos supra at 6
[293] id
[294] Offner 257
[295] id at p 258
[296] id
[297] id
[298] id
[299] id
[300] id at 257
[301] id
[302] Zorita supra at p 130
[303] id
[304] id
[305] David D. Friedman
[306] Offner supra at p 261
[307] Avalos supra at p 6
[308] History and Mythology of the Aztecs The Codex Chimalpopoca, p81-82 (The University of Arizona Press (John Bierhorst trans., 1992).
[309] id
[310] Avalos supra at p 6
[311] Bierhorst supra at p81-82
[312] id at p83
[313] Avalos supra at p 7
[314] id
[315] id
[316] id
[317] internet supra at p2
[318] Avalos supra at p 7
[319] id
[320] id
[321] id
[322] id
[323] id
[324] Bray supra at p 117
[325] id
[326] Brendan supra at p 38
[327] id at 85
[328] id
[329] id at p 8
[330] Bray supra at p190
[331] id
[332] id
[333] id at p191
[334] id
[335] id
[336] Avalos supra at p 8
[337] id
[338] John Pohl, Adam Hook, Aztec Warrior AD 1325-1521, p 61 Osprey Publishing 2001
[339] id
[340] Berden supra at p93
[341] id
[342] id
[343] id at p96
[344] id at p93
[345] id
[346] id at p94
[347] id
[348] Bray supra at p71
[349] id
[350] id