The metaphorical underpinnings of Aztec history: The case of the 1473 civil war

Emily Umberger

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13 Scopus citations


The article discusses the 1473 civil war between the two polities that formed the capital of the Aztec empire, Tenochtitlan and Tlatelolco, as presented in the Codex Dura'n. I argue that the literal, European-style rendition of the events of the war includes remnants of the pre- Conquest symbolic thought behind those events' original choreography. The remnants indicate that the war was staged to follow the outlines of the story of the battle between the god Huitzilopochtli ("Hummingbird, Left") and his sister Coyolxauhqui ("Bells, Painted") at the mountain site of Coatepetl ("Serpent Mountain"), an allegory for the rise and fall of powerful rulers. I also suggest that the enemy king and his second in command, after being thrown from the Tlatelolco Templo Mayor, were buried in the funerary vessels beside the Great Coyolxauhqui Stone discovered in 1978 at the base of the Tenochtitlan Templo Mayor, proved by the war to be the "true" and only Coatepetl.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)11-29
Number of pages19
JournalAncient Mesoamerica
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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