I met Moctezuma Xocoyotzin on Twitter and quickly grew addicted to his tweets, following and re-tweeting, fascinated and intrigued. It felt like I just managed to jump back in time, to the glorious times when the Aztec Empire was still ruling Mesoamerica almost from coast to coast. His discussions with other people, owners of as fascinating names of other Mesoamerican rulers, completed this Twitter picture to perfection.
Moctezuma Xocoyotzin has kindly agreed to do a guest post with one of the beautiful tales from his wonderful blog, “Journal of Moctezuma”, where he puts down legends and stories of Mexica-Aztec Empire.
His goal is to remind Mexican people about their heritage, the glorious past of the Aztec Empire that had been forgotten by many.
Gladiator from Tlaxcala, told by Moctezuma II, the ninth ruler of Tenochtitlan
The silence fell as I entered. All heads bowed. No one dared to straighten his gaze at me.
I sat upon my seat of preference and waited for the sacrificial rites to begin.
I felt impatient as this sacrifice promised to be different, more important than the others. The battle against Tlaxcala had already ended with a victory. It wasn’t anything decisive or overwhelming. Our wars against stubborn Tlaxcalans lasted for more than a generation, but it was a usual thing for us to conduct those Flowery Wars, with both sides satisfied with the harvest of prisoners. The ultimate victory was not that important.
What made the difference this time was the captives. Tlalhuicole, one of Tlaxcala’s most courageous, strongest eagle warriors was captured alive!
The moment I knew he had fallen prisoner, I ordered him to be brought here, to my Palace, to honor such great warrior to the highest degree. Yet, as the dawns passed, the face of the eagle, which was once a great warrior darkened and he wandered the palace as a shadow.
I had to yield his pleas and offer him a sacrifice that would be worthy of his merit, a gladiatorial sacrifice!
Such sacrifices were usually applied to large military shows, with sacrificed warriors displaying their military skill against great soldiers of my own army.
The offering would be tied with his foot to a large rook (temalcátl), limiting his movements.
He would be given a shield and a good obsidian sword (macuahuitl). Two or three warriors would try to strike this man down, to be taken then by the priests to the rock of sacrifice, where his heart would be pulled out carefully, offered to Huitzilopochtli, willing and clean. This death was one of the worthiest!
When I came, Tlalhuicole was already tied to temalcátl, ready to begin the sacrifice. Unhurriedly, I lifted my hand, giving them my permission to begin. The screams of excitement erupted all around. How could I blame them? The citizens of Tenochtitlan were about to wideness one of the military legends, displaying his skills in the heart of our Empire.
The battle began with a man who had participated in the same battle of Huexotzinca. When the warrior came forward, Tlalhuicole dropped his shield to allow himself more mobility with his macuahuitl.
In meanwhile, the warrior approached him, cautious, knowing the great battle skills of the prisoner. With a quick movement, he came to strike, directing his blow toward the prisoner’s leg. Yet Tlalhuicole was faster than his rival. A swift blow across the warrior’s head caught the man completely unprepared. In a heartbeat, his assailant was on the ground, dead.
Great shouts and applauses erupted. The whole place went wild with excitement and adoration as the servants picked up the dead man, killed by a single blow of the prisoner’s macuahuitl. Now it was the turn of another warrior from Texcoco who had fought in the southern Empire.
The battle began with the attacking warrior keeping a safe distance, watching his adversary carefully, calculating his movements. People screamed and cheered, encouraging the warrior to give this lucky Tlaxcalan his due, but the warrior took his time. When he finally tried to strike, Tlalhuicole proved again stronger than his opponent and a sharp blow upon his attackers elbow could be heard at great distances with the warrior’s bone breaking in two. Unable to stifle his cry of pain, the man withdrew, humiliated.
The crowds went wild with their affection for the prisoner, although we all knew that regardless of the battle’s outcome, the man would be sacrificed at the end of the night.
The excitement reached its peak, when an eagle warrior, a leader from Tlacopan, came into the arena, determined to seal prisoner’s fate. People held their breath and the battle progressed in relative silence, in a much faster rate than the previous ones, with both eagle warriors attacking and parrying each other’s blows. Careful yet aggressive, watchful for each other’s mistakes, the warriors fought relentlessly, because every mistake would mean victory for the other.
Finally, the man from Tlacopan forced Tlalhuicole to jump to avoid a blow. Yet, restricted by his tied to temalcátl leg, the prisoner stumbled, lost his balance and went crashing onto the floor. Now he was at the mercy of his opponent.
People could not hold their screams, sensing the end of the battle. Tense and excited like all of them, I watched the fight from my high chair, my heart beating fast. Something inside me told me Tlalhuicole was not done for. I knew he had still much to offer, while warrior of Tlacopan, overwhelmed by his victory, did not stop to think. Raising his arms triumphantly, he rushed forward, eager to strike the final blow, careless and oblivious of Tlalhuicole’s leg crushing into his knee. Crying out in pain and surprise, the warrior stumbled as Tlaxcalan leapt onto his feet, dealing his opponent a lethal blow on the head. Lifeless, the warrior from Tlacopan dropped his weapon and fell back into the ground.
I felt my thrill welling along with the rest of the overwhelmed, excited people all around me. For a heartbeat I thought this man deserved to be set free. As if sensing my thoughts, Tlalhuicole turned into my general direction, his head bowed, not daring to straighten his gaze at me, yet shaking his head firmly.
I gasped. How dared he to give me, the Emperor, orders?! Yet, he was right. This was the sacrifice worthy of Huitzilopochtli; the Great God deserved to receive his due.
The battle continued for a long time. One after another, Tlalhuicole managed to kill six other opponents, wounding at least twenty of others. Finally, an Aztec eagle warrior, who had participated in the battles of Nopala and Icatépec, knocked the prisoner down with a strong, unexpected kick. The fierce blow in the stomach made the brave Tlaxcalan scream.
The priests rushed forward, reaching the squirming warrior, who was dying and in pain. Cutting his bonds, they carried him to the rock of sacrifice, drawing his heart quickly and expertly, to offer to mighty Huitzilopochtli. All the present bent their heads, feeling honored to have witnessed a sacrifice of this magnitude.
I got up and send them to burn the prisoner and keep his ashes in a temple. Tlalhuicole deserved that honor, and not just for the spectacle he had offered, but for the standard he had set to every eagle warrior and leader.
I saw other gladiatorial sacrifices, but none that resembled the great battle of Tlalhuicole. Perhaps the time knew how to improve and dramatize this story a bit, but I can tell, to witness what I saw – this warrior has every reason to become a legend.”