Nigel Davies from
Atti del XL Congresso Internazionale Degli Americanisti
Roma- Genova 3-10 Settembre 1972 page 213 to 221
Certain Spanish portions translated by myself in [italic brackets]
‘ The military organization of the Aztec empire
1 . General Problems
We cannot understand the communications system of Mesoamerica, unless we first
ask ourselves for what purposes such routes were used, and why people travelled
Clearly Mesoamericans seldom journeyed simply to pay social calls, or in the guise of
tourists, to see whose pyramid was tallest. As among other ancient peoples, travel,
and therefore established land routes, were connected mainly with two activities, war
and trade. In Mesoamerica, commerce often preceded conquest, and the old adage that
trade follows the flag did not always apply.
I intend to take as my subject one of these two activities, and will permit myself to
talk in general terms of the Aztec military organization, but with particular emphasis
on one specific question: did the Aztecs maintain provincial garrisons and the
standing forces necessary to man them? This point, often the subject of
misunderstandings, is fundamental to their whole system of territorial domination. I
am therefore grateful to be allowed to include in this symposium some remarks on a
subject that at least partly affects the general problem of communications and routes.
For it is surely fair to say that only if we first determine what kind of provincial
military organization the Aztecs possessed, can we then seek out the nature of any
communications system that would be required.
If the existence of real garrisons can be established, together with their location, we
should then be able to identify the main imperial thoroughfares, involving perhaps
even storehouses and staging posts, on the Inca model.
Moreover, a knowledge of such an overall picture would offer a basis for a more
detailed mapping of regional routes. For it requires to be clearly stated that, while the
historical sources write copiously on other aspects of Aztec conquests, they are
laconic in the extreme in their descriptions of the itinerary of their victorious armies.
2. The central military organization
We must first take a look at the central military organization of the Triple Alliance
and ask ourselves: what kind of forces were deployed by Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and
Tacuba, and the subject cities who also provided contingents? Was there any standing
force available for any task at any time, or were the required levies simply raised for
specific campaigns, according to the needs of the moment?
Leaving aside the deep religious motivations, and the need for sacrificial victims, war
in Mesoamerica, as in Mediaeval Europe, was rather the sport of kings, and an
occasion for members of the aristocracy to show their mettle. For this exercise, the
bulk of the manpower came, as might be expected, from the lower ranks of society,
rather than from the middle, or artisan class.
Most of our information comes from Tenochtitlan, and while we cannot here discuss
every facet of the complicated problem of social structure and land tenure, a few
words are necessary on such aspects as affect military organization. In more precise
terms, we must ask ourselves whether full-time soldiers existed among either
patricians or plebeians, or whether the bearing of arms was more normally a part-time
As regards the ruling classes, among otherwise contradictory accounts, a certain
consensus of opinion is to be found as to the existence of two main categories of
Katz has made this distinction very clear (Katz: 29-32). Firstly, we have the
hereditary nobles, the “pipiltzin por linaje”, or “tlazopipiltzin”, and secondly, the
“tetecuhtzin” or “segundos señores”, as Zurita calls them (Zurita: 142). The land of
the pipiltzin, many of whom were related to the tlatoani, was hereditary property,
cultivated by mayeques, serfs tied to the fields they tilled; the owners were thus freed
from all tasks but those of general supervision, and were able to devote themselves to
the service of the state.
The same is virtually true of the second category, the tetecuhtzin. They were perhaps
more to be compared to English life peers, honoured for their own lifetime for their
services to the community, but with the difference that they were also provided by the
ruler with lands, and with people to cultivate them (tecallec). The señor virtually
maintained them, and they could even eat in the palace (Zurita: 143).
Thus, the two divisions of the lay ruling establishment had this in common: they were
in a position to give the tiatoani virtually full-time service, but not necessarily of a
military nature. Zurita. makes it clear that they served the señor both in wars and in
other public offices (Zurita: 145).
When we turn to the lower classes, it becomes self-evident on the other hand that their
everyday calling was the cultivation of the calpulli lands; the bulk of the armies was
clearly recruited from these macehuales or freeholders; the mayeques on the other
hand did not normally serve. Pomar emphasises the dual role of the macehual: he
explains that the common people sent their sons to the telpochcalli; they and their
fathers were occupied with the cultivation of their land, which constituted their
principal calling, after the bearing of arms (Pomar: 29). In other words, the latter
activity, while it perhaps offered greater honour and glory, did not constitute a full-
time profession. It seems that the macehuales were organized for war on the basis of
the land-holding unit, the calpulli. While great emphasis was placed on military
valour, it would appear most unlikely that any of them were permanently under arms.
The available evidence points the other way.
The Anonymous Conqueror, while insisting that Moctezuma had a “guarnición” of
ten thousand men to guard his person, states that in the case of provincial uprisings:
“se reclutaba pronto en la ciudad y en sus confines”. [they were recruited in a short
time within his towns and boundary] Before departing for war, the men all went to the
Great Temple and collected their arms, apparently stored above the main entrances
(Anonymous Conqueror: 65). To take another instance: when preparations for war
against Soconusco were on foot, the bulk of the forces had to ‘be rapidly trained:
“Los mexicanos a gran prisa comenzaron a aderezar sus armas fuertes y cotaras y a
prevenir los mancebos” (Tezozômoc: 371). [The Mexicans in great haste began to
prepare their arms, forts and cotaras (boundary posts?) and to warn the youths] The
recruits received daily training in the telpochcalli at the hands of the Achcauhtzin.
The very nature of Mesoamerican warfare, with its emphasis on ritual exchanges
before hostilities, rather than upon surprise attack, gave time for such preparations,
and reduced the necessity to maintain forces constantly on the alert. Mobilization
when enforced was thorough., and at times included the whole male population,
except for elders and boys under the age of ten. All would presumably have received
some previous military training in the telpochcalli, prior to this last-minute “refresher
course”. It is indeed hard to see what category of citizens could have manned the
lower ranks of any standing army, without which such a force could hardly have
existed on any scale.
Even the upper classes, whose duties to the state were of a more full-time nature,
appear to have given their service in a dual capacity, civil and military. Again, as in
the Middle Ages, such functions were more readily interchangeable than nowadays.
An exception may perhaps be made for those referred to as “tequihuaque” or
“achcauhtzin” Among the different categories of people who served, these might
possibly be regarded as career, or even drill ‘sergeants, according to the account of the
Anonymous Conqueror. In addition, the possibility exists, but not any certainty, that
the orders of knights, in particular the Eagles and Ocelots, might, like the Knights
Templar, have constituted a kind of established corps d’élite. But even if anything
approaching a permanent officer class existed, this select band could not possibly
have been used for garrison duty.
3 . Provincial organization
The Aztecs normally left civil power in the conquered provinces in the hands of the
existing señores, with the additional presence in key centres of calpixques as
representatives of the central power, whose main duty was to supervise the payment
of tribute to the Triple Alliance.
As to any more numerous standing presence, we possess in the first instance evidence
of two major colonies, sent from the Valley of Mexico and nearby cities, rather after
the pattern of the Inca mitimaes.
Oaxaca. During the reign of Moctezuma I, that indefatigable alter ego of the tlatoani,
Tlacaélel,. made the proposal that a colony should be settled in Oaxaca. As a result,
six hundred married men, with their wives and children were gathered together;’
families from Texcoco, Chalco, Xochimilco and Cuernavaca were included. A cousin
of Tlacaélel was put In charge of the new settlement (Durán, 11:23 8-239).
During subsequent accounts of campaigns in that area, Durán and Tezozômoc refer on
various occasions to these people who had been settled in Oaxaca. Probably their
military organization was not dissimilar to that of Tenoçhtitlan. Thus they would have
provided levies for local wars, but the existence of any standing force among them
must remain in doubt.
Equally, on various occasions, the Relaciones Geogrâficas of the Sixteenth Century
mention a “guarnición” at Oaxaca, and write of contacts between its personnel and the
local peoples (Relaciôn de Iztepexi: 16, Relaciôn de Amatlan: 120-121, Relaciôn de
Cuicatlan 185). It will be later explained what is the probable significance of the word
“guarnición” in such contexts.
As to the route taken by Aztec forces going to Oaxaca, information is imprecise;
Tezozómoc and Durán merely imply that the armies on various occasions passed by
Izucar and Chalco, which was indeed their most natural itinerary.
Oztuma and Alahuiztla. After Ahuitzotl had laid waste these two places, situated on ‘
the Tarascan border beyond Teloloapan (Gro), with even more than his wonted
ruthlessness, putting most of the inhabitants to the sword, it was proposed that they
should be repopulated with a colony from Central Mexico, numbering two thousand.
Four hundred people were to be sent from Tenochtitlan, Texcoco and Tacuba
respectively , and twenty each from thirty subject cities (Durân, II : 3 5 1).
Nezahualpilli, who was apt to drag his feet where Ahuitzotl’s proposals were
concerned, suggested that two hundred colonists from Texcoco would be sufficient.
The net was certainly widely cast to obtain settlers, to include such places as Toluca
and Jiotepec probably however, bearing in mind the reduction of the Texcoco quota,
the number fell short of the stipulated two thousand.
The people were given a consolatory talk; it thus becomes clear that they were not
particularly eager to set off into the wilds. The objectives of the operation were
clearly economic as well as military , since the settlers were instructed that they
should cultivate cacao plantations for Ahuftzotl. In addition, they were charged to be
constantly on the alert, due to their proximity to the Tarascan border.
Some confirmation of the existence of such a colony also comes from the Relaciones
Geográficas. Oztuma is mentioned as a place where Moctezuma II had a
“guarnición”; the people of AlahuIztlan provided arms and other help for this fortress
(Relaciôn de AlahuIztlan: 102).
The Relación of Oztuma itself attributes to Axayácatl, not Ahuftzotl, the
establishment of this strongpoint, and the sending of people to man it, as a
“guarnición” to oppose those of Michuacan (Relacjôn de Oztoma: 1 10).
The Relación de Acapetlayuca confirms that AhuItzotl sent many people to Oztuma,
apparently as a colony rather than as “guarnición”. These settlers guarded the fortress
(Relación de Acapetlayuca: 1 16).
As to the route followed by the Aztecs to reach this region, we are told that Ahuftzotl,
on his return from Oztuma, passed Teloloapan, Zumpahuacan, Malinalco, Atlapulco
and Acaxochic (Tezozómoc: 345-347). Even this account lacks precision;
Zumpahuacan is only a few miles south-west of Malinalco, and from there to
Teloloapan the route is not described.
The question of any additional permanent Aztec presence in the provinces of empire,
apart from these two colonies, is much more problematical. In contrast to the
relatively frequent mentions of the Oztuma and Oaxaca settlements, where other
places are concerned references occur in isolation, and usually once only. Zantwijk,
for instance, draws attention to a mention in the Codex Mendoza to Citlaltepec and
Zumpango as fulfilling certain functions related to garrison service. The author rightly
suggests that such “garrisons” had some connection with colonies (Zantwijk: I 52). In
addition, the Relaciones Geográficas refer to other forces or garrisons in the
provinces. In connection with Tototepec (not the independent principality, but the
town in Guerrero some fifty miles east of Acapulco — for location, see Davies: 1 75),
Mexicans are mentioned: “que quedaron allí por guarnición que solía tener
Moctezuma” (Suma de Visitas: 29). [that they were left there for garrison (duties)
that was done by Moctezuma] This place lay on the borders of Yopitzingo, but the
phraseology leaves uncertain the permanent nature of such a force. Teozacualco is
reported as being subject to Moctezuma, who maintained a “guarnición” there, on the
border of the independant señorio of Tototepec, on the coast of Oaxaca (Descripciôn
de Teozacualco and Amoltepeque: 306). Coixtlahuaca is reported as a place where
Moctezuma: “tenia puesta su frontera de gente de guerra” [He was having on his
frontier men of war] (Relaciôn de Atlatlauhca y Malinaltepec: 1 65). However, due to
the relative proximity of Oaxaca, any standing force would probably have emanated
from that centre.
Landa also incidentally mentions Mexican garrisons in Tabasco and Xicalango. But
while armed pochteca might conceivably have made an appearance in this area,
garrisons in the. stricter sense of the word can hardly be sought outside the territory
that paid tribute to the Triple Alliance.
In actual fact, all such mentions to garrisons, etc. lack precision, and it would seem
more probable that any Aztec forces to be found in such places simply went there
from time to time, as we will come to show in greater detail.
Two important centres however remain to be discussed as possible headquarters of
some type of standing force.
Tuxtepec: The Relaciôn de Chinantla writes: “Los indios mexicanos que presidían en
el pueblo de Tuchtepeque donde Moteçuma tenía una guarnición de gente muy
grande. . .” [The indian Mexicans were presiding in the town of Tuchtepeque where
Moteçuma was having very large garrison of men] (Relación de Chinantla: 61). Now
Tuxtepec, situated in the extreme north-east of Oaxaca, was of course par excellence
the great merchant centre and Sahagün actually tells how the traders of the principal
cities of the Valley of Mexico maintained their own establishments there, where they
could reside (Florentine Codex, Book 9:48). This fact in itself implies some kind of
settlement or colony, or at least permanent defences, provided by the pochteca, who
were warriors as much as traders. They could scarcely have abandoned their property
in Tuxtepec for part of the time to the depredations of the local inhabitants. Even in
this instance however, it has to be stated that the calpixque of Tuxtepec visited Cortés
on his arrival, apparently unaccompanied by warriors (Bernal Diaz: 59).
The Xiuhcoac region. While there is little evidence of a colony or garrison, ample
testimony survives as the primordial military importance of Xiuhcoac as the bastion
of the north-east, situated between the Gulf coast and the still independant principality
of Meztitlan (for probable location of Xiuhcoac, see Davies: 34-3 5).
In this respect it is significant that Bernal Diaz writes of a total of four guarniciones y
capitanias”: one in Soconusco, one in Coatzacoalcos, one in Michoacan, and lastly
one “raya de Pánuco” (Bernal DIaz: 167). He describes the latter as lying between
Tuzapan and Tuxpan, i.e. precisely where Xiuhcoac was probably located. Now any
forces in the direction of Soconusco and Coatzacoalcos may well be regarded as
offshoots of the colonists of Oaxaca and the Pochteca of Tuxtepec, and Michoacan
may well be taken to imply the Tarascan frontier, or Oztoma, thus conforming with
our previous information. However it is most interesting that it is only on the presence
of some permanent force in the Pánuco area that Bernal Diaz gives any precise
information: he tells how the garrison stationed near Tuzapan exacted tribute and
supplies from villages nearby, and from others in the neighbourhood, who were
friendly with the Spaniards’ allies of Cempoala. His information thus seems to rest on
reasonably solid foundations, since he was concerned with people who actually knew
of this force from personal experience. The distance from Tuxpan to Cempoala is
sufficient to account for the failure of such a contingent to put in an appearance on
4. Fortresses and strongpoints
The function fulfilled by Oztuma, already mentioned, brings us to the general
question of fortresses. Of their existence we have ample evidence, and in accounts of
Aztec campaigns, the storming of bullwarks and barricades is often a prelude to
Oztuma itself was one of a whole series of strongpoints on the Tarascan border, as
part of a general defensive system in the area. It was so well situated as to be almost
impregnable (Armillas: 168-171).
To mention only two other fortified places, Cortés writes of Ixtamacaxtitlán, near the
Tiaxcalan border, as equal if not superior to Spanish fortresses (Cortés: 39). Bernal
Diaz describes Quiahuiztlan on the coast as a formidable strongpoint, difficult to
attack (Bernal Diaz: 65).
But a fortress is one thing and a garrison another. The former appear usually to have
been built and defended by local levies, perhaps reinforced by a contingent from the
central power in times of emergency. If any defensive positions were permanently
manned, this certainly did not apply to the famous wall on the Tlaxcalan border,
deserted when Cortés appeared, notwithstanding the strong resistance which he
subsequently had to face.
In general, the Aztec Empire, a term we use for lack of an apter expression, was a
mosaic of small senorios which had been subdued and forced to pay tribute. It is
striking that in numerous instances of border peoples, the Relaciones Geográficas
relate that such tribute was paid, not in the conventional form, but in contributions to
the Triple Alliance of arms and actual military service. And, quite apart from such
frontier zones, people who lay on the line of march of the Aztec armies were expected
to provide not only food and arms, but auxiliary forces. The main army set out well
provided with supplies, but supplemented these by living off the land, and the people
thus stood in great fear when they passed (Durán, II: 180).
The recruitment of manpower for the principal campaigns was certainly not confined
to the three capitals of the Alliance, reinforced by tribes situated actually on the
frontier. Not only did the Aztecs cast their net wide among nearby subject peoples,
but exacted service also from those situated nearer to the proposed objective of the
campaign. For instance, Ixmiquilpan and Atotonilco provided levies for Tfzoc’s
abortive attack on Metztitlan: Tehuantepec produced forces for Ahuftzotl’s wars
against Soconusco. The Empire in fact seems to have been held together, not only by
the fear of massive retaliation from the centre in case of rebellion, but also by a
certain reliance on specific and selected allies in the provinces, such as those
mentioned above. Once conquered, they could on the whole be relied upon to remain
5. What the Conquerors saw
From accounts of purely native derivation, backed by one passage from Bernal DIaz,
we have been able to postulate the existence of three, and possibly four places where
some permanent Aztec presence was to be found, probably in the form of established
colonists, rather than of metropolitan troops.
It is now necessary to examine briefly what the conquerors themselves observed. Of
these, the fullest and most precise accounts are of course those of Bernal DIaz del
Castillo, on whom we shall mainly rely.
The key problem of the whole discussion lies in the question: supposing that the
Triple Alliance maintained an elaborate system of local garrisons, just where were
they when the Spaniards landed, and later marched across the country? In the first
place, they encountered no kind of garrison, or for that matter any force at all on the
whole stretch of coast between S. Juan de Ulua and Quiahuiztlan, though the
inhabitants were of doubtful loyalty and resented the payment of tribute. When
Alvarado was sent to explore inland, he found the villages deserted. Equally, on his
march to Tlaxcala, Cortés met no Mexican soldiers; it was the local señores who, at
Moctezuma’s bidding, extended facilities to the Spaniards. Even if Moctezuma did
not wish to oppose their march, surely any troops stationed near the route would have
made an appearance.
On the contrary, the calpixques of Cotaxtla and Tuxtepec had come to see Cortés on
his first landing, but had apparently brought no military escort, notwithstanding
reports already quoted of Aztec forces stationed in the latter place. They came
accompanied merely by Indians bearing gifts (Bernal Diaz : 5 9).
An even more striking example is afforded by the five tax gatherers who arrived at
Quiahuiztlan; they came surprisingly unprotected, and Cortés had absolutely no
difficulty in arresting them. They appeared, “muy acompañado de principales de otros
pueblos de la lengua totonaca” (Bernal Diaz: 73). [accompanied by the principals of
the other towns of the language of the totonacs]
Dressed in the height of fashion, their armament consisted of bunches of flowers and
fans. It is clear that they normally thought personal protection to be unnecessary, and
relied for safety on the remorseless retaliatory power of the central authority. The
local chiefs were horror struck at Cortés’ audacity!
Equally, in Tenochtitlan itself the position is most nebulous, as far as any standing
forces are concerned. According to Bernal Diaz, who was present, Cortés, and only
six other Spaniards, apart from the two interpreters, were sufficient to march
Moctezuma off to their quarters. This occurred without the smallest show of
resistance, notwithstanding various vague references to “los de la guardia”, etc. The
latter certainly made up by their appetites for whatever they lacked in military
effectiveness, and are reported to have eaten a thousand dishes daily in the palace.
It is most probable that these were not really a fixed and permanent bodyguard, but a
number of nobles and their sons, in attendance upon the ruler on a rotating basis, as
has already been pointed out; their duties would have been of a both civil and military
nature, and no account is given of any arms that they might have carried.
Moreover the ability to kidnap rulers was not solely to be ascribed to Spanish guile or
ruthlessness. Six of Moctezuma’s captains were able to sequester an apparently
unguarded Cacama, ruler of Texcoco and bring him to Tenochtitlan (Bernal Diaz :
6. Garrisons and Guarniciones
The real crux of the whole matter involves questions of semantics. Much confusion
has been created by the use in conquerors’ accounts and in Relaciones Geográficas of
the word “guarnición”. But one has only to read such reports carefully to realize by
the sense of the text that garrisons, in the modern sense of the word, are not intended
by such statements.
Shirley Gorenstein stresses this point most effectively, quoting a seventeenth century
Spanish dictionary which defines a “guarnición” as simply “soldiers guarding or
protecting a place where they were” (Gorenstein: 56).
Now, quite apart from the older Spanish usage, if we examine the question from the
Nahuatl point of view, the difference between old and new meanings becomes even
more conclusive. Molina does not list “guarnición” by itself, but translates
“guarnición de gente” (a phrase often used by Bernal Dfaz) as “centlamantin
yaoquizque”, that is to say “warriors gathered together”; no question is implied of a
standing or permanent. force. Now, if in Nahuatl there was no precise word for a
standing garrison, and if equally in Spanish of that time, the only word, “guarnición”,
had a different sense, it is difficult to see how informants could possibly have reported
the existence of an intensive network of fixed garrisons, without incurring grave risk
of confusion. Surely they were mainly speaking simply of warriors on military
expeditions, and this was translated into Spanish as “guarnición”.
To conclude this argument, let us take a look at some of Bernal Diaz various mentions
of this word, to see what he actually appears to mean.
a) At Cingapacinga, a fortress two days march inland from Cempoala, a force was
reported of “muchos indios de guerra de los culúas”, [many indians of war of the
culhuas] who had come to destroy their crops (Bernal DIaz: 77). But this self-same
force is described in the chapter heading as “guarniciones de mexicanos”. When the
Spaniards arrived at the place, the Mexicans had departed, but Bernal Diaz again
refers to Mexicans who “solían estar en guarnición en aquel pueblo”. [They used to be
in garrison at that town] It is surely clear that periodical visits, rather than a standing
force is intended.
b) Various mentions are made of the word “guarnición” in connection with Cortés
forays from Tlaxcala when he had returned thither after the Noche Triste, but in the
same context the word “sent” is invariably used or implied; that is to say the Aztec
force had been dispatched to the place in question to fulfil a particular task, and was
not permanent. For instance, to Tepeaca Moctezuma “mandaba ir muy grandes
capitanias y . guarniciones de gente de guerra para que mirasen no les entrásemos en
sus tierras. . .“ (Bernal Diaz: 249); [He was commanding to march very large
captainships and garrisons of men of war in order that they did not look to enter his
lands]or in the vicinity of Ixtapalapa “los mexicanos siempre tenían velas y
guarniciones contra nosotros, cuando sabían que íbamos a la guerra. . .“ (Bernal Diaz:
268). [The Mexican always were having vigils and garrisons against us, when they
were knowing that we were going for war]
c) If the matter is not by now abundantly clear, the siege of Tenochtitlan gives added
confirmation. In the heading of chapter CL, Bernal Diaz tells how Cortés “mando que
fuesen tres guarniciones de soldados. . . a poner cerco a la gran ciudad de Mexico. . .
[command that belonged to three garrisons of soldiers. . to put an
enclosure/boundary/picket around the great city of Mexico].” By “guarnición” he
clearly means simply a force. Sandoval’s contingent is subsequently also referred to
as a guarnicion. Moreover Cortes himself speaks of one of his three forces into which
he divided his army as la guarnicion de Coyoacan (Cortes 52)
The Relaciones Geograficas on occasions use the same language the Relacion de
Coatlan (Oaxaca) tells how Moctezuma sent to Miahuatlan captains and soldiers it
adds y tenya quidado denbialles sienpre gente de guarnyçion (Relacion de Coatlan 1
Teotitlan del Valle had wars with Mexican forces que a este provincia ynbiava y tenia
en guarnicion Montecuma (Relacion de Teotitlan 106)
7. Some conclusions
It has often been taken for granted that the Aztecs maintained a network of imperial
garrisons such a view has been supported by vague mentions of guarniciones referred
to above, but which in reality mean something quite different.
We are normally tempted to survey the Mesoamerican scene with minds attuned to
Old World concepts we think of Roman legions maintaining eternal vigil against the
perils of barbarian incursions; or we read of the valiant Sikhs and Ghurkas protecting
the confines of the British Raj on the Northwest Frontier of India We then
automatically ask ourselves but how could any empire possibly exist without
numerous garrisons How could the frontiers be protected and the conquered peoples
be disciplined But it is necessary to remind ourselves firstly that the Aztec domain
was hardly an empire in the true sense of the word, but an area loosely dominated for
the purpose of gathering tribute. .
Secondly there is ample evidence of a continual process of conquest rebellion and
reconquest that is to say no proper, was maintained by local Aztec forces and the
people were apt to stage risings Conquest lists for succeeding reigns often repeat the
same names, and even Moctezuma II faced widespread. revolts in the early part of his
reign The real weapon of control as far as any existed reposed in the f of savage
reprisals against uprisings
Nor when we come to examine the question should it for one moment be assumed that
all Old World empires were held together by standing forces The Athenians short
lived empire relied more on colonies Perhaps the closest parallel to the Aztecs may be
sought in the early Assyrian Empire. In the ninth and eighth centuries BC this was
also a kind of tribute gathering organization and the king annually made raids far and
wide into provinces where he maintained no standing forces It was only m the later
empire in the seventh century that an imperial system complete with garrisons was set
Furthermore, it has to be realized that, at the time of the Conquest, a standing army in
Europe was something of a luxury Charles V would have indeed maintained such a
force recruited from his Spanish but not his Netherlands subjects Ever a century later
opposition to the sovereign’s determination to maintain a standing army added fuel to
the flames which ignited the English Civil War
In the early days of Colonial Mexico the ex conquerors busy with their duties as
encomenderos and with other remunerative tasks could hardly have been defined as a
force permanently under arms even if they were available for emergencies They
maintained the country in subjection without established garrisons which they would
not have been able to man
We conclude therefore by maintaining that in the Aztec Empire any standing presence
m the provinces manned by per of the central power was the exception rather than the
rule moreover any such forces tended to be levied from colonists resident in the area.
Given the probable ubication of such settlements, the routes to Teleloapan-Oztoma,
Oaxaca, Tuxtepec and Tuxpan-Xiuhcoac would seemingly have constituted the main
lifelines of empire. Many secondary routes would have branched out from these main
ones, in order to give access to the territories of the far-flung and frequently
Armillas P., Oztuma, Gro., Fortaleza de los Mexicanos en la Frontera de Michoacán,
Revista Mexicana de Estudios Antropologicos Vol VI pp 165 175 1942 44
Diaz del Castillo B.,Hi de la Conquista de la Nueva Espafla, Mexico, 1 969.
Conquistador Anónimo, Relación de Algünas Cosas de la Nueva Espafia y de la Gran
Ciudad de Ternestitlan Mexico, Mexico , 1 961.
Cortés H. Marques del Valle, Carter y Documentos, Mexico, 1 963.
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