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On the Lips of Others

On the Lips of Others: Moteuczoma's Fame in Aztec Monuments and Rituals

Patrick Thomas Hajovsky
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  • Book Info
    On the Lips of Others
    Book Description:

    Moteuczoma, the last king who ruled the Aztec Empire, was rarely seen or heard by his subjects, yet his presence was felt throughout the capital city of Tenochtitlan, where his deeds were recorded in hieroglyphic inscriptions on monuments and his command was expressed in highly refined ritual performances. What did Moteuczoma's "fame" mean in the Aztec world? How was it created and maintained? In this innovative study, Patrick Hajovsky investigates the king's inscribed and spoken name, showing how it distinguished his aura from those of his constituencies, especially other Aztec nobles, warriors, and merchants, who also vied for their own grandeur and fame. While Tenochtitlan reached its greatest size and complexity under Moteuczoma, the "Great Speaker" innovated upon fame by tying his very name to the Aztec royal office.As Moteuczoma's fame transcends Aztec visual and oral culture, Hajovsky brings together a vast body of evidence, including Nahuatl language and poetry, indigenous pictorial manuscripts and written narratives, and archaeological and sculptural artifacts. The kaleidoscopic assortment of sources casts Moteuczoma as a divine king who, while inheriting the fame of past rulers, saw his own reputation become entwined with imperial politics, ideological narratives, and eternal gods. Hajovsky also reflects on posthumous narratives about Moteuczoma, which created a very different sense of his fame as a conquered subject. These contrasting aspects of fame offer important new insights into the politics of personhood and portraiture across Aztec and colonial-period sources.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-76669-3
    Subjects: Art & Art History, Archaeology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Preface
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-11)

    Moteuczoma, the second Aztec king of this name, was born in 1467 and ruled from 1502 to 1520, when he died while held captive by his Spanish adversaries. Because of his defeat in the Conquest of Mexico, his fame is more widespread than that of any of his predecessors. The pages that follow set out to show how sculptures that contain this king’s name hieroglyph conjure indigenous notions of power as invested in the title of the Aztec royal office,huei tlahtoani‘Great Speaker’. This title is composed of the verb ,tlahtoa‘he speaks [of things]’ with an agentive marker...

  7. 1 The Two Moteuczomas
    (pp. 12-25)

    Two Aztec kings named Moteuczoma are recorded in the ethnohistoric documents, here called Moteuczoma I (r. 1440–1469) and Moteuczoma (r. 1502–1520). Moteuczoma I also carries the name Huehue (Elder) Moteuczoma or Moteuczoma Ilhuicamina (Arrow Piercing Sky), a term derived fromilhuica(tl)‘sky’ andmina‘to pierce [something] with arrows’.¹ Moteuczoma sometimes carries the additional name Xocoyotzin (Younger), a term created fromxocoyo(tl)‘youngest child’ and the honorific or diminutive suffix -tzin.² He was the great-grandson of Moteuczoma Ilhuicamina, and I argue here that he stressed their common name to recall his familial, political, and cyclohistorical ties to that...

  8. 2 Fame and Transformation
    (pp. 26-37)

    Several recorded Nahuatl poems name and recount the deeds of warriors, who were among the most famous individuals in Tenochtitlan, but unlike kings, they had no sculptures depicting them. Warriors achieved fame only through oral performances and apart from the sculpted messages of monumental art. When warrior identity intersects with sculptural representations, any notion of personhood is subsumed under the totems of the warrior orders, such as the Eagles or the Jaguars. This chapter explores categories of fame in the Nahuatl language and juxtaposes them with the architecture, ritual objects, and performances associated with Malinalco, a well-preserved Aztec warrior retreat...

  9. 3 The Royal Icon
    (pp. 38-57)

    Only eight monuments bear a representation of Moteuczoma in the form of a name hieroglyph and sometimes an anthropomorphic “portrait.”¹ He was not the first Tenochca king to have his name sculpted onto a monument, yet his name glyph is the most complicated and an important departure from his predecessors’. No known sculptural inscriptions identify his great-grandfather, Moteuczoma I (r. 1440–1469), or that king’s successor, Axayacatl (Water-Face) (r. 1469–1481), who was Moteuczoma’s father (though not his predecessor).² The first king who appears by name in a monument is Tizoc (whose name means something like ‘Chalky Leg’—a leg...

  10. 4 Resonances of the Speech Glyph
    (pp. 58-78)

    The earliest known use of a speech glyph in a monument associated with a named Aztec king occurs in the Ahuitzotl Plaque, which was likely created soon after the death of Ahuitzotl in 1502 (fig. 4.1). The plaque commemorated the rebuilding of the main temple at Tepoztlan, an archaeological site nestled on a mountain above the modern town of the same name, about sixty kilometers south of Tenochtitlan (map I.1). Its main feature is an early Aztec (1100–1350) temple called Tepozteco, which was dedicated to the gods of pulque.¹ Ahuitzotl refurbished the temple at Tepoztlan, and it appears that...

  11. 5 Visibility and Invisibility of the Name Glyph
    (pp. 79-100)

    Moteuczoma’s name glyph evokes his spoken name and physical presentation as it keys into the exclusive powers of Aztec lords. The ornaments and speech glyphs that constitute it call attention to ritual as a multisensorial phenomenon, filled with sights, speeches, songs, smells, and sounds. Moteuczoma’s bodily presence is implied by his name glyph, just as his unique ability to converse with the gods is implied by the speech glyph. The faceless head of hair and ornaments emitting a volute from the absent lips allude to the two senses of fame—mahuizotlandtenyotl—in different but equally important and interdependent...

  12. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  13. 6 Absence and Presence of Body
    (pp. 101-117)

    This chapter features prominent pre-Conquest appearances of Moteuczoma’s name glyph in two of the most complex and discussed monuments: the Teocalli (Temple) of Sacred Warfare (fig. 6.1, plate 8) and the Calendar Stone (fig. 6.2, plate 9). In both, Moteuczoma’s name glyph and/or an anthropomorphic portrait appears opposite a similarly constructed representation of Huitzilopochtli, the Aztec tribal patron associated with warfare, and is positioned within an assortment of date glyphs and pictographic imagery. Yet the forms and imagery of the monuments suggest that each functioned in a very different way. The Teocalli is a human-scale model of a temple fit...

  14. 7 The Chapultepec Portrait
    (pp. 118-132)

    Overall, the remains of Aztec sculpture confirm that the Aztecs had no equivalent to the kind of portraiture developed in Europe at the same time, though aspects of realism enter into some representations. Rather than relying on physiognomy, Aztec portraiture included hieroglyphic and pictorial imagery to convey an essential identity. As seen in earlier chapters, Moteuczoma’s sculptural name is more than a label or signature; it is an investment in a monument marking the king’s agency in the production and reproduction of oral narratives. The resiliency of the name hieroglyph is no more apparent than at Chapultepec (Grasshopper Hill), where...

  15. 8 Colonial Reflections on Aztec Portraiture
    (pp. 133-142)

    Colonial-period sources are the primary means for accessing information about the indigenous past, yet they can yield elusive details while avoiding certain questions asked by modern scholars. Nonetheless, these sources should not be thrown out altogether but approached with caution, critically compared with one another and with other kinds of surviving evidence, such as archaeological remains. Through such a method we can continue to refine both broad and narrow understandings of Aztec society. This case is not unique to the Aztecs but is applicable to many past cultures for which we reconstruct meaning. In this process, our own values and...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 143-146)

    These pages have explored the discursive connections of Aztec hieroglyphic inscriptions, ritual performances, and the king’s reputation, as they might have been seen on monuments and spoken on the lips of others. In these monuments the representation of Moteuczoma calls attention to his fame with a dualism: asmahuizotl‘presence’ andtenyotl‘lipness’. The name glyph is not merely a sign denoting the king; rather, it stands in for two modes of human engagement: being seen and being talked about. By concentrating on the name glyph I have revealed some of the differences between Aztec sculptural iconography and colonial-period images...

  17. NOTES
    (pp. 147-168)
    (pp. 169-182)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 183-194)