Aztec Government - an overview

The basis of the Aztec government began long before the Aztec Empire began. The first piece of the government was the family and extended family. From the family was the calpulli. The calpulli was basically a neighborhood based government unit that ran a school and collected taxes from the citizens under its control.

The city councils were the next level up in the Aztec government hierarchy. The city councils were formed from the leaders of the calpullis and held a great amount of power in the cities. The “executive council” was a group of four city council members and from them one would be the tlatcani, or leader of the city, and these councils would not only control the city proper but the surrounding areas.

By the early-mid 1400s the Triple Alliance was formed by the three leading city-states; Tenochtitlán, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. These cities dominated the entire central Mexico and of the three Tenochtitlan ruled the Triple Alliance.

The city leaders in Tenochtitlan ran the Empire. The leader of this city council was the Huey Tlatcani or the Great Speaker. The Huey Tlatcani was an emperor who was worshiped as a god and who ruled over the empires main administration, military and religion. Although this ruler was chosen from the Tenochtitlan “executive council” he was almost always selected on a heredity basis. In other words, each emperor was related to the emperor that came before him.