In ‘The Rise of the Aztecs Part V Texcoco, The Acolhua Capital’, we left the Valley of Mexico boiling, preparing for the upcoming war between the mighty Tepanec Empire and the rebellious Acolhua people of Texcoco, with the Aztecs sitting safely on the fence, smooth-talking and helping neither side.
In 1415, a Tepanec fleet of countless boats crossed Lake Texcoco, approaching the eastern shores of the altepetl that bore the same name.
But the altepetl of Texcoco turned out to be a worthy adversary. Gathering an impressive force of over a thousand warriors from all over Acolhua provinces, the Texcocans faced the invaders eagerly, impatient and battle-hungry. Repulsing the Tepanec offensive most soundly, the Acolhua made their attackers bolt straight for home, there to regroup and to nurture their wounded pride.
And it’s not that the victorious Acolhua were done yet. Gathering their own fleets, they had promptly crossed the ‘Great Lake’, invading the Tepanec side of it. For over a year the Texcocan warriors roamed their enemy’s countryside, winning more battles, taking towns and even, at some point, laying siege to Azcapotzalco itself. Although the siege was unsuccessful, lifted after only a few months, the Acolhua Emperor felt that he had made his point. His people would better not be provoked again, he must have decided with satisfaction as the Texcocan army headed back to their side of the ‘Great Lake’, confident that they had taught the haughty Tepanecs a thorough lesson.
Well, as it turned out, a different lesson has to be learned, by Acolhua people most of all. Like the Romans, the Tepanecs could lose a battle, or two, but they were not prepared to lose a war.
In 1418, after through preparations, enlisting many other city states, or forcing them into siding with them, the Tepanecs invaded again. The Aztec Tenochtitlan was among those who had finally decided to get off the fence, either forced or just tempted to join the winning side, tipping the balance between the warring alteptels.
Feinting an offensive from the north, making the defenders of Texcoco to rush their forces to that side of their city, the Tepanecs launched their main attack from the south, taking important but undefended towns on their way.
In the end of the eventful day, Texcoco and its provinces were no longer ruled by the Acolhua royal dynasty, with its Emperor dead and his heir, Nezahualcoyotl, a youth of about 17 years old, fleeing into the Highlands.
Pleased with themselves, the Tepanecs divided many provinces and towns, giving some to their allies as a reword. Curiously, the altepetl of Texcoco itself was granted to the helpful Aztecs, as a price for their good behavior as it seemed.
Tenochtitlan, who had benefited from their neutrality in this three-years-long war anyway, by gaining control of the most trading routes around the Great Lake, began prospering like never before.
In the next post, “The Rise of the Aztecs Part VII, The Highlands” we will see how the Highlanders got involved in the Lowlanders conflict, and how the Aztecs came to the aid of their old Acolhua allies after all, while still trying to maintain a good relationship with their overlords, the mighty Tepanecs.
An excerpt from “Crossing Worlds”
The sky was alight, blazing with different shades of yellow and orange, beautiful to look at against the deepening darkness. It spread to their east, but the light glow could be spotted in the greater distance, blazing to the north as well.
Speechless, they stared at it for a heartbeat, then broke into a heedless run, careless of the path, crashing through the bushes adorning the low hill.
Huexotla was on fire. But how was it possible? thought Kuini, forgetting his own morning observations. Wasn’t the fight supposed to be raging to the north of Texcoco? Heart pounding, his dread welling, he rushed on, heedless of the possible danger along with the rest of their warriors. Whoever had set Huexotla on fire had clearly not tried to do it by surprise. Oh, no! The conquerors of Huexotla were surer of themselves than that.
Slipping along the alleys that were awash with blood, stumbling over sprawling bodies, they stormed the outskirts of the large town, their obsidian swords and clubs ready, nerves taut. The Tepanecs seemed not too many, the brilliant-blue of their elite forces leaping dangerously into one’s view every now and then, forcing one to concentrate, to summon all his strength and skill. The rest were just warriors, some foreigners, Nahuatl-speakers from all over the great valley.
Even though exhausted and hungry, a hundred Acolhua warriors were more than a match for the mixed enemy forces. The swords clashed, the clubs rose and fell, the spears thrust. Arrows and darts flew by, shot from the rooftops, mainly by the enemy, although some defenders were still alive, with the remnants of their fighting spirits intact.
Something was wrong, thought Kuini, a part of his mind refusing to give in to the battle frenzy, as always. The Tepanecs were too few, too low-spirited to be the ones who had taken this town. No. Their main forces had to be elsewhere.
Locking his sword with a bulky warrior, Kuini refused to think about the other forces and where they could have been now. No, not in the north, pounded his heart as he disengaged, leaping aside, trying to bring his sword toward his opponent’s momentarily exposed side with the same movement. No, they could not have been in the north. The bulk of the enemy warriors must have been rolling toward Texcoco, must have been reaching the great altepetl from the south, using the comfortable roads and the favorable terrain, washing over the southern neighborhoods, with their defenders located elsewhere, fighting their meaningless skirmishes in the north.