Codex Mendoza


The founding of Tenochtitlan, Codex Mendoza fol. 2r.


The Codex Mendoza opens with the founding of Tenochtitlan, presenting one image full of symbolic and pictorial description to hint at a history that the Aubin devotes 25 pages to.

The Mendoza’s depiction of the founding of Tenochtitlan is much more complex than that of the Aubin.The  scene shows elements of the history that led the Mexica to their new location, such as the iconographical allusion to Huitzilopochtli through the eagle, and the founders of the city in each quadrant, showing how the Mexica chose Tenochtitlan and first settled there. 

Sharing the page with the founding image is the fledgling empire’s first conquests, underneath the foundation but within the border of year-glyphs, showing warriors capturing other cities. This again emphasizes the Mendoza’s focus on empire, and moves the viewer into the next stage of history.


The conquests of Itzcoatl, and the years of his reign, fol. 5v.


A tribute inventory, showing costumes and goods to be given by certain tributary villages, fol. 20r.

The Mendoza continues to a dynastic history arranged by ruler, similar to that of the Aubin but, once again, with much more imagery. Again showing the focus on empire, the rulers’ pages also show other cities that they conquered during their reign, seen on folio 5v with the reign of Itzcoatl, who conquers eleven pueblos which as depicted around the edge of the page, in various states of destruction.

The next section of the Mendoza is a tribute inventory section, marking out pages of items given to Tenochtitlan by the cities that were conquered in the previous pages. The tribute pages list the place-glyphs along the sides of the pages and the items given as tribute in the center, such as feathers, textiles, and costumes for wariors, seen in folio 20r. The tribute inventory allows for more pages of dense imagery, which is contiguous with the rest of the Mendoza, and also contrasts the Aubin— which does not have a tribute section— not just in density of images but also the interest in the material wealth and size of the empire in general.

The Aubin’s dynastic pages are more concerned with the succession of rulers and the years in which New Fire ceremonies occurred, and feature fewer images of physical expansion through warfare or of material goods, both of which are emphasized in the Mendoza. The extensive migration history suggests more of a historical interest than an imperial or economic one as a reason for the creation of the manuscript.