Who was in the Aztec Triple Alliance?

Who was in the Aztec Triple Alliance?

The Aztec Triple Alliance, also known as the Excan Tlahtōloyān in Nahuatl, was a powerful political and military alliance formed in the Valley of Mexico around 1428. It consisted of three city-states:

  • Tenochtitlan: The most powerful and populous member, located on an island in Lake Texcoco. The Mexica people, also known as the Aztecs, resided here. Tenochtitlan eventually became the capital of the entire Aztec Empire.
  • Texcoco: Located northeast of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco was an intellectual and cultural center renowned for its scholars and scribes. The Acolhua people inhabited this city-state.
  • Tlacopan: The smallest and least powerful partner, situated northwest of Tenochtitlan. The Tepaneca people were the primary residents of Tlacopan.
A Powerhouse of Central Mexico

Formation of the Alliance

The Triple Alliance emerged from the ashes of a power struggle between the Tepanec city of Azcapotzalco and its former tributary states, including Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. After defeating Azcapotzalco in 1428, the three victors formed an alliance to prevent the rise of another dominant power and to collectively expand their influence and territory.


Structure and Power Dynamics

While the Triple Alliance presented a united front, it wasn't a single, unified empire. Each member state retained its own internal governance and ruler, though Tenochtitlan gradually rose to a position of dominance.

  • Military: The alliance had a joint military structure, with each member contributing troops to campaigns. However, Tenochtitlan often held the most significant military power, contributing the most troops and often taking the lead in military strategies.
  • Spoils of War: Conquests yielded tribute and spoils, which were divided unevenly among the three members. Tenochtitlan received the largest share (2/5), Texcoco received 2/5, and Tlacopan received the remaining 1/5.
  • Internal Politics: Despite the alliance, there were occasional tensions and competition between the members, particularly between Tenochtitlan and Texcoco. However, the benefits of cooperation generally outweighed internal rivalries.


The Legacy of the Triple Alliance

The Aztec Triple Alliance played a pivotal role in the rise and expansion of the Aztec Empire. It facilitated territorial conquest, resource acquisition, and the establishment of a dominant political force in central Mexico. Though the alliance dissolved following the Spanish conquest in 1521, its legacy continues to shape our understanding of Aztec history and political structures.

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