How Was the Government Set up in the Aztec Empire?

government-set-up-aztec-empire Credit: Justin Ennis/CC-BY 2.0

In the Aztec empire, much of the governmental power was held by city councils, with the empire being ruled by the largest of the city councils in Tenochtitlan. The city councils were comprised of members of the calpulli, which were local, working-class cooperatives.

In the ancient Aztec empire, land was owned by groups of people rather than a single individual. These people together formed the calpulli. The calpulli of a region would designate leaders who formed a city council. From the city council, four people would be chosen to be executive leaders. From them, one person was designated as the supreme leader. These individuals were known as tlatcani. The supreme leader in Tenochtitlan was known as the Huey Tlatcani, which means "great speaker," because that person not only ruled the city but the entire empire. Although this individual was the leader of the empire, his term was not unconditional. If the members of the council decided they wanted to choose a new leader, they were free to do so. Government in the ancient Aztec world was not an omnipresent force in the way that contemporary governments tend to be. It was more a method of protecting lands belonging to the Aztec empire, and citizens enjoyed many personal freedoms.