He was the mythic leader and chief divinity of the Aztecs, dominant tribe of the Nahua nation.
The Aztecs, who called themselves Mejica or Mexicans after they had established themselves on the high table-land of Mexico, belong to a very large family or group of tribes speaking a common idiom called Nahua or Nahoa.
These Nahua-speaking tribes were called the Nahuatlaca, and compose a little more than one-fourth of the present Indian population.
In Mexico itself the languages of the Nahua nations, of which the Aztec is the best-known dialect, show no connexion of origin with the language of the Otomi tribes, nor either of these with the languages of the regions of the ruined cities of Central America, the Quiche of Guatemala and the Maya of Yucatan.
This language was called nahuatl, and one who spoke it as his native tongue was called nahuatlacatl, so that modern anthropologists are following native precedent when they use the term Nahua for the whole series of peoples now under consideration.
Earliest of the Nahua nations, the Toltecs are traditionally related to have left their northern home of Huehuetlapallan in the 6th century; and there is other evidence of the real existence of the nation.
After the Toltecs came the Chichimecs, whose name, derived from chici, dog, is applied to many rude tribes; they are said to have come from Amaquemecan under a king named Xolotl, names which being Aztec imply that the nation was Nahua; at any rate they appear afterwards as fusing with more cultured.
Nahua nations in the neighbourhood of Tezcuco.
The Aztecs moving from place to place in Anahuac found little welcome from the Nahua peoples already settled there.
The teocallis built by the Nahua or Mexican nations have been mostly destroyed, but two remain at Huatusco and Tusapan (figured in Bancroft, iv.