The Toltecs

This great Mesoamerican civilization, is less known than the other big empires of this region of the world, but nevertheless it fascinated by the Aztecs and inspired the Mayans.

The Toltecs were one of the main post-classical Mesoamerican civilization located around its capital city, Tula, in the central plateau region of Mexico. Not everything has been discovered about this civilization and a lot still remain to be discovered, but it was probably a very prosperous empire. Most knowledge comes from the Aztecs that, like explained below, were fascinated by them.


Map of the Toltec Empire
Map of the Toltec Empire

The Toltec is a Mesoamerican civilization that was located around Tula, its capital city, 60 km north of Mexico City. The archaeological site of Tula is located near the current city of Tula de Allende (in the state Hidalgo).

The Toltec people

The Toltecs descended of Nahua ancestry. These are a group of the indigenous people of current Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Their language is the Nahuatl.

History of the Toltec civilization

The Toltec civilization began at the start of the post-classical Mesoamerican period (AD 900). They were originally nomadic people, but who have settled down in the region of the central plateau of Mexico. The Toltecs were settled on the following current states: Tlaxcala, Hidalgo, Mexico, Morelos and Puebla.

The name of this civilization means artisan in the Nahuatl language. In the Nahuatl legend, they are considered as the origin of all the civilizations. This belief was so strong that, two centuries after their end, the Aztec civilization was pretending to be descendants of this great civilization to ensure their superiority.

El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan) in the Chichen Itza
El Castillo (Temple of Kukulcan) in the Chichen Itza

It is also not clear the relation between the Mayas and the Toltecs. But it seems that the Toltec civilization had a big influence on the Mayas. Indeed the Chichen Itza has a lot of common pattern with the Toltec architecture. The religious iconography of Chichen Itza is also not normal for Mayans. Indeed the numerous depictions of the feathered serpent deities are more related to the Toltecs than the Mayans.

Like a lot of civilizations, their end is not clearly understood. The end of the civilization is set in AD 1168. Which corresponds to the conquest of the capital city (Tula) by the Chichimecas.

Religion of the Toltecs

The Toltecs were believing in cosmic gods that represented the sky, the water and the earth. Their believe have created the well known feathered serpent deities called Quetzacoatl and its opposite Tezcatlipoca. The feathered serpent is very common in the Mesoamerican religions for nearly 2 000 years. Indeed, this divinity was already existing at the time of the Mixtec under the name of Nine Wind.


Massive Toltecs Atlantean columns of the pyramid B in Tula
Massive Toltec Atlantean columns of the pyramid B in Tula

The Pyramid B with its Atlantean columns in the form of Toltec warriors is probably the most famous of the Toltec architectural construction. This pyramid is very similar to the Mayan Temple of the Warriors at Chichen Itza. Four massive Atlantean columns, that once supported the roof of the temple, stand on the top of the pyramid.

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