History Files


The Americas

Central American Native Kingdoms





The Toltecs were a Nahua people who arrived in the region of the Valley of Mexico in Central America prior to the Aztecs. Swiftly overcoming the remnants of Teotihuacan, they created an empire which flourished from about AD 900. Its capital was Tula (known as Tollan by the Aztecs), a powerful city which at its height controlled much of what is now Mexico. It was situated approximately eighty-four kilometres (fifty-two miles) south of Mexico City. Toltec influence reached as far as the Yucatan Peninsula, where they interacted with the Mayan peoples there, forming Toltec-Maya states (although probably not by means of conquest, a traditional view which has more recently been disproved to an extent).

It is not yet clear why the Toltec collapse came about but there is a theory that the highly military-orientated culture was not able to cope with population movements brought about by a long period of drought in the northern area (similar to the Hittite collapse in around 1200 BC). Information on the Toltecs is limited, and has generally been interpreted in various ways, producing mixed opinions regarding just how great this 'empire' really was.

(Additional information from Codex Chimalpahin: Society and Politics in Mexico Tenochtitlan, Tlatelolco, Texcoco, Culhuacan and Other Nahua Altepetl in Central Mexico, concerning the writings of seventeenth century Nahua historian Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin, otherwise known as Don Domingo Francisco de Antón Muñón, (Ed) Arthur J O Anderson & Susan Schroeder, and from External Links: Aztec History, and SFU Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology.)


The great city of Teotihuacan is sacked and its grand buildings burned around this time. Somewhat reduced in circumstance, the city may survive into the eighth century AD but refugees find a new home on the southern shore of Lake Texcoco. Under the leadership of a chieftain named Mixcoatl, the settlement of Culhuacan is founded as the first city of the Toltecs.

fl late 800s

Chalchiuh Tlatonac

Alternate dates of rule: early- mid 800s.

fl c.900s


Mid-late 800s.

921 - ?



? - 929



929 - 975




Toltec civilisation flourishes as an empire is born from the city state of Tula, which conquers much of the Mexican region. The settlement of Culhuacan is moved to a fresh site named Tollantzingo. With Tula at the height of its powers at this time, it can easily spare settlers to help populate the new Culhuacan. Other neighbouring sites are also settled and flourish, including that of Itztapalapan.

975 - 999




Topiltzin appears to greatly expand his capital at this time (although some sources claim he moves it from Tollan to Tula - impossible since they are two different names for the same place). The year 968 is an alternate date which is sometimes quoted for this event under the same king. There, he presides over what comes to be seen as a Golden Age of master artisans, creators of culture, and the creation of a true paradise on earth. The Toltecs are seen as the superhuman successors to Teotihuacan.

Toltec warriors at Tula
Toltec warriors stand guard in Tula, which is now located in the state of Hidalgo in Mexico


The city of Azcapotzalco is reputedly founded by Chichimec groups. At some point between this date and the city's colonisation by Aztecs, it appears to be dominated by the Toltec empire.


Upon his death, Topiltzin is succeeded by lesser kings who struggle to solve the growing problems of the empire, possibly induced by a period of prolonged drought.

999 - 1035



1035 - 1049



1049 - 1077



1077 - 1099



1099 - 1174


1047-1122. Apparently committed suicide.


Following the death of Huemac, the Toltec empire undergoes a sudden and violent collapse. This is possibly due to a long period of drought which induces large population movements, most notably by Chichimec groups, bringing disruption to the region. The capital, Tula (which falls into the hands of barbarians in 1224), is destroyed by fighting, with some buildings being fired and others being deliberately demolished, possibly over an extended period of time. Certainly there is evidence to show that the city's population shrinks, with outlying areas being abandoned in favour of a reduced existence at the city's centre. Refugees settle in some of the towns of the southern Valley of Mexico. The city of Culhuacan survives the collapse.

13th century

Part of a general invasion into the Valley of Mexico by Nahuatl-speaking northern peoples, tribes begin to arrive on the central plateau. Keen to intermarry into surviving Toltec royalty and nobility and claim the honour of Toltec descent, four of these peoples influence the rise of the Aztec empire, the Chichimecs, the Tepanecs, the Acolhua, and the Mexica.

A direct descendant of the Toltecs is Atotoztli, fourteenth century ruler of Culhuacan.