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The Aztec Sun God


Aztec Calendar Stone or Aztec Sun Stone

Aztec Calendar Stone or Aztec Sun Stone, with Tonatiuh at its Center

Chez Cåsver Aztec God Tonatiuh from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis

Aztec God Tonatiuh from the Codex Telleriano-Remensis

Codex Telleriano-Remensis

Tonatiuh (pronounced Toh-nah-tee-uh) was the Aztec sun god. This deity had both a positive and negative aspect. As a benevolent god, Tonatiuh provided humans and other living beings with warmth and fertility. In order to do so, however, he needed sacrificial victims.

Tonatiuh was also the patron of warriors, especially of the important jaguar and eagle warrior orders, among whose duties was to capture war victims to sacrifice in his honor.

Tonatiuh and the Legend of the Five Suns

Tonatiuh governed the era under which the Aztecs lived, the era of the Fifth Sun. According to Aztec mythology, the world had passed through four ages, called Suns. The first era, or Sun, was governed by the god Tezcatlipoca, the second one by Quetzalcoatl, the third one by the rain god Tlaloc, and the forth one by the goddess Chalchiuthlicue. The current era, or fifth sun, was governed by Tonatiuh. According to the legend, during this age the world is characterized by maize eaters and it will violently come to an end, through an earthquake.

Tonatiuh’s Image

One of the most famous images of Tonatiuh is represented on the stone of Axayacatl, the famous Aztec calendar. At the center of the stone, the face of Tonatiuh represents the current Aztec world, the Fifth Sun, whereas the surrounding symbols represent the calendric signs of the past four eras.


This glossary entry is a part of the About.com guide to Aztec Gods, and the Dictionary of Archaeology.

Adams, Richard E.W., 1991, Prehistoric Mesoamerica. Third Edition. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman

Van Tuerenhout Dirk R., 2005, The Aztecs. New Perspectives, ABC-CLIO Inc. Santa Barbara, CA; Denver, CO and Oxford, England.


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