Florentine Codex: Book 6

Book 6: Rhetoric and Moral Philosophy

Two of the world’s leading scholars of the Aztec language and culture have translated Sahagún’s monumental and encyclopedic study of native life in Mexico at the time of the Spanish Conquest. This immense undertaking is the first complete translation into any language of Sahagún’s Nahuatl text, and represents one of the most distinguished contributions in the fields of anthropology, ethnography, and linguistics.

Written between 1540 and 1585, the Florentine Codex (so named because the manuscript has been part of the Laurentian Library’s collections since at least 1791) is the most authoritative statement we have of the Aztecs’ lifeways and traditions—a rich and intimate yet panoramic view of a doomed people.

The Florentine Codex is divided by subject area into twelve books and includes over 2,000 illustrations drawn by Nahua artists in the sixteenth century.

Book Six includes prayers to various gods asking for cures, riches, rain, and for the gods to bless or admonish a chosen ruler. In addition to these prayers, the book displays examples of formal conversation used in Aztec life, from the ruler and ambassador to others in the noble class.

Charles E. Dibble (1909-2002) was an anthropologist, linguist, and scholar specializing in Mesoamerican cultures. He received his master’s and doctorate degrees from the Universidad Nacional Autónomo de México and taught at the University of Utah from 1939-1978, where he became a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology.

Arthur J. O. Anderson (1907-1996) was an anthropologist specializing in Aztec culture and language. He received his MA from Claremont College and his PhD in anthropology from the University of Southern California. He was a curator of history and director of publications at the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe and taught at a number of institutions, including San Diego State University, from which he retired.

For their work on the Florentine Codex, both Dibble and Anderson received the Mexican Order of the Aztec Eagle, the highest honor of the Mexican government; from the King of Spain the received the Order of Isabella the Catholic (Orden de Isabel la Católica) and the title of Commander (Comendador).

Table of Contents:
Table of Contents:

1. Here are told the words which truly issued from their hearts when they spoke, at the time that they supplicated him who was their principal god...at the time that a plague prevailed, that he might destroy it.
2. Here are related the words which truly issued from their hearts as they prayed to Tezcatlipoca, whom they named the night, the wind, ad they asked riches, so that they would not be poor.
3. Here are related the words which they uttered from their very hearts as they prayed to Tezcatlipoca, whom they named Yaotl, Necoc yaotl, Monenequi, to request aid when war was waged.
4. Here are related the words which came from their very hearts when they prayed to Tezcatlipoca, whom they named creator of men, knower of men, seer into men's hearts and men's thoughts, as they asked help in behalf of the ruler who had been installed....
5. Here are related the words with which they prayed to Tezcatlipoca, whom they called Titlicauan, Mequequeloa, when the ruler died, in order that another be installed.
6. Here are related the words which, from their very hearts, they prayed to Tezcatlipoca, to request that the ruler who performed his office badly might die.
7. Here is related the confession which they said or performed when they still practised idolatry.
8. Here are told the words which they uttered from their very hearts when they prayed to Tlaloc, to whom they attributed the rain.
9. Here are told the words which the ruler spoke when he had been installed as ruler, to entreat Tazcatlipoca because of having installed him as ruler, and to ask his help and his revelation....
10. Here are told words with which they greeted and with which they prayed to the ruler after he had been installed.
11. Here are told the words which another dignitary said when he responded to, when he replied to the one who first prayed, in which he manifested the joy of all the ruler's common people over his being elected....
12. Here is told the manner in which the ruler responded to reply to his noblemen, his dignitaries in order to humble himself and in order to thank them.
13. Here are told the words with which still another person prayed, with which he replied, when the ruler did not speak.
14. Here is told a long discourse with which the ruler admonished all the inhabitants of the city when he spoke for the first time.
15. Here it is told how, when the ruler had spoken, another dignitary stood up, who admonished the inhabitants of the city in the presence of the ruler.
16. Here is told how another elderly dignitary, well skilled in speech, replied in order to respond for the city, and to show pleasure for the discourse of the ruler....
17. Here is related a very good discourse of admonition, which served as rules of conduct, with which the ruler advised his sons
18. Here it is related how the rulers admonished their daughters when they had already reached the age of discretion.
19. Here it is told how, when the father had spoken, the mother then replied.
20. Here is told the manner of the discourse of the father, ruler or nobleman, with which he admonished his son that he should look to the humble life, to the bowing, to the knowledge of one's self in order to be pleasing to the gods and to man.
21. Here is told the discourse, the manner in which the father, ruler or nobleman, exhorted his son in order to provoke him to chastity.
22. Here are told the admonitions of the father, nobleman or ruler, to counsel his son regarding prudence in public, and how to sleep, to drink, to eat, to talk, and how to dress.
23. Here is told that the natives did when they would have their sons marry.
24. Here is told that which the natives did to inform their daughter when already she was pregnant.
25. Here are told the words of greeting with which they greeted or with which they exhorted the pregnant one
with which the youth's parents admonished her.
26. Here it is told how, when the pregnant one was already in the seventh or eighth month, the mothers, the fathers of the married couple assembled one's kinsmen
and they drank, they ate.
27. Here it is told how an old woman relative of the youth, or one of the [old women] relatives of the girl advised, entreated the midwife to receive the pregnant woman whom they had left in her charge....
28. Here are told the different things which the midwife did when the pregnant one was ready....
29. Here it is told how they made goddesses of those women who died in childbirth, called mociuaquetzque.
30. Here it is told how the midwife exhorted the baby who had been born, and what she said to it: all the loving words.
31. Here are told the words which the midwife said to the baby boy when she cut the umbilical cord.
32. Here it is told how the midwife, when she had cut the baby's umbilical cord, then bathed him
and how babies were bathed....
33. Here are told the words which the midwife said to exhort the newly-delivered one, and how the kinsmen of the newly-delivered one prayed to exhort the midwife because of her travail which she had been through....
34. Here it is told how the rulers, the noblemen, or the merchants exhorted one another in behalf of the first child who was born....
35. Here are told the words which the ambassadors of the rulers of the [neighboring] cities said to entreat, to greet the babies and their fathers, their mothers....
36. Here it is told how the fathers, the mothers summoned soothsayers, the wise men, in order that they tell of what sort the day was when the baby was born....
37. Here is told the second [element] in the bathing of the babies....
38. Here are told how the girls were bathed, and what in particular was done to them....
39. Here it is told how the mothers [and] the fathers promised that the boys [and] the girls live in the calmecac when they were already partly grown, already somewhat experienced.
40. Here it is told how the mothers, the fathers, the kinsmen, the old men, the old women assembled when it was time to introduce [their children] into the calmecac.
41. Here are told some of the sayings called adages which they told and [still] tell.
42. Here are told some riddles, the so-called "what-is-its" with which riddles are made as if they were mysteries.
43. Here are told some of the figures of speech called metaphors, which are subtle expressions
and their interpretations, their explanations.

Praise and Reviews:

“Highly recommended for all academic and large public libraries.”—Choice

“A great scholarly enterprise.”—New Mexico Historical Review

“Bringing the knowledge of modern scholarship to bear on their materials, the translators have been able to illuminate many obscurities in the text. The complete series of volumes is a landmark of scholarly achievement.”—The New Mexican

“This publication of Sahagún makes available to scholars and their students alike the original Nahuatl text for comparison with the more easily accessible Spanish text, which is in many places merely an abridgment or précis of the original. A whole series of native sources for the study of Mexican pre-conquest history is now at hand for a field of historical study formerly restricted to a small number of investigators. A whole chapter of the cultural history of early Colonial Mexico is unfolding before us. [The Codex is] an impressive monument to Spanish humanism in the sixteenth-century New World.”—The Hispanic American Historical Review

“Sahagún emerges as the indisputable founder of ethnographic science. The accomplishments of the joint translators, Dibble and Anderson, will surely rank among the greatest achievements of American ethnohistorical scholarship.”—Natural History