Ross Hassig has given the field of Mesoamerican studies numerous valuable books, and his latest, though quirky in some regards, is another worthy contribution. In Polygamy and the Rise and Demise of the Aztec Empire, Hassig begins by making the essential observation that kinship was a critical element of Aztec politics and that scholars have failed to give it the attention that it deserves. Polygyny rendered it possible for Aztec noblemen to sire a superfluity of potential heirs, thus strengthening their class position. Through multiple marriages, a nobleman also connected himself with multiple other royal houses. “What made a wife important,” as Hassig notes, “was her pivotal role in linking the royal lineage with powerful members of her own patrilineage” (pp. 36–37). These elements have been observed before (see, for instance, the work of Pedro Carrasco, Susan Schroeder, and myself), but...

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