Topiltzin Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl was a 10th century Toltec leader. In later generations, he was a figure of legend often confused or conflated with the important Mesoamerican Deity Quetzalcoatl (feathered serpent). One estimation puts the years of his reign from 923 to 947, although the corralation between dates of Toltec history and our Gregorian calendar remain uncertain.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Affinities
3 Regalia
4 Sources
5 Other Names


Topiltzin Ce Acatl Quetzalcoatl was the Lord of the Toltecs and their major city Tollan.

He was born in the 10th Century and according to various sources had four different possible fathers the most popular of which is Mixcoatl, the name of a God of War, and presumably also an earlier Toltec king. (Mesoamerican leaders and high-priests sometimes took the names of the diety who was their patron.) His mother is at times unnamed, but Chimalma is the most accepted.

He assumes Lordship over the Toltecs and migrates his people to Tollan. Reigning in peace and prosperity he contributes much to the lifestyle of the Toltecs with basic ideas such as civilization. He is generally considered a god upon earth with similar powers to the god of that is his namesake. The most accepted fate of the god is his migration to Tlapallan where he either dies or rest forever.

Once he leaves Tollan the name is used by other elite figures to keep a line of succession and also used by the Mexica to more easily rule over the Toltecs.

The Aztecs had a legend that Quetzalcoatl would one day return, and Emperor Moctezuma II mistook Hernan Cortez for Quetzalcoatl.


Attributed affinities include knowledge, wisdom, unison, creation, art, music, and war.


Common objects he is usually seen with are a plumed headpiece, a curved baton the chicoacolli and his feather rimmed shield with the ehecacozcatl “wind jewel” emblem on it.


When defining Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl it is necessary to discuss the conflicting stories that are involved with his mythical history and their origins. There are five major sources that have been recounted, many of which are closely related.

These many stories are all unique in their own way giving much insight into Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl and will hopefully clear up some of the confusion created by the use of the name Quetzalcoatl.

Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturas

The first source was produced by an unknown Spaniard and is later named the "Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturas". This version was copied from a pre-Hispanic text around 1531 and could possibly be the oldest recreation of the codexes. Along with being the oldest, it is considered to be the briefest as well.

In this version the deeds of Quetzalcoatl's (or Ce Acatl) father the war god Mixcoatl (or Camaxtli) are highlighted, and within that explains how Mixcoatl meets the unknown mother, who dies after the birth. Once Ce Acatl emerges from manhood he spends seven years upon the mountains offering penance to the gods and performs ritual bloodletting asking the gods to make him a great warrior. (Ritual bloodletting by rulers was long a feature of Mesoamerican religions). Once this time passes he begins making war and becomes the leader of Tollan and the Toltecs.

His reign is peaceful and productive building a great temple lasting 42 years. Within the last four years, though, the known archenemy of Quetzalcoatl (although it is not specified in this version), Tezcatlipoca, tells him he must leave in four years to Tlapallan to die.

So in four years he leaves, but he takes his adoring Toltecs with him. Stopping at many different villages along the way he leaves some of his people behind till he arrives at Tlapallan where he dies the next day. Somewhat unique to this version is the after story of how Tollan does not find a leader for some years after and is later taken over and all the Toltecs are sacrificed. As mentioned earlier this version is somewhat brief and is most likely due to the Spaniards inability to fully translate the text or lack of interest to relay the story in its entirety.

Libro de oro y tesoro indico

The second translations were written by a group of Franciscan friars in 1532 and translated from original text and are known collectively as the "Libro de oro y tesoro indico". In the friars' translation Topiltzin is the son of Totepeuh, who is the leader of Teocolhuacan. His brother-in-law kills him and Topiltzin gets his revenge, after building a temple for his father, through self-defense. The migration to Tollan is involved and later to Tlapallan, but this time he is told to go by the human counterpart of Tezcatlipoca. The reason for this is because the King would not allow what Tezcatlipoca wanted, human sacrifice. So he leaves, as before, with his Toltec in tow.

This version has clearly been Christianized for the sake of the Spanish courts, of who were the intended readers. A fore running conquistador enlisted the friars to translate the text in order to submit a legitimate line of succession for the elite woman he wished to marry. In order to do this though the text had to obviously be tamed down a little. A woman with human sacrificing relatives would not be seen as a permissible wife. It should also be noted that Topiltzin was never mentioned to possess supernatural powers or having godlike status. One could not marry a woman who had relatives claiming to be equals to God either.

Work by Andre Thevet

The third translation, done by French Cosmographer Andre Thevet, was translated from a lost Spanish version in the Sixteenth Century. In this version Quetzalcoatl is son to Camaxtli and Chimalma with the mother still passing after birth. This time he has brothers, who are bent on killing him, but he eludes them twice. After they kill their father, he kills them with a series of side stories. He becomes the ruler, migrates to Tollan, and is believed to be a sorcerer god ruling for 160 years.

Later he encounters Tezcatlipoca once again, who is jealous of the Toltecs adoration for their god, and so drives out the lesser god from Tollan. This is when Quetzalcoatl visits many of the villages mentioned as well as others with a few of his people. Many of these villages he remained as the chief god for centuries. The ending is divided, in one Tezcatlipoca follows him into the desert and the smoke that rises from his dead body creates Venus or he simply flees to Tlapallan once again. This translation is probably the most comprehensive version, because of the slight variations that are not seen in the others. Such as the side story of Quetzalcoatl killing his brothers.

Leyenda de los soles

A native does the fourth translation, the “Leyenda de los soles”, with Nahuatla as his native tongue. Although it is very similar to the first translation it gives an in-depth account of Mixcoatl's adventures especially how he meets Quetzalcoatl's mother. It also stresses the idea of Quetzalcoatl being more supernatural and godlike.

Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana

The last major translation is done by a Franciscan friar who creates an extensive set of texts involving the Mesoamerican pantheon. The lengthy "Historia general de las cosas de Nueva Espana" of Fray Bernardino de Sahagun gives a unique look at Quetzalcoatl and his subjects lifestyle. The basic story is of course in play; Quetzalcoatl is a mage god ruling Tollan with his knowledge and wisdom passed onto the Toltecs. Although, this time Tollan is a sort of utopia where the people were content with every aspect of life. Tezcatlipoca come along and forces Quetzalcoatl out, but before he leaves he changes Tollan into a normal city without all the beautiful buildings and flora. Along his travels of exile he and some of his devout followers are involved in many stories before they reach their end, Tlapallan.

Other Names

Other accepted names are Hun Nal Ye, The Morning Star (Venus), Man of the Sun.

Another closely affiliated name was Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl whose known affinities are of the East wind or of weather in general. He was said to move the sun with his breath along with the rain clouds.