a mysterious and alien illness that had horrifying symptoms of The Spanish revulsion at human sacrifice has often been described as nothing but a justification for their invasion, but the religious impetus to conquest should not be underestimated. Months of tactical manoeuvring were ended by this confrontation, and his careful plans for a peaceful victory had been ruined. Rumours of a powerful kingdom in the interior had been confirmed by emissaries from the city of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztecs. He became fascinated with tales of Christopher Columbus' New World explorations. crossed the causeways into Tenochtitlán. As the long lines of celebrants wound into the temple precinct, the great drum played constantly, uniting their steps and their voices. His parents were poor hidalgos (members of the lower nobility), for whom biographers would claim illustrious ancestors, celebrated for heroism and learning. Aguilar petitioned his Maya chieftain to be allowed to join his former countrymen, and he was released and made his way to Cortés's ships. How were Pizzaro and his men welcomed by the Inca? From Texcuco, he sent contingents of his troops to subdue the cit­ies surrounding the lake of Mexico. Bringing gifts of gold which roused the Spaniards’ greed, the messengers brought word from the Aztec tlatoani (speaker) Moctecuhzoma Xocoyotzin, the powerful ruler who became known to history as Montezuma. You're now subscribed to our newsletter. While the Spaniards were in Tenochtitlan, Velázquez assembled a force of nineteen ships, more than 1400 soldiers with twenty cannons, eighty horsemen, one-hundred and twenty crossbowmen, and eighty arquebusiers under the command of Pánfilo de Narváez to capture Cortés and return him to Cuba. But by the end of September, people started to die of The dying city surrendered after three months and a terrible quiet fell over what remained of the city. On 13 August 1521, Cuauhtemoc was captured and the Aztecs admitted defeat. The Aztecs cleaned the Retreating to Tlaxcala, he marshalled his remaining forces and allies, not without difficulty, and determined to reverse their fortunes. Who carried the pieces of Cortés’s ships to Tenochtitlan? This grand gesture confirmed his intention, as he later declared, “that they would conquer and win the land, or die in the attempt”. In the wake of this Night of Tears, Cortés showed remarkable fortitude, leadership and resourcefulness. The Aztecs were conquered by Spain in 1521 after a long siege of the capital, Tenochtitlan, where much of the population died from hunger and smallpox. Caroline Dodds is a lecturer at the University of Leicester specialising in Aztec and early modern Atlantic history. Withdrawal would have alienated their allies, who were receiving word of aggressive Aztec behaviour in the provinces, and so Cortés resolved on a bold course of action. About a month later, on 24 June 1520 the Spanish captain Hernán Cortés returned from the coast and was furious to find the Aztecs prepared for war and his comrades besieged and starving. Smallpox was particularly devastating during the conquest of Mexico and, in the following years, other illnesses such as measles, mumps, typhus, influenza and the plague brought many indigenous American populations to near extinction. A clear and ambitious tactician, he was devout, brave and single-minded in pursuit of his goals. In 1506, he sailed to the Indies where he helped in the conquest of Cuba and married a relative of its first governor. The ship was loaded with the Royal Fifth (the King of Spain claimed 20% of all spoils) of the Aztec treasure they had obtained so far in order to speed up Cortés's claim to the governorship. At the end of December 1520, Cortés' army moved toward 20 July 1519. Although modern usage often calls the European participants “soldiers”, the term was never used by these men … After returning to Mexico in 1530, Cortés spent much of his life struggling to assert his rights and preserve his reputation, having met with considerable political opposition and been accused of murdering his first wife (who died in 1522). The Aztecs were not dehumanised by this bloodshed, however. Thanks! After a three-month siege, Spanish forces under Hernán Cortés capture Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Aztec empire. The following year, Malinche gave birth to her son, Martin, Cortes' first acknowledged child. The subsequent events of Cortés's conquest of the Aztec king's domain were defined by Cortés's unshakable desire to deliver that empire to the kingdom of Castile. Cortes’s army besieged Tenochtitlan for 93 days. After months of fierce fighting, which leaves Tenochtitlan in ruins, the last tlatoani Cuauhtemoc is captured in a canoe on the lake and the Aztecs finally surrender. Alliances with the Aztecs’ enemies and disgruntled subjects ensured the conquistadors an almost unending supply of warriors, auxiliary support, food and other supplies. Thank you for subscribing to HistoryExtra, you now have unlimited access. A week later, more than half of the Spanish had been killed during their flight from the city on a single “Night of Tears” and Cortés stood surrounded by the remnants of his great expedition. Small pox entered the city. Mexico-Tenochtitlán. Did Cortez burn his ships? If you subscribe to BBC History Magazine Print or Digital Editions then you can unlock 10 years’ worth of archived history material fully searchable by Topic, Location, Period and Person. Cortés was born in 1485 in Medellín, Spain. The Spaniards and their allies flee Tenochtitlan on the Night of Tears. The Spanish conquerors could and did write accounts that narrated the conquest from the first landfalls in Mexico to the final victory over the Mexica in Tenochtitlan on August 13, 1521. This was the beginning of the battle for the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan, an open declaration of hostility which turned careful strategy into outright warfare. Hernan Cortés is described as a si… Who carried the pieces of Cortés's ships to Tenochtitlan? Brigantine [Spanish]. Tenochtitlán; the boats followed later, transported in pieces The conquest of Mexico is not only a significant event in world history, but is also particularly important because there are multiple accounts of the conquest from different points of view, both Spanish and indigenous. Cortés intended to do that primarily by increasing his power and mobility on the lake, previously one of his main weaknesses. until late November, and killed a vast number of people. surrender of towns all around the lake. of Spain, outlining his actions since his arrival in After returning to Spain in 1540 to plead his cause, he died disillusioned in Seville in 1547. The reality is far more complex, but at the same time far more impressive. The conquest of the Aztecs is more complicated than the simple myth of European superiority, but it remains an incredible achievement in military history. As commonly occurs in the biographies of self-made heroes, the few facts of Cortés’s youth have been supplanted by speculation to invent the lineage, training, and experience that befit so-called singular men of the Renaissance. A huge marketplace drew thousands of people every day from all over this “empire” (as some historians have called it) and a ceremonial precinct lay at the centre of the city, from which the pyramid of the Great Temple towered over the grid of canals and streets. The key to Cortés’s plan was the building of 12 brigantines that would allow him to command the lake and besiege Tenochtitlan. The brigan­tines, which had been built at Tlaxcala and carried piece-by-piece over the mountains, they reassembled at Texcuco. Cortés faces Montezuma on the great causeway leading to Tenochtitlan. With their red and white insignia, thousands of Tlaxcalans accompanied the Spanish when, in November 1519, the conquistadors caught their first sight of the island city of Tenochtitlan, which seemed to one like an “enchanted vision” rising out of the lake. It was believed that sacrifice led to a privileged afterlife and some Aztecs themselves became victims, but captives were most commonly used for this purpose. Having lost more than half their company, they rally at Tlacopan before retreating to Tlaxcala. Cuauhtemoc, a young and determined warrior, succeeded to the throne after Montezuma’s unfortunate successor died of the smallpox epidemic that was ravaging the city. Meanwhile, the Aztecs thought the Columbus had set sail hoping to … began his trip to México with 11 ships, 508 soldiers, 100 seamen, 16 horses, 10 cannons, and 13 shotguns ... where Cortés carried out a demonstration massacre, the result of which was to cause a number of other nearly tribes to join forces against the Aztecs. Why and to what extent Montezuma cooperated remains unclear, but his cooperation certainly secured the temporary obedience of the people, albeit in an atmosphere of increasing resentment. What deadly disease spread through the Incan empire? The city was clean and well-ordered, with strong laws and political administration, but the Aztecs have often been regarded as a brutal and even evil people because they practised human sacrifice. The Aztecs’ practice of warfare disadvantaged them in some encounters as they fought to capture victims for human sacrifice rather than to kill. Superior weaponry and a devastating smallpox outbreak enabled the Spanish to … Cortés’s men must load the ship with every ounce of treasure they had procured along the way. The early stage of the siege saw the The 11 ships under Cortés’s command set sail from Cuba in December 1519 with some 530 European men, several hundred Cuban Indians (including women), 16 horses, and numerous dogs. But to carry out such a project, both to find Motecuhzoma and to make alliances with native groups, would take time … Who carried the pieces of Cortés’s ships to Tenochtitlan? Indigenous accounts are from particular indigenous viewpoints (either allies or opponents) and as the e… The conquistador Bernal Díaz, who wrote a famous history of the conquest, described it graphically: “The walls of that shrine were so splashed and caked with blood that they and the floor too were black… the stench was worse than that of any slaughterhouse in Spain”. It was believed that the gods had destined the Aztecs to be a warrior people, and they became increasingly focused on warfare and military achievement, even practising “flowery wars” specifically for the purpose of securing victims. A combination of luck, allies and might have enabled Cortés to succeed. They elected a new king, Cuautemoc, "The In the early 16th century, Spanish colonies were already well established in the Caribbean islands and they were turning their eyes westward. The Mexicas called him "the Sun" because of his very blond hair. the city on the island was left. Despite his bitterness, he was a rich man, and left both wealth and status to his many children. In 1519, Cortés was appointed to lead an expedition to the American mainland but, apparently realising the potential of the gathered force of “conquistadors”, as they came to be called, the governor of Cuba became suspicious and withdrew his permission for the expedition. In recent years, the Aztec past has been increasingly rediscovered and valued as a vital part of Mexican heritage, but Spanish, particularly Catholic, culture also underlies their way of life. There is no real evidence that they were regarded as ominous premonitions before the conquest. There seems to be a problem, please try again. 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