Aztecs 2 Essay, Research Paper
The Aztecs were the most powerful empire of in all of the New World. For hundreds of years, their empire dominated all other tribes, giving themselves more and more power. It took a great amount of luck and leadership to defeat the mighty Aztecs. Hernando Cortes, led by his desire for gold, took on the Aztecs and succeeded. Pride, diseases, weaponry, unity, and trickery from the Spanish all helped to halt the Aztec s rapid growth and remove them from power in Mexico.
The first of the Aztecs entered the Valley of Mexico, which held many advanced civilizations. Those civilizations had productive farms and giant stone cities (Marks 119). The Aztecs first settled on the shores of lake Texcoco. They became mercenaries, which directed them towards forming a great and skillful army (Stein 27). They permanently settled on an island that they built their capital city on; Tenochtitlan, Place of the Prickly Pear Cactus, became the start of a powerful empire (Faber 116).
After defeating neighboring tribes, the Aztecs developed agriculture, engineering, and government. Enormous growth from their victories led to detailed transportation systems and more than forty temples and pyramids in the capital (Stein 27). The pyramids and temples were used as worship grounds for many of the different gods. Rain gods, fire gods, and harvest gods were only a few of the gods that they worshiped. They believed that every natural occurrence in their daily life was due to a god. The Aztecs practiced human sacrifice to please a god, often killing many prisoners from previous wars. They believed that the gods would punish them if they did not give them enough bloody sacrifices. For example, Huitzilopochtil, the hummingbird, was believed to take the strength of the Aztec soldiers and cause great deterioration the empire (Stein 29).
Hernando Cortes, the man who was to bring down the empire, was born in Medellin, Spain in 1485 to Martin Cortes de Monroy, and Dona Catalina Pizarro Altamirano. He attended the University of Salamanca to study law, but showed little interest in books (Faber 118). He was a very curious and idle young boy, and sailed to the New World in 1504. He was part of the conquest of Cuba. His conquests were driven by his desire for gold and wealth. Deeply in debt for his luxurious clothing and ships, he set sail from Cuba on February 10, 1519, to Mexico (Faber 119).
When Cortes landed on Mexico the Aztec king, Moctezuma, got word from one of his runners that a man with light skin and advanced weapons had arrived. He was sure that this was Quetzalcoatl, an Aztec god whom Tezcatlipoca had defeated and forced into exile. Quezalcoatl left Mexico saying that he would return later.
Convinced that Cortes was Quetzalcoatl, the Aztecs showered the Spaniards with gold and other fabulous gifts. Cortes and his men became more and more anxious to see the capital. He wrecked all of the ships so that nobody could run away for safety. He was determined to conquer the Aztecs.
Cortes started inward towards the capital city, Tenochtitlan. He met an Indian woman named Marina Dona who had learned Spanish and became a Christian. She became a translator who played a giant role in their conquest. As Cortes marched towards the capitol, Moctezuma sent messengers who gave them more gifts. They also told Cortes Do not come to Tenochtitlan. Turn back. We will give you gold. Turn back. Cortes continued further (Hakim 92). He heard many stories of the power that the Aztecs and Moctezuma had. Dona Marina said that these people were mostly farmers and despised the Aztecs.
He finally reached Tenochtitlan and gasped at the sheer beauty of the city. It was a five-mile square on an island. Three bridges that could be raised for any incoming attacks directed out of the city. Houses were a shade of chalky white or earth-red. Over 350,000 people lived in the capital (Hakim 93). They were generally artisans, priests, warriors, merchants and government officials. Farming was done on the outside surrounding lands.
Cortes decided that his men alone could not defeat the Aztecs, so he captured Moctezuma and forced him to try and calm down the revolt. Moctezuma was stoned to death, and Cuauhtemoc, Moctezuma s nephew, chased out the Spanish troops in a miracle that the Spanish refered to as el noch triste, or the sad night (Faber 125). Cortes escaped to Tlaxcala, where he recruited other tribes that hated the Aztecs to fight with them to victory (Stein 73). He set out with a fresh army for Tenochtitlan. Unknown to Cortes, spread smallpox germs had spread throughout the capital and wiped out many of the Aztecs. The Spaniards surrounded the city and left the Aztecs to starve inside (Dineen 57). They refused to quit and chose to die fighting in vain and pride (Stein 78). With the combination of the Spaniards superior weapons, and the smallpox, the Aztec empire crumbled.
The Aztecs fell to the Spanish because of a few different reasons. First, they had mistaken Cortes for their god Quetzalcoatl, who was expected to return in that year. Their lavish gifts made him even more determined to conquer them. Cortes knew that the capital must have been filled with gold and jewels.
The Spanish had brought over the fatal disease, small pox. This fought like another army against the Aztecs. It killed thousands of people and the disease continued to spread throughout the empire. The Aztecs had no form of defense to stop or cure this foreign disease.
The Spanish had superior weapons. One pull of a trigger was much faster than the bows and arrows that the Aztecs had. One who was shot with the European guns would surely die. The cannons knocked down walls and plowed the way through.
The Aztecs had no outside help. The angry neighboring tribes refused to help them when they were fighting because of poor treatment (Shepherd 51). They found it as a good chance for payback after the Aztecs captured them for labor and sacrifice.
Lastly, the Aztecs refused to quit. They were stubborn and would not quit even if their entire capitol was destroyed. Towards the end of the battle, the Aztecs were isolated from food and water. They did not quit, and died with the civilization (Stein 80). If they had realized their defeat earlier, their culture would probably still exist strongly in Mexico today.
Cortes renamed the capital Mexico City and proclaimed himself governor. In order to keep the remaining Aztecs under control, he used the encomienda system and were all converted to Christianity (Dineen 58). Cortes built a Catholic cathedral over the remains of an Aztec temple, and packed their lake with earth (Hakim 95). He sent great sums of the Mexican riches back to Spain.
Immediately after the conquest of the Aztecs, Spain became the major power in Europe and the New World. They became rich from all of the gold, silver, and other riches. Cortes went on to live a peaceful and comfortable life in his mansion in Mexico, forever remembered as a great Spanish conquistador (Faber 128).
If not for the Spanish conquest, future explorers would have been discouraged from sailing to Mexico. The Aztecs, being a warlike empire, would easily capture them and put them up for sacrifice before the Spanish could even launch an attack. They would not be tricked again. The Aztecs would also be more prepared for the arrival of the Europeans. Once one of the Aztec runners spotted a ship, the message would be relayed, and they would all be set to do battle. The Spanish had to make an all or nothing attack on the Aztecs or get crushed by the awaiting Aztec army.
The Aztecs had a great amount of influence on the other tribes. If the Spanish had lost, sacrifices may still be present today. Nobody would challenge the Aztecs again, so their culture would continue to grow rapidly. The world today might not have as advanced mechanical technology. Giant industrial cities would not exist in America. Make into one paragraph. Religion would also be completely different. Multiple gods would be worshiped instead of only one god. Things in America and Mexico probably would not exist as they do if not for Cortes s conquest.
The conquest of the Aztecs proved to be an amazing feat of the Spanish. It moved Spain a giant step towards complete control of the New World. Culture and land became dominated by Spain. The Spaniards victory over the Aztecs left a new standard of total destruction for future conquistadors and explorers seeking fame and fortune.