It occurred in 1521 following extensive manipulation of local factions and exploitation of preexisting divisions by Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, who was aided by the support of his indigenous allies and his interpreter and companion La Malinche.
Although numerous battles were fought between the Aztec Empire and the Spanish-led coalition, which was itself composed primarily of indigenous (mostly Tlaxcaltec) personnel, it was the siege of Tenochtitlan—its outcome probably largely determined by the effects of a smallpox epidemic (which devastated the Aztec population and dealt a severe blow to the Aztec leadership while leaving an immune Spanish leadership intact)—that directly led to the downfall of the Aztec civilization and marked the end of the first phase of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.
The conquest of Mexico was a critical stage in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. Ultimately, Spain conquered Mexico and thereby gained substantial access to the Pacific Ocean, which meant that the Spanish Empire could finally achieve its original oceanic goal of reaching the Asian markets.
|Siege of Tenochtitlan|
|Part of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire|
"Conquista de México por Cortés". Unknown artist, second half of the 17th century. Library of Congress, Washington, DC.
Crown of Castile|
Confederacy of Tlaxcala
|Commanders and leaders|
Hernán Cortés |
Gonzalo de Sandoval
Pedro de Alvarado
Cristóbal de Olid
13 lake brigantines
80,000–200,000 native allies
400 war pirogues
|Casualties and losses|
100,000 killed in action|
300 war canoes sunk
At least 40,000 Aztecs civilians killed and captured, other sources claim 100,000 to 240,000 were killed in the campaign overall including warriors and civilians
In April 1519 Hernán Cortés, an ambitious nobleman recently landed in Cuba, and the leader of the third Spanish expedition to the coast of Mexico, landed as directed by the survivors of the previous two expeditions at San Juan de Ulúa, a good harbour on Mexico's east coast, with 508 soldiers, 100 sailors, and 14 small cannons. Governor Velázquez, the Governor of Cuba, called for Cortés to lead an expedition into Mexico after favourable reports from two previous expeditions to Yucatán caught the interest of the Spanish in Cuba. Under the pressure of his relatives who had a different leader in mind, Velázquez regretted his decision and revoked Cortés' mandate to lead the expedition even before Cortés left Cuba. Thus Cortés had to fight for his survival as a leader while still in Cuba; twice the messengers of Velásquez arrived to depose him, and twice they were spoken to with honeyed words and dissuaded from executing their mission. After Cortés sailed, Velázquez sent an army led by Pánfilo de Narváez to take him into custody.
But Cortés used the same legal tactic used by Governor Velázquez when he invaded Cuba years before: he created a local government and had himself elected as the magistrate, thus (in theory) making him responsible only to the King of Spain. Cortés followed this tactic when he and his men established the city of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz, also known as Veracruz, seven miles from the harbour of San Juan de Ulua. An inquiry into Cortés' action was conducted in Spain in 1529 and no action was taken against him.
Cortés chanced to land at the borders of Cempoala, a recently Aztec-subdued vassal state with many grievances against them. Coming into contact with a number of polities who resented Aztec rule, Cortés claimed he has arrived on the orders of his Emperor to put things in order, abolish human sacrifices, teach the locals the true faith and "stop them from robbing each other", and was successful in enforcing excellent behaviour of his army when among potential allies. Cortés clashed with some of these polities, among them the Totonacs and Tlaxcalans. The latter gave him two good day battles and one night battle, and kept up a strong defense, holding off his army on a hilltop for two weeks. His numerically inferior force finally triumphed when the minds of Tlaxcalans opened up to consideration of his ceaseless offers of peace, notably Xicotencatl the Elder and his wish to form an alliance with the Spaniards against the Aztecs which was the proffered aim of Cortés as well.
It once was widely believed that the Aztecs first thought Cortés was Quetzalcoatl, a mythical god prophesied to return to Mexico—coincidentally in the same year Cortés landed and from the same direction he came. This is now believed to be an invention of the conquerors, and perhaps natives who wished to rationalize the actions of the Aztec tlatoani, Moctezuma II. Most scholars agree that the Aztecs, especially the inner circle around Moctezuma, were well convinced that Cortés was not a god in any shape or form. Messages between Cortés and Moctezuma, however, frequently allude to the legend, which was widely known across the Aztec dominions to both Aztecs and their subjects, and strongly influenced them, as Bernal Diaz del Castillo repeatedly mentions.
Moctezuma sent a group of noblemen and other emissaries to meet Cortés at Quauhtechcac. These emissaries brought golden jewelry as a gift, which greatly pleased the Spaniards. According to the Florentine Codex, Lib. 12, f.6r., Moctezuma also ordered that his messengers carry the highly symbolic penacho (headdress) of Quetzalcoatl de Tula to Cortés and place it on his person. As news about the strangers reached the capital city, Moctezuma became increasingly fearful and considered fleeing the city but resigned himself to what he considered to be the fate of his people.
Cortés continued on his march towards Tenochtitlan. Before entering the city, on November 8, 1519, Cortés and his troops prepared themselves for battle, armoring themselves and their horses, and arranging themselves in proper military rank. Four horsemen were at the lead of the procession. Behind these horsemen were five more contingents: foot soldiers with iron swords and wooden or leather shields; horsemen in cuirasses, armed with iron lances, swords, and wooden shields; crossbowmen; more horsemen; soldiers armed with arquebuses; lastly, native peoples from Tlaxcalan, Tliliuhquitepec, and Huexotzinco. The indigenous soldiers wore cotton armor and were armed with shields and crossbows; many carried provisions in baskets or bundles while others escorted the cannons on wooden carts.
Cortés' army entered the city on the flower-covered causeway from Iztapalapa, associated with the god Quetzalcoatl. Cortés was amicably received by Moctezuma. The captive woman Malinalli Tenépal, also known as Doña Marina, translated from Nahuatl to Chontal Maya; the Spaniard Gerónimo de Aguilar translated from Chontal Maya to Spanish.
Moctezuma was soon taken hostage on November 14, 1519, as a safety measure by the vastly outnumbered Spanish. Another reason for his sudden capture was news that Moctezuma received from one of his messengers. It was reported to Moctezuma that at least eight hundred more Spaniards in thirteen great ships had arrived on the coast. Moctezuma received this information a few days before Cortés did. Cortés had been communicating to the crown that he had the entire situation under control and was practically running the city of Tenochtitlan. With the vast new Spanish ships forces on the horizon, sent by his enemy Diego Velasquez, they could only revoke his commission and recall him, thus ending his campaign in Mexico and probably dooming the Spanish attempt for a lightning conquest, as no other Spanish leader could wield authority as effectively both among the natives and the Spaniards. Therefore, Cortés made the decision to abruptly abduct the King; only with a knife to his throat could Cortés ensure his cooperation. According to all eyewitness accounts, Moctezuma initially refused to leave his palace but after a series of threats from and debates with the Spanish captains, and assurances from Doña Marina, he agreed to move to the Axayáctal palace with his retinue. The first captain assigned to guard him was Pedro de Alvarado. Other Aztec lords were also detained by the Spanish, when they started questioning their captive King's authority. The palace was surrounded by over 100 Spanish soldiers in order to prevent any attempt at rescue.
It is uncertain why Moctezuma cooperated so readily with the Spaniards. It is possible he feared losing his life or political power; however, one of the effective threats wielded by Cortés was the destruction of his beautiful city in the case of fighting between Spaniards and Aztecs (which ultimately came to pass, of course). This Moctezuma at all costs wanted to avoid, vacillating and deferring the rupture until this policy claimed his life. It was clear from the beginning that he was ambivalent about who Cortés and his men really were, whether they be gods, descendants of a god, ambassadors from a greater king, or just barbaric invaders. From the perspective of the tlatoani, the Spaniards might have been assigned some decisive role by fate. It could also have been a tactical move: Moctezuma may have wanted to gather more information on the Spaniards, or to wait for the end of the agricultural season and strike at the beginning of the war season. However, he did not carry out either of these actions even though high-ranking military leaders such as his brother Cuitlahuac and nephew Cacamatzin urged him to do so.
With Moctezuma captive, Cortés did not need to worry about being cut off from supplies or being attacked, although some of his captains had such concerns. He also assumed that he could control the Aztecs through Moctezuma. However, Cortés had little knowledge of the ruling system of the Aztecs; Moctezuma was not all-powerful as Cortés imagined. Being appointed to and maintaining the position of tlatoani was based on the ability to rule decisively; he could be replaced by another noble if he failed to do so. At any sign of weakness, Aztec nobles within Tenochtitlan and in other Aztec tributaries were liable to rebel. As Moctezuma complied with orders issued by Cortés, such as commanding tribute to be gathered and given to the Spaniards, his authority was slipping, and quickly his people began to turn against him.
Cortés and his army were permitted to stay in the Palace of Axayacatl, and tensions continued to grow. 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. Velázquez felt that Cortés had exceeded his authority, and had been aware of Cortés's misconduct for nearly a year. He had to wait for favorable winds, though, and was unable to send any forces until spring. Narváez's troops landed at San Juan de Ulúa on the Mexican coast around April 20, 1520.
After Cortés became aware of their arrival, he left Pedro de Alvarado in charge in Tenochtitlan with 80 soldiers, and brought all his forces (about two hundred and forty men) by quick marches to Narváez's camp in Cempohuallan on May 27. Several negotiations between the two Spaniards took place on the way, in which Cortés was able to persuade many persons of weight in Narváez's camp to incline to his side. Cortés attacked Narváez's camp late at night; his men, much superior in experience and organization, wounded Narváez in the eye and took him as a hostage quickly; also taken were his principal adherents, de Salvatierra and Diego Velasquez (the nephew of the Governor of Cuba). Evidence suggests that the two were in the midst of negotiations at the time, and Narváez was not expecting an attack. Cortés then completed winning over Narváez's captains with promises of the vast wealth in Tenochtitlan, inducing them to follow him back to the Aztec capital. Narváez was imprisoned in Vera Cruz, and his army was integrated into Cortés's forces.
During Cortés's absence, Pedro de Alvarado was left in command in Tenochtitlan with 80 soldiers.
At this time, the Aztecs began to prepare for the annual festival of Toxcatl in early May, in honor of Tezcatlipoca, otherwise known as the Smoking Mirror or the Omnipotent Power. They honored this god during the onset of the dry season so that the god would fill dry streambeds and cause rain to fall on crops. Moctezuma secured the consent of Cortés to hold the festival, and again confirmed permission with Alvarado.
Alvarado agreed to allow the festival on the condition that there would be no human sacrifice, but the Toxcatl festival had featured human sacrifice as the main part of its climactic rituals. The sacrifice involved the killing of a young man who had been impersonating the god Toxcatl deity for a full year. Thus, prohibiting human sacrifice during this festival was an untenable proposition for the Aztecs.
Before the festival, Alvarado encountered a group of women building a statue of Huitzilopochtli and the image unsettled him, and he became suspicious about the eventuality of human sacrifice. He tortured priests and nobles and discovered that the Aztecs were planning a revolt. Unable to assert control over events, he sequestered Moctezuma and increased the guards around the tlatoani.
By the day of the festival, the Aztecs had gathered on the Patio of Dances. Alvarado had sixty of his men as well as many of his Tlaxcalan allies into positions around the patio. The Aztecs initiated the Serpent Dance. The euphoric dancing as well as the accompanying flute and drum playing disturbed Alvarado about the potential for revolt. He ordered the gates closed and initiated the killing of many thousands of Aztec nobles, warriors and priests.
Alvarado, the conquistadors and the Tlaxcalans retreated to their base in the Palace of Axayacatl and secured the entrances. Alvarado ordered his men to shoot their cannons, crossbows and arquebuses into the gathering crowd. The result either preempted or triggered the Aztec revolt, which was, however, inevitable from the moment of Moctezuma's capture and was accelerated by the split of the Spanish forces. Alvarado forced Moctezuma to appeal to the crowd outside the Palace and this appeal temporarily calmed them.
The massacre had the result of resolutely turning all the Aztecs against the Spanish and completely undermining Moctezuma's authority.
Alvarado sent word to Cortés of the events, and Cortés hurried back to Tenochtitlan on June 24 with 1,300 soldiers, 96 horses, 80 crossbowmen, and 80 arquebusiers. Cortés also came with 2,000 Tlaxcalan warriors on the journey. Cortés entered the palace unscathed, as the hostilities had not started yet, although the Aztecs had probably planned to ambush him. The Aztecs had already stopped sending food and supplies to the Spaniards. They became suspicious and watched for people trying to sneak supplies to them; many innocent people were slaughtered because they were suspected of helping them. A few days after the great forces of Cortés got into Tenochtitlan, the roads were shut and the causeway bridges were raised. The Aztecs halted any Spanish attacks or attempts to leave the palace. Every Spanish soldier that was not killed was wounded.
Cortés failed to grasp the full extent of the situation, as the attack on the festival was the last straw for the Aztecs, who now were completely against Moctezuma and the Spanish. The military gains of the attack therefore had a serious political cost for Cortés. His new followers were greatly disturbed at the power of the Aztecs, and held Cortés to be a liar since nobody revered them and brought them food and gifts as Cortés had promised.
Cortés attempted to parley with the Aztecs, and after this failed he sent Moctezuma to tell his people to stop fighting. However, the Aztecs refused. The Spanish asserted that Moctezuma was stoned to death by his own people as he attempted to speak with them. Three stones hit him, one of them on the head, so cerebral hematoma is possible. Moctezuma refused all medical help as well as food, and died soon after the attack. The Aztecs later claimed that Moctezuma had been murdered by the Spanish. Two other local rulers were found strangled as well. Moctezuma's younger brother Cuitláhuac, who had been ruler of Ixtlapalapan until then, was chosen as the Tlatoani.
The flight of the Spanish from Tenochtitlan was a crushing defeat for Cortés that was just short of annihilation. It is still remembered as "La Noche Triste," The Night of Sorrows. Popular tales say Cortés wept under a tree the night of the massacre of his troops at the hands of the Aztecs.
Initially, Cortés resolved to fight the Aztec troops opposed to him and win the city in direct conflict. This stemmed from three errors of judgment:
1. Underestimation of the Aztecs. Cortés fought the Tabascans, the Cempoalans, the Tlaxcalans and found them strong opponents, but always prevailed. He had never fought an Aztec army before and did not expect such resolve and martial skill as he encountered - although all his previous foes warned that the Mexicans were the greatest warriors they had ever seen and could not be withstood within their city.
2. Overrating his forces. Since Cortés won all his battles in Mexico before this while at the head of much inferior forces, being in charge of a nearly full Spanish tercio must have made him feel invincible. In fact, the only serviceable portion of his army were his old followers with great experience of Mexican warfare, who were by this time severely whittled down by wounds and disease. The newly-arrived Narvaéz's men did not have experience in local fighting and were worth much less in combat - and eventually perished in much greater numbers than the veterans.
3. Unprepared for enemy tactics. The Aztecs had fought for the lake cities many times before and their tactics were excellent - the use of canoes, the use of flat roofs with prepared missiles, dropping down into the lake when cornered, and destroying bridges. Cavalry could not operate in these conditions and control of the water was crucial, which Cortés did not realize at first.
With this mindset, Cortés launched an attack directly at the chief temple of the city, the Cue of Huichilopotzli. In spite of determined opposition, the Spanish push go them to the top of the temple's 114 steps, but at a great loss. Cortés aimed at routing the Aztecs and by holding both Moctezuma and the great temple - being able to offer peace once again. However, the Spanish attack encountered such fierce resistance and numerous fatalities among his men, that the plan fell apart. The retreat to Spanish quarters was as hard as the attack, and part of their quarters were plundered in the meantime. The direct loss of nearly a hundred men dead and the fierce spirit of the Aztecs who refused to be cowed by his ascent of the temple convinced Cortés that a night escape was now his only option for survival.
Though a flight from the city would make Cortés appear weak before his indigenous allies, it was this or death for the Spanish forces. Cortés and his men were in the center of the city, and would most likely have to fight their way out no matter what direction they took. Cortés wanted to flee to Tlaxcala, so a path directly east would have been most favorable. Nevertheless, this would require hundreds of canoes to move all of Cortés's people and supplies, which he was unable to procure in his position.
Cortés therefore had to choose among three land routes: north to Tlatelolco, which was the least dangerous path but required the longest trip through the city; south to Coyohuacan and Iztapalapa, two towns that would not welcome the Spanish; or west to Tlacopan, which required the shortest trip through Tenochtitlan, though they would not be welcome there either. Cortés decided on the west causeway to Tlacopan, needing the quickest route out of Tenochtitlan with all his provisions and people.
Heavy rains and a moonless night provided some cover for the escaping Spanish. On that "Sad Night," July 1, 1520, the Spanish forces exited the palace first with their indigenous allies close behind, bringing as much treasure as possible. Cortés had hoped to go undetected by muffling the horses' hooves and carrying wooden boards to cross the canals. The Spanish forces were able to pass through the first three canals, the Tecpantzinco, Tzapotlan, and Atenchicalco.
However, they were discovered on the fourth canal at Mixcoatechialtitlan. One account says a woman fetching water saw them and alerted the city, another says it was a sentry. Some Aztecs set out in canoes, others by road to Nonchualco then Tlacopan to cut the Spanish off. The Aztecs attacked the fleeing Spanish on the Tlacopan causeway from canoes, shooting arrows at them. The Spanish fired their crossbows and arquebuses, but were unable to see their attackers or get into formation. Many Spaniards leaped into the water and drowned, weighed down by armor and booty.
When faced with a gap in the causeway, Alvarado made the famous "leap of Alvarado" using a spear to get to the other side. Approximately a third of the Spaniards succeeding in reaching the mainland, while the remaining ones died in battle or were captured and later sacrificed on Aztec altars - these were reported to be mostly the followers of Narvaez, less experienced and more weighted down with gold, which was handed out freely before the escape.
After crossing over the bridge, the surviving Spanish had little reprieve before the Aztecs appeared to attack and chase them towards Tlacopan. When they arrived at Tlacopan, a good number of Spaniards had been killed, as well as most of the indigenous warriors, and some of the horses; all of the cannons and most of the crossbows and other weapons were lost. In all battles with main Aztec forces after that, Spaniards noted their lost arms being used against them. The Spanish finally found refuge in Otancalpolco, where they were aided by the Teocalhueyacans. The morning after, the Aztecs returned to recover the spoils from the canals.
To reach Tlaxcala, Cortés had to bring his troops around Lake Texcoco. Though the Spanish were under attack the entire trip, because Cortés took his troops through the northern towns, they were at an advantage. The northern valley was less populous, travel was difficult, and it was still the agricultural season, so the attacks on Cortés's forces were not very heavy. As Cortés arrived in more densely inhabited areas east of the lake, the attacks were more forceful.
Before reaching Tlaxcala, the scanty Spanish forces arrived at the plain of Otumba Valley (Otompan), where they were met by a vast Aztec army intent on their destruction. The Aztecs intended to cut short the Spanish retreat from Tenochtitlan and annihilate them. Here, the Aztecs made their own errors of judgement by underestimating the shock value of the Spanish caballeros because all they had seen was the horses traveling gingerly on the wet paved streets of Tenochtitlan. They had never seen them used in open battle on the plains. By marshalling on an open plain, they also allowed experienced Spanish commanders to bring to bear their superior tactics, weaponry and the know-how of European warfare.
Despite the overwhelming numbers of Aztecs and the generally poor condition of the Spanish survivors, Cortés snatched victory from the jaws of defeat. He spotted the Aztec commander in his ornate and colourful feather costume, and immediately charged him with several horsemen, killing the Aztec commander and most other leaders as they were clearly marked by their golden plumage and an easy target for a charge. The Tlaxcalan allies of the Spanish are mentioned as playing an important role in the battle, armed with Spanish swords and shields. The Spanish suffered some losses, but were victorious over the Aztecs, who then retreated and were pursued by cavalry.
When Cortés finally reached Tlaxcala five days after fleeing Tenochtitlan, he had lost over 860 Spanish soldiers, over a thousand Tlaxcalans, as well as Spanish women who had accompanied Narváez's troops. Cortés claimed only 15 Spaniards were lost along with 2,000 native allies. Cano, another primary source, gives 1,150 Spaniards dead, though this figure was likely too high and might encompass the total loss from entering Mexico to arriving into Tlaxcala. Cortés' chaplain back in Spain, Francisco López de Gómara, estimated that 450 Spaniards and 4,000 allies had died. Other sources estimate that nearly half of the Spanish and almost all of the natives were killed or wounded.
The women survivors included Cortés's translator and lover La Malinche, María Estrada, and two of Moctezuma's daughters who had been given to Cortés, including the emperor's favorite and reportedly most beautiful daughter Tecuichpotzin (later Doña Isabel Moctezuma). A third daughter died, leaving behind her infant by Cortés, the mysterious second "María" named in his will.
Cuitláhuac had been elected as the emperor immediately following Moctezuma's death. It was necessary for him to prove his power and authority to keep the tributaries from revolting. Usually, the new king would take his army on a campaign before coronation; this demonstration would solidify necessary ties. However, Cuitláhuac was not in a position to do this, as it was not yet war season; therefore, allegiance to the Spanish seemed to be an option for many tributaries. The Aztec empire was very susceptible to division: most of the tributary states were divided internally, and their loyalty to the Aztecs was based either on their own interests or fear of punishment.
It was necessary for Cortés to rebuild his alliances after his escape from Tenochtitlan before he could try again to take the city. He started with the Tlaxcalans. Tlaxcala was an autonomous state, and a fierce enemy of the Aztecs. Another strong motivation to join forces with the Spanish was that Tlaxcala was encircled by Aztec tributaries. The Tlaxcalans could have crushed the Spaniards at this point or turned them over to the Aztecs. In fact, the Aztecs sent emissaries promising peace and prosperity if they would do just that. The Tlaxcalan leaders rebuffed the overtures of the Aztec emissaries, deciding to continue their friendship with Cortés.
Cortés managed to negotiate an alliance; however, the Tlaxcalans required heavy concessions from Cortés for their continued support, which he was to provide after they defeated the Aztecs. They expected the Spanish to pay for their supplies, to have the city of Cholula, an equal share of any of the spoils, the right to build a citadel in Tenochtitlan, and finally, to be exempted from any future tribute. Cortés was willing to promise anything in the name of the King of Spain, and agreed to their demands. The Spanish did complain about having to pay for their food and water with their gold and other jewels with which they had escaped Tenochtitlan. The Spanish authorities would later disown this treaty with the Tlaxcalans after the fall of Tenochtitlan.
Cortés needed to gain other new allies as well. If the Spaniards were able to prove they could protect their new allies from the possibility of Aztec retribution, changing sides would not be too difficult for other tributaries. After Cortés' forces managed to defeat the smaller armies of some Aztec tributary states, Tepeyac, and later, Yauhtepec and Cuauhnahuac were easily won over. Cortés also used political maneuvering to assure the allegiance of other states, such as Tetzcoco. In addition, Cortés replaced kings with those who he knew would be loyal to him. Cortés now controlled many major towns, which simultaneously bolstered Cortés's forces while weakening the Aztecs.
Though the largest group of indigenous allies were Tlaxcalans, the Huexotzinco, Atlixco, Tliliuhqui-Tepecs, Tetzcocans, Chalca, Alcohua and Tepanecs were all important allies as well, and had all been previously subjugated by the Aztecs.
Even the former Triple Alliance member, city of Tetzcoco (or Texcoco) became a Spanish ally. As the rebellion attempt led by the Tetzcocan Tlatoani, Cacamatzin, in times of Moctezuma's reclusion was conjured by the Spanish, Cortés named one of Cacamatzin's brothers as new tlatoani. He was Ixtlilxóchitl II, who had disagreed with his brother and always proved friendly to the Spanish. Later, Cortés also occupied the city as base for the construction of brigantines. However, one faction of Tetzcocan warriors remained loyal to the Aztecs.
Cortés had to put down internal struggles among the Spanish troops as well. The remaining Spanish soldiers were somewhat divided; many wanted nothing more than to go home, or at the very least to return to Vera Cruz and wait for reinforcements. Cortés hurriedly quashed this faction, determined to finish what he had started. Not only had he staked everything he had or could borrow on this enterprise, he had completely compromised himself by defying his superior Velázquez. He knew that in defeat he would be considered a traitor to Spain, but that in success he would be its hero. So he argued, cajoled, bullied and coerced his troops, and they began preparing for the siege of Mexico. In this Cortés showed skill at exploiting the divisions within and between the Aztec states while hiding those of his own troops.
While Cortés was rebuilding his alliances and garnering more supplies, a smallpox epidemic struck the natives of the Valley of Mexico, including Tenochtitlan. The disease was probably carried by a Spanish slave from Narváez's forces, who had been abandoned in the capital during the Spanish flight. Smallpox played a crucial role in the Spanish success during the Siege of Tenochtitlan from 1519–1521, a fact not mentioned in some historical accounts. The disease broke out in Tenochtitlan in late October 1520. The epidemic lasted sixty days, ending by early December.
It was at this event where firsthand accounts were recorded in the Florentine Codex concerning the adverse effects of the smallpox epidemic of the Aztecs, which stated, "many died from this plague, and many others died of hunger. They could not get up and search for food, and everyone else was too sick to care for them, so they starved to death in their beds. By the time the danger was recognized, the plague was well established that nothing could halt it". The smallpox epidemic caused not only infection to the Mexica peoples, but it weakened able bodied people who could no longer grow and harvest their crops, which in turn led to mass famine and death from malnutrition. While the population of Tenochtitlan was recovering, the disease continued to Chalco, a city on the southeast corner of Lake Texcoco that was formerly controlled by the Aztecs but now occupied by the Spanish.
Reproduction and population growth declined since people of child-bearing age either had to fight off the Spanish invasion or died due to famine, malnutrition or other diseases. Diseases like smallpox could travel great distances and spread throughout large populations, which was the case with the Aztecs having lost approximately 50% of its population from smallpox and other diseases. The disease killed an estimated forty percent of the native population in the area within a year. The Aztecs codices give ample depictions of the disease's progression. It was known to them as the huey ahuizotl (great rash).
Cuitlahuac contracted the disease and died after ruling for eighty days. Though the disease also affected the Spanish-aligned forces somewhat, it had more dire consequences for the leadership on the side of the Aztecs, as they were much harder hit by the smallpox than the Spanish leaders, who were largely resistant to the disease.
It is often debated why the Aztecs took little action against the Spanish and their allies after they fled the city. One reason was that Tenochtitlan was certainly in a state of disorder: the smallpox disease ravaged the population, killing still more important leaders and nobles, and a new king, Cuauhtémoc, son of King Ahuitzotl, was placed on the throne in February 1521. The people were in the process of mourning the dead and rebuilding their damaged city. It is possible that the Aztecs truly believed that the Spanish were gone for good. In addition, Cortés astutely directed his forces in multiple directions in preparing his encirclement of the Aztec capital, and knew how to use the military initiative that he gained after the battle of Otumba.
Staying within Tenochtitlan as a defensive tactic may have seemed like a reliable strategy at the time. This would allow them the largest possible army that would be close to its supplies, while affording them the mobility provided by the surrounding lake. Any Spanish assault would have to come through the causeways, where the Aztecs could easily attack them. As the only Aztec victory against the Spanish was won in the city using their peculiar urban warfare tactics, and as they counted on retaining control over the water, it seems natural that they wanted to risk their main army only to defend their capital. However, it would not be correct to infer that the Aztecs were passive observers of their fate - they did send numerous expeditions to aid their allies against Cortés at every point, with 10 to 20 thousand forces risked in every engagement, such as in Chalco and Chapultepec. They were driven back every time, and some of the native allies won their own victories over the Aztecs, as their dread of their invincible overlords faded with every success of Cortés.
Cortés's overall plan was to trap and besiege the Aztecs within their capital. Cortés intended to do that primarily by increasing his power and mobility on the lake, while protecting "his flanks while they marched up the causeway", previously one of his main weaknesses. He ordered the construction of thirteen sloops (brigantines) in Tlaxcala, by his master shipbuilder, Martín López. Cortés continued to receive a steady stream of supplies from ships arriving at Vera Cruz, one ship from Spain loaded with "arms and powder", and two ships intended for Narváez. Cortés also received one hundred and fifty soldiers and twenty horses from the abandoned Panuco river settlement. A large source of succour for Cortés were the misguided expeditions by Francisco de Garay, the Governor of Jamaica, who kept sending ship after ship to aid his original Panuco venture long after it has been destroyed and abandoned; all of these ships and forces ended up reinforcing Cortés before the siege.:309, 311, 324
Cortés then decided to move his army to Tetzcoco, where he could assemble and launch the sloops in the creeks flowing into Lake Texcoco. With his main headquarters in Tetzcoco, he could stop his forces from being spread too thin around the lake, and there he could contact them where they needed. Xicotencatl the Elder provided Cortés with ten thousand plus Tlaxcalan warriors under the command of Chichimecatecle. Cortés departed Tlaxcala on the day after Christmas 1520. When his force arrived at the outskirts of Tetzcoco, he was met by seven chieftains stating their leader Coanacotzin begs "for your friendship". Cortés quickly replaced that leader with the son of Nezahualpilli, baptized as Don Hernán Cortés.:311–16
After winning over Chalco and Tlamanalco, Cortés sent eight Mexican prisoners to Cuauhtemoc stating, "all the towns in the neighborhood were now on our side, as well as the Tlaxcalans". Cortés intended to blockade Mexico and then destroy it. Once Martin López and Chichimecatecle brought the logs and planks to Texcoco, the sloops were built quickly.:321–25 Cuauhtemoc's forces were defeated four times in March 1521, around Chalco and Huaxtepec, and Cortés received another ship load of arms and men from the Emperor.:326–32
On 6 April 1521, Cortés met with the caciques around Chalco, and announced he would "bring peace" and blockade Mexico. He wanted all of their warriors ready the next day when he put thirteen sloops into the lake (misleadingly called "launches" in some translations). He was then joined at Chimaluacan by twenty thousand warriors from Chalco, Texcoco, Huejotzingo, and Tlaxcala.:333 Cortés fought a major engagement with seventeen thousand of Cuauhtemoc's warriors at Xochimilco, before continuing his march northwestward.:340–47 Cortés found Coyoacan, Tacuba, Atzcapotzalco, and Cuauhitlan deserted.:347–49
Returning to Texcoco, which had been guarded by his Captain Gonzalo de Sandoval, Cortés was joined by many more men from Castile.:349 Cortés then discovered a plot aimed at his murder, for which he had the main conspirator, Antonio de Villafana, hanged. Thereafter, Cortés had a personal guard of six soldiers, under the command of Antonio de Quiñones.:350–51 The Spaniards also held their third auctioning of branded slaves, Mexican allies captured by Cortés, "who had revolted after giving their obedience to His Majesty.":308, 352
Cortés had 84 horsemen, 194 arbalesters and arquebusiers, plus 650 Spanish foot soldiers. He stationed 25 men on every sloop, 12 oarsmen, 12 crossbowmen and musketeers, and a captain. Each sloop had rigging, sails, oars, and spare oars. Additionally, Cortés had 20,000 warriors from Tlaxcala, Huexotzinco, and Cholula. The Tlaxcalans were led by Xicotencatl II and Chichimecatecle. Cortés was ready to start the blockade of Mexico after Corpus Christi (feast).:353–54
Cortés put Alvarado in command of 30 horsemen, 18 arbalesters and arquebusiers, 150 Spanish foot soldiers, and 8,000 Tlaxcalan allies, and sent him, accompanied by his brother Jorge de Alvarado, Gutierrez de Badajoz, and Andrés de Monjaraz, to secure Tacuba. Cristóbal de Olid took 30 horsemen, 20 arbalesters and arquebusiers, 175 foot soldiers, and 8,000 Tlaxcalan allies, accompanied by Andrés de Tapia, Francisco Verdugo, and Francisco de Lugo, and secured Coyohuacan. Gonzalo de Sandoval took 24 horsemen, 14 arquebusiers and arbalesters, 150 Spanish foot soldiers, and 8,000 warriors from Chalco and Huexotzinco, accompanied by Luis Marin and Pedro de Ircio, to secure Ixtlapalapan. Cortés commanded the 13 sloops.:356 Cortés' forces took up these positions on May 22.
The forces under Alvarado and Olid marched first towards Chapultepec to disconnect the Aztecs from their water supply.:359 There were springs there that supplied much of the city's water by aqueduct; the rest of the city's water was brought in by canoe. The two generals then tried to bring their forces over the causeway at Tlacopan, resulting in the Battle of Tlacopan. The Aztec forces managed to push back the Spanish and halt this assault on the capital with a determined and hard-fought land and naval counterattack.:94:359–60
Cortés faced "more than a thousand canoes" after he launched his thirteen launches from Texcoco. Yet a "favorable breeze sprang up", enabling him to overturn many canoes and kill or capture many. After winning the First Battle on the Lake, Cortés camped with Olid's forces.:94:362
The Aztec canoe fleets worked well for attacking the Spanish because they allowed the Aztecs to surround the Spanish on both sides of the causeway. Cortés decided to make an opening in the causeway so that his brigantines could help defend his forces from both sides. He then distributed the launches amongst his attacking forces, four to Alvarado, six for Olid, and two to Sandoval on the Tepeaquilla causeway. After this move, the Aztecs could no longer attack from their canoes on the opposite side of the Spanish brigantines, and "the fighting went very much in our favour", according to Díaz.:363
With his brigantines, Cortés could also send forces and supplies to areas he previously could not, which put a kink in Cuauhtémoc's plan. To make it more difficult for the Spanish ships to aid the Spanish soldier's advance along the causeways, the Aztecs dug deep pits in shallow areas of the lakes, into which they hoped the Spaniards would stumble, and fixed concealed stakes into the lake bottom to impale the launches. The Spanish horses were also ineffective on the causeways.:364
Cortés was forced to adapt his plans again, as his initial land campaigns were ineffective. He had planned to attack on the causeways during the daytime and retreat to camp at night; however, the Aztecs moved in to occupy the abandoned bridges and barricades as soon as the Spanish forces left. Consequently, Cortés had his forces set up on the causeways at night to defend their positions.:364–66 Cortés also sent orders to "never on any account to leave a gap unblocked, and that all the horsemen were to sleep on the causeway with their horses saddled and bridled all night long.":372 This allowed the Spanish to progress closer and closer towards the city.
The Spaniards prevented food and water from reaching Tenochtitlan along the three causeways. They limited the supplies reaching the city from the nine surrounding towns via canoe, by sending out two of their launches on nightly capture missions. However, the Aztecs were successful in setting an ambush with thirty of their pirogues in an area in which they had placed impaling stakes. They captured two Spanish launches, killing Captain de Portilla and Pedro Barba.:368–69, 382–83
After capturing two chieftains, Cortés learned of another Aztec plot to ambush his launches with forty pirogues. Cortés then organized a counter-ambush with six of his launches, which was successful, "killing many warriors and taking many prisoners." Afterwards, the Aztec "did not dare to lay any more ambuscades, or to bring in food and water as openly as before." Lakeside towns, including Iztapalapa, Churubusco, Culuacan, and Mixquic made peace with the Spaniards.:374–75 The fighting in Tenochtitlan was described by the American historian Charles Robinson as "desperate" as both sides battled one another in the streets in a ferocious battle where no quarter was given nor asked for.
Cuauhtemoc then attacked all three Spanish camps simultaneously with his entire army on the feast day of St. John. On the Tacuba Causeway across Lake Texcoco connecting Tenochtitlan to the mainland along a street now known as Puente de Alvarado (Alvarado's Bridge) in Mexico City, Pedro de Alvarado made a mad cavalry charge across a gap in the Causeway. As Alvarado and his cavalry emerged on the other side of the gap with the infantry behind, Aztec canoes filled the gap. Pedro de Alvarado was wounded along with eight men in his camp.:377 Alvarado escaped from the ambush, but five of his men were captured and taken off to the Great Temple to be sacrificed. Much to their horror, the Spanish from their positions could see their captured comrades being sacrificed on the Great Pyramid, which increased their hatred of the Aztecs. At the end of each day, the Spanish gave a prayer: "Oh, thanks be to God that they did not carry me off today to be sacrificed."
Cortés then decided to push forward a simultaneous attack towards the Mexican market square. However, he neglected to fill in a channel as he advanced, and when the Aztec counter-attacked, Cortés was wounded and almost captured. Cristóbal de Olea and Cristóbal de Guzmán gave their lives for Cortés, and sixty-five Spanish soldiers were captured alive. Cuauhtemoc then had five of their heads thrown at Alvarado's camp, four thrown at Cortés' camp, six thrown at Sandoval's camp, while ten more were sacrificed to the Huitzilopochtli and Texcatlipoca idols.:379–83
Díaz relates, "...the dismal drum of Huichilobos sounded again,...we saw our comrades who had been captured in Cortés' defeat being dragged up the steps to be sacrificed...cutting open their chests, drew out their palpitating hearts which they offered to the idols...the Indian butchers...cut off their arms and legs...then they ate their flesh with a sauce of peppers and tomatoes...throwing their trunks and entrails to the lions and tigers and serpents and snakes." Cuauhtemoc then "sent the hands and feet of our soldiers, and the skin of their faces...to all the towns of our allies..." The Aztec sacrificed a batch of Spanish prisoners each night for ten nights.:386–87, 391 The Aztec cast off the cooked limbs of their prisoners to the Tlaxcalans, shouting: "Eat the flesh of these teules ["Gods"-a reference to the early belief that Spanish were gods] and of your brothers because we are sated with it".
The Aztec continued to attack the Spaniards on the causeways, "day and night". The Spanish allies in the cities surrounding the lake lost many lives or "went home wounded", and "half their canoes were destroyed". Yet, "they did not help the Aztec any more, for they loathed them." Yet, of the 24,000 allies, only 200 remained in the three Spanish camps, the rest deciding to return home. Ahuaxpitzactzin (later baptized as Don Carlos), the brother of the Texcoco lord Don Fernando, remained in Cortés' camp with forty relatives and friends. The Huejotzinco Cacique remained in Sandoval's camp with fifty men. Alvarado's camp had Chichimecatecle, the two sons of Lorenzo de Vargas, and eighty Tlaxcalans.:388–89 To maintain the advance, Cortés razed every neighborhood he captured, using the rubble to fill up canals and gaps in the causeways to allow his infantry and cavalry to advance in formation, a fighting tactic that favored the Spanish instead of engaging in hand to hand street fighting, which favored the Aztec.
Cortés then concentrated on letting the Aztec "eat up all the provisions they have" and drink brackish water. The Spaniards gradually advanced along the causeways, though without allies. Their launches had freedom of the lake, after devising a method for breaking the impaling stakes the Aztec had placed for them. After twelve days of this, the Spanish allies realized the prophecy by the Aztec idols, that the Spaniards would be dead in ten days was false. Two thousand warriors returned from Texcoco, as did many Tlaxcan warriors under Tepaneca from Topeyanco, and those from Huejotzingo and Cholula.:390–91 Cuauhtemoc then enlisted his allies in Matlazingo, Malinalco, and Tulapa, in attacking the Spaniards from the rear. However, Cortés sent Andrés de Tapia, with 20 horsemen and 100 soldiers, and Gonzalo de Sandoval, with 20 horsemen and 80 soldiers, to help his allies attack this new threat. They returned with two of the Matlazingo chieftains as prisoners.:396
As the Spanish employed more successful strategies, their stranglehold on Tenochtitlan tightened, and famine began to affect the Aztecs. The Aztecs were cut off from the mainland because of the occupied causeways. Cortés also had the advantage of fighting a mostly defensive battle. Though Cuauhtémoc organized a large-scale attack on Alvarado's forces at Tlacopan, the Aztec forces were pushed back. Throughout the siege, the Aztecs had little aid from outside of Tenochtitlan. The remaining loyal tributaries had difficulty sending forces, because it would leave them vulnerable to Spanish attack. Many of these loyal tributaries were surrounded by the Spanish.
Though the tributaries often went back and forth in their loyalties at any sign of change, the Spanish tried hard not to lose any allies. They feared a "snowball effect": if one tributary left, others might follow. Therefore, they brutally crushed any tributaries who tried to send help to Tenochtitlan. Any shipments of food and water were intercepted, and even those trying to fish in the lake were attacked. The situation inside the city was desperate: because of the famine and the smallpox there were already thousands of victims, women offered to the gods even their children's clothes, so most children were stark naked. Many Aztecs drank dirty, brackish water because of their severe thirst and contracted dysentery. The famine was so severe that the Aztecs ate anything, even wood, leather, and bricks for sustenance.
The Spanish continued to push closer to Tenochtitlan. The Aztecs changed tactics as often as the Spanish did, preventing Cortés's forces from being entirely victorious. However, the Aztecs were severely worn down. They had no new troops, supplies, food, nor water. The Spanish received a large amount of supplies from Vera Cruz, and, somewhat renewed, finally entered the main part of Tenochtitlan.:396
Cortés then ordered a simultaneous advance of all three camps towards the Tlatelolco marketplace. Alvarado's company made it there first, and Gutierrez de Badajoz advanced to the top of the Huichilopotzli cu, setting it afire and planting their Spanish banners. Cortés' and Sandoval's men were able to join them there after four more days of fighting.:396–98
The Spanish forces and their allies advanced into the city. Despite inflicting heavy casualties, the Aztecs could not halt the Spanish advance. While the fighting in the city raged, the Aztecs cut out and ate the hearts of 70 Spanish prisoners-of-war at the altar to Huitzilopochtli. By August, many of the native inhabitants had fled Tlatelolco. Cortés sent emissaries to negotiate with the Tlatelolcas to join his side, but the Tlatelolcas remained loyal to the Aztecs. Throughout the siege, the Tlaxcalans waged a merciless campaign against the Aztecs who had long oppressed them as for a hundred years the Tlaxcalans had been forced to hand over an annual quota of young men and women to be sacrificed and eaten at the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan, and now the Tlaxcalans saw their chance for revenge. The American historian Charles Robinson wrote: "Centuries of hate and the basic viciousness of Mesoamerican warfare combined in violence that appalled Cortés himself". In letter to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Cortés wrote:
"We had more trouble in preventing our allies from killing with such cruelty than we had in fighting the enemy. For no race, however savage, has ever practiced such fierce and unnatural cruelty as the natives of these parts. Our allies also took many spoils that day, which we were unable to prevent, as they numbered more than 150,000 and we Spaniards only some nine hundred. Neither our precautions nor our warnings could stop their looting, though we did all we could...I had posted Spaniards in every street, so that when the people began to come out [to surrender] they might prevent our allies from killing those wretched people, whose numbers was uncountable. I also told the captains of our allies that on no account should any of those people be slain; but there were so many that we could not prevent more than fifteen thousand being killed and sacrificed [by the Tlaxcalans] that day".
Throughout the battles with the Spanish, the Aztecs still practiced the traditional ceremonies and customs. Tlapaltecatl Opochtzin was chosen to be outfitted to wear the quetzal owl costume. He was supplied with darts sacred to Huitzilopochtli, which came with wooden tips and flint tops. When he came, the Spanish soldiers appeared scared and intimidated. They chased the owl-warrior, but he was neither captured nor killed. The Aztecs took this as a good sign, but they could fight no more, and after discussions with the nobles, Cuauhtémoc began talks with the Spanish.
After several failed peace overtures to Cuauhtémoc, Cortés ordered Sandoval to attack that part of the city in which Cuauhtémoc had retreated. As hundreds of canoes filled the lake fleeing the doomed city, Cortés sent his brigantines out to intercept them. Cuauhtémoc attempted to flee with his property, gold, jewels, and family in fifty pirogues, but was soon captured by Sandoval's launches, and brought before Cortés.:401–03
The Aztec forces were destroyed and the Aztecs surrendered on 13 August 1521, Julian Date.:404 Cortés demanded the return of the gold lost during La Noche Triste. Under torture, by burning their feet with oil, Cuauhtémoc and the lord of Tacuba, confessed to dumping his gold and jewels into the lake. Yet, little gold remained, as earlier, a fifth had been sent to Spain and another kept by Cortés. "In the end...the remaining gold all fell to the King's officials.":409–10, 412
Cuauhtémoc was taken prisoner the same day, as related above, and remained the titular leader of Tenochtitlan, under the control of Cortés, until he was hanged for treason in 1525 while accompanying a Spanish expedition to Guatemala.
100,000 to 240,000 were killed in the campaign overall including warriors and civilians. As many as 40,000 Aztecs bodies were floating in the canals or awaiting burial after the siege. Almost all of the Aztec nobility were dead, and the remaining survivors were mostly young women and very young children. At least 40,000 Aztecs civilians were killed and captured.
After the Fall of Tenochtitlan the remaining Aztec warriors and civilians fled the city as the Spanish allies, primarily the Tlaxcalans, continued to attack even after the surrender, slaughtering thousands of the remaining civilians and looting the city. The Tlaxcalans did not spare women or children: they entered houses, stealing all precious things they found, raping and then killing women, stabbing children. The survivors marched out of the city for the next three days. One source claims 6,000 were massacred in the town of Ixtapalapa alone. Due to the wholesale slaughter after the campaign and the destruction of Aztec culture some sources such as Israel Charney, John C. Cox, and Norman Naimark have likened the siege to a genocide.
Although some reports put the number as low as forty, the Spanish lost over 100 soldiers in the siege, while thousands of Tlaxcalans perished. It is estimated that around 1,800 Spaniards died from all causes during the two-year campaign—from Vera Cruz to Tenochtitlan. (Thomas, pp. 528–29) The remaining Spanish forces consisted of 800–900 Spaniards, eighty horses, sixteen pieces of artillery, and Cortés' thirteen brigantines. Other sources estimate that around 860 Spanish soldiers and 20,000 Tlaxcalan warriors were killed during all the battles in this region from 1519–1521.
It is well accepted that Cortés' indigenous allies, which may have numbered as many as 200,000 over the three-year period of the conquest, were indispensable to his success.
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The 1520s decade ran from January 1, 1520, to December 31, 1529.
== Events ==
=== 1520 ===
==== January–June ====
January 19 – King Christian II of Denmark and Norway defeats the Swedes, at Lake Åsunden in Sweden. The Swedish regent Sten Sture the Younger is mortally wounded in the battle. He is rushed towards Stockholm, in order to lead the fight against the Danes from there, but dies from his wounds on February 3.
April 16 – Revolt of the Comuneros: Citizens of Toledo, Castile opposed to the rule of the Flemish-born Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, rise up when the royal government attempts to unseat radical city councilors.
June – Moctezuma II, Aztec ruler of Tenochtitlan, is declared deposed due to his captivity by conquistador Hernán Cortés. His brother Cuitláhuac rises to the throne.
June 7 – King Henry VIII of England and King Francis I of France meet at the famous Field of Cloth of Gold.
June 10 – Revolt of the Comuneros: Segovia is blockaded.
June 15 – Pope Leo X issues the bull Exsurge Domine (Arise O Lord), threatening Martin Luther with excommunication, if he does not recant his position on indulgences and other Catholic doctrines.
==== July–December ====
July 1 – La Noche Triste (Night of Sorrow): The forces of Cuitláhuac, Aztec ruler of Tenochtitlan, gain a major victory against the forces of conquistador Hernán Cortés. This results in the death of about 400 conquistadors, and some 2,000 of their Native American allies. However, Cortés and the most skilled of his men manage to escape and later regroup.
July 20 – Otumba near Lake Texcaco: The Spaniards defeat the Aztecs.
August – Martin Luther writes To the Christian Nobility of the German Nation.
September 7 – Christian II makes his triumphant entry into Stockholm, which had surrendered to him a few days earlier. Sten Sture's widow Christina Gyllenstierna, who has led the fight after Sten's death, and all other persons in the resistance against the Danes, are granted amnesty and are pardoned for their involvement in the resistance.
September 22 – Suleiman I succeeds his father Selim I as Sultan of the Ottoman Empire.
October – Cuitláhuac, Aztec ruler of Tenochtitlan, dies from smallpox. He is succeeded by his nephew Cuauhtémoc.
October 21 (Feast of St. Ursula) – The islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon are discovered by Portuguese explorer João Álvares Fagundes, off Newfoundland. He names them Islands of the 11,000 Virgins, in honour of Saint Ursula.
October 26 – Charles V is crowned as Holy Roman Emperor.
November 1–4 – Christian II is crowned king of Sweden. The coronation is followed by a three-day feast in Stockholm.
November 7 – At the end of the third day of Christian's coronation feast, several leading figures of the Swedish resistance against the Danish invasion are imprisoned, and tried for high treason.
November 8–10 – Stockholm Bloodbath: 82 noblemen and clergymen, having been sentenced to death for their involvement in the Swedish resistance against the Danish invasion, are executed by beheading.
November 28 – After navigating through the South American strait, three ships under the command of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan reach the Pacific Ocean, becoming the first Europeans to sail from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific (the strait is later named the Strait of Magellan).
December 10 – Martin Luther burns a copy of The Book of Canon Law (see Canon Law), and his copy of the Papal bull Exsurge Domine.
==== No specific date ====
The Franciscan friar Matteo Bassi is inspired to return to the primitive life of solitude and penance, as practiced by St. Francis, giving rise to the Order of Friars Minor Capuchin.
Duarte Barbosa returns to Cananor.
Aleksandra Lisowska (Roxelana) is given as a gift to Suleiman I on the occasion of his accession to the throne.
King Manuel I creates the public mail service of Portugal, the Correio Público.
=== 1521 ===
==== January–June ====
January 3 – Pope Leo X excommunicates Martin Luther, in the papal bull Decet Romanum Pontificem.
January 22 – Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, opens the Diet of Worms in Worms, Germany.
January 27 – Suleiman the Magnificent suppresses a revolt by the ruler of Damascus.
January 28 – The Diet of Worms begins, lasting until May 25.
February 2 – The Nydala Abbey Bloodbath take place in Nydala Abbey, Sweden.
Ferdinand Magellan discovers Guam.
Martin Luther is summoned to appear before the Diet of Worms.
March 16 – Ferdinand Magellan reaches the Philippines.
Ferdinand Magellan arrives at Cebu.
Martin Luther preaches an inflammatory sermon to students at Erfurt, while on his way to Worms.
April 16–18 – Martin Luther is examined before Emperor Charles V and the Diet of Worms, where he proclaims, "Here I stand", regarding his belief in the Bible alone, as the standard of Christian doctrine.
April 24 – Revolt of the Comuneros – Battle of Villalar: Castilian royalists defeat the rebels and execute their three leaders.
April 26 – Martin Luther leaves Worms and disappears for a year – he is rumored to be murdered, but is actually in hiding at the Wartburg castle.
April 27 – Battle of Mactan: Ferdinand Magellan is killed in the Philippines.
May – The Italian War of 1521–26 breaks out between Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Francis I of France.
May 17 – Edward Stafford, 3rd Duke of Buckingham, is executed for treason in London.
May 20 – Battle of Pampeluna: The French defeat the Spanish.
May 25 – The Diet of Worms ends when Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor issues the Edict of Worms, declaring Martin Luther an outlaw.
May 27 – Jiajing Emperor ascends the throne of the Ming Dynasty.
June 29 or 30 – The oldest surviving dateable document written primarily in the Romanian language: Neacșu's letter, written by a trader from Câmpulung, to Johannes Benkner, the mayor of Brașov, warning that the Ottoman Empire is preparing its troops to cross into Wallachia and Transylvania; the script used is Romanian Cyrillic.
June 30 – Battle of Esquiroz: French forces under Henri d'Albret, exiled King of Navarre, are defeated by the Spanish, and forced to abandon their attempt to recover Henri's kingdom.
==== July–December ====
July – Pfaffensturm: Students rebel against priests in Erfurt.
August 8 – Fall of Tenochtitlan: Hernán Cortés and allied local indigenous peoples of the Americas defeat the Aztec forces of Cuauhtémoc, the last Tlatoani (Aztec Emperor), at Tenochtitlan in the Valley of Mexico.
August 13 – Fall of Tenochtitlan: Cuauhtémoc surrenders to Cortés, thus incorporating the Aztec Empire into the Spanish Empire and ending the Late Postclassic period in Mesoamerica..
August 23 – Christian II of Denmark is deposed as king of Sweden and Gustav Vasa is elected new Swedish regent.
August 29 – Belgrade is captured by the Ottoman army of Suleiman the Magnificent.
November 23 – Spanish–German–Papal forces under Prospero Colonna force French Marshal Odet de Lautrec to abandon Milan.
December 27 – The Zwickau prophets arrive in Wittenberg, disturbing the peace and preaching the Apocalypse.
==== Date unknown ====
Jacopo Berengario da Carpi publishes Commentaria cum amplissimus additionibus super anatomiam Mundini in Bologna, including observation of the vermiform appendix.
San Juan Bautista is founded in the archipelago of Puerto Rico.
The principality of Ryazan is annexed by the Grand Duchy of Moscow.
=== 1522 ===
==== January–June ====
January 9 – Pope Adrian VI (born Adriaan Florenszoon Boeyens, Dedens or Dedel; Hadrianus in Latin) succeeds Pope Leo X, as the 218th pope. The only Dutch pope, he will be the last non-Italian elected for more than 450 years.
January 26 – Spanish conquistador Gil González Dávila sets out from the gulf of Panama to explore the Pacific coast of Central America. He explores Nicaragua and names Costa Rica when he finds copious quantities of gold in Pacific beaches.
April 27 – Battle of Bicocca: French and Swiss forces under Odet de Lautrec are defeated by the Spanish in their attempt to retake Milan, and are forced to withdraw into Venetian territory.
May – England presents an ultimatum to France and Scotland.
June 19 – Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor visits King Henry VIII of England, and signs the Treaty of Windsor, pledging a joint invasion of France, bringing England into the Italian War of 1521–1526.
==== July–December ====
July – The English army attacks Brittany and Picardy from Calais, burning and looting the countryside.
July 28 – Ottoman Sultan Suleiman I begins his siege of the Knights of St. John in Rhodes.
August – The Knights' Revolt erupts in Germany.
September 6 – The Vittoria, one of the surviving ships of Ferdinand Magellan's expedition, returns to Sanlúcar de Barrameda in Spain, under the command of Juan Sebastián Elcano, becoming the first ship to circumnavigate the world.
September 21 – Luther Bible: Martin Luther's translation of the Bible's New Testament into Early New High German from Greek, Das newe Testament Deutzsch, is published in Germany, selling thousands in the first few weeks.
November – The Diet of Nuremberg opens.
December 18 – The Turks finally break into Rhodes, but the Knights continue fierce resistance in the streets.
December 20 – Suleiman the Magnificent accepts the surrender of the surviving Knights, who are allowed to evacuate. They eventually re-settle on Malta, and become known as the Knights of Malta.
==== Date unknown ====
The third edition of Erasmus's Greek Textus Receptus of the New Testament, Novum Testamentum (with parallel Latin text), is published in Basel.
Chinese Ming dynasty War Ministry official He Ru is the first to acquire the Portuguese breech-loading culverin, while copies of them are made by two Westernized Chinese at Beijing, Yang San (Pedro Yang) and Dai Ming.
Australia is sighted by a Portuguese expedition led by Cristóvão de Mendonça, who maps the continent and names it Jave la Grande ("The Greater Java"), according to the theory of the Portuguese discovery of Australia.
=== 1523 ===
==== January–June ====
January 20 – Christian II is forced to abdicate as King of Denmark and Norway.
May – The Ningbo Incident: Two rival trade delegations from Japan feud in the Chinese city of Ningbo, resulting in the pillage and plunder of the city.
June 6 – Gustav Vasa is elected king of Sweden, finally establishing the full independence of Sweden from Denmark, which marks the end of the Kalmar Union. This event is also traditionally considered to be the establishment of the modern Swedish nation.
==== July–December ====
c. July – Martin Luther's translation of the Pentateuch into German (Das allte Testament Deutsch) is published.
July 1 – Johann Esch and Heinrich Voes become the first Flemish Lutheran martyrs, burned at the stake by Roman Catholic authorities in Brussels.
September 22 – Spanish conquest of Nicaragua: Agreement for an expedition by conquistadores into Nicaragua.
November 19 – Following the death of Pope Adrian VI, the Medici cardinal is elected 219th pope as Clement VII.
==== Date unknown ====
The Ming dynasty Chinese navy captures two Western ships with Portuguese breech–loading culverins aboard, which the Chinese call a fo–lang–ji (Frankish culverin). According to the Ming Shi, these cannons are soon presented to the Jiajing Emperor by Wang Hong, and their design is copied in 1529.
Wijerd Jelckama, a Frisian warlord and military commander, is executed in Leeuwarden. His death ends the Frisian rebellion, fought by the Arumer Black Heap.
Franconian War: The Swabian League destroys 23 robber baron castles.
=== 1524 ===
==== January–June ====
January 17 – Florentine explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano, on board La Dauphine in the service of Francis I of France, sets out from Madeira for the New World, to seek out a western sea route to the Pacific Ocean.
March – Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado destroys the K'iche' kingdom of Q'umarkaj, taking the capital, Quiché.
March 1 (approximate date) – da Verrazzano's expedition makes landfall at Cape Fear.
April 17 – Verrazzano's expedition makes the first European entry into New York Bay, and sights the island of Manhattan.
April 30 – Battle of the Sesia: Spanish forces under Charles de Lannoy defeat the French army in Italy, under William de Bonnivet. The French, now commanded by François de St. Pol, withdraw from the Italian Peninsula.
June 8 – Battle of Acajutla: Spanish conquistador Pedro de Alvarado defeats a battalion of Pipiles, in the neighborhoods of present day Acajutla, El Salvador.
==== July–December ====
Summer – Paracelsus visits Salzburg; he also visits Villach during the year.
July 8 – Verrazzano's expedition returns to Dieppe.
August–September – Marseille is besieged by Imperial forces, under the Duke of Bourbon.
August – Protestant theologians Martin Luther and Andreas Karlstadt dispute at Jena.
October 28 – A French army invading Italy, under King Francis, besieges Pavia.
December 8 – Francisco Hernandez de Cordoba founds the city of Granada, Nicaragua, the oldest Hispanic city in the mainland of the Western Hemisphere.
=== 1525 ===
==== January–June ====
January 21 – The Swiss Anabaptist Movement is born when Conrad Grebel, Felix Manz, George Blaurock, and about a dozen others baptize each other in the home of Manz's mother on Neustadt-Gasse, Zürich, breaking a thousand-year tradition of church-state union.
February 24 – Battle of Pavia: Spanish forces under Charles de Lannoy and the Marquis of Pescara defeat the French army, and capture Francis I of France, after his horse is wounded by Cesare Hercolani. While Francis is imprisoned in Madrid, the first attempts to form a Franco-Ottoman alliance with Suleiman the Magnificent against the Habsburg Empire are made.
February 28 – The last Aztec Emperor, Cuauhtémoc, is killed by Hernán Cortés.
March 20 – In the German town of Memmingen, the pamphlet The Twelve Articles: The Just and Fundamental Articles of All the Peasantry and Tenants of Spiritual and Temporal Powers by Whom They Think Themselves Oppressed is published, the first human rights related document written in Europe.
April 10 – Albert, Duke of Prussia commits Prussian Homage.
May 15 – Battle of Frankenhausen: Insurgent peasants led by radical pastor Thomas Müntzer are defeated, ending the German Peasants' War in the Holy Roman Empire in which over 75,000 peasants have been killed.
June 13 – Martin Luther marries ex-nun Katharina von Bora. The painter Lucas Cranach the Elder is one of the witnesses.
June 16 – Henry VIII of England appoints his six-year old illegitimate son Henry FitzRoy Duke of Richmond and Somerset.
==== July–December ====
July 29 – Santa Marta, the first city in Colombia, is founded by Spanish conquistador Rodrigo de Bastidas.
December – The first French ambassador to reach the Sublime Porte, Jean Frangipani, sets out for Constantinople.
==== Date unknown ====
Mixco Viejo, capital of the Pocomam Maya State, falls to the Spanish conquistadores of Pedro de Alvarado (in modern-day Guatemala) after a three-month siege.
European-brought diseases sweep through the Andes, killing thousands, including the Inca.
The Bubonic plague spreads in southern France.
William Tyndale's New Testament Bible translation into English is made (printed copies reach England in 1526).
The Navarre witch trials (1525-26) begin.
The Chinese Ministry of War under the Ming dynasty orders ships having more than one mast sailing along the southeast coast to be seized, investigated, and destroyed; this in an effort to curb piracy and limit private commercial trade abroad.
The Age of Samael ends, and the Age of Gabriel begins, according to Johannes Trithemius.
Esmahan Sultan, daughter of Sah Sultan, and wife of Sehzade Mehmed.
=== 1526 ===
==== January–June ====
January 14 – Treaty of Madrid: Peace is declared between Francis I of France and Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Francis agrees to cede Burgundy to Charles, and abandons all claims to Flanders, Artois, Naples, and Milan.
April 21 – Battle of Panipat: Babur becomes Mughal emperor, invades northern India and captures Delhi, beginning the richest dynasty in the world, the Mughal Empire, which lasts until 1857.
May 22 – Francis repudiates the Treaty of Madrid and forms the League of Cognac against Charles, including Pope Clement VII, Milan, Venice, and Florence.
May 24 – A transit of Venus occurs, the last before optical filters allow astronomers to observe them.
June 9 – Emperor Go-Nara ascends to the throne of Japan.
==== July–December ====
July – The Spanish ship Santiago, from García Jofre de Loaísa's expedition, reaches the Pacific Coast of Mexico, the first to navigate from Europe to the west coast of North America.
July 24 – Milan is captured by the Spanish.
August 21 – Spanish explorer Alonso de Salazar becomes the first European to sight the Marshall Islands, in the Pacific Ocean.
August 29 – Battle of Mohács: The Turkish army of Sultan Suleiman I defeats the Hungarian army of King Louis II, who is killed in the retreat. Suleiman takes Buda, while Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and John Zápolya, Prince of Transylvania, dispute the succession. As a result of the battle, Dubrovnik achieves independence, although it acknowledges Turkish overlordship.
December – Paracelsus arrives at Strasbourg.
==== Date unknown ====
Spring – The first complete printed translation of the New Testament of the Bible into the English language by William Tyndale arrives in England from Germany, having been printed in Worms. In October, Cuthbert Tunstall, Bishop of London, attempts to collect all the copies in his diocese and burn them.
The first official translation is made of the New Testament into Swedish; the entire Bible is completed in 1541.
Gunsmith Bartolomeo Beretta (in Italian) establishes the Beretta Gun Company, which will still be in business in the 21st century, making it one of the world's oldest corporations.
=== 1527 ===
==== January–June ====
January 1 – Croatian nobles elect Ferdinand I of Austria as King of Croatia in the Parliament on Cetin.
January 5 – Felix Manz, co-founder of the Swiss Anabaptists, is drowned in the Limmat in Zürich, by the Zürich Reformed state church.
March 17 – Battle of Khanwa: This and two other major Moghul victories lead to their domination of northern India.
March – Paracelsus is appointed as town physician of Basel, Switzerland.
April 30 – The Treaty of Westminster (1527), an alliance during the War of the League of Cognac, is signed.
May 6 – Sack of Rome: Spanish and German troops led by the Duke of Bourbon sack Rome, forcing Pope Clement VII to make peace with Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, marking the end of the High Renaissance. The Pope grows a beard in mourning.
May 16 – In Florence, the Piagnon, a group devoted to the memory of Girolamo Savonarola, drive out the Medici for a second time, re-establishing the Republic of Florence until 1530.
June 17 – The Narváez expedition to conquer Florida sets sail from Spain.
June 17 – The Protestant Reformation begins in Sweden. The Riksdag of the Estates in Västerås adopts Lutheranism as the state religion, in place of Roman Catholicism. This results in the confiscation of church property and dissolution of Catholic convents in accordance with the Reduction of Gustav I of Sweden.
June 21 – Niccolò Machiavelli, Italian historian, politician, diplomat, philosopher and humanist dies in Florence, Italy.
June 22 – Jakarta, current capital of Indonesia, is founded as Jayakarta.
June 23 – Paracelsus burns the books of Avicenna.
==== July–December ====
August 3 – The first known letter is sent from North America by John Rut, while at St. John's, Newfoundland.
August 20 – Sixty Anabaptists meet at the Martyrs' Synod in Augsburg.
August 20 – Diet of Odense (Denmark): King Frederick I declares religious tolerance for Lutherans, permits marriage of priests and forbids seeking papal pallium (approval) for royal appointments of Church officials.
September 27 – Battle of Tarcal: Ferdinand, future Holy Roman Emperor, defeats John Zápolya and takes over most of Hungary. John appeals to the Turks for help.
==== Date unknown ====
The Spanish conquest of Guatemala's highlands is completed; the first Guatemala City (Ciudad Vieja) is founded.
Spanish Conquistador Francisco de Montejo invades Yucatán.
Members of the University of Wittenberg flee to Jena, in fear of the bubonic plague.
Bishop Vesey's Grammar School (at Sutton Coldfield, in the West Midlands of England) is founded by Bishop John Vesey.
Sir George Monoux College is founded as a grammar school at Walthamstow, England, by Sir George Monoux, draper and Lord Mayor of London.
The Ming Dynasty government of China greatly reduces the quotas for taking grain, severely diminishing the state's capacity to relieve famines through a previously successful granary system.
The second Dalecarlian Rebellion breaks out in Sweden.
=== 1528 ===
==== January–June ====
January 12 – Gustav I of Sweden is crowned king of Sweden, having already reigned since his election in June 1523.
Peasant uprising in Dalarna, Sweden: The rebel campaign fails, and the rebel leader, later known as Daljunkern, flees to Rostock.
Diego García de Moguer explores the Sierra de la Plata along the Río de la Plata, and begins to travel up the Paraná River.
Paracelsus visits Colmar in Alsace.
April 28 – At the battle of Capo d'Orso, the French fleet under the mercenary captain Filippino Doria crushes the Spanish squadron trying to run the blockade of Naples.
==== July–December ====
September 12 – Andrea Doria defeats his former allies, the French, and establishes the independence of Genoa.
October 3 – Álvaro de Saavedra Cerón arrives in the Maluku Islands.
October 13 – Cardinal Thomas Wolsey founds a college in his birthplace of Ipswich, England, which becomes the modern-day Ipswich School (incorporating institutions in the town dating back to 1299).
October 20 – The Treaty of Gorinchem is signed between Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Charles, Duke of Guelders.
November 6 – Spanish conquistador Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca and his companions become the first known Europeans to set foot on the shores of what is present-day Texas.
==== Date unknown ====
Montenegro gains autonomy under Turkish power.
The Maya peoples drive Spanish Conquistadores out of Yucatán.
Spain takes direct control of Acapulco.
Bubonic plague breaks out in England.
The fourth major outbreak of the sweating sickness occurs in England. This time the disease also spreads to northern Europe.
St George's Chapel in Windsor Castle is completed.
Chateau Fontainebleau in France is begun.
Michelangelo Buonarroti begins work on the fortifications of Florence.
Baldassare Castiglione publishes The Book of the Courtier.
In Henan province, China, during the mid Ming dynasty, a vast drought deprives the region of harvests for the next two years, killing off half the people in some communities, due to starvation and cannibalism.
In modern-day Malaysia, the Perak Sultanate is established at Perak Darul Ridzuan and the Johor Sultanate at Johor Darul Takzim.
Paracelsus leaves Basel.
=== 1529 ===
==== January–June ====
February 2 – The Örebro Synod provides the theological foundation of the Swedish reformation, following the economic foundation of it after the Reduction of Gustav I of Sweden.
March 7–9 – Battle of Shimbra Kure: Imam Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Ghazi, with 200 men armed with matchlocks, defeats the army of Lebna Dengel, Emperor of Ethiopia.
March 25 – Blood libel against the Jewish community of Bosen (formerly in Hungary, today in Slovakia), on the first day of Passover. Three Jews are accused and killed, while the boy is discovered alive, kidnapped for the benefit of the scheme.
April 8 – The Flensburg Disputation is held, a debate attended by Stadtholder Christian of Schleswig-Holstein (later King Christian III of Denmark), between Lutherans (led by Hermann Fast) and the more radical Anabaptists (led by Melchior Hoffman). Johannes Bugenhagen, a close associate of Martin Luther, presides. The Disputation marks the rejection of radical ideas by the Danish Reformation.
April 9 – The Westrogothian rebellion breaks out in Sweden.
April 19 – Diet of Speyer: A group of rulers (German: Fürst) and independent cities (German: Reichsstadt) protest the reinstatement of the Edict of Worms, beginning the Protestant movement.
April 22 – The Treaty of Zaragoza divides the eastern hemisphere between the Spanish and Portuguese empires, stipulating that the dividing line should lie 297.5 leagues or 17° east of the Moluccas.
May–July – Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, Archbishop of York, presides over a legatine court at Blackfriars, London, to rule on the legality of King Henry VIII of England's marriage to Catherine of Aragon.
May 10 – The Turkish army under Suleiman I leaves Constantinople, to invade Hungary once again.
June 21 – War of the League of Cognac – Battle of Landriano: French forces in northern Italy are decisively defeated by Spain.
==== July–December ====
July 30 – The only continental outbreak of English sweating sickness reaches Lübeck, spreading from there into Schleswig-Holstein in the next few months.
August 5 – Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, and Francis I of France sign the Treaty of Cambrai, or Ladies' Peace in the War of the League of Cognac: Francis abandons his claims in Italy, but is allowed to retain the Duchy of Burgundy. Henry VIII of England accedes on August 27.
September 1 – Sancti Spiritu, the first European settlement in Argentina, is destroyed by local natives.
Buda is recaptured by the invading forces of the Ottoman Empire.
The city of Maracaibo, Venezuela is founded by Ambrosius Ehinger.
September 23 – Siege of Vienna: Vienna is besieged by the Ottoman forces of Suleiman the Magnificent.
October 15 – With the season growing late, Suleiman abandons the Siege of Vienna (a turning point in the Ottoman wars in Europe).
October 26 – Cardinal Wolsey falls from power in England, due to his failure to prevent Habsburg expansion in Europe, and obtain an annulment of Henry VIII's marriage. Thomas More succeeds him as Lord Chancellor.
November 4–December 17 – The English Reformation Parliament is first seated.
==== Date unknown ====
Aylesbury is granted the county town of Buckinghamshire, England by King Henry VIII.
Stephen Báthory becomes governor of Transylvania.
Boromrajathira IV succeeds Rama Thibodi II, as king of Ayutthaya.
Fluorite is first described by Georg Agricola.
Giorgio Vasari visits Rome.
Pietro Bembo becomes historiographer of Venice.
Heinrich Bullinger becomes pastor of Bremgarten, Switzerland.
Paracelsus visits Nuremberg.
Paracelsus uses the name Paracelsus for the first time.
Occultist Heinrich Cornelius Agrippa publishes Declamatio de nobilitate et praecellentia foeminei sexus ("Declamation on the Nobility and Preeminence of the Female Sex"), a book pronouncing the theological and moral superiority of women.1521
Year 1521 (MDXXI) was a common year starting on Tuesday (link will display the full calendar) of the Julian calendar.Aztecs
The Aztecs () were a Mesoamerican culture that flourished in central Mexico in the post-classic period from 1300 to 1521. The Aztec peoples included different ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to the 16th centuries. Aztec culture was organized into city-states (altepetl), some of which joined to form alliances, political confederations, or empires. The Aztec Empire was a confederation of three city-states established in 1427, Tenochtitlan, city-state of the Mexica or Tenochca; Texcoco; and Tlacopan, previously part of the Tepanec empire, whose dominant power was Azcapotzalco. Although the term Aztecs is often narrowly restricted to the Mexica of Tenochtitlan, it is also broadly used to refer to Nahua polities or peoples of central Mexico in the prehispanic era, as well as the Spanish colonial era (1521–1821). The definitions of Aztec and Aztecs have long been the topic of scholarly discussion, ever since German scientist Alexander von Humboldt established its common usage in the early nineteenth century.Most ethnic groups of central Mexico in the post-classic period shared basic cultural traits of Mesoamerica, and so many of the traits that characterize Aztec culture cannot be said to be exclusive to the Aztecs. For the same reason, the notion of "Aztec civilization" is best understood as a particular horizon of a general Mesoamerican civilization. The culture of central Mexico includes maize cultivation, the social division between nobility (pipiltin) and commoners (macehualtin), a pantheon (featuring Tezcatlipoca, Tlaloc and Quetzalcoatl), and the calendric system of a xiuhpohualli of 365 days intercalated with a tonalpohualli of 260 days. Particular to the Mexica of Tenochtitlan was the patron God Huitzilopochtli, twin pyramids, and the ceramic ware known as Aztec I to IV.From the 13th century, the Valley of Mexico was the heart of dense population and the rise of city-states. The Mexica were late-comers to the Valley of Mexico, and founded the city-state of Tenochtitlan on unpromising islets in Lake Texcoco, later becoming the dominant power of the Aztec Triple Alliance or Aztec Empire. It was a tributary empire that expanded its political hegemony far beyond the Valley of Mexico, conquering other city states throughout Mesoamerica in the late post-classic period. It originated in 1427 as an alliance between the city-states Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan; these allied to defeat the Tepanec state of Azcapotzalco, which had previously dominated the Basin of Mexico. Soon Texcoco and Tlacopan were relegated to junior partnership in the alliance, with Tenochtitlan the dominant power. The empire extended its reach by a combination of trade and military conquest. It was never a true territorial empire controlling a territory by large military garrisons in conquered provinces, but rather dominated its client city-states primarily by installing friendly rulers in conquered territories, by constructing marriage alliances between the ruling dynasties, and by extending an imperial ideology to its client city-states. Client city-states paid tribute to the Aztec emperor, the Huey Tlatoani, in an economic strategy limiting communication and trade between outlying polities, making them dependent on the imperial center for the acquisition of luxury goods. The political clout of the empire reached far south into Mesoamerica conquering polities as far south as Chiapas and Guatemala and spanning Mesoamerica from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans.
The empire reached its maximal extent in 1519, just prior to the arrival of a small group of Spanish conquistadors led by Hernán Cortés. Cortés allied with city-states opposed to the Mexica, particularly the Nahuatl-speaking Tlaxcalteca as well as other central Mexican polities, including Texcoco, its former ally in the Triple Alliance. After the fall of Tenochtitlan on August 13, 1521 and the capture of the emperor Cuauhtemoc, the Spanish founded Mexico City on the ruins of Tenochtitlan. From there they proceeded with the process of conquest and incorporation of Mesoamerican peoples into the Spanish Empire. With the destruction of the superstructure of the Aztec Empire in 1521, the Spanish utilized the city-states on which the Aztec Empire had been built, to rule the indigenous populations via their local nobles. Those nobles pledged loyalty to the Spanish crown and converted, at least nominally, to Christianity, and in return were recognized as nobles by the Spanish crown. Nobles acted as intermediaries to convey tribute and mobilize labor for their new overlords, facilitating the establishment of Spanish colonial rule.Aztec culture and history is primarily known through archaeological evidence found in excavations such as that of the renowned Templo Mayor in Mexico City; from indigenous writings; from eyewitness accounts by Spanish conquistadors such as Cortés and Bernal Díaz del Castillo; and especially from 16th- and 17th-century descriptions of Aztec culture and history written by Spanish clergymen and literate Aztecs in the Spanish or Nahuatl language, such as the famous illustrated, bilingual (Spanish and Nahuatl), twelve-volume Florentine Codex created by the Franciscan friar Bernardino de Sahagún, in collaboration with indigenous Aztec informants. Important for knowledge of post-conquest Nahuas was the training of indigenous scribes to write alphabetic texts in Nahuatl, mainly for local purposes under Spanish colonial rule. At its height, Aztec culture had rich and complex mythological and religious traditions, as well as achieving remarkable architectural and artistic accomplishments.Beals Creek
Beals Creek is a river in Texas.
Local legend believes Montezuma is buried in the creek bed at an unknown location. The legend is Montezuma was able to escape the fall of Tenochtitlan and flee north only to finally die from his injuries. In an unusual peaceful act, both local Comanche and Pawnee tribes combined to dam the creek and perform a traditional funeral only then to undam the creek and commit a mass suicide so no one could unearth the great Aztec leader.Fall of Mexico City
Fall of Mexico City may refer to the following historical events:
Fall of Tenochtitlán, Spanish conquest of the Aztec capital — 1521
Battle for Mexico City, United States defeats Mexico during the Mexican–American War — 1847
Capture of Mexico City (1863) by France during their 2nd intervention
Siege of Mexico City, successful siege of the Imperial-held city by Mexican Republicans — 1867Francisco Moreno Capdevila
Francisco Moreno Capdevila (January 18, 1926 – May 3, 1995) was a Mexican artist of Spanish origin, best noted for his engraving and other graphic work. He came to Mexico as a political refugee after the fall of the Republicans in 1939. Unlike other Spanish artists of his generation, he was young when he arrived and did not begin studying or working in art until he was in Mexico. His work generally had cultural and political themes, but also included a portable mural about the fall of Tenochtitlan. This work was at the Museo de la Ciudad de México for thirty years, but today it is at the law school of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México. His work was recognized by membership in various honor societies, including the Salón de la Plástica Mexicana and the Academia de Artes.Francisco de Aguilar (conquistador)
Francisco de Aguilar (1479 — 1571?), born Alonso de Aguilar, was a Spanish conquistador who took part in the expedition led by Hernán Cortés that resulted in the conquest of the Aztec Empire and the fall of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec state in the central Mexican plateau.
He was granted an encomienda after the conquest, but in 1529, eight years after the fall of Tenochtitlan, he gave up his encomienda and entered the Dominican Order, adopting the name Francisco. Aguilar spent the remaining 40 years of his life as a Dominican friar. According to Patricia de Fuente, who translated his account to English, Aguilar "was contemplative by nature, and ... he brooded about the moral aspect of the Conquest."Late in his long life, in his early 80s, his fellow Dominicans urged him to write an account of the Aztec conquest drawing from his experiences. This account, known as Relación breve de la conquista de la Nueva España ("Brief Record [Account] of the Conquest of New Spain"), went unpublished in his lifetime, however a manuscript copy of it was preserved at the royal library of El Escorial outside of Madrid, Spain. It was first published in 1900 by the Mexican historian and archivist, Francisco del Paso y Troncoso. A modern English translation of Aguilar's chronicle is published in The Conquistadors: First-Person Accounts of the Conquest of Mexico,In his elderly years, he was diagnosed with gout and he soon died in Mexico at the age of 92.Ghosts in Mexican culture
There is an extensive and varied belief in ghosts in Mexican culture. The modern state of Mexico is inhabited by peoples such as the Maya and Aztec. Their beliefs in a supernatural world has survived and evolved, combined with the Catholic beliefs of the Spanish conquest. The Day of the Dead incorporates pre-Columbian beliefs with Christian elements. Mexican literature and movies include many stories of ghosts interacting with the living.Gonzalo de Sandoval
Gonzalo de Sandoval (1497, Medellín, Spain – late in 1528, Palos de la Frontera, Spain) was a Spanish conquistador in New Spain (Mexico) and briefly co-governor of the colony while Hernán Cortés was away from the capital (March 2, 1527 to August 22, 1527).History of Oaxaca
In the Central Valley region of the Southern Mexican state of Oaxaca archeologists discovered evidence of historic settlements. Aztecs from Tenochtitlan on the volcanic plateau to the North around what today is Mexico City first arrived in this region around 1250 AD establishing military rule in the 15th century until the arrival of the Spanish. After the fall of Tenochtitlan, the Spanish took over Oaxaca which led to the eventual decrease of the Native population and the increase in African slaves. The region was then settled by mostly Spanish immigrants from Europe and the African slaves they brought with them. Oaxaca was considered a department after the Mexican War of Independence, but after the fall of emperor Agustín de Iturbide, it became a state in 1824 with José Murguia as its first governor. During the 19th century, Oaxaca was split between liberal and conservative factions. The political and military struggles between the factions resulted in wars and intrigues. A series of major disasters occurred in the state from the 1920s to the 1940s. In the 1940s and 1950s, new infrastructure projects were begun. From the 1980s to the present, there has been much development of the tourism industry in the state.History of smallpox in Mexico
The history of smallpox in Mexico spans approximately 500 years from the arrival of the Spanish to the official eradication in 1951. It was brought to Mexico by those in Spanish ships, then spread to the center of Mexico, where it became a significant factor in the fall of Tenochtitlan. During the colonial period, there were major epidemic outbreaks which led to the implementation of sanitary and preventive policy. The introduction of smallpox inoculation in New Spain by Francisco Javier de Balmis and the work of Ignacio Bartolache reduced the mortality and morbidity of the disease.Huatusco (archaeological site)
Huatusco is an archaeological site located in the Carrillo Puerto municipality, near the small, almost deserted town of Santiago Huatusco, on the northern bank of the Rio Atoyac in the Rancho El Fortin. The importance of the site due to the nearly undamaged pyramid from prehispanic times, the largest part of the actual temple is still standing, in the state of Veracruz, Mexico.
The city was a Nahuatl speaking capital and probably an Aztec garrison developed by the name of Cuauhtochco in prehispanic times. Upon the conquest of Mexico, this garrison was defeated in November 1521, after the fall of Tenochtitlan by Gonzalo de Sandoval.During the colonial period the area was of little interest due to the rapid depopulation, a small number of prehispanic religious buildings remain unnoticed and therefore unharmed. While the postclassical pyramid of Castillo de Teayo is well known and frequently visited, probably took visitors from this site to Huatusco, Veracruz. This may be due to site name confusion, because the place where this site is located, Santiago Huatusco, is about 70 km (43 mi) south-east from the city Huatusco also known as Hustusco de Chicuellar. In addition, access to the small settlement of Santiago Huatusco, where the site is located, is rather cumbersome.Indian auxiliaries
Indian auxiliaries or indios auxiliares is the term used in old Spanish chronicles and historical texts for the indigenous peoples who were integrated into the armies of the Spanish conquistadors with the purpose of supporting their advance and combat operations during the Conquest of America. They acted as guides, translators, or porters and in this role were also called yanakuna, particularly within the old Inca Empire and Chile. The term was also used for formations composed of indigenous warriors or Indios amigos (friendly Indians), which they used for reconnaissance, combat, and as reserve in battle. The auxiliary Indians remained in use after the conquest, during some revolts, in border zones and permanent military areas, as in Chile in the Arauco War.Pedro de Portocarrero (conquistador)
Pedro de Portocarrero (c. 1504 – c. 1539) was a Spanish conquistador who was active in the early 16th century in Guatemala, and Chiapas in southern Mexico. He was one of the few Spanish noblemen that took part in the early stages of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and was distantly related to prominent conquistador Pedro de Alvarado, who appointed him as an official in early colonial Guatemala.Ramírez Codex
The Ramírez Codex (also known as the Tovar Codex) is a post-conquest codex from the late 16th century entitled Relación del origen de los indios que hábitan esta Nueva España según sus Historias ("Relation of the Origin of the Indians who Inhabit this New Spain according to their Histories").
Ascribed to Juan de Tovar, most scholars believe that he based this work on an earlier Nahuatl source (now lost), that is presumed to have been compiled by one or more Christianized Aztecs sometime shortly after the conquest. This earlier document (or documents) is often referred to as "Crónica X" ("Chronicle X") and is proposed to be the original or influential source of a number of early manuscripts (such as the Ramírez, Durán and Acosta codices), based on similarities in their content.
The Tovar manuscript was created using traditional indigenous techniques and consists of four manuscripts that narrate the history of the Aztecs, from their peregrination into the Anahuac valley to the fall of Tenochtitlan. It also discusses some aspects of the Aztec religion.
The Ramírez Codex (Tovar manuscript) was discovered in 1856 by José Fernando Ramírez in the library of the convent of San Francisco in Mexico. There remain two extant copies of the codex. One is located in the Mexico's Museo Nacional de Antropología, while the other is in the library of John Carter Brown, in Rhode Island.
The codex was first published in 1847 as a preface to Crónica mexicayotl, a 1598 work by Fernando Alvarado Tezozomoc.Real Audiencia of Mexico
The Real Audiencia of Mexico (Spanish: Real Audiencia de México) or high court was the highest tribunal of the Spanish crown in the Kingdom of New Spain (not to be confused with the Viceroyalty of New Spain— named after the kingdom—which had a higher hierarchy and controller). The Audiencia was created by royal decree on December 13, 1527, and was seated in the viceregal capital of Mexico City. The First Audiencia was dissolved by the crown for its bungling and corruption and the crown established the Second Audiencia in 1530. Another Audiencia was created in Guadalajara in western Mexico in 1548.
Assertion of Royal Control
After the fall of Tenochtitlan in 1521 conqueror Hernán Cortés exercised power in New Spain as its first European governor and proceeded to allocate rewards to Spaniards who had participated in the victory. He initially established a government in the town of Coyoacán, south of Lake Texcoco, because Tenochtitlan was in ruins after the conquest. From here he governed with the title of Captain General and Justicia Mayor. In his letters to the king, he explained and justified his actions, arguing that it was necessary to grant rewards of encomiendas to conquerors in order to persuade them to remain in the area now under Spanish control rather than see them depart for conquests elsewhere.The crown sent treasury officials to New Spain, asserting the right of the crown to the revenues from the newly conquered lands. During Cortés's expedition to Honduras (1524–26), treasury officials were left in charge and the political situation descended into chaos. After Cortés's return to Mexico City in 1526, the crown realized that to assert its power over him that a higher level of royal authority was needed and created the Audiencia of Mexico.The first Audiencia in Mexico was created in 1528 and headed by crown official Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán. Hernán Cortés, who as leader of the Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, had accrued considerable wealth and power after the conquest that was not effectively checked by crown treasury officials. By setting up the Audiencia the crown sought to limit Cortés's personal power by creating the high court as an effective instrument of royal power.Guzmán was opposed by the first bishop of Mexico, Juan de Zumárraga, an ally of Cortés Guzmán's tenure as the president of the Audiencia was marked by ruthless attacks on his political rivals, corruption, and extreme violence against Indians. One scholar calls him "a natural gangster." However, structurally the crown had set up a conflictive situation between the conquerors turned encomenderos and the high court determined to assert royal authority. The crown's choice of Nuño de Guzmán as president of the Audiencia was a major blunder. Guzmán largely ignored the crown's instructions and intentions to assert royal authority against the conqueror group and their rewards with Guzmán acting as a rival to accrue power and wealth to himself and his retinue via the power of the Audiencia. The crown rectified its blunder and dissolved the First Audiencia in 1530 and established the Second Audiencia with judges who recognized crown authority; this body functioned until the end of the colonial era.
In 1532, the Viceroyalty of New Spain was created, although the first Viceroy, Don Antonio de Mendoza, would not arrive in Mexico until 1535. The Viceroy took over the executive functions of government from the Audiencia and served as its president. In the following decade, as more mainland areas were conquered, a second Audiencia was created in Guadalajara, the provincial capital of the Kingdom of New Galicia, in 1548.San Salvador Atenco
San Salvador Atenco is the municipal seat of Atenco, in the Mexican state of Mexico. The name "Atenco" comes from a Nahuatl phrase meaning "place on the edge of water".Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire
The Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire, or the Spanish–Mexica War (1519–21), was the conquest of the Aztec Empire by the Spanish Empire within the context of the Spanish colonization of the Americas. There are multiple 16th-century narratives of the events by Spanish conquerors, their indigenous allies and the defeated Aztecs. It was not solely a contest between a small contingent of Spaniards defeating the Aztec Empire but rather the creation of a coalition of Spanish invaders with tributaries to the Aztecs, and most especially the Aztecs' indigenous enemies and rivals. They combined forces to defeat the Mexica of Tenochtitlan over a two-year period. For the Spanish, the expedition to Mexico was part of a project of Spanish colonization of the New World after twenty-five years of permanent Spanish settlement and further exploration in the Caribbean.
Following an earlier expedition led by Juan de Grijalva to Yucatán in 1517, Spanish settler, Hernán Cortés, led an expedition (entrada) to Mexico. Two years later, in 1519, Cortés and his retinue set sail from Cuba for Mexico. The Spanish campaign against the Aztec Empire had its final victory on August 13, 1521, when a coalition army of Spanish forces and native Tlaxcalan warriors led by Cortés and Xicotencatl the Younger captured the emperor Cuauhtemoc and Tenochtitlan, the capital of the Aztec Empire. The fall of Tenochtitlan marks the beginning of Spanish rule in central Mexico, and they established their capital of Mexico City on the ruins of Tenochtitlan.
Cortés made alliances with tributaries city-states (altepetl) of the Aztec Empire as well as their political rivals, particularly the Tlaxcalteca and Texcocans, a former partner in the Aztec Triple Alliance. Other city-states also joined, including Cempoala and Huexotzinco and polities bordering Lake Texcoco, the inland lake system of the Valley of Mexico. Particularly important to the Spanish success was a multilingual (Nahuatl, a Maya dialect, and Spanish) indigenous slave woman, known to the Spanish conquistadors as Doña Marina, and generally as La Malinche. After eight months of battles and negotiations, which overcame the diplomatic resistance of the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma II to his visit, Cortés arrived in Tenochtitlan on November 8, 1519, where he took up residence with fellow Spaniards and their indigenous allies. When news reached Cortés of the death of several of his men during the Aztec attack on the Totonacs in Veracruz, he took Moctezuma captive, along with Cuitláhuac, his kinsman. Capturing the cacique or indigenous ruler was standard operating procedure for Spaniards in their expansion in the Caribbean, so capturing Moctezuma had considerable precedent.
When Cortés left Tenochtitlan to return to the coast and deal with the expedition of Pánfilo de Narváez, sent to rein in Cortés's expedition that had exceeded its specified limits, Cortés's right-hand man Pedro de Alvarado was left in charge. Alvarado allowed a significant Aztec feast to be celebrated in Tenochtitlan and on the pattern of the earlier massacre in Cholula, closed off the square and massacred the celebrating Aztec noblemen. The official biography of Cortés by Francisco López de Gómara contains a description of the massacre. The Alvarado massacre at the Main Temple of Tenochtitlan precipitated rebellion by the population of the city. Moctezuma was killed, although the sources do not agree on who murdered him. According to one account, when Moctezuma, now seen by the population as a mere puppet of the invading Spaniards, attempted to calm the outraged populace, he was killed by a projectile. According to an indigenous account, the Spanish killed Moctezuma. Cortés had returned to Tenochtitlan and his men fled the capital city during the Noche Triste in June 1520. The Spanish, Tlaxcalans and reinforcements returned a year later on August 13, 1521 to a civilization that had been weakened by famine and smallpox. This made it easier to conquer the remaining Aztecs.Many of those on the Cortés expedition of 1519 had never seen combat before, including Cortés. A whole generation of Spaniards later participated in expeditions in the Caribbean and Tierra Firme (Central America), learning strategy and tactics of successful enterprises. The Spanish conquest of Mexico had antecedents with established practices.The fall of the Aztec Empire was the key event in the formation of the Spanish Empire overseas, with New Spain, which later became Mexico.