Hernando Cortes Meets Moctezuma For The First Time

Today on November 8, 1519, Spanish-conquistador Hernando Cortes meets with the Aztec Emperor Moctezuma for the first time.

Moctezuma II, known as Moctezuma the Young, ruled over the vast Aztec Empire as its ninth emperor. It was during his reign that the Aztecs reached the pinnacle of their power and influence. Moctezuma ruthlessly waged war against any neighboring tribe who refused to submit. He first heard of foreigners landing on his coast nearly two years before the arrival of Hernando Cortes. When the Spanish-conquistadors reappeared in 1519, Moctezuma immediately sent emissaries to greet the newcomers with the hope of establishing peaceful relations. They invited the Spanish soldiers to the capital city of Tenochtitlan (present-day Mexico City) to meet with their emperor. While journeying to the capital, the Spaniards secretly allied with the Tlaxcalteca tribe, a long-time enemy of the Aztecs.

Moctezuma and Cortes met on the main causeway leading into Tenochtitlan, exchanging formalities and gifts. According to Cortes, Moctezuma volunteered to cede his entire empire to the Spanish King, Carlos V. Since history is often written by the victors, his account is almost certainly inaccurate and made up. It’s impossible to know what Moctezuma said to Cortes precisely. However, historians collectively agree he likely did not agree to forfeit his empire. Afterward, he brought Cortes to his palace and invited the Spaniards to live as his royal guests indefinitely.

At some point in the subsequent months, Cortes imprisoned the Aztec leader in his own house. Why did this happen? Nobody knows for certain. He did allow him to continue governing his empire during this period, but the Aztec nobility became increasingly angry with the state of affairs. Moctezuma asked Cortes and his Spanish soldiers to leave the city - he refused. Tensions reached a boiling point, and a massacre eventually broke out near the Great Temple. In the aftermath, Moctezuma was formally taken as a hostage and ultimately killed by his countrymen. Some indigenous accounts claim the Spanish executed him.

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