Moctezuma Xocoytl II
Aztec Emperorby Rit Nosotro First Published:: 2003
Moctezuma Xocoytl is the most well known emperor in the history of the Aztecs. He was also the last true emperor the Aztec empire would ever know, for it was during his reign that Cortez came to conquer Mexico. So how was it that such a great emperor and his awesome empire was conquered by a force of less than one thousand when the empire’s capital city alone numbered around three hundred thousand? The Aztec’s down fall was due to one thing alone. That thing was the Aztec’s false religion that governed every part of their lives and the superstition that Moctezuma held due to this false religion.
Moctezuma II, also know as Moctezuma Xocoytl (Xocoytl simply meaning the younger), was born the youngest son of the Emperor Axacayatl who ruled from 1469 until his death in 1481, one year after Moctezuma’s birth. The Imperial line of the Aztecs was not hereditary. A council of elders upon the death of the Emperor simply chose a young man from a noble family to be the next ruler. So Axacayatl was succeeded by a ruthless and bloodthirsty emperor named Ahuitzol, who ruled from 1481 to 1502. Upon his death, Moctezuma II was chosen. At the time, he was in his early twenties and student at the temple. After he was placed on the throne, he immediately started showing that he was more of a “take charge” ruler and different than his successor. While he did personally lead his armies into 43 military victories, he also made a lot of economic changes and attempted to help his people. He built a double aqueduct and several temples. He would also go out in the city in disguise to discover if his latest edict was being carried out and offer bribes to the city judges to discover if they were corrupt in an attempt to better the political and legal system.
Not much is known about his personal life, his likes and dislikes and whether or not he had a wife and a lot of children. Really all that is known is that he loved chocolate and that his daughter Isabella, the one child that is known of, fell heir to what was left of his vast fortune and wealth after the Spanish took over. Since Moctezuma was a temple student in the early years of his life before he became the Emperor, he knew much about his religion and its gods, which caused him to be very superstitious when Cortez came. An Aztec legend was that one of the Great Quetzalcoatl would return as a bearded white man. Also, the Spanish sailed in from the east, which was supposedly the direction that the god had sailed off to. Knowing all this had Moctezuma believing that Cortez was a god to be feared.
When Cortez first arrived in 1519, Moctezuma thought he was the god Quetzalcoatl. He believed that because of the fact that Cortez and his arrival concurred with Aztec legends about the god. Also, when Moctezuma asked after these strange visitors, he was told that their weapons spat lightning and thunder and that some of them had two heads, six legs, and one body (the Aztecs having never seen horses before, let alone men riding on them). He was superstitious and feared what the gods would do or what they might require if something displeased them. After all, the gods were horrible and ruthless, demanding human hearts just to keep their hunger appeased. At first, Moctezuma tried to bribe them into leaving by sending gold and many other gifts. Then, when Cortez burned all the ships except the one that was to send the messages back to the King and advanced toward the city, he managed, by those actions, to further convince Moctezuma that he was a god. Surely only a god could be so bold and fearless.
Moctezuma continued trying to bribe him by sending even more gold and gifts, this time to stay away from the city, right up until Cortez and his men had reached the city gates. Still believing that these men were gods, Moctezuma allowed and even welcomed them into the city where he even gave them flowers from his own private garden, one of the greatest honors of that time, and gave them his father’s own house to stay in. He continued to fear them, and invited Cortez and a select few of his men to visit him at his palace where Cortez placed this once mighty emperor under arrest. Moctezuma spent the last few months of his life trying to please these gods. He did whatever they asked of him. He lavished gifts on them, played games with them in his gardens, he served them, had the temples cleaned of any traces of the sacrifices and had statues of the Virgin Mary erected instead of the altars. He converted to Christianity and swore allegiance to King Charles V in his efforts to please. By 1520, his gods had turned against him and his people hated and despised the weakling this once mighty man had become. They despised him for humbling himself before the invading creatures. Moctezuma II was killed by stones his own people threw as he tried to calm their riot.
After "El noche triste" when Cortez fled the city in a bloody retreat, the Aztec warriors who had once been trained to maime and capture alive victims for sacrifice and cannibalization, now forced Spainish captives to teach them how to use the crude guns against Cortez. The Aztec empire, culture, and people died a few months after Moctezuma had died. Their false religion had caused them to fear mere mortal man and be destroyed by the surrounding tribes they had long brutalized.
The Aztec’s false religion caused the downfall of what could have been thought of as one of the strongest empires on the face of the earth at that time. There are not even many archeological sites left because of the thoroughness of the destruction. The hand of God is as eveident today as it was then to the Spanish. Destruction through small pox resulted because Aztec faith was placed in false gods instead of the one true God. Moctezuma served and feared gods that had been created by his priests. Their religion was Moctezuma Xocoytl’s and the Aztec empires downfall.
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