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Montezuma II

(Moctezuma II) the last Aztec Emperor


Very little is known about the life of the 9th Emperor of the Aztecs, except that he was known as Motecuhzoma Xocoyotzin by the Aztecs (Montezuma being a Western spelling and "II" being a way to distinguish this emperor from a previous one of the same name), that he was born sometime around 1466, and that he was a nephew of the 8th Emperor, Ahuitzotl. Montezuma exhibited great skill and bravery as a military leader during his uncle's reign, and those qualities carried him to the throne upon his predecessor's death in 1502.

As Emperor, Montezuma expanded the empire as far south as present-day Honduras and made improvements to the empire's roads and public buildings. Although contemporary accounts suggest that Montezuma was loved by his people, there is evidence that he was almost universally hated by the peoples he conquered, as had been almost every previous emperor.

In 1517, Montezuma learned that white men (Spaniards) had landed on the Yucatan Peninsula, and that many of his subjects believed those men to be the culmination of an ancient prophecy. Whether Montezuma himself actually believed the prophecy or not is unknown, but he did greet Hernando Cortés with open arms and many gifts when the Spaniards entered the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán (now Mexico City) on November 8, 1519. Unfortunately for Montezuma and his subjects, Cortés soon proved that he was no benevolent god. Learning that natives had attacked Veracruz, Cortés retaliated by imprisoning Montezuma and forcing him to pledge allegiance to the Spanish crown. After receiving a sizable ransom from Montezuma's subjects, Cortés allowed Montezuma to retake his throne, but only as a puppet ruler.

Montezuma was initially able to maintain peace between his people and the Spaniards. That changed, however, in May of 1520, when several Aztec chiefs were massacred by the Spanish during a festival, inciting a riot in Tenochtitlán. Montezuma attempted to calm his subjects, but was stoned instead; he died a few days later. Whether the stoning was intentional or not has never been determined.

Aztec History

Hernando Cortés

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This page was last updated on 10/21/2017.