Montezuma II and the Aztec Empire
by Julian Cibrian

Montezuma II was proceeded by his great grandfather Montezuma I. Montezuma I had expanded the Aztec Empire to the Gulf of Mexico. He had also built a large public works program and built a dike at Lake Texcoco to keep the lake from flooding his capital city of Tenochtitlan. His great grandson, Montezuma II was born around the year 1466. Like his great grandfather he did much to increase the land and wealth of the Aztec Empire. He ruled the Aztec Empire from 1502-1520.

Montezuma II

He expanded the Aztec Empire south to the Honduras. He built many temples, water conduits and hospitals. He was not, however, very popular the Aztec people. He taxed them heavily and appointed only his favorites to high positions.

Land of the Aztecs

The Aztec Empire was at its best when Montezuma II was crowned in 1502. By the end of his rule, the Spanish had taken over and the Aztecs no longer ruled themselves.

Quetzalcoatl: The Feathered Serpent of Mexico

The Aztecs believed that their ancestors were not from Central America. They believed that their ancestors came from a place called Aztlan, which was located to the north of the Valley of Mexico. They believed that they had wandered for many years before settling in Mexico in 1200 AD. The Aztecs believed that one of their Gods was a a white god named Quetzalcoatl, who had sailed away many years ago and who had promised to return from the east. When the Spanish, led by Hernan Cortez, entered the Aztec's land, Montezuma II welcomed him as a god and gave him gifts of gold.

Montezuma II welcoming Hernan Cortez

Many of the Aztec people joined with Cortez as he marched toward the capital. They joined with him because of their dislike of Montezuma II and his heavy taxation.

Aztec Sacrificial Mask

Montezuma realized to late that Cortez was not an Aztec God. He tried to keep Cortez from entering Tenochtitlan, his capital city but could not. Many sacrifices were made to the gods but Cortez still took over.

In 1520, the Aztecs rebelled and tried to drive Cortez out of their city. They succeeded, but the Spanish took as prisoner Montezuma II. He died of wounds received in the battle.

A letter from Cortez described not only the land of the Aztecs, but also the first time he met with Montezuma II.

He said: "Moctezuma came down the middle of this street with two chiefs,...When we met I dismounted and stepped forward to embrace him, but the two lords who were with him stopped me...I took off a necklace of pearls and cut glass...and placed it around his neck;...a servant of his came with two necklaces...and from each necklace hung eight shrimps of refined gold almost a span in length.

Montezuma then said: "For a long time we have known from the writings of our ancestors that neither I nor any of those who dwell in this land, are natives of it, but foreigners who came from very distant parts...and we have always held that those who descended from him would come and conquer this land and take us as their vassals. So because of the place from which you claim to come, namely, from where the sun rises...and the things you tell us of the great lord or king who sent you here, we believe and are certain that he is our natural lord...So be assured that we shall obey you.

In the end, because of the Aztec's belief that Cortez was a god, they and Montezuma II lost all. The Aztecs lost their independence and Montezuma II lost his life.


The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia, 1999 World Book, Inc,


"Internet Modern History Sourcebook" @


"Archaeological Research Institute" @ http://archaeology,


"Montzuma's Greeting to Hernan Cortez" @

Picture Credits:

    1. "Montezuma" from:
    2. "Color Regional Map" from:
    3. "Quetzalcoatl: The Man, The Myth, The Legend" from: http://wever.ucsd.edo/~anthclub/quetzal.htm
    4. "Cortez and Montezuma at Mexican Temple" from:
    5. "Human Sacrifice" from: