Montezuma

Montezuma (mŏntĕsōˈmä) [key] or Moctezuma mŏk–, 1480?–1520, Aztec emperor (c.1502–1520). He is sometimes called Montezuma II to distinguish him from Montezuma I (ruled 1440–69), who carried on conquests around Tenochtitlán. His reign was marked by incessant warfare, and his despotic rule caused grave unrest. When Hernán Cortés arrived in Mexico he was thus able to gain native allies, notably in the province of the Tlaxcala. Montezuma, believing the Spanish to be descendants of the god Quetzalcoatl, tried to persuade them to leave by offering rich gifts. That failing, he received them in his splendid court at Tenochtitlán in Nov., 1519. Cortés later seized him as a hostage and attempted to govern through him. In June, 1520, the Aztec rose against the Spanish. Montezuma was killed, although whether by the Spanish or the Aztec is not certain. His successor died a few months later and was replaced by Cuauhtémoc. Montezuma's name is linked by a legend to fabulous treasures that the Spanish appropriated and presumably lost at sea.

See H. Thomas, Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés, and the Fall of Old Mexico (1994).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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