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Did the Aztec empire actually view the conquistador, Hernan Cortes, as their god Quetzalcoatl? (Part II) The story of the war between the Aztec (Mexica) empire and the Spanish conquistadors is one of the most dramatic in world history. He was the god who met with an ant to provide humans with their first maize to plant, and he was responsible for saving all humanity at the beginning of the Fifth Sun. During the 16th century, Quetzalcoatl – whose name in the Nahuatl language means “feathered serpent” or “plumed serpent”, was one of the principle Aztec deities. Quetzalcoatl was also the patron god of arts and knowledge. Puedes cambiar tus opciones en cualquier momento visitando Tus controles de privacidad. YES POINTS His arrival in the Aztec empire in Mexico occured around the same time that was prophesized of Quetzacoatl's return to their land. While he had never been to Mexico, López de Gómara was chaplain and secretary to the retired Hernando Cortés, the one who lead the conquistadors. His appearance and personality was (Part I) Before the Spanish arrived in the early 1500’s, the Aztec, or Mexica, people had built an impressive civilization. He was greeted as an honored guest, which was cool with him because it meant he'd be able to take the entire civilization quickly and treacherously. Nor do they they exactly reinforce the general idea that the Aztecs believed Cortés to be a god. Consider the following: 1. This man was a heroic figure, probably a king and/or a priest, who left his home in the Toltec capital of Tula chased out by traitorous priests, but promising to return. The pyramid of Quetzalcoatl (god of the 'feathered serpent') is showing the alternating 'Tlaloc' (left, with goggle eyes, a god of rain, fertility, and water) and feathered serpent (right, with a collar of feathers) heads. Other scholars suggest that the idea that Cortés and Quetzalcoatl were confused by the Mexica was entirely created by Franciscan friars, and elaborated during the post-Conquest period. Tenochtitlan (the most important Aztec city) was introduced to gods from all over the Aztec world. Some 21st- century historians, however, questioned not only whether the Aztecs thought Cortés was a god but whether the legend of Quetzalcóatl was really a part of the Aztecs’ belief system. YES POINTS His arrival in the Aztec empire in Mexico occured around the same time that was prophesized of Quetzacoatl's return to their land. A God. Para obtener más información sobre cómo utilizamos tu información, consulta nuestra Política de privacidad y la Política de cookies. During the Terminal Classic or Epiclassic (650–1000 CE) period, the cult of the Feathered Serpent spread dramatically throughout Mesoamerica, including the central Mexico centers of Xochicalco, Cholula, and Cacaxtla. The Aztecs had inferior weapons, so subduing them was not a huge problem for Cortés. According to local and colonial legends, the Toltec shaman/king Quetzalcoatl (known as Kukulcan in the Maya language) arrived in the Maya region after having been ousted by political rivals, bringing with him not just a new architectural style but a new set of religious and political practices associated with militarism and human sacrifice. They figured that the Spanish COULDN'T be worse than the Aztecs had been. They suggested the well-known version of this story was a Spanish creation … Did the Aztec empire actually view the conquistador, Hernan Cortes, as their god Quetzalcoatl? Human sacrifice was an integral part of the Aztec religion—as it was for many other societies in the New World, including the Maya. Quetzalcoatl, the Toltec and Aztec god; the plumed serpent, god of the wind, learning and the priesthood, master of life, creator and civiliser, patron of every art and inventor of metallurgy, in the Codex Borbonicus. The Chilam Balam, a book by Jaguar priests in the Yucatan, speaks of the coming of a white bearded man who is believed to bear the sign of the Almighty God. (3) According to Document C, why did Moctezuma tell Cortés that the Aztecs had been expecting him? He did neither. Bernal Diaz, Conquistador and later chronicler of the expedition, frequently details the gifts (of varying value) offered to his party in The Conquest of New Spain. Nosotros y nuestros socios almacenaremos y/o accederemos a la información de tu dispositivo mediante el uso de cookies y tecnologías similares, a fin de mostrar anuncios y contenido personalizados, evaluar anuncios y contenido, obtener datos sobre la audiencia y desarrollar el producto. Cortés did, after all, have to operate within an operational framework not entirely of his own making—one in which a concern for religion and spiritual mission was simply a necessity. Extant temples dedicated to the cult of Quetzalcoatl have been identified at many Mesoamerican sites, such as Xochicalco, Teotihuacan, Cholula, Cempoala, Tula, Mayapan, and Chichen Itza. The quest for Aztec gold was at the forefront of the Cortés expedition and the reason why many soldiers willingly joined the campaign. One such myth is that the Aztecs believed that Hernan Cortes, the leader of a band of conquistadors, was in fact a reincarnated deity by the name of Quetzalcoatl. In his hasty retreat, he was startled by a quail and tripped and broke them (which is why humans come in a range of different sizes), but managed to carry the bones to the paradise of Tamoanchan, where the goddess Cihuacoatl ground them up and placed them in a jade bowl. Towards the end of the 15th century, Pope Alexander VI decreed that Spain could claim any lands in the New World for itself under the condition that the natives were converted to Christianity. The writings of the Native… In his human aspect, he is often depicted in dark colors with a red beak, symbolizing Ehecatl, the wind god; and wearing a cut shell as a pendant, symbolizing Venus. Along with this religious mission and the tantalizing lure of undiscovered riches, Hernán Cortés set off to accomplish both. Cortés used his new allies and united them against the Aztecs, who were resented by local groups for the high tributes they exacted. This would obviate or answer awkward questions (which people back in Spain really did ask) about what right the Spaniards had to dispossess the indigenous rulers. The story undeniably echoes the Mayan story, but whether or not this legend is based on real events is still under debate among scholars. The figure of Quetzalcoatl is represented in many different ways according to different epochs and Mesoamerican cultures. To view Cortés as a Machiavellian manipulator of religion, however, does him injustice. If gold did not come their way then silver, textiles, jewelry and other treasures were never far from reach. Quetzalcoatl the deity was one of four sons of the creator god Ometeotl in his male form Ometecuhtli (“Two-Lord”) and his female form, Omecihuatl (“Two-Lady”), and brother of Tezcatlipoca, Xipe Totec, and Huitzilopochtli. To warn him about the conquest. The accounts of the conquest are diverse and, at times, contradictory. The idea that Cortés was seen as a reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl Topiltzin can be traced to the work of Sahagun, who claimed that the Aztecs supposedly believed this and that's why they didn't take action against Cortés sooner. It was the nobility who created the prophecy, a series of omens and signs, and claimed that Motecuhzoma truly believed Cortes to have been Quetzalcoatl. But when Hernán Cortés sailed from Spain to Mexico in 1519, he began an entirely new kind of encounter in human history. Motecuhzoma did not resist Cortés and thought that he might have been an incarnation of the Aztec God Quetzalcoatl. This story, detailed in Spanish records, is almost certainly false, but how it arose is a fascinating story itself. Quetzalcoatl (Aztec God) Sailed to the East on a canoe made of serpents and was said to come back to destroy the empire being bearded and have wight skin. 3. The idea that Cortés was seen as a reincarnation of Quetzalcoatl Topiltzin can be traced to the work of Sahagun, who claimed that the Aztecs supposedly believed this and that's why they didn't take action against Cortés sooner. Yahoo forma parte de Verizon Media. By using ThoughtCo, you accept our. When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in the 16th century, the conventional narrative declares that the native Aztecs (properly: the Mexica) mistook the conquistadors for gods. That, along with Spanish steel, guns, and horses, was the reason for the small Spanish retinue's unlikely conquest. The accounts of the conquest are diverse and, at times, contradictory. Cortés was born in 1485 in Medellín, Spain. At that time the great empire of the Mexica—now known as the Aztecs… In 1519, Hernan Cortes and his greedy band of some 600 conquistadors began their audacious assault on the Mexica (Aztec) Empire.By 1521 the Mexica capital city of Tenochtitlan was in ashes, Emperor Montezuma was dead and the Spanish were firmly in control of what they took to calling "New Spain." He had the printing press, indicative of a relatively rapid global communications system. Quetzalcoatl and the Bones of the Ancestors, Tezcatlipoca: Aztec God of Night and Smoking Mirrors, The Toltecs - Semi-Mythical Legend of the Aztecs, Cempoala: Totonac Capital and Ally of Hernan Cortes, Xipe Totec: Grisly Aztec God of Fertility and Agriculture, Tonatiuh, the Aztec God of the Sun, Fertility and Sacrifice, History of Animal and Plant Domestication, Ph.D., Anthropology, University of California Riverside, M.A., Anthropology, University of California Riverside. (Part II) The story of the war between the Aztec (Mexica) empire and the Spanish conquistadors is one of the most dramatic in world history. Letters to King Charles V. It is during this time that he began writing the second of his five letters to King Charles V. As an Aztec deity, he was one of four sons of the creator god Ometeotl, associated with the wind god, and the patron god of arts and knowledge. So, the conjecture written 50 years later was based upon that quote and some remarks by Cortez to the Spanish Crown as to the naiveté of the Aztecs. Episode #10- Did the Aztecs Think Cortés Was A God? By extraordinary coincidence, Cortés appeared out of the east in that very year. He was the only son of noble, though not wealthy, parents. In the end most of the people conquered by the Aztecs rose up and joined Cortés in overthrowing them. His appearance and personality was What really happened... Or was it? However, the majority of information about this god comes from Aztec/Mexica sources, including surviving Aztec codexes, as well as oral history told to the Spanish conquistadors. Then Quetzalcoatl and other gods performed the first auto-sacrifice when they shed their blood over the bones and endowed them with life, thus lumbering humanity with a debt that had to be repaid by abundant human sacrifices. They had never seen them before. Para permitir a Verizon Media y a nuestros socios procesar tus datos personales, selecciona 'Acepto' o selecciona 'Gestionar ajustes' para obtener más información y para gestionar tus opciones, entre ellas, oponerte a que los socios procesen tus datos personales para sus propios intereses legítimos. When the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés and his men arrived in the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán in 1521, they described witnessing a grisly ceremony. At age 14, Cortés was sent to study law at the University of Salamanca, but he was restless and unhappy. Following victor… These two empires came face to face in 1428 CE with the Tepanec War. This story, detailed in Spanish records, is almost certainly false, but how it arose is a fascinating story itself. That the Conquistadors were in search of personal wealth is undeniable. Disease like smallpox (lack of Aztec immunity). "He arrived in the great Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán in 1519," said Cosme. Whether by shear luck or by providence, the time of Cortés’ arrival coincided with the prophesied return of the Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl. Thanks for the A2A. Among the Classic Maya, the figure of a feathered serpent is illustrated in many stone monuments and murals and is often related to the worship of royal ancestors. (4) According to Document C, why did Spanish missionaries claim that Moctezuma believed Cortés was Quetzacoatl? By 1520, a year before the conquest was complete, Europeans were already looking at Aztec art, shipped over the Atlantic. By around 1400 CE several small empires had formed in the Valley of Mexico and dominant amongst these were Texcoco, capital of the Acholhua region, and Azcapotzalco, capital of the Tepenec. During the Postclassic period (900–1521 CE), several cultures—including the Maya, Toltecs, Aztecs and other polities in Central Mexico—all practiced some version of the cult which had formed around the legends of Quetzalcoatl. One possible theory for the origin of this story is that the Spanish misinterpreted the welcoming speech pronounced by the Aztec king. The story is that the last emperor Motecuhzoma (sometimes spelled Montezuma or Moctezuma) mistook Cortés for the returning god, based on the supposed resemblance between the Spanish conquistador and the god. Experts on Mesoamerican religion believe that the Aztec (1325–1521 CE) figure of Quetzalcoatl began with the legend of the pan-Mesoamerican god and blended in a historical Tollan leader, Ce Acatl Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl, who reportedly lived 843–895 CE). Religion was incredibly important to the the Aztecs. Cortés Defeats The Aztecs. Yes, Cortés did attack Tenochtitlán, but he wasn't alone.Cortés had just 1,000 Spanish soldiers, but he joined forces with 100,000 natives, mainly Tlaxcalans, tribal enemies of the Aztecs.. The most famous example of the Mayan Quetzalcoatl cult is reflected in the architectural aspects of Chichén Itzá in the Yucatán Peninsula, where Maya Puuc styles are contrasted with those of the Quetzalcoatl-inspired Toltec. Based on the books, Quetzalcoatl is bound to return someday. Potential personal wealth also resided in the p… Nicoletta Maestri holds a Ph.D. in Mesoamerican archaeology with fieldwork experience in Italy, the Near East, and throughout Mesoamerica. ThoughtCo uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. Cortés had heard of the Aztecs and knew that they, and their leader Montezuma II, were a primary force in Mexico. The legend can be dated back to 1552. The Aztecs are also known as Mexica or Tenochca. Pic 1b: from Tizatlan Codex (Click on image to enlarge) Thereafter, the plot thickens, mainly because of Cortés’s relationship with Malintzin (La Malinche) and with the Tlaxcalans, who hated the Aztecs … The Aztecs worshipped many gods and goddesses, and the number increased as more and more cities and tribes were forced to pay tribute to the Aztecs. Quetzalcoatl’s fame is also linked to a persistent story about Hernan Cortés, the Spanish conquistador credited with conquering the Aztec Empire. The Aztec thought Cortes was a god because Montezuma saw the picture on the stone that is exactly look like the god of the Aztecan. The real story here is how Cortes, with such a small force of men (regardles of the superior accoutrements of war) conquered the Aztec peoples. So essentially they didn't really have a thunder god, they did associate spanish fire arms with thunder. The Aztecs were terrified of the horses the Spanish brought with them. Why did the Aztecs think gold was the poo of the sun god? Most interestingly, according to Smith (2013), some scholars attribute the origin of the Cortés myth to the Nahua nobility themselves, who invented it and told it to the Spanish to explain why Motecuhzoma hesitated to attack the conquering forces. Except no one, not even the Spanish, initially suggested there was any case of mistaken identity. The Aztecs called their era the time of the 5th Sun—there had been four previous versions of the earth and its people, each ruled by different gods. If Montezuma believed that he was the 'God' he would have rode out to meet him or welcomed him with aid to the capitol. Quetzalcoatl pronounced Keh-tzal-coh-WAH-tul and roughly translated as the "Feathered Serpent", the "Plumed Serpent" or the "Quetzal-Feathered Serpent", is the name of an important Mesoamerican deity who was worshiped throughout the region in one form or another for 1,200 years. Columbus had set sail hoping to … Información sobre tu dispositivo y conexión a Internet, incluida tu dirección IP, Actividad de navegación y búsqueda al utilizar sitios web y aplicaciones de Verizon Media. He was a creator god, associated with the wind god (Ehecatl) and the planet Venus. The Aztecs did not believe in Cortez's men being gods at all, though at first some of them, not having seen horses before, thought the horse and its rider were one being. It was Francisco López de Gómara who first said that the Spaniards conquered Mexico because the indigenous people had seen the conquistadors as gods. In many images, he is depicted wearing a plumed headdress and carrying a plumed shield. Together, they successfully attacked Tenochtitlán and … Mexico - Mexico - The rise of the Aztecs: The word Azteca is derived from Aztlán (variously translated as “White Land,” “Land of White Herons,” or “Place of Herons”), where, according to Aztec tradition, their people originated, somewhere in the northwestern region of Mexico. Along the way, Cortes and his men collected thousands of pounds of gold, silver, jewels … Appeared to have identification after the Conquest. He appears in Post-classic tales from the Maya, Toltec, and Aztec cultures. Cortés decided to take the city and with Malinche’s aide, persuaded Motecuhzoma to become his prisoner. Some arguments in favor of Montezuma’s belief that Cortez was the god Quetzalcoatl begin with the god’s promise to return after he died in a pyre or sailed off in a boat traveling east. How did the Aztecs test to see if Cortes was Quetz? That's Cortés' own account on how Motecuhzoma assured Cortés that Motecuhzoma was not a god and was in fact a person just like Cortés. They did. At the end of the fourth sun, so it is told, all humanity was drowned, and after the creation of the fifth sun, Quetzalcoatl descended into the underworld (Mictlan) to negotiate with the god of the underworld (Mictlantecuhtli) the return of humanity's bones so the earth could be repopulated. It is thought that Cortés’ arrival coincided with an Aztec prophecy about a white-skinned god arriving from the east, which would explain why Montezuma welcomed Cortés and gave him lavish gifts. If you want more info about this, see Edwin Barnhart: Lost Worlds of South America, and Alan Kolata: Ancient Inca. A persistent myth about the conquistador Hernan Cortés being mistaken for Quetzalcoatl is almost certainly false. 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