Chapter IX 
ENVIRONS OF MEXICO- INTERVIEW WITH MONTEZUMA-
ENTRANCE INTO THE CAPITAL- HOSPITABLE RECEPTION-VISIT TO THE EMPEROR
WITH the first faint streak of dawn, the Spanish general was up,
mustering his followers. They gathered, with beating hearts, under
their respective banners as the trumpet sent forth its spirit-stirring
sounds across water and woodland, till they died away in distant
echoes among the mountains. The sacred flames on the altars of
numberless teocallis, dimly seen through the grey mists of morning,
indicated the site of the capital, till temple, tower, and palace were
fully revealed in the glorious illumination which the sun, as he
rose above the eastern barrier, poured over the beautiful valley. It
was the 8th of November; a conspicuous day in history, as that on
which the Europeans first set foot in the capital of the Western
Cortes, with his little body of horse formed a sort of advanced
guard to the army. Then came the Spanish infantry, who in a summer
campaign had acquired the discipline and the weather-beaten aspect
of veterans. The baggage occupied the centre; and the rear was
closed by the dark files of Tlascalan warriors. The whole number
must have fallen short of seven thousand; of which less than four
hundred were Spaniards.
For a short distance, the army kept along the narrow tongue of
land that divides the Tezcucan from the Chalcan waters, when it
entered the great dike which, with the exception of an angle near
the commencement, stretches in a perfectly straight line across the
salt floods of Tezcuco to the gates of the capital. It was the same
causeway, or rather the basis of that which still forms the great
southern avenue of Mexico. The Spaniards had occasion more than ever
to admire the mechanical science of the Aztecs, in the geometrical
precision with which the work was executed, as well as the solidity of
its construction. It was composed of huge stones well laid in
cement; and wide enough, throughout its whole extent, for ten horsemen
to ride abreast.
They saw, as they passed along, several large towns, resting on
piles, and reaching far into the water,- a kind of architecture
which found great favour with the Aztecs, being in imitation of that
of their metropolis. The busy population obtained a good subsistence
from the manufacture of salt, which they extracted from the waters
of the great lake. The duties on the traffic were a considerable
source of revenue to the crown.
Everywhere the Conquerors beheld the evidence of a. crowded and
thriving population, exceeding all they had yet seen. The temples
and principal buildings of the cities were covered with a hard white
stucco, which glistened like enamel in the level beams of the morning.
The margin of the great basin was more thickly gemmed, than that of
Chalco, with towns and hamlets. The water was darkened by swarms of
canoes filled with Indians, who clambered up the sides of the
causeway, and gazed with curious astonishment on the strangers. And
here, also, they beheld those fairy islands of flowers, overshadowed
occasionally by trees of considerable size, rising and falling with
the gentle undulation of the billows. At the distance of half a league
from the capital, they encountered a solid work, or curtain of
stone, which traversed the dike. It was twelve feet high, was
strengthened by towers at the extremities, and in the centre was a
battlemented gateway, which opened a passage to the troops. It was
called the Fort of Xoloc, and became memorable in after times as the
position occupied by Cortes in the famous siege of Mexico.
Here they were met by several hundred Aztec chiefs, who came out
to announce the approach of Montezuma, and to welcome the Spaniards to
his capital. They were dressed in the fanciful gala costume of the
country, with the Maxtlatl, or cotton sash, around their loins, and
a broad mantle of the same material, or of the brilliant
feather-embroidery, flowing gracefully down their shoulders. On
their necks and arms they displayed collars and bracelets of turquoise
mosaic, with which delicate plumage was curiously mingled, while their
ears, under-lips, and occasionally their noses, were garnished with
pendants formed of precious stones, or crescents of fine gold As
each cacique made the usual formal salutation of the country
separately to the general, the tedious ceremony delayed the march more
than an hour. After this, the army experienced no further interruption
till it reached a bridge near the gates of the city. It was built of
wood, since replaced by one of stone, and was thrown across an opening
of the dike, which furnished an outlet to the waters, when agitated by
the winds, or swollen by a sudden influx in the rainy season. It was a
drawbridge; and the Spaniards, as they crossed it, felt how truly they
were committing themselves to the mercy of Montezuma, who, by thus
cutting off their communications with the country, might hold them
prisoners in his capital.
In the midst of these unpleasant reflections, they beheld the
glittering retinue of the emperor emerging from the great street which
led through the heart of the city. Amidst a crowd of Indian nobles,
preceded by three officers of state, bearing golden wands, they saw
the royal palanquin blazing with burnished gold. It was borne on the
shoulders of nobles, and over it a canopy of gaudy feather-work,
powdered with jewels, and fringed with silver, was supported by four
attendants of the same rank. They were bare-footed, and walked with
a slow, measured pace, and with eyes bent on the ground. When the
train had come within a convenient distance, it halted, and Montezuma,
descending from his litter, came forward leaning on the arms of the
lords of Tezcuco and Iztapalapan, his nephew and brother, both of
whom, as we have seen, had already been made known to the Spaniards.
As the monarch advanced under the canopy, the obsequious attendants
strewed the ground with cotton tapestry, that his imperial feet
might not be contaminated by the rude soil. His subjects of high and
low degree, who lined the sides of the causeway, bent forward with
their eyes fastened on the ground as he passed, and some of the
humbler class prostrated themselves before him. Such was the homage
paid to the Indian despot, showing that the slavish forms of
oriental adulation were to be found among the rude inhabitants of
the Western World.
Montezuma wore the girdle and ample square cloak, tilmatli, of his
nation. It was made of the finest cotton, with the embroidered ends
gathered in a knot round his neck. His feet were defended by sandals
having soles of gold, and the leathern thongs which bound them to
his ankles were embossed with the same metal. Both the cloak and
sandals were sprinkled with pearls and precious stones, among which
the emerald and the chalchiuitl- a green stone of higher estimation
than any other among the Aztecs- were conspicuous. On his head he wore
no other ornament than a panache of plumes of the royal green, which
floated down his back, the badge of military rather than of regal
He was at this time about forty years of age. His person was
tall and thin, but not ill made. His hair, which was black and
straight, was not very long; to wear it short was considered
unbecoming persons of rank. His beard was thin; his complexion
somewhat paler than is often found in his dusky, or rather
copper-coloured race. His features, though serious in their
expression, did not wear the look of melancholy, indeed, of dejection,
which characterises his portrait, and which may well have settled on
them at a later period. He moved with dignity, and his whole
demeanour, tempered by an expression of benignity not to have been
anticipated from the reports circulated of his character, was worthy
of a great prince. Such is the portrait left to us of the celebrated
Indian emperor, in this first interview with the white men.
The army halted as he drew near. Cortes, dismounting, threw his
reins to a page, and, supported by a few of the principal cavaliers,
advanced to meet him. The interview must have been one of uncommon
interest to both. In Montezuma Cortes beheld the lord of the broad
realms he had traversed, whose magnificence and power had been the
burden of every tongue. In the Spaniard, on the other hand, the
Aztec prince saw the strange being whose history seemed to be so
mysteriously connected with his own; the predicted one of his oracles;
whose achievements proclaimed him something more than human. But,
whatever may have been the monarch's feelings, he so far suppressed
them as to receive his guest with princely courtesy, and to express
his satisfaction at personally seeing him in his capital. Cortes
responded by the most profound expressions of respect, while he made
ample acknowledgments for the substantial proofs which the emperor had
given the Spaniards of his munificence. He then hung round Montezuma's
neck a sparkling chain of coloured crystal, accompanying this with a
movement as if to embrace him, when he was restrained by the two Aztec
lords, shocked at the menaced profanation of the sacred person of
their master. After the interchange of these civilities, Montezuma
appointed his brother to conduct the Spaniards to their residence in
the capital, and again entering his litter, was borne off amidst
prostrate crowds in the same state in which he had come. The Spaniards
quickly followed, and with colours flying and music playing, soon made
their entrance into the southern quarter of Tenochtitlan.
Here, again, they found fresh cause for admiration in the grandeur
of the city, and the superior style of its architecture. The dwellings
of the poorer class were, indeed, chiefly of reeds and mud. But the
great avenue through which they were now marching was lined with the
houses of the nobles, who were encouraged by the emperor to make the
capital their residence. They were built of a red porous stone drawn
from quarries in the neighbourhood, and, though they rarely rose to
a second story, often covered a large space of ground. The flat roofs,
azoteas, were protected by stone parapets, so that every house was a
fortress. Sometimes these roofs resembled parterres of flowers, so
thickly were they covered with them, but more frequently these were
cultivated in broad terraced gardens, laid out between the edifices.
Occasionally a great square or market-place intervened, surrounded
by its porticoes of stone and stucco; or a pyramidal temple reared its
colossal bulk, crowned with its tapering sanctuaries, and altars
blazing with inextinguishable fires. The great street facing the
southern causeway, unlike most others in the place, was wide, and
extended some miles in nearly a straight line, as before noticed,
through the centre of the city. A spectator standing at one end of it,
as his eye ranged along the deep vista of temples, terraces, and
gardens, might clearly discern the other, with the blue mountains in
the distance, which, in the transparent atmosphere of the tableland,
seemed almost in contact with the buildings.
But what most impressed the Spaniards was the throngs of people
who swarmed through the streets and on the canals, filling every
doorway and window, and clustering on the roofs of the buildings. "I
well remember the spectacle," exclaims Bernal Diaz; "it seems now,
after so many years, as present to my mind as if it were but
yesterday." But what must have been the sensations of the Aztecs
themselves, as they looked on the portentous pageant! as they heard,
now for the first time, the well-cemented pavement ring under the iron
tramp of the horses,- the strange animals which fear had clothed in
such supernatural terrors; as they gazed on the children of the
East, revealing their celestial origin in their fair complexions;
saw the bright falchions and bonnets of steel, a metal to them
unknown, glancing like meteors in the sun, while sounds of unearthly
music- at least, such as their rude instruments had never wakened-
floated in the air! But every other emotion was lost in that of deadly
hatred, when they beheld their detested enemy, the Tlascalan, stalking
in defiance as it were through their streets, and staring around
with looks of ferocity and wonder, like some wild animal of the
forest, who had strayed by chance from his native fastnesses into
the haunts of civilisation.
As they passed down the spacious street, the troops repeatedly
traversed bridges suspended above canals, along which they saw the
Indian barks gliding swiftly with their little cargoes of fruits and
vegetables for the markets of Tenochtitlan. At length, they halted
before a broad area near the centre of the city, where rose the huge
pyramidal pile dedicated to the patron war-god of the Aztecs, second
only in size, as well as sanctity, to the temple of Cholula, and
covering the same ground now in part occupied by the great cathedral
Facing the western gate of the inclosure of the temple stood a low
range of stone buildings, spreading over a wide extent of ground,
the palace of Axayacatl, Montezuma's father, built by that monarch
about fifty years before. It was appropriated as the barracks of the
Spaniards. The emperor himself was in the courtyard, waiting to
receive them. Approaching Cortes, he took from a vase of flowers,
borne by one of his slaves, a massy collar, in which the shell of a
species of craw-fish, much prized by the Indians, was set in gold, and
connected by heavy links of the same metal. From this chain depended
eight ornaments, also of gold, made in resemblance of the same
shellfish, a span in length each, and of delicate workmanship; for the
Aztec goldsmiths were confessed to have shown skill in their craft,
not inferior to their brethren of Europe. Montezuma, as he hung the
gorgeous collar round the general's neck, said, "This palace belongs
to you, Malinche" (the epithet by which he always addressed him), "and
your brethren. Rest after your fatigues, for you have much need to
do so, and in a little while I will visit you again." So saying, he
withdrew with his attendants, evincing, in this act, a delicate
consideration not to have been expected in a barbarian.
Cortes' first care was to inspect his new quarters. The
building, though spacious, was low, consisting of one floor, except
indeed in the centre, where it rose to an additional story. The
apartments were of great size, and afforded accommodations,
according to the testimony of the Conquerors themselves, for the whole
army! The hardy mountaineers of Tlascala were, probably, not very
fastidious, and might easily find a shelter in the out-buildings, or
under temporary awnings in the ample courtyards. The best apartments
were hung with gay cotton draperies, the floors covered with mats or
rushes. There were, also, low stools made of single pieces of wood
elaborately carved, and in most of the apartments beds made of the
palm-leaf, woven into a thick mat, with coverlets, and sometimes
canopies of cotton. These mats were the only beds used by the natives,
whether of high or low degree.
After a rapid survey of this gigantic pile, the general assigned
to his troops their respective quarters, and took as vigilant
precautions for security, as if he had anticipated a siege, instead of
a friendly entertainment. The place was encompassed by a stone wall of
considerable thickness, with towers or heavy buttresses at
intervals, affording a good means of defence. He planted his cannon so
as to command the approaches, stationed his sentinels along the works,
and, in short, enforced in every respect as strict military discipline
as had been observed in any part of the march. He well knew the
importance to his little band, at least for the present, of
conciliating the good will of the citizens; and to avoid all
possibility of collision he prohibited any soldier from leaving his
quarters without orders, under pain of death. Having taken these
precautions, he allowed his men to partake of the bountiful
collation which had been prepared for them.
They had been long enough in the country to become reconciled
to, if not to relish, the peculiar cooking of the Aztecs. The appetite
of the soldier is not often dainty, and on the present occasion it
cannot be doubted that the Spaniards did full justice to the savoury
productions of the royal kitchen. During the meal they were served
by numerous Mexican slaves, who were indeed, distributed through the
palace, anxious to do the bidding of the strangers. After the repast
was concluded, and they had taken their siesta, not less important
to a Spaniard than food itself, the presence of the emperor was
Montezuma was attended by a few of his principal nobles. He was
received with much deference by Cortes; and, after the parties had
taken their seats, a conversation commenced between them through the
aid of Dona Marina, while the cavaliers and Aztec chieftains stood
around in respectful silence.
Montezuma made many inquiries concerning the country of the
Spaniards, their sovereign, the nature of his government, and
especially their own motives in visiting Anahuac. Cortes explained
these motives by the desire to see so distinguished a monarch, and
to declare to him the true Faith professed by the Christians. With
rare discretion, he contented himself with dropping this hint for
the present, allowing it to ripen in the mind of the emperor till a
future conference. The latter asked, whether those white men, who in
the preceding year had landed on the eastern shores of his empire,
were their countrymen. He showed himself well-informed of the
proceedings of the Spaniards from their arrival in Tabasco to the
present time, information of which had been regularly transmitted in
the hieroglyphical paintings. He was curious, also, in regard to the
rank of his visitors in their own country; inquiring, if they were the
kinsmen of the sovereign. Cortes replied, they were kinsmen of one
another, and subjects of their great monarch, who held them all in
peculiar estimation. Before his departure, Montezuma made himself
acquainted with the names of the principal cavaliers, and the position
they occupied. in the army.
At the conclusion of the interview, the Aztec prince commanded his
attendants to bring forward the presents prepared for his guests. They
consisted of cotton dresses, enough to supply every man, it is said,
including the allies, with a suit! And he did not fail to add the
usual accompaniment of gold chains and other ornaments, which he
distributed in profusion among the Spaniards. He then withdrew with
the same ceremony with which he had entered, leaving every one
deeply impressed with his munificence and his affability, so unlike
what they had been taught to expect by what they now considered an
invention of the enemy.
That evening, the Spaniards celebrated their arrival in the
Mexican capital by a general discharge of artillery. The thunders of
the ordnance reverberating among the buildings and shaking them to
their foundations, the stench of the sulphureous vapour that rolled in
volumes above the walls of the encampment, reminding the inhabitants
of the explosions of the great volcan, filled the hearts of the
superstitious Aztecs with dismay. It proclaimed to them, that their
city held in its bosom those dread beings whose path had been marked
with desolation, and who could call down the thunderbolts to consume
their enemies! It was doubtless the policy of Cortes to strengthen
this superstitious feeling as far as possible, and to impress the
natives, at the outset, with a salutary awe of the supernatural powers
of the Spaniards.
On the following morning, the general requested permission to
return the emperor's visit, by waiting on him in his palace. This
was readily granted, and Montezuma sent his officers to conduct the
Spaniards to his presence. Cortes dressed himself in his richest
habit, and left the quarters attended by Alvarado, Sandoval,
Velasquez, and Ordaz, together with five or six of the common file.
The royal habitation was at no great distance. It was a vast,
irregular pile of low stone buildings, like that garrisoned by the
Spaniards. So spacious was it indeed, that, as one of the Conquerors
assures us, although he had visited it more than once, for the express
purpose, he had been too much fatigued each time by wandering
through the apartments ever to see the whole of it. It was built of
the red porous stone of the country, tetzontli, was ornamented with
marble, and on the facade over the principal entrance were
sculptured the arms or device of Montezuma, an eagle bearing an ocelot
in his talons.
In the courts through which the Spaniards passed, fountains of
crystal water were playing, fed from the copious reservoir on the
distant hill of Chapoltepec, and supplying in their turn more than a
hundred baths in the interior of the palace. Crowds of Aztec nobles
were sauntering up and down in these squares, and in the outer
halls, loitering away their hours in attendance on the court. The
apartments were of immense size, though not lofty. The ceilings were
of various sorts of odoriferous wood ingeniously carved; the floors
covered with mats of the palm-leaf. The walls were hung with cotton
richly stained, with the skins of wild animals, or gorgeous
draperies of feather-work wrought in imitation of birds, insects,
and flowers, with the nice art and glowing radiance of colours that
might compare with the tapestries of Flanders. Clouds of incense
rolled up from censers, and diffused intoxicating odours through the
apartments. The Spaniards might well have fancied themselves in the
voluptuous precincts of an Eastern harem, instead of treading the
halls of a wild barbaric chief in the Western World.
On reaching the hall of audience, the Mexican officers took off
their sandals, and covered their gay attire with a mantle of nequen, a
coarse stuff made of the fibres of the maguey, worn only by the
poorest classes. This act of humiliation was imposed on all, except
the members of his own family, who approached the sovereign. Thus
bare-footed, with downcast eyes, and formal obeisance, they ushered
the Spaniards into the royal presence.
They found Montezuma seated at the further end of a spacious
saloon, and surrounded by a few of his favourite chiefs. He received
them kindly, and very soon Cortes, without much ceremony, entered on
the subject which was uppermost in his thoughts. He was fully aware of
the importance of gaining the royal convert, whose example would
have such an influence on the conversion of his people. The general,
therefore, prepared to display the whole store of his theological
science, with the most winning arts of rhetoric he could command,
while the interpretation was conveyed through the silver tones of
Marina, as inseparable from him, on these occasions, as his shadow.
He set forth, as clearly as he could, the ideas entertained by the
Church in regard to the holy mysteries of the Trinity, the
Incarnation, and the Atonement. From this he ascended to the origin of
things, the creation of the world, the first pair, paradise, and the
fall of man. He assured Montezuma, that the idols he worshipped were
Satan under different forms. A sufficient proof of it was the bloody
sacrifices they imposed, which he contrasted with the pure and
simple rite of the mass. Their worship would sink him in perdition. It
was to snatch his soul, and the souls of his people, from the flames
of eternal fire by opening to them a purer faith, that the
Christians had come to his land. And he earnestly besought him not
to neglect the occasion, but to secure his salvation by embracing
the Cross, the great sign of human redemption.
The eloquence of the preacher was wasted on the insensible heart
of his royal auditor. It doubtless lost somewhat of its efficacy,
strained through the imperfect interpretation of so recent a
neophyte as the Indian damsel. But the doctrines were too abstruse
in themselves to be comprehended at a glance by the rude intellect
of a barbarian. And Montezuma may have, perhaps, thought it was not
more monstrous to feed on the flesh of a fellow-creature, than on that
of the Creator himself. He was, besides, steeped in the
superstitions of his country from his cradle. He had been educated
in the straitest sect of her religion; had been himself a priest
before his election to the throne; and was now the head both of the
religion and the state. Little probability was there that such a man
would be open to argument or persuasion, even from the lips of a
more practised polemic than the Spanish commander. How could he abjure
the faith that was intertwined with the dearest affections of his
heart, and the very elements of his being? How could he be false to
the gods who had raised him to such prosperity and honours, and
whose shrines were intrusted to his especial keeping?
He listened, however, with silent attention, until the general had
concluded his homily. He then replied, that he knew the Spaniards, had
held this discourse wherever they had been. He doubted not their God
was, as they said, a good being. His gods, also, were good to him. Yet
what his visitor said of the creation of the world was like what he
had been taught to believe. It was not worth while to discourse
further of the matter. His ancestors, he said, were not the original
proprietors of the land. They had occupied it but a few ages, and
had been led there by a great Being, who; after giving them laws and
ruling over the nation for a time, had withdrawn to the regions
where the sun rises. He had declared, on his departure, that he or his
descendants would again visit them and resume his empire. The
wonderful deeds of the Spaniards, their fair complexions, and the
quarter whence they came, all showed they were his descendants. If
Montezuma had resisted their visit to his capital, it was because he
had heard such accounts Of their cruelties,- that they sent the
lightning to consume his people, or crushed them to pieces under the
hard feet of the ferocious animals on which they rode. He was now
convinced that these were idle tales; that the Spaniards were kind and
generous in their natures; they were mortals of a different race,
indeed, from the Aztecs, wiser, and more valiant,- and for this he
"You, too," he added, with a smile, "have been told, perhaps, that
I am a god, and dwell in palaces of gold and silver. But you see, it
is false. My houses, though large, are of stone and wood like those of
others; and as to my body," he said, baring his tawny arm, "you see it
is flesh and bone like yours. It is true, I have a great empire,
inherited from my ancestors; lands, and gold, and silver. But your
sovereign beyond the waters is, I know, the rightful lord of all. I
rule in his name. You, Malinche, are his ambassador; you and your
brethren shall share these things with me. Rest now from your labours.
You are here in your own dwellings, and everything shall be provided
for your subsistence. I will see that your wishes shall be obeyed in
the same way as my own." As the monarch concluded these words, a few
natural tears suffused his eyes, while the image of ancient
independence, perhaps, flitted across his mind.
Cortes, while he encouraged the idea that his own sovereign was
the great Being indicated by Montezuma, endeavoured to comfort the
monarch by the assurance that his master had no desire to interfere
with his authority, otherwise than, out of pure concern for his
welfare, to effect his conversion and that of his people to
Christianity. Before the emperor dismissed his visitors he consulted
his munificent spirit, as usual, by distributing rich stuffs and
trinkets of gold among them, so that the poorest soldier, says
Bernal Diaz, one of the party, received at least two heavy collars
of the precious metal for his share. The iron hearts of the
Spaniards were touched with the emotion displayed by Montezuma, as
well as by his princely spirit of liberality. As they passed him,
the cavaliers, with bonnet in hand, made him the most profound
obeisance, and, "on the way home," continues the same chronicler,
"we could discourse of nothing but the gentle breeding and courtesy of
the Indian monarch, and of the respect we entertained for him."
Speculations of a graver complexion must have pressed on the
mind of the general, as he saw around him the evidences of a
civilisation, and consequently power, for which even the exaggerated
reports of the natives- discredited from their apparent
exaggeration- had not prepared him. In the pomp and burdensome
ceremonial of the court, he saw that nice system of subordination
and profound reverence for the monarch which characterise the
semi-civilised empires of Asia. In the appearance of the capital,
its massy, yet elegant architecture, its luxurious social
accommodations, its activity in trade, he recognised the proofs of the
intellectual progress, mechanical skill, and enlarged resources, of an
old and opulent community; while the swarms in the streets attested
the existence of a population capable of turning these resources to
the best account.
In the Aztec he beheld a being unlike either the rude republican
Tlascalan, or the effeminate Cholulan; but combining the courage of
the one with the cultivation of the other. He was in the heart of a
great capital, which seemed like an extensive fortification, with
its dikes and its drawbridges, where every house might be easily
converted into a castle. Its insular position removed it from the
continent, from which, at the mere nod of the sovereign, all
communication might be cut off, and the whole warlike population be at
once precipitated on him and his handful of followers. What could
superior science avail against such odds?
As to the subversion of Montezuma's empire, now that he had seen
him in his capital, it must have seemed a more doubtful enterprise
than ever. The recognition which the Aztec prince had made of the
feudal supremacy, if I may so say, of the Spanish sovereign, was not
to be taken too literally. Whatever show of deference he be disposed
to pay the latter, under the influence of his present- perhaps
temporary-delusion, it was not to be supposed that he would so
easily relinquish his actual power and possessions, or that his people
would consent to it. Indeed, his sensitive apprehensions in regard
to this very subject, on the coming of the Spaniards, were
sufficient proof of the tenacity with which he clung to his authority.
It is true that Cortes had a strong lever for future operations in the
superstitious reverence felt for himself both by prince and people. It
was undoubtedly his policy to maintain this sentiment unimpaired in
both, as far as possible. But, before settling any plan of operations,
it was necessary to make himself personally acquainted with the
topography and local advantages of the capital, the character of its
population, and the real nature and amount of its resources. With this
view, he asked the emperor's permission to visit the principal
1. He took about 6000 warriors from Tlascala; and some few of the Cempoallan and other Indian allies continued with him. The Spanish force on leaving Vera Cruz amounted to about 400 foot and 15 horse. In the remonstrance of the disaffected soldiers, after the murderous
Tlascalan combats, they speak of having lost fifty of their number since the beginning of the campaign. Ante, Vol. I. p. 245.
2. "La calzada d'Iztapalapan est fondée sur cette même digue ancienne, sur laquelle Cortéz fit des prodiges de valeur dans ses recontres avec les assiégés." Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 57.
3. Among these towns were several containing from three to five or six thousand dwellings, according to Cortés, whose barbarous orthography in proper names will not easily be recognized by Mexican or Spaniard. Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 78.
4. Father Toribio Benavente does not stint his panegyric in speaking of the neighborhood of the capital, which he saw in its glory. "Creo, que en toda nuestra Europa hay pocas ciudades que tengan tal asiento y tal comarca, con tantos pueblos á la redonda de sí y tan bien asentados." Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.
5. It is not necessary, however, to adopt Herrera's account of 50,000 canoes, which, he says, were constantly employed in supplying the capital with provisions! (Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 14.) The poet-chronicler Saavedra is more modest in his estimate.
"Dos mil y mas canoas cada dia
Bastecen el gran pueblo Mexicano
De la mas y la menus niñeria
Que es necessario al alimento humano."
EL PEREGRINO INDIANO, CANTO 11.
6. "Usaban unos brazaletes de musaico, hechos de turquezas con unas plumas ricas que salian de ellos, que eran mas altas que la cabeza, y bordadas con plumas ricas y con oro, y unas bandas de oro, que subian con las plumas." Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, lib. 8, cap. 9.
7 Gonzalo de las Casas, Defensa, MS., Parte 1, cap. 24.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 65.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 88.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 78, 79.--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85.
8. Cardinal Lorenzana says, the street intended, probably, was that crossing the city from the Hospital of San Antonio. (Rel. Seg. de Cortés, p. 79, nota.) This is confirmed by Sahagun. "Y así en aquel trecho que está desde la Iglesia de San Antonio (que ellos llaman Xuluco) que va por cave las casas de Alvarado, hacia el Hospital de la Concepcion, salió Moctezuma á recibir de paz á D. Hernando Cortás." Hist. de Nueva España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 16.
9. Carta del Lic. Zuazo, MS.
10. "Toda la gente que estaba en las calles se le humiliaban y hacian profunda reverencia y grande acatamiento sin levantar los ojos á le
mirar, sino que todos estaban hasta que él era pasado, tan inclinados como frayles en Gloria Patri." Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.
11. For the preceding account of the equipage and appearance of Montezuma, see Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 88,--Carta de Zuazo, MS.,--Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85,--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 65,--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., ubi supra, et cap. 45,--Acosta, lib. 7, cap. 22,--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 16,--Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.
The noble Castilian, or rather Mexican bard, Saavedra, who belonged to the generation after the Conquest, has introduced most of the particulars in his rhyming chronicle. The following specimen will probably suffice for the reader.
"Yva el gran Moteçuma atauiado
De manta açul y blanca con gran falda,
De algodon muy sutil y delicado,
Y al remate vna concha de esmeralda:
En la parte que el nudo tiene dado,
Y una tiara á modo de guirnalda,
Zapatos que de oro son las suelas
Asidos con muy ricas correhuelas."
EL PEREGRINO INDIANO, canto 11.
12. "Satis vultu læto," says Martyr, "an stomacho sedatus, et an hospites per vim quis unquam libens susceperit, experti loquantur." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.
13. Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 79.
14. "Entráron en la ciudad de Méjico á punto de guerra, tocando Ins atambores, y con banderas desplegadas," &c. Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 15.
15. "Et giardini alti et bassi, che era cosa maravigliosa da vedere." Rel. d'un gent., ap. Rumusio, tom. III. fol. 309.
16. "wQuien podrá," exclaims the old soldier, "dezir la multitud de hombres, y mugeres, y muchachos, que estauan en las calles, é açuetas, y en Canoas en aquellas acequias, que nos salian á mirar? Era cosa de notar, que agora que lo estoy escriuiendo, se me representa todo delante de mis ojos, como si ayer fuera quando esto passó." Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 88.
17. "Ad spectaculum," says the penetrating Martyr, "tandem Hispanis placidum, quia diu optatum, Tenustiatanis prudentibus forte aliter, quia verentur fore, vt hi hospites quietem suam Elysiam veniant perturbaturi; de populo secus, qui nil sentit æque delectabile, quàm res novas ante oculos in presentiarum habere, de futuro nihil anxius." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.
18. The euphonious name of Tenochtitlan is commonly derived from Aztec words signifying "the tuna, or cactus, on a rock," the appearance of which, as the reader may remember, was to determine the site of the future capital. (Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, Parte 3, cap. 7.--Esplic. de la Colec. de Mendoza, ap. Antiq. of Mexico, vol. IV.) Another etymology derives the word from Tenoch, the name of one of the founders of the monarchy.
19. Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. III. p. 78.
It occupied what is now the corner of the streets, "Del Indio Triste" and "Tacuba." Humboldt, Vues des Cordillères, p. 7, et seq.
20. Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 88.--Gonzalo de las Casas, Defensa, MS., Parte 1, cap. 24.
21. Boturini says, greater, by the acknowledgment of the goldsmiths themselves. "Los plateros de Madrid, viendo algunas Piezas, y Brazaletes de oro, con que se armaban en guerra los Reyes, y Capitanes Indianos, confessáron, que eran inimitables en Europa." (Idea, p. 78.) And
Oviedo, speaking of their work in jewelry, remarks, "Io ví algunas piedras jaspes, calcidonias, jacintos, corniolas, é plasmas de esmeraldas, é otras de otras especies labradas é fechas, cabezas de Aves, é otras hechas animales é otras figuras, que dudo haber en España ni en Italia quien las supiera hacer con tanta perficion." Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 11.
22. Ante, Vol. I. p. 258.
23. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 88.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 80.
24. Bernal Diaz, Ibid., loc. cit.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5.--Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 16.
25. "Muchas y diversas Joyas de Oro, y Plata, y Plumajes, y con fasta cinco ó seis mil Piezas de Ropa de Algodon muy ricas, y de diversas maneras texida, y labrada." (Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 80.) Even this falls short of truth, according to Diaz. "Tenia apercebido el gran Monteçuma muy ricas joyas de oro, y de muchas hechuras, que dió á nuestro Capitan, é assí mismo á cada vno de nuestros Capitanes dió cositas de oro, y tres cargas de mantas de labores ricas de pluma, y entre todos los soldados tambien nos dió á cada vno á dos cargas de mantas, con alegría, y en todo parecia gran señor" (Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 89.) "Sex millia vestium, aiunt qui eas vidêre." Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.
26. Ixtlilxochitl, Hist. Chich., MS., cap. 85.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 66.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 6.--Bernal Diaz, Ibid., ubi supra.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5.
27. "La noche siguiente jugáron la artillería por la solemnidad de haber llegado sin daño á donde deseaban; pero los Indios como no usados á los truenos de la artillería, mal edor de la pólvora, recibiéron grande alteracion y miedo toda aquella noche." Sahagun, Hist. de Nueva España, MS., lib. 12, cap. 17.
28. "C'est là que la famille construisit le bel édifice dans lequel se trouvent les archives del Estado, et qui est passfi avec tout l'héritage au duc Napolitain de Monteleone." (Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 72.) The inhabitants of modern Mexico have large obligations to this inquisitive traveller, for the care he has taken to identify the memorable localities of their capital. It is not often that a philosophical treatise is, also, a good manuel du voyageur.
29. "Et io entrai più di quattro volte in una casa del gran Signor non per altro effetto che per vederla, et ogni volta vi camminauo tanto che mi stancauo, et mai la fini di vedere tutta." Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309.
30. Gomara,.Crónica, cap. 71.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 9.
The authorities call it "tiger," an animal not known in America. I have ventured to substitute the "ocelotl," tlalocelotl of Mexico, a native animal, which, being of the same family, might easily be confounded by the Spaniards with the tiger of the Old Continent.
31. Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.--Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 9.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 71.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 91.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5, 46.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 111-114.
32. "Para entrar en su palacio, á que ellos llaman Tecpa, todos se descalzaban, y los que entraban á negociar con él habian de llevar mantas groseras encima de sí, y si eran grandes señores ó en tiempo de frio, sobre las mantas buenas que llevaban vestidas, ponian una manta grosera y pobre; y para hablarle, estaban muy humiliados y sin levantar los ojos." (Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.) There is no better authority than this worthy missionary, for the usages of the ancient Aztecs, of which he had such large personal knowledge.
33. The ludicrous effect--if the subject be not too grave to justify the expression--of a literal belief in the doctrine of Transubstantiation in the mother country, even at this day, is well illustrated by Blanco White, Letters from Spain, (London, 1822,) let. 1.
34. "Y en esso de la creacion del mundo assí lo tenemos nosotros creido muchos tiempos passados." (Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 90.) For some points of resemblance between the Aztec and Hebrew traditions, see Book 1, Ch. 3, and Appendix, Part 1, of this History.
35. "É siempre hemos tenido, que de los que de él descendiessen habian de venir á sojuzgar esta tierra, y á nosotros como á sus Vasallos." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 81.
36. "Y luego el Monteçuma dixo riendo, porque en todo era muy regozijado en su hablar de gran señor: Malinche, bien sé que te han dicho essos de Tlascala, con quien tanta amistad aueis tomado, que yo que soy como Dios, ó Teule, que quanto ay en mis casas es todo oro, é plata, y piedras ricas." Bernal Diaz, Ibid., ubi supra.
37. "É por tanto Vos sed cierto, que os obedecerémos, y ternémos por señor en lugar de esse gran señor, que decis, y que en ello no habia falta, ni engaño alguno; é bien podeis en toda la tierra, digo, que en la que yo en mi Señorío poseo, mandar á vuestra voluntad, porque será obedecido y fecho, y todo lo que nosotros tenemos es para to que Vos de ello quisieredes disponer." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ubi supra.
38. Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 66.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 5.--Gonzalo de las Casas, MS., Parte 1, cap. 24.
Cortés, in his brief notes of this proceeding, speaks only of the interview with Montezuma in the Spanish quarters, which he makes the scene of the preceding dialogue.--Bernal Diaz transfers this to the subsequent meeting in the palace. In the only fact of importance, the dialogue itself, both substantially agree.
39. "Assí nos despedímos con grandes cortesías dél, y nos fuýmos á nuestros aposentos, é ibamos platicando de la buena manera é criança que en todo tenia, é que nosotros en todo le tuuiessemos mucho acato, é con las gorras de armas colchadas quitadas, quando delante dél passassemos." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 90.
40. "Y assí," says Toribio de Benavente, "estaba tan fuerte esta ciudad, que parecia no bastar poder humano para ganarla; porque ademas de su fuerza y municion que tenia, era cabeza y Señoría de toda la tierra, y el Señor de ella (Moteczuma) gloriábase en su silla y en la fortaleza de su ciudad, y en la muchedumbre de sus vassallos." Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 8.
41. "Many are of opinion," says Father Acosta, "that, if the Spaniards had continued the course they began, they might easily have disposed of Montezuma and his kingdom, and introduced the law of Christ, without much bloodshed." Lib. 7, cap. 25.