Chapter I 
TEZCUCAN LAKE- DESCRIPTION OF THE CAPITAL- PALACES AND MUSEUMS-
ROYAL HOUSEHOLD- MONTEZUMA'S WAY OF LIFE
THE ancient city of Mexico covered the same spot occupied by the
modern capital. The great causeways touched it in the same points; the
streets ran in much the same direction, nearly from north to south,
and from east to west; the cathedral in the plaza mayor stands on same
ground that was covered by the temple of the Aztec war-god; and the
four principal quarters of the town are still known among the
Indians by their ancient names. Yet an Aztec of the days of Montezuma,
could he behold the modern metropolis; which has risen with such
phoenix-like splendour from the ashes of the old, would not
recognise its site as that of his own Tenochtitlan. For the latter was
encompassed by the salt floods of Tezcuco, which flowed in ample
canals through every part of the city; while the Mexico of our day
stands high and dry on the mainland, nearly a league distant, at its
centre, from the water. The cause of this apparent change in its
position is the diminution of the lake, which, from the rapidity of
evaporation in these elevated regions, had become perceptible before
the Conquest, but which has since been greatly accelerated by
The chinampas, that archipelago of wandering islands, to which our
attention was drawn in the last chapter, have also nearly disappeared.
These had their origin in the detached masses of earth, which,
loosening from the shores, were still held together by the fibrous
roots with which they were penetrated. The primitive Aztecs, in
their poverty of land, availed themselves of the hint thus afforded by
nature. They constructed rafts of reeds, rushes, and other fibrous
materials, which, tightly knit together, formed a sufficient basis for
the sediment that they drew up from the bottom of the lake.
Gradually islands were formed, two or three hundred feet in length,
and three or four feet in depth, with a rich stimulated soil, on which
the economical Indian raised his vegetables and flowers for the
markets of Tenochtitlan. Some of these chinampas were even firm enough
to allow the growth of small trees, and to sustain a hut for the
residence of the person that had charge of it, who, with a long pole
resting on the sides or the bottom of the shallow basin, could
change the position of his little territory at pleasure, which with
its rich freight of vegetable stores was seen moving like some
enchanted island over the water.
The ancient dikes were three in number. That of Iztapalapan, by
which the Spaniards entered, approaching the city from the south. That
of Tepejacac, on the north, which, continuing the principal street,
might be regarded, also, as a continuation of the first causeway.
Lastly, the dike of Tlacopan, connecting the island-city with the
continent on the west. This last causeway, memorable for the
disastrous retreat of the Spaniards, was about two miles in length.
They were all built in the same substantial manner, of lime and stone,
were defended by drawbridges, and were wide enough for ten or twelve
horsemen to ride abreast.
The rude founders of Tenochtitlan built their frail tenements of
reeds and rushes on the group of small islands in the western part
of the lake. In process of time, these were supplanted by more
substantial buildings. A quarry in the neighbourhood, of a red
porous amygdaloid, tetzontli, was opened, and a light, brittle stone
drawn from it, and wrought with little difficulty. Of this their
edifices were constructed, with some reference to architectural
solidity, if not elegance. Mexico, as already noticed, was the
residence of the great chiefs, whom the sovereign encouraged, or
rather compelled, from obvious motives of policy, to spend part of the
year in the capital. It was also the temporary abode of the great
lords of Tezcuco and Tlacopan, who shared nominally, at least, the
sovereignty of the empire. The mansions of these dignitaries, and of
the principal nobles, were on a scale of rude magnificence
corresponding with their state. They were low, indeed; seldom of
more than one floor, never exceeding two. But they spread over a
wide extent of ground; were arranged in a quadrangular form, with a
court in the centre, and were surrounded by porticoes embellished with
porphyry and jasper, easily found in the neighbourhood, while not
unfrequently a fountain of crystal water in the centre shed a grateful
coolness over the atmosphere. The dwellings of the common people
were also placed on foundations of stone, which rose to the height
of a few feet, and were then succeeded by courses of unbaked bricks,
crossed occasionally by wooden rafters. Most of the streets were
mean and narrow. Some few, however, were wide and of great length. The
principal street, conducting from the great southern causeway,
penetrated in a straight line the whole length of the city, and
afforded a noble vista, in which the long lines of low stone
edifices were broken occasionally by intervening gardens, rising on
terraces, and displaying all the pomp of Aztec horticulture.
The great streets, which were coated with a hard cement, were
intersected by numerous canals. Some of these were flanked by a
solid way, which served as a foot-walk for passengers, and as a
landing-place where boats might discharge their cargoes. Small
buildings were erected at intervals, as stations for the revenue
officers who collected the duties on different articles of
merchandise. The canals were traversed by numerous bridges, many of
which could be raised affording the means of cutting off communication
between different parts of the city.
From the accounts of the ancient capital, one is reminded of those
acquatic cities in the Old World, the positions of which have been
selected from similar motives of economy and defence; above all, of
Venice,- if it be not rash to compare the rude architecture of the
American Indian with the marble palaces and temples- alas, how shorn
of their splendour!- which crowned the once proud mistress of the
Adriatic. The example of the metropolis was soon followed by the other
towns in the vicinity. Instead of resting their foundations on terra
firma, they were seen advancing far into the lake, the shallow
waters of which in some parts do not exceed four feet in depth. Thus
an easy means of intercommunication was opened, and the surface of
this inland "sea," as Cortes styles it, was darkened by thousands of
canoes- an Indian term- industriously engaged in the traffic between
these little communities. How gay and picturesque must have been the
aspect of the lake in those days, with its shining cities, and
flowering islets rocking, as it were, at anchor on the fair bosom of
The population of Tenochtitlan, at the time of the Conquest, is
variously stated. No contemporary writer estimates it at less than
sixty thousand houses, which, by the ordinary rules of reckoning,
would give three hundred thousand souls. If a dwelling often
contained, as is asserted, several families, it would swell the amount
considerably higher. Nothing is more uncertain than estimates of
numbers among barbarous communities, who necessarily live in a more
confused and promiscuous manner than civilised, and among whom no
regular system is adopted for ascertaining the population. The
concurrent testimony of the Conquerors; the extent of the city,
which was said to be nearly three leagues in circumference; the
immense size of its great market-place; the long lines of edifices,
vestiges of whose ruins may still be found in the suburbs, miles
from the modern city; the fame of the metropolis throughout Anahuac,
which, however, could boast many large and populous places; lastly,
the economical husbandry and the ingenious contrivances to extract
aliment from the most unpromising sources,- all attest a numerous
population, far beyond that of the present capital.
A careful police provided for the health and cleanliness of the
city. A thousand persons are said to have been daily employed in
watering and sweeping the streets, so that a man- to borrow the
language of an old Spaniard- "could walk through them with as little
danger of soiling his feet as his hands." The water, in a city
washed on all sides by the salt floods, was extremely brackish. A
liberal supply of the pure element, however, was brought from
Chapoltepec, "the grasshopper's hill," less than a league distant.
it was brought through an earthen pipe, along a dike constructed for
the purpose. That there might be no failure in so essential an
article, when repairs were going on, a double course of pipes was
laid. In this way a column of water the size of a man's body was
conducted into the heart of the capital, where it fed the fountains
and reservoirs of the principal mansions. Openings were made in the
aqueduct as it crossed the bridges, and thus a supply was furnished to
the canoes below, by means of which it was transported to all parts of
While Montezuma encouraged a taste for architectural
magnificence in his nobles, he contributed his own share towards the
embellishment of the city. It was in his reign that the famous
calendarstone, weighing, probably, in its primitive state, nearly
fifty tons, was transported from its native quarry, many leagues
distant, to the capital, where it still forms one of the most
curious monuments of Aztec science. Indeed, when we reflect on the
difficulty of hewing such a stupendous mass from its hard basaltic bed
without the aid of iron tools, and that of transporting it such a
distance across land and water without the help of animals, we may
feel admiration at the mechanical ingenuity and enterprise of the
people who accomplished it.
Not content with the spacious residence of his father, Montezuma
erected another on a yet more magnificent scale. It occupied the
ground partly covered by the private dwellings on one side of the
plaza mayor of the modern city. This building, or, as it might more
correctly be styled, pile of buildings, spread over an extent of
ground so vast, that, as one of the Conquerors assures us, its
terraced roof might have afforded ample room for thirty knights to run
their courses in a regular tourney. I have already noticed its
interior decorations, its fanciful draperies, its roofs inlaid with
cedar and other odoriferous woods, held together without a nail, and
probably without a knowledge of the arch, its numerous and spacious
apartments, which Cortes, with enthusiastic hyperbole, does not
hesitate to declare superior to anything of the kind in Spain.
Adjoining the principal edifices were others devoted to various
objects. One was an armoury, filled with the weapons and military
dresses worn by the Aztecs, all kept in the most perfect order,
ready for instant use. The emperor was himself very expert in the
management of the maquahuitl, or Indian sword, and took great
delight in witnessing athletic exercises, and the mimic representation
of war by his young nobility. Another building was used as a
granary, and others as warehouses for the different articles of food
and apparel contributed by the districts charged with the
maintenance of the royal household.
There were also edifices appropriated to objects of quite
another kind. One of these was an immense aviary, in which birds of
splendid plumage were assembled from all parts of the empire. Here was
the scarlet cardinal, the golden pheasant, the endless parrot-tribe
with their rainbow hues (the royal green predominant), and that
miniature miracle of nature, the humming-bird, which delights to revel
among the honeysuckle bowers of Mexico. Three hundred attendants had
charge of this aviary, who made themselves acquainted with the
appropriate food of its inmates, oftentimes procured at great cost,
and in the moulting season were careful to collect the beautiful
plumage, which, with its many-coloured tints, furnished the
materials for the Aztec painter.
A separate building was reserved for the fierce birds of prey; the
voracious vulture-tribes and eagles of enormous size, whose home was
in the snowy solitudes of the Andes. No less than five hundred
turkeys, the cheapest meat in Mexico, were allowed for the daily
consumption of these tyrants of the feathered race.
Adjoining this aviary was a menagerie of wild animals, gathered
from the mountain forests, and even from the remote swamps of the
tierra caliente. The resemblance of the different species to those
in the Old World, with which no one of them, however, was identical,
led to a perpetual confusion the nomenclature of the Spaniards, as
it has since done in that of better instructed naturalists. The
collection was still further swelled by a great number of reptiles and
serpents, remarkable for their size and venomous qualities, among
which the Spaniards beheld the fiery little animal "with the castanets
in his tail," the terror of the American wilderness. The serpents were
confined in long cages, lined with down or feathers, or in troughs
of mud and water. The beasts and birds of prey were provided with
apartments large enough to allow of their moving about, and secured by
a strong lattice-work, through which light and air were freely
admitted. The whole was placed under the charge of numerous keepers,
who acquainted themselves with the habits of their prisoners, and
provided for their comfort and cleanliness. With what deep interest
would the enlightened naturalist of that day- an Oviedo, or a
Martyr, for example- have surveyed this magnificent collection, in
which the various tribes which roamed over the Western wilderness, the
unknown races of an unknown world, were, brought into one view! How
would they have delighted to study the peculiarities of these new
species, compared with those of their own hemisphere, and thus have
risen to some comprehension of the general laws by which Nature acts
in all her works! The rude followers of Cortes did not trouble
themselves with such refined speculations. They gazed on the spectacle
with a vague curiosity, not unmixed with awe; and, as they listened to
the wild cries of the ferocious animals and the hissings of the
serpents, they almost fancied themselves in the infernal regions.
I must not omit to notice a strange collection of human
monsters, dwarfs, and other unfortunate persons, in whose organisation
Nature had capriciously deviated from her regular laws. Such hideous
anomalies were regarded by the Aztecs as a suitable appendage of
state. It is even said they were in some cases the result of
artificial means, employed by unnatural parents, desirous to secure
a provision for their offspring by thus qualifying them for a place in
the royal museum!
Extensive gardens were spread out around these buildings, filled
with fragrant shrubs and flowers, and especially with medicinal
plants. No country has afforded more numerous species of these last,
than New Spain; and their virtues were perfectly understood by the
Aztecs, with whom medical botany may be said to have been studied as a
science. Amidst this labyrinth of sweet-scented groves and
shrubberies, fountains of pure water might be seen throwing up their
sparkling jets, and scattering refreshing dews over the blossoms.
Ten large tanks, well stocked with fish, afforded a retreat on their
margins to various tribes of water-fowl, whose habits were so
carefully consulted, that some of these ponds were of salt water, as
that which they most loved to frequent. A tessellated pavement of
marble inclosed the ample basins, which were overhung by light and
fanciful pavilions, that admitted the perfumed breezes of the gardens,
and offered a grateful shelter to the monarch and his mistresses in
the sultry heats of summer.
But the most luxurious residence of the Aztec monarch, at that
season, was the royal hill of Chapoltepec, a spot consecrated,
moreover, by the ashes of his ancestors. It stood in a westerly
direction from the capital, and its base was, in his day, washed by
the waters of the Tezcuco. On its lofty crest of porphyritic rock
there now stands the magnificent, though desolate, castle erected by
the young viceroy Galvez, at the close of the seventeenth century. The
view from its windows is one of the finest in the environs of
Mexico. The landscape is not disfigured here, as in many other
quarters, by the white and barren patches, so offensive to the
sight; but the eye wanders over an unbroken expanse of meadows and
cultivated fields, waving with rich harvests of European grain.
Montezuma's gardens stretched for miles around the base of the hill.
Two statues of that monarch and his father, cut in bas relief in the
porphyry, were spared till the middle of the last century; and the
grounds are still shaded by gigantic cypresses, more than fifty feet
in circumference, which were centuries old at the time of the
Conquest. The place is now a tangled wilderness of wild shrubs,
where the myrtle mingles its dark, glossy leaves with the red
berries and delicate foliage of the pepper-tree. Surely there is no
spot better suited to awaken meditation on the past; none where the
traveller, as he sits under those stately cypresses grey with the moss
of ages, can so fitly ponder on the sad destinies of the Indian
races and the monarch who once held his courtly revels under the
shadow of their branches.
The domestic establishment of Montezuma was on the same scale of
barbaric splendour as everything else about him. He could boast as
many wives as are found in the harem of an Eastern sultan. They were
lodged in their own apartments, and provided with every accommodation,
according to their ideas, for personal comfort and cleanliness. They
passed their hours in the usual feminine employments of weaving and
embroidery, especially in the graceful feather-work, for which such
rich materials were furnished by the royal aviaries. They conducted
themselves with strict decorum, under the supervision of certain
aged females, who acted in the respectable capacity of duennas, in the
same manner as in the religious houses attached to the teocallis.
The palace was supplied with numerous baths, and Montezuma set the
example, in his own person, of frequent ablutions. He bathed, at least
once, and changed his dress four times, it is said, every day. He
never put on the same apparel a second time, but gave it away to his
attendants. Queen Elizabeth, with a similar taste for costume,
showed a less princely spirit in hoarding her discarded suits.
Besides his numerous female retinue, the halls and antechambers
were filled with nobles in constant attendance on his person, who
served also as a sort of bodyguard. It had been usual for plebeians of
merit to fill certain offices in the palace. But the haughty Montezuma
refused to be waited upon by any but men of noble birth. They were not
unfrequently the sons of the great chiefs, and remained as hostages in
the absence of their fathers; thus serving the double purpose of
security and state.
His meals the emperor took alone. The well-matted floor of a large
saloon was covered with hundreds of dishes. Sometimes Montezuma
himself, but more frequently his steward, indicated those which he
preferred, and which were kept hot by means of chafingdishes. The
royal bill of fare comprehended, besides domestic animals, game from
the distant forests, and fish which, the day before, were swimming
in the Gulf of Mexico! They were dressed in manifold ways, for the
Aztec artistes, as we have already had occasion to notice, had
penetrated deep into the mysteries of culinary science.
The meats were served by the attendant nobles, who then resigned
the office of waiting on the monarch to maidens selected for their
personal grace and beauty. A screen of richly gilt and carved wood was
drawn around him, so as to conceal him from vulgar eyes during the
repast. He was seated on a cushion, and the dinner was served on a low
table, covered with a delicate cotton cloth. The dishes were of the
finest ware of Cholula. He had a service of gold, which was reserved
for religious celebrations. Indeed, it would scarcely have comported
with even his princely revenues to have used it on ordinary occasions,
when his table equipage was not allowed to appear a second time, but
was given away to his attendants. The saloon was lighted by torches
made of a resinous wood, which sent forth a sweet odour, and
probably not a little smoke, as they burned. At his meal, he was
attended by five or six of his ancient counsellors, who stood at a
respectful distance, answering his questions, and occasionally
rejoiced by some of the viands with which he complimented them from
This course of solid dishes was succeeded by another of sweetmeats
and pastry, for which the Aztec cooks, provided with the important
requisites of maize-flour, eggs, and the rich sugar of the aloe,
were famous. Two girls were occupied at the further end of the
apartment, during dinner, in preparing fine rolls and wafers, with
which they garnished the board from time to time. The emperor took
no other beverage than the chocolatl, a potation of chocolate,
flavoured with vanilla and other spices, and so prepared as to be
reduced to a froth of the consistency of honey, which gradually
dissolved in the mouth. This beverage, if so it could be called, was
served in golden goblets, with spoons of the same metal or of
tortoise-shell finely wrought. The emperor was exceedingly fond of it,
to judge from the quantity,- no less than fifty jars or pitchers being
prepared for his own daily consumption! Two thousand more were allowed
for that of his household.
The general arrangement of the meal seems to have been not very
unlike that of Europeans. But no prince in Europe could boast a
dessert which could compare with that of the Aztec emperor: for it was
gathered fresh from the most opposite climes; and his board
displayed the products of his own temperate region, and the luscious
fruits of the tropics, plucked the day previous, from the green groves
of the tierra caliente, and transmitted with the speed of steam, by
means of couriers, to the capital. It was as if some kind fairy should
crown our banquets with the spicy products that but yesterday were
growing in a sunny isle of the far-off Indian seas!
After the royal appetite was appeased, water was handed to him
by the female attendants in a silver basin, in the same manner as
had been done before commencing his meal; for the Aztecs were as
constant in their ablutions, at these times, as any nation of the
East. Pipes were then brought, made of a varnished and richly gilt
wood, from which he inhaled, sometimes through the nose, at others
through the mouth, the fumes of an intoxicating weed, called
"tobacco," mingled with liquid-amber. While this soothing process of
fumigation was going on, the emperor enjoyed the exhibitions of his
mountebanks and jugglers, of whom a regular corps was attached to
the palace. No people, not even those of China or Hindostan, surpassed
the Aztecs in feats of agility and legerdemain.
When he had sufficiently refreshed his spirits with these
diversions, he composed himself to sleep, for in his siesta he was
as regular as a Spaniard. On awaking, he gave audience to
ambassadors from foreign states, or his own tributary cities, or to
such caciques as had suits to prefer to him. They were introduced by
the young nobles in attendance, and, whatever might be their rank,
unless of the blood royal, they were obliged to submit to the
humiliation of shrouding their rich dresses under the coarse mantle of
nequen, and entering bare-footed, with downcast eyes, into the
presence. The emperor addressed few and brief remarks to the
suitors, answering them generally by his secretaries; and the
parties retired with the same reverential obeisance, taking care to
keep their faces turned towards the monarch. Well might Cortes exclaim
that no court, whether of the Grand Seignior or any other infidel,
ever displayed so pompous and elaborate a ceremonial!
Besides the crowd of retainers already noticed, the royal
household was not complete without a host of artisans constantly
employed in the erection or repair of buildings, besides a great
number of jewellers and persons skilled in working metals, who found
abundant demand for their trinkets among the dark-eyed beauties of the
harem. The imperial mummers and jugglers were also very numerous,
and the dancers belonging to the palace occupied a particular district
of the city, appropriated exclusively to them.
The maintenance of this little host, amounting to some thousands
of individuals, involved a heavy expenditure, requiring accounts of
a complicated, and, to a simple people, it might well be, embarrassing
nature. Everything, however, was conducted with perfect order; and all
the various receipts and disbursements were set down in the
picture-writing of the country. The arithmetical characters were of
a more refined and conventional sort than those for narrative
purposes; and a separate apartment was fired with hieroglyphical
ledgers, exhibiting a complete view of the economy of the palace.
The care of all this was intrusted to a treasurer, who acted as sort
of major-domo in the household, having a general superintendence
over all its concerns. This responsible office, on the arrival of
the Spaniards, was in the hands of a trusty cacique named Tapia.
Such is the picture of Montezuma's domestic establishment and
way of living, as delineated by the conquerors, and their immediate
followers, who had the best means of information, too highly coloured,
it may be, by the proneness to exaggerate, which was natural to
those who first witnessed a spectacle so striking to the
imagination, so new and unexpected. I have thought it best to
present the full details, trivial though they may seem to the
reader, as affording a curious picture of manners, so superior in
point of refinement to those of the other aboriginal tribes on the
North American continent. Nor are they, in fact, so trivial, when we
reflect, that in these details of private life we possess a surer
measure of civilisation, than in those of a public nature.
In surveying them we are strongly reminded of the civilisation
of the East; not of that higher, intellectual kind which belonged to
the more polished Arabs and the Persians, but that semi-civilisation
which has distinguished, for example, the Tartar races, among whom
art, and even science, have made, indeed, some progress in their
adaptation to material wants and sensual gratification, but little
in reference to the higher and more ennobling interests of humanity.
It is characteristic of such a people to find a puerile pleasure in
a dazzling and ostentatious pageantry; to mistake show for
substance, vain pomp for power; to hedge round the throne itself
with a barren and burdensome ceremonial, the counterfeit of real
Even this, however, was an advance in refinement compared with the
rude manners of the earlier Aztecs. The change may, doubtless, be
referred in some degree to the personal influence of Montezuma. In his
younger days, he had tempered the fierce habits of the soldier with
the milder profession of religion. In later life, he had withdrawn
himself still more from the brutalising occupations of war, and his
manners acquired a refinement tinctured, it may be added, with an
effeminacy unknown to his martial predecessors. warriors of Xicotencatl.
The condition of the empire, too, under his reign, was
favourable to this change. The dismemberment of the Tezcucan
kingdom, on the death of the great Nezahualpilli, had left the Aztec
monarchy without a rival; and it soon spread its colossal arms over
the furthest limits of Anahuac. The aspiring mind of Montezuma rose
with the acquisition of wealth and power; and he displayed the
consciousness of new importance by the assumption of unprecedented
state. He affected a reserve unknown to his predecessors; withdrew his
person from the vulgar eye, and fenced himself round with an elaborate
and courtly etiquette. When he went abroad, it was in state, on some
public occasion, usually to the great temple, to take part in the
religious services; and, as he passed along, he exacted from his
people, as we have seen, the homage of an adulation worthy of an
oriental despot. His haughty demeanour touched the pride of his more
potent vassals, particularly those who at a distance felt themselves
nearly independent of his authority. His exactions, demanded by the
profuse expenditure of his palace, scattered broadcast the seeds of
discontent; and, while the empire seemed towering in its most palmy
and prosperous state, the canker had eaten deepest into its heart.
1. The lake, it seems, had perceptibly shrunk before the Conquest, from the testimony of Motilinia, who entered the country soon after. Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 6.
2. Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 95.
Cortés supposed there were regular tides in this lake. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 101.) This sorely puzzles the learned Martyr; (De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3;) as it has more than one philosopher since, whom it has led to speculate on a subterraneous communication with the ocean! What the general called "tides" was probably the periodical swells caused by the prevalence of certain regular winds.
3. Humboldt has given a minute account of this tunnel, which he pronounces one of the most stupendous hydraulic works in existence, and the completion of which, in its present form, does not date earlier than the latter part of the last century. See his Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 105, et seq.
4. Ibid., tom. II. p. 87, et seq.--Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 153.
5. Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 8.
Cortés, indeed, speaks of four causeways. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 102.) He may have reckoned an arm of the southern one leading to Cojohuacan, or possibly the great aqueduct of Chapoltepec.
6. Ante, Vol. I. p. 17.
7. Martyr gives a particular account of these dwellings, which shows that even the poorer classes were comfortably lodged. "Populares vero domus cingulo virili tenus lapidæ sunt et ipsæ, ob lacunæ incrementum per fluxum aut fluviorum in ea labentium alluvies. Super fundamentis illis magnis, lateribus tum coctis, tum æstivo sole siccatis, immixtis trabibus reliquam molem construunt; uno sunt communes domus contentæ tabulato. In solo parum hospitantur propter humiditatem, tecta non tegulis sed bitumine quodam terreo vestiunt; ad solem captandum commodior est ille modus, breviore tempore consumi debere credendum est." De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 10.
8. Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 8.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 108.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10, 11.--Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309.
9. Martyr was struck with the resemblance. "Uti de illustrissima civitate Venetiarum legitur, ad tumulum in ea sinus Adriatici parte visum, fuisse constructam." Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 10.
10. May we not apply, without much violence, to the Aztec capital, Giovanni della Casa's spirited sonnet, contrasting the origin of Venice with its meridian glory?
"Questi Palazzi e queste logge or colte
D'ostro, di marmo e di figure elette,
Fur poche e basse case insieme accolte,
Deserti lidi e povere Isolette.
Ma genti ardite d'ogni vizio sciolte
Premeano il mar con picciole barchette,
Che qui non per domar provincie molte,
Ma fuggir servitù s' eran ristrette
Non era ambizion ne' petti loro;
Ma 'l mentire abborrian più che la morte,
Nè vi regnava ingorda fame d' oro.
Se 'l Ciel v' ha dato più beata sorte,
Non sien quelle virtù che tanto onoro,
Dalle nuove ricchezze oppresse emorte."
11. "Le lac de Tezcuco n'a généralement que trois à cinq mètres de profondeur. Dans quelques endroits le fond se trouve même déjà à moins d'un mètre." Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 49.
12. "Y cada dia entran gran multitud de Indios cargados de bastimentos y tributos, así por tierra como por agua, en acales ó barcas, que en lengua de las Islas llaman Canoas." Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 6.
13. "Esta la cibdad de Méjico ó Teneztutan, que será de sesenta mil vecinos." (Carta de Lic. Zuazo, MS.) "Tenustitanam ipsam inquiunt sexaginta circiter esse millium domorum." (Martyr, De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 3.) "Era Méjico, quando Cortés entró, pueblo de sesenta mil casas." (Gomara, Crónica, cap. 78.) Toribio says, vaguely, "Los moradores y gente era innumerable." (Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 8.) The Italian translation of the "Anonymous Conqueror," who survives only in translation, says, indeed, "meglio di sessanta mila habitatori"; (Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309;) owing, probably, to a blunder in rendering the word vecinos, the ordinary term in Spanish statistics, which, signifying householders, corresponds with the Italian fuochi. See, also, Clavigero. (Stor. del Messico, tom. III. p. 86, nota.) Robertson rests exclusively on this Italian translation for his estimate. (History of America, vol. II. p. 281.) He cites, indeed, two other authorities in the same connection; Cortés, who says nothing of the population, and Herrera, who confirms the popular statement of "sesenta mil casas." (Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 13.) The fact is of some importance.
14. "En las casas, por pequeñas que eran, pocas veces dexaban de morar dos, quatro, y seis vecinos." Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 7, cap. 13.
15. Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309.
16. "C'est sur le chemin qui mène à Tanepantla et aux Ahuahuetes que l'on peut marcher plus d'une heure entre les ruines de I'ancienne ville. On y reconnâit, ainsi que sur la route de Tacuba et d'Iztapalapan, combien Mexico, rebâti par Cortés, est plus petit que l'était Tenochtitlan sous le dernier des Montezuma. L'énorme grandeur du marché de Tlatelolco, dont on reconnâit encore les limites, prouve combien la population de l'ancienne ville doit avoir été considérable." Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 43.
17. A common food with the lower classes was a glutinous scum found in the lakes, which they made into a sort of cake, having a savor not unlike cheese. (Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista cap. 92.)
18. One is confirmed in this inference by comparing the two maps at the end of the first edition of Bullock's "Mexico"; one of the modern City, the other of the ancient, taken from Boturini's museum, and showing its regular arrangement of streets and canals; as regular, in
deed, as the square on a chessboard.
19. Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. I. p. 274.
20. "Era tan barrido y el suelo tan asentado y liso, que aunque la planta del pie fuera tan delicada como la de la mano no recibiera el pie detrimento ninguno en andar descalzo." Toribio, Hist. de Ins Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.
21. Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 108.--Carta del Lic. Zuazo, MS.--Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309.
22. These immense masses, according to Martyr, who gathered his information from eyewitnesses, were transported by means of long files of men, who dragged them with ropes over huge wooden rollers. (De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 10.) It was the manner in which the Egyptians removed their enormous blocks of granite, as appears from numerous reliefs sculptured on their buildings.
23. Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309.
24. "Ricos edificios," says the Licentiate Zuazo, speaking of the buildings in Anahuac generally, "ecepto que no se halla alguno con boveda." (Carta, MS.) The writer made large and careful observation, the year after the Conquest. His assertion, if it be received, will settle a question much mooted among antiquaries.
25. "Tenia dentro de la ciudad sus Casas de Aposentamiento, tales, y tan maravillosas, que me pareceria casi imposible poder decir la bondad y grandeza de ellas. É por tanto, no me porné en expresar cosa de ellas, mas de que en España no hay su semejable." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 111.
26. Herrera's account of these feathered insects, if one may so style them, shows the fanciful errors into which even men of science were led in regard to the new tribes of animals discovered in America. "There are some birds in the country of the size of butterflies, with long
beaks, brilliant plumage, much esteemed for the curious works made of them. Like the bees, they live on flowers, and the dew which settles on them; and when the rainy season is over, and the dry weather sets in, they fasten themselves to the trees by their beaks and soon die.
But in the following year, when the new rains come, they come to life again"! Hist. General, dec. 2, lib. 10, cap. 21.
27. "Pues mas tenian," says the honest Captain Diaz, "en aquella maldita casa muchas Viboras, y Culebras emponçoñadas, que traen en las colas vnos que suenan como cascabeles; estas son las peores Viboras de todas." Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 91.
28. "Digamos aora," exclaims Captain Diaz, "las cosas infernales que hazian, quando bramauan los Tigres y Leones, y aullauan los Adiues y Zorros, y silbauan las Sierpes, era grima oirlo, y parecia infierno." Ibid., loc. cit.
29. Ibid., ubi supra.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 111-113.--Carta del Lic. Zuazo, MS.--Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 11, 46.
30. Montezuma, according to Gomara, would allow no fruit-trees, considering them as unsuitable to pleasure-grounds. (Crónica, cap. 75.) Toribio says, to the same effect, "Los Indios Señores no procuran árboles de fruta, porque se la traen sus vasallos, sino árboles de floresta, de donde cojan rosas, y adonde se crian aves, así para gozar del canto, como para las tirar con Cerbatana, de la cual son grandes tiradores." Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 6.
31. Ibid., loc. cit.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ubi supra.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 11.
32. Gama, a competent critic, who saw them just before their destruction, praises their execution. Gama, Descripcion, Parte 2, pp. 81-83.--Also, Ante, Vol. I. p. 82.
33. No less than one thousand, if we believe Gomara; who adds the edifying intelligence, "quo huvo vez, yue tuvo ciento i cincuenta preñadas à un tiempo!"
34. "Vestíase todos los dias quarto maneras de vestiduras todas nuevas, y nunca mas se las vestia otra vez." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 114.
35. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 91.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 67, 71, 76.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 113, 114.--Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.
"Á la puerta de la sala estaba vn patio mui grande en que habia cien aposentos de 25 ó 30 pies de largo cada vno sobre sí en torno de dicho patio, é allí estaban los Señores principales aposentados como guardas del palacio ordinarias, y estos tales aposentos se llaman galpones, los quales á la contina ocupan mas de 600 hombres, que jamas se quitaban de allí, é cada vno de aquellos tenian mas de 30 servidores, de manera que á lo menos nunca faltaban 3000 hombres de guerra en esta guarda cotediana del palacio." (Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 46.) A very curious and full account of Montezuma's household is given by this author, as he gathered it from the Spaniards who saw it in its splendor. Oviedo's history still remains in manuscript.
36. Bernal Diaz., Ibid., loc. cit.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ubi supra.
37. "Y porque la Tierra es fria, trahian debaxo de cada plato y escudilla de manjar un braserico con brasa, porque no se enfriasse." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 113.
38. Bernal Diaz has given us a few items of the royal carte. The first cover is rather a startling one, being a fricassee or stew of little children! "carnes de muchachos de poca edad." He admits, however, that this is somewhat apocryphal. Ibid., ubi supra.
39. "Lo que yo ví," says Diaz, speaking from his own observation, "que traian sobre cincuenta jarros grandes hechos de buen cacao con su espuma, y de lo que bebia." Ibid., cap. 91.
40. Ibid., ubi supra.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 113, 114.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 11, 46.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 67.
41. "Tambien le ponian en la mesa tres cañutos muy pintados, y dorados, y dentro traian liquidámbar, rebuelto con vnas yervas que se dize tabaco." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 91.
42. The feats of jugglers and tumblers were a favorite diversion with the Grand Khan of China, as Sir John Maundeville informs us. (Voiage and Travaille, chap. 22.) The Aztec mountebanks had such repute, that Cortés sent two of them to Rome to amuse his Holiness, Clement VII. Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 186.
43. "Ninguno de los Soldanes, ni otro ningun señor infiel, de los que hasta agora se tiene noticia, no creo, que tantas, ni tales ceremonias en servicio tengan." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 115.
44. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 91.--Carta del Lic. Zuazo, MS.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., ubi supra.--Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 110-115.--Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 306.
45. If the historian will descend but a generation later for his authorities, he may find materials for as good a chapter as any in Sir John Maundeville or the Arabian Nights.
46. "Referre in tanto rege piget superbam mutationem vestis, et desideratas humi jacentium adulationes." (Livy, Hist., lib. 9, cap. 18.) The remarks of the Roman historian in reference to Alexander, after he was infected by the manners of Persia, fit equally well the Aztec emperor.