Chapter II 
MARKET OF MEXICO- GREAT TEMPLE- INTERIOR SANCTUARIES-
FOUR days had elapsed since the Spaniards made their entry into
Mexico. Whatever schemes their commander may have revolved in his
mind, he felt that he could determine on no plan of operations till he
had seen more of the capital, and ascertained by his own inspection
the nature of its resources. He accordingly, as was observed at the
close of the last book, sent to Montezuma, asking permission to
visit the great teocalli, and some other places in the city.
The friendly monarch consented without difficulty. He even
prepared to go in person to the great temple, to receive his guests
there,- it may be, to shield the shrine of his tutelar deity from
any attempted profanation. He was acquainted, as we have already seen,
with the proceedings of the Spaniards on similar occasions in the
course of their march.- Cortes put himself at the head of his little
corps of cavalry, and nearly all the Spanish foot, as usual, and
followed the caciques sent by Montezuma to guide him. They proposed
first to conduct him to the great market of Tlatelolco in the
western part of the city.
On the way, the Spaniards were struck, in the same manner as
they had been on entering the capital, with the appearance of the
inhabitants, and their great superiority in the style and quality of
their dress, over the people of the lower countries. The tilmatli,
or cloak, thrown over the shoulders, and tied round the neck, made
of cotton of different degrees of fineness, according to the condition
of the wearer, and the ample sash around the loins, were often wrought
in rich and elegant figures, and edged with a deep fringe or tassel.
As the weather was now growing cool, mantles of fur or of the gorgeous
feather-work were sometimes substituted. The latter combined the
advantage of great warmth with beauty. The Mexicans had also the art
of spinning a fine thread of the hair of the rabbit and other animals,
which they wove into a delicate web that took a permanent dye.
The women, as in other parts of the country, seemed to go about as
freely as the men. They wore several skirts or petticoats of different
lengths, with highly ornamented borders, and sometimes over them loose
flowing robes, which reached to the ankles. These also were made of
cotton, for the wealthier classes, of a fine texture, prettily
embroidered. No veils were worn here, as in some other parts of
Anahuac, where they were made of the aloe thread, or of the light
web of hair above noticed. The Aztec women had their faces exposed;
and their dark raven tresses floated luxuriantly over their shoulders,
revealing features which, although of a dusky or rather cinnamon
hue, were not unfrequently pleasing, while touched with the serious,
even sad expression characteristic of the national physiognomy.
On drawing near to the tianguez, or great market, the Spaniards
were astonished at the throng of people pressing towards it, and, on
entering the place, their surprise was still further heightened by the
sight of the multitudes assembled there, and the dimensions of the
inclosure, thrice as large as the celebrated square of Salamanca. Here
were met together traders from all parts, with the products and
manufactures peculiar to their countries; the goldsmiths of
Azcapotzalco; the potters and jewellers of Cholula, the painters of
Tezcuco, the stone-cutters of Tenajocan, the hunters of Xilotepec, the
fishermen of Cuitlahuac, the fruiterers of the warm countries, the mat
and chair-makers of Quauhtitlan, and the florists of Xochimilco,-
all busily engaged in recommending their respective wares, and in
chaffering with purchasers.
The market-place was surrounded by deep porticoes, and the several
articles had each its own quarter allotted to it. Here might be seen
cotton piled up in bales, or manufactured into dresses and articles of
domestic use, as tapestry, curtains, coverlets, and the like. The
richly-stained and nice fabrics reminded Cortes of the alcayceria,
or silk-market of Granada. There was the quarter assigned to the
goldsmiths, where the purchaser might find various articles of
ornament or use formed of the precious metals, or curious toys, such
as we have already had occasion to notice, made in imitation of
birds and fishes, with scales and feathers alternately of gold and
silver, and with movable heads and bodies. These fantastic little
trinkets were often garnished with precious stones, and showed a
patient, puerile ingenuity in the manufacture, like that of the
In an adjoining quarter were collected specimens of pottery,
coarse and fine, vases of wood elaborately carved, varnished or
gilt, of curious and sometimes graceful forms. There were also
hatchets made of copper alloyed with tin, the substitute, and, as it
proved, not a bad one, for iron. The soldier found here all the
implements of his trade. The casque fashioned into the head of some
wild animal, with its grinning defences of teeth, and bristling
crest dyed with the rich tint of the cochineal; the escaupil, or
quilted doublet of cotton, the rich surcoat of feather-mail, and
weapons of all sorts, copper-headed lances and arrows, and the broad
maquahuitl, the Mexican sword, with its sharp blades of itztli. Here
were razors and mirrors of this same hard and polished mineral which
served so many of the purposes of steel with the Aztecs. In the square
were also to be found booths occupied by barbers, who used these
same razors in their vocation. For the Mexicans, contrary to the
popular and erroneous notions respecting the aborigines of the New
World, had beards, though scanty ones. Other shops or booths were
tenanted by apothecaries, well provided with drugs, roots, and
different medicinal preparations. In other places, again, blank
books or maps for the hieroglyphical picture-writing were to be
seen, folded together like fans, and made of cotton, skins, or more
commonly the fibres of the agave, the Aztec papyrus.
Under some of the porticoes they saw hides raw and dressed, and
various articles for domestic or personal use made of the leather.
Animals, both wild and tame, were offered for sale, and near them,
perhaps, a gang of slaves, with collars round their necks,
intimating they were likewise on sale,- a spectacle unhappily not
confined to the barbarian markets of Mexico, though the evils of their
condition were aggravated there by the consciousness that a life of
degradation might be consummated at any moment by the dreadful doom of
The heavier materials for building, as stone, lime, timber, were
considered too bulky to be allowed a place in the square, and were
deposited in the adjacent streets on the borders of the canals. It
would be tedious to enumerate all the various articles, whether for
luxury or daily use, which were collected from all quarters in this
vast bazaar. I must not omit to mention, however, the display of
provisions, one of the most attractive features of the tianguez; meats
of all kinds, domestic poultry, game from the neighbouring
mountains, fish from the lakes and streams, fruits in all the
delicious abundance of these temperate regions, green vegetables,
and the unfailing maize. There was many a viand, too, ready dressed,
which sent up its savoury steams provoking the appetite of the idle
passenger; pastry, bread of the Indian corn, cakes, and confectionery.
Along with these were to be seen cooling or stimulating beverages, the
spicy foaming chocolatl,- with its delicate aroma of vanilla, and
the inebriating pulque, the fermented juice of the aloe. All these
commodities, and every stall and portico, were set out, or rather
smothered, with flowers, showing, on a much greater scale, indeed, a
taste similar to that displayed in the markets of modern Mexico.
Flowers seem to be the spontaneous growth of this luxuriant soil;
which, instead of noxious weeds, as in other regions, is ever ready,
without the aid of man, to cover up its nakedness with this rich and
variegated livery of nature.
As to the numbers assembled in the market, the estimates differ,
as usual. The Spaniards often visited the place, and no one states the
amount at less than forty thousand! Some carry it much higher. Without
relying too much on the arithmetic of the Conquerors, it is certain
that on this occasion, which occurred every fifth day, the city
swarmed with a motley crowd of strangers, not only from the
vicinity, but from many leagues around; the causeways were thronged,
and the lake was darkened by canoes filled with traders flocking to
the great tianguez. It resembled indeed the periodical fairs in
Europe, not as they exist now, but as they existed in the Middle Ages,
when, from the difficulties of intercommunication, they served as
the great central marts for commercial intercourse, exercising a
most important and salutary influence on the community.
The exchanges were conducted partly by barter, but more usually in
the currency of the country. This consisted of bits of tin stamped
with a character like a T, bags of cacao, the value of which was
regulated by their size, and lastly quills filled with gold dust. Gold
was part of the regular currency, it seems, in both hemispheres. In
their dealings it is singular that they should have had no knowledge
of scales and weights. The quantity was determined by measure and
The most perfect order reigned throughout this vast assembly.
Officers patrolled the square, whose business it was to keep the
peace, to collect the duties imposed on the different articles of
merchandise, to see that no false measures or fraud of any kind were
used, and to bring offenders at once to justice. A court of twelve
judges sat in one part of the tianguez, clothed with those ample and
summary powers, which, in despotic countries, are often delegated even
to petty tribunals. The extreme severity with which they exercised
these powers, in more than one instance, proves that they were not a
The tianguez of Mexico was naturally an object of great
interest, as well as wonder, to the Spaniards. For in it they saw
converged into one focus, as it were, all the rays of civilisation
scattered throughout the land. Here they beheld the various
evidences of mechanical skill, of domestic industry, the multiplied
resources, of whatever kind, within the compass of the natives. It
could not fail to impress them with high ideas of the magnitude of
these resources, as well as of the commercial activity and social
subordination by which the whole community was knit together; and
their admiration is fully evinced by the minuteness and energy of
From this bustling scene, the Spaniards took their way to the
great teocalli, in the neighbourhood of their own quarters. It
covered, with the subordinate edifices, as the reader has already
seen, the large tract of ground now occupied by the cathedral, part of
the market-place, and some of the adjoining streets. It was the spot
which had been consecrated to the same object, probably, ever since
the foundation of the city. The present building, however, was of no
great antiquity, having been constructed by Ahuitzotl, who
celebrated its dedication in 1486, by that hecatomb of victims, of
which such incredible reports are to be found in the chronicles.
It stood in the midst of a vast area, encompassed by a wall of
stone and lime, about eight feet high, ornamented on the outer side by
figures of serpents, raised in relief, which gave it the name of the
coatepantli, or "wall of serpents." This emblem was a common one in
the sacred sculpture of Anahuac, as well as of Egypt. The wall,
which was quadrangular, was pierced by huge battlemented gateways,
opening on the four principal streets of the capital. Over each of the
gates was a kind of arsenal, filled with arms and warlike gear; and,
if we may credit the report of the Conquerors, there were barracks
adjoining, garrisoned by ten thousand soldiers, who served as a sort
of military police for the capital, supplying the emperor with a
strong arm in case of tumult or sedition.
The teocalli itself was a solid pyramidal structure of earth and
pebbles, coated on the outside with hewn stones, probably of the
light, porous kind employed in the buildings of the city. It was
probably square, with its sides facing the cardinal points. It was
divided into five bodies or stories, each one receding so as to be
of smaller dimensions than that immediately below it; the usual form
of the Aztec teocallis, as already described, and bearing obvious
resemblance to some of the primitive pyramidal structures in the Old
World. The ascent was by a flight of steps on the outside, which
reached to the narrow terrace or platform at the base of the second
story, passing quite round the building, when a second stairway
conducted to a similar landing at the base of the third. The breadth
of this walk was just so much space as was left by the retreating
story next above it. From this construction the visitor was obliged to
pass round the whole edifice four times, in order to reach the top.
This had a most imposing effect in the religious ceremonials, when the
pompous procession of priests with their wild minstrelsy came sweeping
round the huge sides of the pyramid, as they rose higher and higher in
the presence of gazing multitudes, towards the summit.
The dimensions of the temple cannot be given with any certainty.
The Conquerors judged by the eye, rarely troubling themselves with
anything like an accurate measurement. It was, probably, not much less
than three hundred feet square at the base; and, as the Spaniards
counted a hundred and fourteen steps, was probably less than one
hundred feet in height.
When Cortes arrived before the teocalli, he found two priests
and several caciques commissioned by Montezuma to save him the fatigue
of the ascent by bearing him on their shoulders, in the same manner as
had been done to the emperor. But the general declined the compliment,
preferring to march up at the head of his men. On reaching the summit,
they found it a vast area, paved with broad flat stones. The first
object that met their view was a large block of jasper, the peculiar
shape of which showed it was the stone on which the bodies of the
unhappy victims were stretched for sacrifice. Its convex surface, by
raising the breast, enabled the priest to perform his diabolical
task more easily, of removing the heart. At the other end of the
area were two towers or sanctuaries, consisting of three stories,
the lower one of stone and stucco, the two upper of wood elaborately
carved. In the lower division stood the images of their gods; the
apartments above were filled with utensils for their religious
services, and with the ashes of some of their Aztec princes, who had
fancied this airy sepulchre. Before each sanctuary stood an altar with
that undying fire upon it, the extinction of which boded as much
evil to the empire, as that of the Vestal flame would have done in
ancient Rome. Here, also, was the huge cylindrical drum made of
serpents' skins, and struck only on extraordinary occasions, when it
sent forth a melancholy sound that might be heard for miles,- a
sound of woe in after times to the Spaniards.
Montezuma, attended by the high-priest, came forward to receive
Cortes as he mounted the area. "You are weary, Malinche," said he to
him, "with climbing up our great temple." But Cortes, with a politic
vaunt, assured him "the Spaniards were never weary!" Then, taking
him by the hand, the emperor pointed out the localities of the
neighbourhood. The temple on which they stood, rising high above all
other edifices in the capital, afforded the most elevated as well as
central point of view. Below them the city lay spread out like a
map, with its streets and canals intersecting each other at right
angles, its terraced roofs blooming like so many parterres of flowers.
Every place seemed alive with business and bustle; canoes were
glancing up and down the canals, the streets were crowded with
people in their gay, picturesque costume, while from the marketplace
they had so lately left, a confused hum of many sounds and voices rose
upon the air. They could distinctly trace the symmetrical plan of
the city, with its principal avenues issuing, as it were, from the
four gates of the coatepantli; and connecting themselves with the
causeways, which formed the grand entrances to the capital. This
regular and beautiful arrangement was imitated in many of the inferior
towns, where the great roads converged towards the chief teocalli,
or cathedral, as to a common focus. They could discern the insular
position of the metropolis, bathed on all sides by the salt floods, of
the Tezcuco, and in the distance the clear fresh waters of the Chalco;
far beyond stretched a wide prospect of fields and waving woods,
with the burnished walls of many a lofty temple rising high above
the trees, and crowning the distant hill-tops. The view reached in
an unbroken line to the very base of the circular range of
mountains, whose frosty peaks glittered as if touched with fire in the
morning ray; while long, dark wreaths of vapour, rolling up from the
hoary head of Popocatepetl, told that the destroying element was,
indeed, at work in the bosom of the beautiful valley.
Cortes was filled with admiration at this grand and glorious
spectacle, and gave utterance to his feelings in animated language
to the emperor, the lord of these flourishing domains. His thoughts,
however, soon took another direction; and, turning to Father Olmedo,
who stood by his side, he suggested that the area would afford a
most conspicuous position for the Christian Cross, if Montezuma
would but allow it to be planted there. But the discreet ecclesiastic,
with the good sense which on these occasions seems to have been so
lamentably deficient in his commander, reminded him that such a
request, at present, would be exceedingly ill-timed, as the Indian
monarch had shown no dispositions as yet favourable to Christianity.
Cortes then requested Montezuma to allow him to enter the
sanctuaries, and behold the shrines of his gods. To this the latter,
after a short conference with the priests, assented, and conducted the
Spaniards into the building. They found themselves in a spacious
apartment incrusted on the sides with stucco, on which various figures
were sculptured, representing the Mexican calendar, perhaps, or the
priestly ritual. At one end of the saloon was a recess with a roof
of timber richly carved and gilt. Before the altar in this sanctuary
stood the colossal image of Huitzilopochtli, the tutelary deity and
war-god of the Aztecs. His countenance was distorted into hideous
lineaments of symbolical import. In his right hand he wielded a bow,
and in his left a bunch of golden arrows, which a mystic legend had
connected with the victories of his people. The huge folds of a
serpent, consisting of pearls and precious stones, were coiled round
his waist, and the same rich materials were profusely sprinkled over
his person. On his left foot were the delicate feathers of the
humming-bird, which, singularly enough, gave its name to the dread
deity. The most conspicuous ornament was a chain of gold and silver
hearts alternate, suspended round his neck, emblematical of the
sacrifice in which he most delighted. A more unequivocal evidence of
this was afforded by three human hearts smoking and almost
palpitating, as if recently torn from the victims, and now lying on
the altar before him!
The adjoining sanctuary was dedicated to a milder deity. This
was Tezcatlipoca, next in honour to that invisible Being, the
Supreme God, who was represented by no image, and confined by no
temple. It was Tezcatlipoca who created the world, and watched over it
with a providential care. He was represented as a young man, and his
image, of polished black stone, was richly garnished with gold
plates and ornaments; among which a shield, burnished like a mirror,
was the most characteristic emblem, as in it he saw reflected all
the doings of the world. But the homage to this god was not always
of a more refined or merciful character than that paid to his
carnivorous brother; for five bleeding hearts were also seen in a
golden platter on his altar.
The walls of both these chapels were stained with human gore. "The
stench was more intolerable," exclaims Diaz, "than that of the
slaughter-houses in Castile!" And the frantic forms of the priests,
with their dark robes clotted with blood, as they flitted to and
fro, seemed to the Spaniards to be those of the very ministers of
From this foul abode they gladly escaped into the open air; when
Cortes, turning to Montezuma, said with a smile, "I do not
comprehend how a great and wise prince like you can put faith in
such evil spirits as these idols, the representatives of the devil! If
you will but permit us to erect here the true Cross, and place the
images of the blessed Virgin and her Son in your sanctuaries, you will
soon see how your false gods will shrink before them!"
Montezuma was greatly shocked at this sacrilegious address.
"These are the gods," he answered, "who have led the Aztecs on to
victory since they were a nation, and who send the seed-time and
harvest in their seasons. Had I thought you would have offered them
this outrage, I would not have admitted you into their presence!"
Cortes, after some expressions of concern at having wounded the
feelings of the emperor, took his leave. Montezuma remained, saying
that he must expiate, if possible, the crime of exposing the shrines
of the divinities to such profanation by the strangers.
On descending to the court, the Spaniards took a leisurely
survey of the other edifices in the inclosure. The area was
protected by a smooth stone pavement, so polished, indeed, that it was
with difficulty the horses could keep their legs. There were several
other teocallis, built generally on the model of the great one, though
of much inferior size, dedicated to the different Aztec deities. On
their summits were the altars crowned with perpetual flames, which,
with those on the numerous temples in other quarters of the capital,
shed a brilliant illumination over its streets, through the long
Among the teocallis in the inclosure was one consecrated to
Quetzalcoatl, circular in its form, and having an entrance in
imitation of a dragon's mouth, bristling with sharp fangs and dropping
with blood. As the Spaniards cast a furtive glance into the throat
of this horrible monster, they saw collected there implements of
sacrifice and other abominations of fearful import. Their bold
hearts shuddered at the spectacle, and they designated the place not
inaptly as the "Hell."
One other structure may be noticed as characteristic of the
brutish nature of their religion. This was a pyramidal mound or
tumulus, having a complicated framework of timber on its broad summit.
On this was strung an immense number of human skulls, which belonged
to the victims, mostly prisoners of war, who had perished on the
accursed stone of sacrifice. One of the soldiers had the patience to
count the number of these ghastly trophies, and reported it to be
one hundred and thirty-six thousand! Belief might well be staggered,
did not the Old World present a worthy counterpart in the pyramidal
Golgothas which commemorated the triumphs of Tamerlane.
There were long ranges of buildings in the inclosure, appropriated
as the residence of the priests and others engaged in the offices of
religion. The whole number of them was said to amount to several
thousand. Here were, also, the principal seminaries for the
instruction of youth of both sexes, drawn chiefly from the higher
and wealthier classes. The girls were taught by elderly women, who
officiated as priestesses in the temples, a custom familiar also to
Egypt. The Spaniards admit that the greatest care for morals, and
the most blameless deportment, were maintained in these
institutions. The time of the pupils was chiefly occupied, as in
most monastic establishments, with the minute and burdensome
ceremonial of their religion. The boys were likewise taught such
elements of science as were known to their teachers, and the girls
initiated in the mysteries of embroidery and weaving, which they
employed in decorating the temples. At a suitable age they generally
went forth into the world to assume the occupations fitted to their
condition, though some remained permanently devoted to the services of
The spot was also covered by edifices of a still different
character. There were granaries filled with the rich produce of the
churchlands, and with the first-fruits and other offerings of the
faithful. One large mansion was reserved for strangers of eminence,
who were on a pilgrimage to the great teocalli. The inclosure was
ornamented with gardens, shaded by ancient trees, and watered by
fountains and reservoirs from the copious streams of Chapoltepec.
The little community was thus provided with almost everything
requisite for its own maintenance and the services of the temple.
It was a microcosm of itself,- a city within a city; and,
according to the assertion of Cortes, embraced a tract of ground large
enough for five hundred houses. It presented in this brief compass the
extremes of barbarism, blended with a certain civilisation, altogether
characteristic of the Aztecs. The rude Conquerors saw only the
evidence of the former. In the fantastic and symbolical features of
the deities, they beheld the literal lineaments of Satan; in the rites
and frivolous ceremonial, his own especial code of damnation; and in
the modest deportment and careful nurture of the inmates of the
seminaries, the snares by which he was to beguile his deluded victims.
Before a century had elapsed, the descendants of these same
Spaniards discerned in the mysteries of the Aztec religion the
features, obscured and defaced, indeed, of the Jewish and Christian
revelations! Such were the opposite conclusions of the unlettered
soldier and of the scholar. A philosopher, untouched by
superstition, might well doubt which of the two was the most
The sight of the Indian abominations seems to have kindled in
the Spaniards a livelier feeling for their own religion; since, on the
following day, they asked leave of Montezuma to convert one of the
halls in their residence into a chapel, that they might celebrate
the services of the Church there. The monarch, in whose bosom the
feelings of resentment seem to have soon subsided, easily granted
their request, and sent some of his own artisans to aid them in the
While it was in progress, some of the Spaniards observed what
appeared to be a door recently plastered over. It was a common
rumour that Montezuma still kept the treasures of his father, King
Axayacatl, in this ancient palace. The Spaniards, acquainted with this
fact, felt no scruple in gratifying their curiosity by removing the
plaster. As was anticipated, it concealed a door. On forcing this,
they found the rumour was no exaggeration. They beheld a large hall
filled with rich and beautiful stuffs, articles of curious workmanship
of various kinds, gold and silver in bars and in the ore, and many
jewels of value. It was the private hoard of Montezuma, the
contributions, it may be, of tributary cities, and once the property
of his father. "I was a young man," says Diaz, who was one of those
that obtained a sight of it, "and it seemed to me as if all the riches
of the world were in that room!" The Spaniards, notwithstanding
their elation at the discovery of this precious deposit, seem to
have felt some commendable scruples as to appropriating it to their
own use,- at least for the present. And Cortes, after closing up the
wall as it was before, gave strict injunctions that nothing should
be said of the matter, unwilling that the knowledge of its existence
by his guests should reach the ears of Montezuma.
Three days sufficed to complete the chapel; and the Christians had
the satisfaction to see themselves in possession of a temple where
they might worship God in their own way, under the protection of the
Cross, and the blessed Virgin. Mass was regularly performed by the
fathers, Olmedo and Diaz, in the presence of the assembled army, who
were most earnest and exemplary in their devotions, partly, says the
chronicler above quoted, from the propriety of the thing, and partly
for its edifying influence on the benighted heathen.
1. "La Gente de esta Ciudad es de mas manera y primor en su vestido, y servicio, que no la otra de estas otras Provincias, y Ciudades: porque como allí estaba siempre este Señor Muteczuma, y todos los Señores sus Vasallos ocurrian siempre á la Ciudad, habia en ella mas manera, y policía en todas las cosas." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 109.
2. Zuazo, speaking of the beauty and warmth of this national fabric, says, "Ví muchas de á dos haces labradas de plumas de papos de aves tan suaves, que trayendo la mano por encima á pelo y á pospelo, no era mas que vna manta zebellina mui bien adobada: hice pesar vna dellas no peso mas de seis onzas. Dicen que en el tiempo del Ynbierno una abasta para encima de la camisa sin otro cobertor ni mas ropa encima de la cama." Carta, MS.
3. "Sono lunghe & large, lauorate di bellisimi, & molto gentili lauori sparsi per esse, co le loro frangie, ò orletti ben lauorati che compariscono benissimo." Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 305.
4. Ibid., fol. 305.
5. Ibid., fol. 309.
6. "Quivi concorrevano i Pentoai, ed i Giojellieri di Cholulla, gli Orefici d' Azcapozalco, i Pittori di Tezcuco, gli Scarpellini di Tenajocan, i Cacciatori di Xilotepec, i Pescatori di Cuitlahuac, i fruttajuoli de' paesi caldi, gli artefici di stuoje, e di scranne di Quauhtitlan ed i coltivatori de' fiori di Xochimilco." Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 165.
7. "Oro y plata, piedras de valor, con otras plumajes é argenterías maravillosas, y con tanto primor fabricadas que excede todo ingenio humano para comprenderlas y alcanzarlas." (Carta del Lic. Zuazo, MS.) The licentiate then enumerates several of these elegant pieces of mechanism. Cortés is not less emphatic in his admiration; "Contrahechas de oro, y plata, y piedras y plumas, tan al natural lo de Oro, y Plata, que no hay Platero en el Mundo que mejor lo hiciesse, y lo de las Piedras, que no baste juicio comprehender con que Instrumentos se hiciesse tan perfecto, y lo de Pluma, que ni de Cera, ni en ningun broslado se podria hacer tan maravillosamente." (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 110.) Peter Martyr, a less prejudiced critic than Cortés, and who saw and examined many of these golden trinkets afterwards in Castile, bears the same testimony to the exquisite character of the workmanship, which, he says, far surpassed the value of the material. De Orbe Novo, dec. 5, cap. 10.
8. Herrera makes the unauthorized assertion, repeated by Solís, that the Mexicans were unacquainted with the value of the cochineal, till it was taught them by the Spaniards. (Herrera, Hist. General, dec. 4, lib. 8, cap. 11.) The natives, on the contrary, took infinite pains to rear the insect on plantations of the cactus, and it formed one of the staple tributes to the crown from certain districts. See the tribute-rolls, ap. Lorenzana, Nos. 23, 24.--Hernandez, Hist. Plantarum, lib. 6, cap. 116.--Also, Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. I. p. 114, nota.
9 Ante, Vol. I. p. 82.
10. Zuazo, who seems to have been nice in these matters, concludes a paragraph of dainties with the following tribute to the Aztec cuisine. "Vendense huebos asados, crudos, en tortilla, é diversidad de guisados que se suelen guisar, con otras cazuelas y parteles, que en el mal cocinado de Medina, ni en otros lugares de Tlamencos dicen que hai ni se pueden hallar tales trujamanes." Carta, MS.
11. Ample details--many more than I have thought it necessary to give--of the Aztec market of Tlatelolco may be found in the writings of all the old Spaniards who visited the capital. Among others, see Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 103-105.--Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.--Carta del Lic. Zuazo, MS.--Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309.--Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 92.
12. Zuazo raises it to 80,000! (Carta, MS.) Cortés to 60,000. (Rel. Seg., ubi supra.) The most modest computation is that of the "Anonymous Conqueror," who says from 40,000 to 50,000. "Et il giorno del mercato, che si fa di cinque in cinque giorni, vi sono da quaranta ò cinquanta mila persone", (Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309;) a confirmation, by the by, of the supposition that the estimated population of the capital, found in the Italian version of this author, is a misprint. (See the preceding chapter, note 13.) He would hardly have crowded an amount equal to the whole of it into the market.
13. Ante, Vol. I. p. 84.
14. Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 3, cap. 7.--Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 104.--Oviedo, Hist. de las Ind., MS., lib. 33, cap. 10.--Bernal Diaz, Hist de la Conquista, loc. cit.
15. "Entre nosotros," says Diaz, "huuo soldados que auian estado en muchas partes del mundo, y en Constantinopla, y en toda Italia y Roma, y dixéron, que plaça tan bien compassada, y con canto concierto, y tamaña, y llena de tanta gente, no la auian visto." Ibid., ubi supra.
16. Clavigero, Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 27.
17. Ante, Vol. I. p. 65.
18. "Et di più v'hauea vna guarnigione di dieci mila huomini di guerra, tutti eletti per huomini valenti, & questi accompagnauano & guardauano la sua persona, & quando si facea qualche rumore o ribellione nella città ò nel paese circumuicino, andauano questi, ò parte d'essi per Capitani." Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309.
19. Humboldt, Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 40.
On paving the square, not long ago, round the modern cathedral, there were found large blocks of sculptured stone buried between thirty and forty feet deep in the ground. Ibid., loc. cit.
20. Clavigero calls it oblong, on the alleged authority of the "Anonymous Conqueror." (Stor. del Messico, tom. II. p. 27, nota.) But the latter says not a word of the shape, and his contemptible woodcut is too plainly destitute of all proportion, to furnish an inference of any kind. (Comp. Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 307.) Torquemada and Gomara both say, it was square; (Monarch. Ind., lib. 8, cap. 11;--Crónica, cap. 80;) and Toribio de Benavente, speaking generally of the Mexican temples, says, they had that form. Hist. de los Ind., MS., Parte 1, cap. 12.
21. See Appendix, Part 1.
22. Clavigero, calling it oblong, adopts Torquemada's estimate,--not Sahagun's, as he pretends, which he never saw, and who gives no measurement of the building,--for the length, and Gomara's estimate, which is somewhat less, for the breadth. (Stor. del. Messico, tom. II. p. 28, nota.) As both his authorities make the building square, this spirit of accommodation is whimsical enough. Toribio, who did measure a teocalli of the usual construction in the town of Tenayuca, found it to be forty brazas, or two hundred and forty feet square. (Hist. de los Ind., MS., Parte 1, cap. 12.) The great temple of Mexico was undoubtedly larger, and, in the want of better authorities, one may accept Torquemada, who makes it a little more than three hundred and sixty Toledan, equal to three hundred and eight French feet, square. (Monarch. Ind., lib. 8, cap. 11.) How can M. de Humboldt speak of the "great concurrence of testimony" in regard to the dimensions of the temple? (Essai Politique, tom. II. p. 41.) No two authorities agree.
23. Bernal Diaz says he counted one hundred and fourteen steps. (Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 92.) Toribio says that more than one person who had numbered them told him they exceeded a hundred. (Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 12.) The steps could hardly have been less than eight or ten inches high, each; Clavigero assumes that they were a foot, and that the building, therefore, was a hundred and fourteen feet high, precisely. (Stor. del Messico, tom. II. pp. 28, 29.) It is seldom safe to use any thing stronger than probably in history.
24. "Tornámos á ver la gran plaça, y la multitud de gente que en ella auia, vnos comprado, y otros vendiendo, que solamente el rumor, y zumbido de las vozes, y palabras que allí auia, sonaua mas que de vna legua!" Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 92.
25. "Y por honrar mas sus templos sacaban los caminos muy derechos por cordel de una y de dos leguas que era cosa harto de ver, desde lo Alto del principal templo, como venian de todos los pueblos menores y barrios; salian los caminos muy derechos y iban á dar al patio de los teocallis." Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 12.
26. "No se contentaba el Demonio con los [Teucales] ya dichos, sino que en cada pueblo, en cada barrio, y á cuarto de legua, tenian otros patios pequeños adonde habia tres ó cuatro teocallis, y en algunos mas, en otras partes solo uno, y en cada Mogote ó Cerrejon uno ó dos, y por los caminos y entre los Maizales, habia otros muchos pequeños, y todos estaban blancos y encalados, que parecian y abultaban mucho, que en la tierra bien poblada parecia que todo estaba lleno de casas, en especial de los patios del Demonio, que eran muy de ver." Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., ubi supra.
27. Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.
28. Ante, Vol. 1. p. 38.
29. "Y tenia en las paredes tantas costras de sangre, y el suelo todo bañado dello, que en los mataderos de Castilla no auia tanto hedor." Bernal Diaz, Hist. de la Conquista, ubi supra.--Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, pp. 105, 106.--Carta del Lic. Zuazo, MS.--See, also, for notices of these deities, Sahagun, lib. 3, cap. 1, et seq.,--Torquemada, Monarch. Ind., lib. 6, cap. 20, 21,--Acosta, lib. 5, cap. 9.
30. Bernal Diaz, Ibid., ubi supra.
Whoever examines Cortés' great letter to Charles V. will be surprised to find it stated, that, instead of any acknowledgment to Montezuma, he threw down his idols and erected the Christian emblems in their stead. (Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 106.) This was an event of much later date. The Conquistador wrote his despatches too rapidly and concisely to give heed always to exact time and circumstance. We are quite as likely to find them attended to in the long-winded, gossiping,--inestimable chronicle of Diaz.
31. "Quarenta torres muy altas y bien obradas." Rel. Seg. de Cortés, ap. Lorenzana, p. 105.
32. "Delante de todos estos altares habia braçeros que toda la noche hardian, y en las salas tambien tenian sus fuegos." Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 12.
33. Bernal Diaz, Ibid., ubi supra.
Toribio, also, notices this temple with the same complimentary epithet.
"La boca hecha como de infierno y en ella pintada la boca de una temerosa Sierpe con terribles colmillos y dientes, y en algunas de estas los colmillos eran de bulto, que verlo y entrar dentro ponia gran temor y grima, en especial el infierno que estaba en México, que parecia traslado del verdadero infierno." Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 4.
34. Bernal Diaz, ubi supra.
"Andres de Tapia, que me to dijo, i Gonñalo de Umbria, las contáron vn Dia, i halláron ciento i treinta i seis mil Calaberas, en las Vigas, i Gradas." Gomara, Crónica, cap. 82.
35. Three collections, thus fancifully disposed, of these grinning horrors--in all 230,000--are noticed by Gibbon! (Decline and Fall, ed. Milman, vol. I. p. 52; vol. XII. p. 45.) A European scholar commends "the conqueror's piety, his moderation, and his justice!" Rowe's Dedication of "Tamerlane."
36. Ante, Vol. I. pp. 43, 44.
The desire of presenting the reader with a complete view of the actual state of the capital, at the time of its occupation by the Spaniards, has led me in this and the preceding chapter into a few repetitions of remarks on the Aztec institutions in the Introductory Book of this History.
37. Toribio, Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte l, cap. 12.--Gomara, Crónica, cap. 80.--Rel. d'un gent., ap. Ramusio, tom. III. fol. 309.
38. "Es tan grande que dentro del circuito de ella, que es todo cercado de Muro muy alto, se podia muy bien facer una Villa de quinientos Vecinos." Rel. Seg., ap. Lorenzana, p. 105.
39. "Todas estas mugeres," says father Toribio, "estaban aquí sirviendo al demonio por sus propios intereses; las unas porque el Demonio las hiciese modestas," &c. Hist. de los Indios, MS., Parte 1, cap. 9.
40. See Appendix, Part 1.
41. "Y luego to supímos entre todos los demas Capitanes, y soldados, y to entrámos á ver muy secretamente, y como yo to ví, digo que me admiré, é como en aquel tiempo era mancebo, y no auia visto en mi vida riquezas como aquellas, tuue por cierto, que en el mundo no deuiera auer otras tantas!" Hist. de la Conquista, cap. 93.
42. Ibid., loc. cit.