The Fall Of The Aztec And Inca Empires In this essay I will tell how the Aztec and Inca empires ended, and also I will compare the fall of both empires, using for a point of departure the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in the land of Mexico. Wherever the Spanish went always the same thing happened, from my point of view. Innocent people were killed for no good reason, cities were massacred, civilizations were destroyed or forced to convert to Christianity. And so, I think now is the time to reevaluate the actions of the European explorers who subjugated the native American peoples and their civilizations. Undoubtedly the most glorified and heroically portrayed of these figures of the European conquest of the New World were the conquistadors, the Spanish conquerors of Mexico and Peru in the 16-th century. These men, under leaders such as Hernan Cortes and Francisco Pizzaro nearly eliminated the Aztec and Inca peoples. Surely many of these soldiers were extremely cruel and intolerant of the native populations.
But it is important to consider, with the push of both sides toward territorial expansion, how these groups (European and American) could remain isolated from each other. Furthermore, with meeting of these two imperialist cultures, it must be considered whether it would be possible for the two to peacefully coexist. From the point of view of what we know today it seems impossible that Europe could have remained completely ignorant until the XVI century with respect a civilization that by then had existed in Mexico for more than one thousand five hundred years. Equally astonishing is the indifference that the conquerors showed towards the universe that by pure luck crossed their path. Nothing shows the attitude Cortes had – attitude that he kept util the end of the conquest – better than the gift he made to the Aztec chiefs: even though his wonder upon discovering signs of a great cultural refinement, he did not doubt for even one moment that he was in the presence of a barbarian people, interesting only because it was amazingly rich. None of his written memoirs show the slightest wish to understand the Indians; in reality, he condemned them before having known them even in the most superficial manner. By the time when Moctezuma II, the last Aztec emperor (also known as Montezuma or Motecuhzoma), became king in 1502 the city of Tenochtitlan, together with its neighbor Tlatelolco, counted with more than 60 000 houses and had a population over 300 000 inhabitants; in other words it had a size 5 times than London in the times of Henry VIII. Throughout the first seventeen years of Moctezuma’s reign, the empire was plagued with constant uprisings of peoples who had been harshly subjugated by the Aztecs and wished to escape the tributes required of them.
Moctezuma had left the consolidation of the empire up to his generals while he devoted his time to wordily pleasures and religious duties in Tenochtitlan. Across the Atlantic Ocean, another great empire had recently accomplished s consolidation of its own. Spain had successfully completed the Reconquista. I think that to better understand the reasons for the conquest of Mexico and the elimination of its civilizations we should mention the process of the settlement of New Spain. Finding a solid Muslim wall to the south, in Northern Africa and the powerful French kingdom to the north, the only direction that the Spanish saw in which to expand was to the west.
The popes had intentionally given sovereignity over any new lands discovered to Portuguese; but with advent of Columbus’ discovery, the Spanish wished to end this legacy of Portuguese favoritism in the Vatican. The new pope, Alexander VI, issued a series of four bulls that established the papacy as an adamantly pro-Spanish power. These bulls gave the Spanish title to Columbus’ discoveries and any non-Christian western lands discovered as long as the native populations were converted to Christianity. With Spanish control of the Carribean and Gulf of Mexico assured, Spain proceeded to colonize the islands in the area, converting the islanders as they went and often massacring whole populations purposely or accidentally killing them by transmitting European diseases. The main goals in the expansion were to Christianize the Indians (as dictated by the pope), to gain trading power, and of course, to acquire the great mineral wealth of the Americas. This mineral wealth included vast amounts of gold and silver ore.
The Spanish nation, mostly catholic and very much expansionist, looked with great greed towards the new discovered lands. In the year of 1511, the Spaniards invaded and subjugated the island of Cuba. Cortes was among the conquerors. When Fernando and Isabel died, the throne of Spain passed on to Carlos V, who later reigned also as emperor of Austria, Germany, Luxemburg, the Netherlands, and part of Borgona. With great precaution, he authorized Cortes to explore but not to conquest. The instructions of the king, though, included a clause by which Cortes, in cases of trouble, could take the actions that would best suit to the service of Our Lord God.
The clever Cortes later interpreted these words in his own way, adapting them to his own purpose. Cortes’s fleet landed at what is now Vera Cruz on April 21, 1519. Eight months later he had already he had already reached the heart of the Aztec world – the great city of Tenochtitlan – where he had been received as a guest of honor. In the mean time he was informed that many vassal kings, who owed allegiance to the emperor Moctezuma, secretly detested him, and would readily support anyone who might help them throw off the hated Aztec yoke. The march of Cortes through Mexican lands can be explained mainly, according to Laurette Sejourne, by the undoubted talent that Cortes had for intrigue and betrayal, what allowed him to rapidly orient himself in the laberint of Mexican politics , little after his arrival after his arrival, he discovered that resentment and rebellion were very present among the tribes that were subjugated to the domination of Moctezuma, and immediately formed military alliances that made possible his astonishing victories.
And an unbreakable will, that did not stop before murders or mass killings, he accomplished everything else. (Burning Water). After months of fighting Cortes ordered a full-scale assault of the city. At the same time in the Aztec capital, a smallpox epidemic began that killed or immobilized much of the population. The captain-general appealed to the emperor (who was Cuahtemoc by this time) to surrender. Everywhere he went with his army they left a trail of destruction – burned or pulled-down homes and temples – regardless of whether or not there were wounded men, women, or children inside. But the Aztec king refused to leave the city in the hands of the Spaniards. He asked to be killed, and Cortes pardoned him.
This lack of understanding for each other’s culture is one sign that there would have been no way for the two empires to have an equal existence. The Spaniards’ disgust with the barbaric rites of the Aztecs gave them an excuse to force the Aztecs (and later the rest of the Mexicans) down into the lowest echelons of the new Hispanic society. But it should be considered that while human sacrifice is surely barbaric, enslaving peoples is hardly a sign of being civilized. He had the advantage of his fanatic catholic missionary zeal that served him as a justification to exploit the Mexicans, supported mainly the Aztec customs of performing human sacrifices and practicing cannibalism. These customs offend the sensibilities of the 20-th century but have different impact when they were committed in Europe at the time when Cortes invaded Mexico.
The conquerors banished the Aztecs from their city and began to clear it. Around half million people were killed. The Aztec homes were torn down and new homes for the conquistadors were built by reluctant Mexican laborers. It is ironic that very little gold was found in the city as compared to what was expected. And so, in the year of 1525, the Aztec world had its end.
The Inca history, from their mythical beginning ca. 1200 AD, was dominated by constant territorial expansion. As told in the origin stories, the founder of the Inca dynasty and its capital Cuzco, was Manco Capac. For centuries after his reign the kingdom was expanding by conquering more territory. But in the early 1500’s something unusual happened.
The current Inca emperor Huayna Capac, who extended Inca control of the lands as far as present-day Argentina, died suddenly in 1527 AD. It is likely that he died of smallpox or another such disease. And his sudden death left the question of succession unsettled, leading to a struggle between two of his sons, that later became a civil war. Unfortunately for Atahuallpa Inca, who seemed to have gained the advantage over his brother Huascar in the struggle to become emperor, the Spaniards arrived at exactly the wrong time. Francisco Pizzaro, fuelled by Cortes’s success in conquering the Aztecs and acquiring riches in Mexico, determined to go south to a land where stories told of a great kingdom of a fabulous wealth.
After two preliminary excursions, Francisco Pizzaro, with 168 Spaniards and a number of horses, arrived in Inca territory in May, 1532. Atahuallpa was informed that some strangers were waiting to meet him, but he was more concerned about consolidating his power. This leaded to his capture by Pizzaro a few months later. In return for his life he offered Pizzaro gold, but after receiving the gold Pizzaro executed him in July 26, 1533. By being in the right place at exactly the right time, and by being ruthless and deceitful, Francisco Pizzaro was able to quickly capture the ruler of the Incas, throw the empire into disarray, and rapidly gain wealth through Atahuallpa’s ransom. With the fall of the Inca empire, Pizzaro and his associates brought to end the most powerful native state in the New World, whose institutions represented thousands of years of indigenous cultural developments.
The Incas cannot be considered to have been benevolent masters by any means, but the abuses and exploration suffered by the native peoples under Spanish rule were far worse. The key to the Spanish conquest of Mexico was the dissension among the different peoples in both empires. The Indian overlords made no attempts to assimilate the other cultures to their own and thus provided the basis for a full scale revolt against them. With diligent work by missionaries, the Spaniards tried to bring together the people of present-day Mexico and the southwestern United States by converting them to Christianity. The resulting extension of the Spanish empire, New Spain, was the most strongly united of the American empires for years to come. History Essays.