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(mŏntĕso͞o`mä) or


(mŏk–), 1480?–1520, Aztec emperor (c.1502–1520). He is sometimes called Montezuma II to distinguish him from Montezuma I (ruled 1440–69), who carried on conquests around TenochtitlánTenochtitlán
, ancient city in the central valley of Mexico. The capital of the Aztec, it was founded (c.A.D. 1345) on a marshy island in Lake Texcoco. It was a flourishing city (with an estimated population of between 200,000 and 300,000), connected with the mainland by
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. His reign was marked by incessant warfare, and his despotic rule caused grave unrest. When Hernán CortésCortés, Hernán,
or Hernando Cortez
, 1485–1547, Spanish conquistador, conqueror of Mexico. Expedition to Mexico

Cortés went (1504) first to Hispaniola and later (1511) accompanied Diego de Velázquez to Cuba.
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 arrived in Mexico he was thus able to gain native allies, notably in the province of the Tlaxcala. Montezuma, believing the Spanish to be descendants of the god QuetzalcoatlQuetzalcoatl
[Nahuatl,=feathered serpent], ancient deity and legendary ruler of the Toltec in Mexico. The name is also that of a Toltec ruler, who is credited with the discovery of corn, the arts, science, and the calendar.
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, tried to persuade them to leave by offering rich gifts. That failing, he received them in his splendid court at Tenochtitlán in Nov., 1519. Cortés later seized him as a hostage and attempted to govern through him. In June, 1520, the Aztec rose against the Spanish. Montezuma was killed, although whether by the Spanish or the Aztec is not certain. His successor died a few months later and was replaced by CuauhtémocCuauhtémoc
, d. 1525, Aztec emperor. Succeeding the brother of Montezuma II in 1520, Cuauhtémoc failed to unite the native city-states of the Valley of Mexico against the Spanish after the expulsion of Hernán Cortés from Tenochtitlán.
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. Montezuma's name is linked by a legend to fabulous treasures that the Spanish appropriated and presumably lost at sea.


See H. Thomas, Conquest: Montezuma, Cortés, and the Fall of Old Mexico (1994).



Two Aztec rulers.

Montezuma I Born 1390; died circa 1469. Ruler of the Aztecs. Upon achieving Aztec subjugation of the other tribes of central Mexico, Montezuma became the leader of the resulting alliance and established his capital in the city of Tenochtitlan, the present-day Mexico City.

Montezuma II Born 1466; died 1520. Ruler of the Aztecs from 1503. The alliance of Indian tribes headed by Montezuma was maintained by force of arms. With the arrival of the Spaniards in Tenochtitlán, Montezuma was taken captive; he issued an appeal to submit to the Spaniards, for which he was killed by rebelling Indians.

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