When Cortés and his men were brought to the
city of Tenochtitlán, its beauty and riches stunned
them. The city held towering pyramids and exotic
palaces. The city was huge—about 200,000
people lived there—yet it was spotlessly clean.
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The Arrival of the Spanish
The Aztec priests warned the emperor,
Montezuma, that they had seen portents that
something was coming. In 1519, that something
arrived in the form of Hernando Cortés and
500 Spanish soldiers. When the Aztecs saw the
Spaniards, they thought the foreigners were gods.
Conquering the Aztecs
The Spanish conquistadors—or conquerors—
came to enrich themselves. They wanted gold and
glory. They saw the Aztecs had much gold and
wealth, and the Spanish set out to conquer them.
The Aztec warriors, who greatly outnumbered
the Spanish invaders, fought with darts, bows,
spears, slings, and stone-edged swords. These
weapons were easily repelled, however, by
the conquistadors’ metal armor. In addition to
the armor, the Spanish had superior weapons:
cannons, muskets, and crossbows. They also rode
horses. The Aztecs had never seen horses before
and were terrified by the beasts.
Still, the Spanish would never have been able
to defeat the Aztecs, who vastly outnumbered
them, if they had not found eager comrades
among the local tribes. These natives hated the
Aztecs who had conquered them, and they were
eager to fight back. Their numbers swelled the
Spanish force to more than 15,000. It took months
of hard fighting, street to street, but eventually
the Spanish defeated the Aztecs at Tenochtitlán.
More than 100,000 Aztecs died defending their
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