Montezuma

The Stolen Treasure of Montezuma

(Read the article on one page)

In 1519, the Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes arrived on the outskirts of Tenochtitlan, the capital of the mighty Aztec Empire. It has been said that to the Aztec emperor, Montezuma II, Cortes and his men were regarded not as mortals, but gods. Cortes himself was said to be the returning Aztec god, Quetzalcoatl. Thus, the Spanish conquistadors were welcomed by Montezuma with pomp and circumstance. Yet, eventually these so-called ‘gods’ would betray Montezuma and his people, demonstrating to the Aztecs that there was nothing godlike about Cortes and his crew.

Montezuma’s offering of gold to Cortés and his men was done in the hope that the ‘gods’ would go away. This bribe, however, failed to get rid of the Spanish conquistadors. Instead, it fuelled the Spanish greed for gold even further. As a result, Cortés decided to place Montezuma under house arrest. Subsequently, with the help of their Tlaxcalan allies, the conquistadors set up their base in one of the city’s temples, and began ransacking Tenochtitlan for its treasures. In the following months, many of Tenochtitlan’s inhabitants were tortured and killed by Cortés’ men in their attempt to obtain even more Aztec treasure.

The great city of Tenochtitlan

The great city of Tenochtitlan. Image source .

Whilst the Aztecs were almost certainly not pleased at all with the behaviour of these ‘gods’, they took no action against them. The last straw came in late May 1520, when the conquistadors massacred many of the Aztec nobility during a religious festival at Tenchtitlan’s main temple. This prompted a fierce reaction from the Aztec population, who rose against the conquistadors. The besiege Spaniards, in an attempt to save themselves, decided to use their hostage, Montezuma, to pacify his subjects. This failed, however, and Montezuma was killed, either mortally wounded by the conquistadors themselves, or by rocks thrown by the inhabitants of Tenochtitlan.     

The death of Montezuma

The conquistadores had only one option left – flee the city. As the Aztecs had removed all the bridges connecting Tenochtitlan to the mainland, the conquistadors had to build a portable bridge over the causeway. On the night of the 1 st of July 1520, the Spanish made their escape. Their movement, however, was detected, and the Aztecs attacked the fleeing conquistadors, killing many in the process. This incident came to be known as ‘ La Noche Triste ’ (the Sad Night).

On that disastrous night, Cortés lost not only many of his men, but also the Aztec treasure that was amassed over the previous months. As the conquistadors were making their desperate attempt to escape from the Aztecs, much of the treasure was cast into the causeway to lighten their loads. No doubt, some of the men would have been killed holding on to their ill-gotten gains. This huge amount of precious items eventually came to be known as ‘Montezuma’s Treasure’, and like all good treasure stories, numerous legends have sprung up around it.

The only thing that is certain about Montezuma’s treasure is that it has not been found till today. Numerous theories have been put forward to suggest the location of its final resting place. For instance, the most popular theory is that the precious objects remain where they were dropped, i.e. at the bottom of Lake Texcoco. Numerous treasure hunters have searched the lake, however, but to no avail. It seems that one former president of Mexico even had the lake dredged, but as one may guess, nothing was found. Another theory claims that the treasure was retrieved by the Spaniards when they returned to Tenochtitlan, but the ship that was carrying the treasure back to Spain was sunk in a storm. Perhaps one of the most intriguing theories is that the treasure travelled north, and eventually ended up in Utah. Perhaps Montezuma’s Treasure will remain lost for many more years to come, safely hidden away from the greed of mankind.

As for how this sorry story ended, in May 1521, Cortes returned to Tenochtitlan to exact his revenge.

Aztec warriors and civilians fled the city as the Spanish forces mercilessly attacked, even after their surrender, slaughtering thousands of civilians and looting the city.  As many as 240,000 Aztecs are estimated to have died, according to the Florentine Codex, during the eighty days. After a three-month siege the city fell on 13 August, 1521. This marked the final fall of the Aztec empire and Cortes became the ruler of a vast Mexican empire.

Featured image: Cortés and Montezuma . Photo source: Wikimedia.

By Ḏḥwty

References

Burns, C. M., 2008. Montezuma's Gold. [Online]
Available at: http://www.thelifeofadventure.com/montezumas-gold/

Comments

I know where it's at. I am just waiting for the war. It won't be long.

The name is MoCtezuma.

How am I supposed to read something that clams to be serious if you can't even spell right the name of the main character?

aprilholloway's picture

He is referred to with a number of different variants of his name including Montezuma, Moctezuma, Moteuczoma, and Motecuhzoma.

 

how can you say that if you cant spell claims right

Tsurugi's picture

"Yet, eventually these so-called ‘gods’ would betray Montezuma and his people, demonstrating to the Aztecs that there was nothing godlike about Cortes and his crew."

Let's see....Cortez showed up and was given homage and honored by the Aztecs, and showered with gifts. He demanded more and began slaughtering people so they would comply. They gave him more treasures, hoping he would go away, and instead he betrayed their leaders and killed most of them, so the people drove him out of the city, after which he returned and slaughtered them all and sacked the city.

Based on my understanding of the gods of ancient mythology, Cortez sounds like he fits right in.

Register to become part of our active community, get updates, receive a monthly newsletter, and enjoy the benefits and rewards of our member point system OR just post your comment below as a Guest.

Ancient Places

From this map of the site, all the main structures and rock carvings are visible.
The little town of Malinalco lies at the margins of the Valley of Tepoztlan, some 115 kilometers (71 miles) to the southwest of Mexico City. Since Prehispanic times, its name has been associated with magic and sorcery: Malinalxochitl, goddess of snakes was worshipped on the Cerro de los Idolos, a hill overlooking the entire valley and the town below.

Our Mission

At Ancient Origins, we believe that one of the most important fields of knowledge we can pursue as human beings is our beginnings. And while some people may seem content with the story as it stands, our view is that there exists countless mysteries, scientific anomalies and surprising artifacts that have yet to be discovered and explained.

The goal of Ancient Origins is to highlight recent archaeological discoveries, peer-reviewed academic research and evidence, as well as offering alternative viewpoints and explanations of science, archaeology, mythology, religion and history around the globe.

We’re the only Pop Archaeology site combining scientific research with out-of-the-box perspectives.

By bringing together top experts and authors, this archaeology website explores lost civilizations, examines sacred writings, tours ancient places, investigates ancient discoveries and questions mysterious happenings. Our open community is dedicated to digging into the origins of our species on planet earth, and question wherever the discoveries might take us. We seek to retell the story of our beginnings. 

Ancient Image Galleries

View from the Castle Gate (Burgtor). (Public Domain)
Door surrounded by roots of Tetrameles nudiflora in the Khmer temple of Ta Phrom, Angkor temple complex, located today in Cambodia. (CC BY-SA 3.0)
Cable car in the Xihai (West Sea) Grand Canyon (CC BY-SA 4.0)
Next article