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Posted on June 16th, 2012, by

This essay is dedicated to analyzing the reasons of Cortes’s success in conquering the multitudinous empire of Actecs with the help of a group of 508 people only. The reasons of his victory are numerous, and the main of them are listed below. The first reason I want to name is the constant strife between the tribes of Indians, and therefore their distrust and hatred for each other. The Actecs were in fact so busy with their internal problems that they were able neither to unite in opposing the conquerors nor resist them with the own forces of a certain tribe.

And we can single out another related factor that helped Cortes in his conquest: it is the dissociation of the empire of many millions, which became its major weakness.

I can illustrate this with a citation from the Victors and Vanquished book: “It seems that the Indians who guarded them were perplexed by the warlike preparations and had been careless of their charge and, in fact, had let them out of prison” [p.104]. On the other hand, the constant state of war has weakened the empire so that it was hardly able to resist the conquerors.

Another important factor is that the Actec Empire had a very cruel tribute system, and a lot of tribes were making protests against it. It led to the fact that Cortes was eventually regarded as a liberator, and not a conqueror. This factor can also be illustrated by a citation: “…we were accompanied by many friends, both from Cempoala and Zocotlan, and other towns through which we had passed. As all these towns usually paid tribute to Montesuma, the Tlaxcalans took it for granted that we were coming to attack Tlaxcala.” [p. 103]

This citation also is a good example to illustrate one more important factor: that Cortes was able to win over a lot of Indians to his side, and these allies constituted a large part of Spanish army.

Cortes was able to accept such a significant number of warriors to his side because he was improving policy against Actecs, and hence a lot of tribes confronting Actecs considered him as an ally. Without such alliance Cortes wouldn’t have a single chance of defeating the Actec Empire.

The fourth factor I would like to name is related to the fact that Montesuma considered Cortes to be the incarnation of Ketsalkoatl, the famous Indian deity. Montesuma was in confusion because there were a lot of signs showing the similarity between Cortes and Ketsalkoatl, and there were a lot of differences as well. Montesuma was in confusion, and this confusion led to the delay in reaction of Actecs towards the conquest.

And finally, the last factor is the technical and military advantage of Spanish army over the Indians, and the psychological effect of the “lightning” and “thunder” that they were using. Combined with the belief that Cortes was their God, this factor led to the neutralization of the Indians’ spirit and enthusiasm.

The combination of the above-mentioned reasons led to the victory of Cortes over the Actec Empire.

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