Notes: Episode 30, The Fall Of The Aztecs (Part 2)

As with every show, I’ll list any corrections or clarifications here. If there’s anything I’ve overlooked, please contact me by email or in the comments and I’ll edit the notes to reflect the new information.


17:26 – This welcome speech is also quite notable because of its perceived support for the extremely prevalent theory that Montezuma believed Cortes to be divine. The evidence that he would have actually believed this is largely either circumstantial or potentially fabricated decades after the meeting, but this speech almost certainly did happen. If taken literally, it could be taken as Montezuma surrendering his rule to this perceived deity. However, as I go on to state here, I really do believe that to take this pronunciation at face value discounts the ability of Montezuma to speak in diplomatic pleasantries. This would not be a discussion if the exact same exchange had occurred between two European powers.


23:35 – Another major problem with the White Gods theory that I didn’t mention but deserves to at least be pointed out is that most mythologies involve gods who are either very obviously supernatural or else very much like the society creating the myth. The frequency with which deities are portrayed in a way that could accidentally point to a 16th century European explorer is extremely low. Gods are not expected to arrive on your shores not understanding your language or culture; they are either meant to demonstrate their divinity or else appear as one of you. The idea of the Aztecs believing the Conquistadors to be gods is about as plausible to me as the Conquistadors seeing a bearded man they did not know and assuming the second coming of Christ. It seems to me that the Aztecs probably had a better idea of the European explorers’ status as humans in this world than the Conquistadors did of the Aztecs.


31:28 – So I just spent all this time raging against the idea of White Gods and presumptions about Aztec beliefs et cetera, and then I turn around and state that Montezuma may have believed his kidnapping to be divine will. I get why this might look a little contradictory, but I really don’t think these two things conflict. The concept of free will versus divine will or predestination has been a hallmark of philosophy and religion for millenia, with people falling on both sides fairly regularly – just look at classical Calvinism, which was one of the major reformation camps just gaining some momentum in Europe around this same time. I have major problems with the argument that Montezuma would have worshiped Cortes, but for him to believe that his gods had cursed him with the presence and acts of the Spanish is quite reasonable – the Spanish don’t need to be divine themselves in order to participate, knowingly or not, in a divine plan for the Aztec people.


51:59 – The smallpox episode can be found here.


1:11:21 – I’ve been listening to my breakdown of post-Montezuma Cortes on this episode for a few minutes now, and one thing is really bothering me: I sound pretty sympathetic toward the guy. And I am, to a small extent. But I thought that I would have at least given a more balanced analysis, and I’m not hearing it the way I would like. This line about the Spanish success being beyond their intent is wrong. They wanted to conquer the mainland. What they did not intend was the method by which they were successful, i.e. smallpox. That certainly doesn’t absolve them of wishing to conquer and subjugate any indigenous people they found while exploiting the natural resources of the land; it merely means that if they had not been carrying smallpox with them, they most likely would not have been successful. The fact that their success hinged on what could be considered an accident doesn’t make their intent any more noble.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *