Reflections on World History

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Ch 13: State Building and Aztecs on Conquest



It is interesting to think about how the particular rulers worked to reinforce their authority. What was their relationship to the states (and people) they led? With regard to the images, I am wondering to what they tell us about how the Aztecs explained their defeat by the Spanish.

Feel free to respond to these questions, or any others you find interesting. I look forward to reading your posts! – Dr. Davidson



  1. Simbuilder5 says:

    Emperor Jahangir is really an interesting man. He is the son of Akbar, the once emperor, and starts his ruling with an elaborate celebration. He uses the most expensive materials and the best of everything. It seems as though he is more interested in himself than his empire. Jahangir established a series of rules from animal slaughtering to purchasing wine. His rules mostly pertain to Islam which leaves the majority out of the loop. When he refers to building mosques in areas that were deserted, people who follow Hinduism aren’t benefiting from that. Another rule even involves the Koran. This is just proof that Jahangir was not geared towards all people of his empire, but only to the Muslims of empire. It seems as though they allowed differences in religion, but they did not cater to all people of different religions by law.
    -Winston S

  2. JoslynP says:

    According to Document 13.1, Emperor Kangxi’s relationship to the state’s officials was to reinforce authority to those that abused it. He was the overseer and shared how he was often disappointed from the news of mistreatment from his officials. Kangxi’s actions showed something about his character; that he cared for fairness of the people throughout his empire. His style of governance seemed to be one of peace and order, while maintaining morals, which were more so taught more than practiced from his state officials. He even took extra measures to punish these individuals in front of the people to show how that behavior was not tolerated.

  3. Sidney N. says:

    In visual source 13.2: Moctezuma and Cortès, Doña Marina is standing behind Cortès with her finger pointing towards him. This image suggests a few impressions of Doña Marina. Since Marina spoke many languages including Mayan, Aztec, and became an interpreter for the Spanish, it would be safe to assume that in the picture, she was helping Cortès communicate with the Aztecs. Also, since Marina played a big role in the era while working with Cortès, I would predict that she was a very smart and educated woman. In addition, while looking at the image, I noticed that both Cortès and Marina look somewhat happy. Therefore, I would assume that they had a good, strong relationship throughout the many years they knew each other.
    – Sidney N.

  4. Matthew C. says:

    During the reign of emperor Kangxi, Kangxi was a cruel ruler in the court. He ha many people executed in the courts. For example, only a handful of people were spared out of fifty or eighty people. Also, he was almost impeached by a man named Hu and Hu was sent to exile for three years just for impeaching the emperor. Emperor Kangxi rules his people by fear and power. Sadly, the schools were not even doing that well either, knowing that only one student succeeds from one school. Obviously, Kiangxi reign did not benefit the country much other than extending the territory of his country.
    – Matthew C.

  5. Jamison H says:

    In Visual Source 13.2: Moctezuma and Cortes (p. 663), I find it intriguing that in a world where women are still fighting for equality to this day, a women back in the 1600’s had so much influence over a man as powerful as Cortes. She was given as a gift from her previous owners and somehow turned into his translator and mistress, which I also find very impressive. There were not many influential women in this time period (the only one I remember hearing about was Pocahontas), so it’s almost refreshing to see a woman that had some say and was not just used as a reproductive machine, a nanny, or to do housework. But one thing I do not understand is the relationship between Cortes and Moctezuma. As I was reading it says that Cortes captured Moctezuma in his own palace and held him against his will, but in the picture it looks as if Moctezuma is offering Cortes goods and talking with him. If Cortes was holding him sort of captive why is Moctezuma being so generous?

  6. Kendall K. says:

    Document 13.2, titled “Moctezuma and Cortes” suggests that the Spanish, at first, conveyed kindness and equality. Both Moctezuma and Cortes are sitting on European-style chairs in this picture, suggesting equality. The Aztecs view the Spanish as gods in this picture. This is seen through the many people standing behind Cortes worshiping him. You can see at the bottom of the picture that they are even giving Cortes and his people gifts. However, the Spanish people turn on the Aztecs and convey that they are definitely not equal to the Aztecs.
    -Kendall K.

  7. gjones22 says:

    According to document 12.2, the ruler of the empire allowed the chief or people of power to continue to rule the area after they conquered the land as long as they followed the laws. If they broke a law, the power would be given to a son or brother. This aided in preventing uproar from the natives, but they also sent natives by the thousand to other provinces to keep the natives from conquering them. The Ruler took care of each conquered land which allowed a good relationship between ruler and state. Based on the images, the Aztecs would probably describe their defeat by the Spanish as a clash of a bigger culture. Spanish had more acceptance which allowed more people to be a part of the movement.

  8. ajones188 says:

    Usually, rulers of all types have a crushing ego, unparalleled paranoia, or – if luck would have it – the ability to oversee the building of an extraordinary nation. King Louis XIV is one of the more parasitic kings of history. As stated in Document 13.4, Louis XIV chose to be represented as the sun when it comes to his role in the French state and empire. Louis XIV states, “I would doubtless be capable of governing other empires, just as the sun was capable of lighting up other worlds.” His arrogance has led him to believe that he is so magnificent that his rule is vital and beautiful to the French State.

  9. Jessica says:

    In reference to Visual Source 12.5, Italian artist Giovanni da Modena painted a creation of Muhammad, the founder of Islam. He was physically bounded to a rock in his bare flesh, being devoured by a devil. Modena is vividly able to portray that the setting is hell by the harsh and gory depictions of demons eating humans. Personally, if I was an Islamic myself who lived back then, this painting would be uncomplimentary and utterly offensive just like how it was to the other Islamic people. In response to this insult, terrorists were even carrying out plans to bomb the church which held the painting. The artist clearly shows what he thinks of Muhammad┄ “a religious heretic, fake prophet…” (Strayer). Overall, I thought this was a cruel, yet powerful piece of artwork.

    -Jessica H.

  10. Daisha B. says:

    In Visual Source 12.5 Giovanni da Modena, Muhammad in Hell (Scala/ Art Source, NY) (p.608), I was drawn in completely. I love detailed paintings so of course this one, being as massive as it is, caught my eye. Christians of that time, in my opinion, did not follow the word of God in any means at all. For them to believe Muhammad to be a “false prophet” is one thing, but to have this painting hanging in a church is another. The painting depicts Muhammad being tortured by demons and much more; however, this visual source only shows a small portion on the actual painting. It was Christians way of being hostile to the Islamic culture and Muhammad himself. It irritates me because God would not want this. To be so hateful to another, and to go as far as depicting them in hell. I was just truly amazed by this.

  11. Jazzmin says:

    Doc 13.4 Discussing Louis XIV’s approach on state building and his philosophy on his interaction with his people it seems as if he focused heavily on state building and imperialism and led under the idea of “divine right” which is the idea that he as a leader ruled directly from God and is accountable only to God ( Through his introduction of the “carousel” it can be seen that he wanted to introduce his people to the many different cultures that existed in the world to the lives of the people of France, by including things such as exotic animals that they had more than likely never seen before. While focusing on the culturalization he also made sure to show that he was their “godlike” ruler by dressing himself up as “the sun” while attending the carousel. This shows his need to be idolized by his people and it seems as if they truly did up until the end of his reign. – Jazzmin A

  12. Rashundra Martin says:

    According to Visual 13.2, entitled Moctezuma and Cortes, it seems to appear that Hernan Cortes and his 350 Spanish soldiers first set off to the Aztec empire with a specific purpose in mind. Along their journey they began to learn about the Aztec people and their customs and what their land had to offer. Through diplomacy, Cortes was able to form an alliance with the Aztecs’ peoples and even many of their rivalries or enemies as well. Cortes seemed to be encouraging a sense of of agreement or peace amongst the people. When Cortes came into contact with Moctezuma in Tenochtitlan, they discussed the viewpoints of the Aztec people. They offered Cortes many different gifts to show their gratitude and respect as illustrated in the visual. The woman that appears behind Cortes, Dona Marina, was also given as a gift to the spanish and subsequently became the interpreter for the Spanish. The Aztecs assumed that the Spanish were caring individuals and would work along or co-dependently with the Aztec people. Through all the kindness that the Aztec people showed the Spanish, Cortes’ local commander showed the Aztecs that in no form or fashion were they equal in weaponry or militia by launching a surprise attack on the natives killing hundreds in the process. – Rashundra M.

  13. Jose F says:

    Visual Source 13.1 tells the tale of an incredible omen foreshadowing what was to come to the Aztec people. The huge star running rampant through the sky almost seems otherworldy when juxtaposed with the calm deserted landscape of Central Mexico.This motif would be accurate in the eyes of the Aztec people as they say the Spanish as completely strange, different and absolutely powerful. It is also important to note the artist’s portrayal of Montezuma as a solitary figure facing this death omen alone further developing the supernatural theme, as Montezuma was seen as more than just a ruler. Overall this painting accurately depicts the vulnerability of the Aztec people when facing such a supreme power as the Spanish conquistadores.
    – Jose F.

  14. Anna B. says:

    In Doc. 13.4 Louis XIV clearly expresses his stance on how his people should view him. He states that it is important to reassure the people of why he is their ruler and his rightful position as it. His vanity and boasting ego are utterly conspicuous as he expresses that it is of great importance to receive the affection of his people, but of greater importance to receive it of those of high rank. In this sense by having the support of subjects of high rank it would not only fuel his own need for power, but help solidify his conception of his “divine right” to rule. By gaining this support it lessens the chance of an uprising of the people. The sun serves the purpose of being the root of the planets’ orbit; without it there would be none. By comparing his reign to this he again demonstrates his belief in his divine right to rule, and insists it be known by France that his rule is of greatness and must be appreciated by all it touches.

  15. Ashley M says:

    Document 13.2: “Moctezume and Cortes “shows that Spanish leaned toward equality. It appears in the picture that Cortes is being worshipped. It is however viewed that Aztecs see the Spanish as gods, however it is visualized that Moctezume is offering Cortes and his people goods. But it is stated in the reading that Cortes captured Moctezume in his own palace and held him against his will, making the image a little bit more difficult to understand.

    Ashley M

  16. Carina C says:

    Document 12.2: The Renaissance in Europe spread to the Islamic regions and the painting depicts a Venice ambassador visiting Syria. The painting is expressing Europe’s interest in spreading their cultures and territory in other regions. An interesting factor in this painting is the ‘ranking’ in the picture. The head governor of the town is seated in a low stool wearing simple clothing while the ambassador from Venice is adorned in many layers and a huge crowd of people have flocked to see him. This is maybe a foreshadowing of the switch in power between the ‘new’ Europe and the once powerful Islamic world?

  17. Shamira says:

    As described in Document 13:4, it seems as though Louis XIV was an extremely intelligent ruler in regards to the knowledge he had that enabled him to not only infiltrate an already established society, but to get these people to worship him. By introducing things that most of the people he was taking rule over had never seen before, he was appealing to their sense of awe. By making these people amazed by what his attributes were, it was easy for him to establish himself in a divine light. This divinity was used against his people in the sense that, no one will go against what God has ordained for them, which in turn, became the rule of Louis XIV.

  18. denny says:

    In the source 13.2 shows how Doña Marina is helping Cortes being an translator, from the beginning we can see that she came from an elite and cultured family, but she went through such as rough times after her father died. Her mother trying to protect her son so she had to sold Doña Marina and there is when she met Cortes. cause of her trajectory she was able to picked up spanish quickly which made cortes keep her by his side. Doña Marina was really helpful for Cortes with her language skills and awareness to find things out. Doña Marina was an important woman and made a huge Impact in the history of mexico, but even though she was such a great woman with her personality and skill, i don’t understand why cortes gave away to an spanish conquistador even after she and Cortes had a child. I would like to learn more bout this topic.

  19. mina-s says:

    I find the Aztecs to explain their defeat by the Spanish as one being very brutal and vulgar based on the visual sources. From visual source 13.2, the Aztecs are portrayed as very welcoming, civil, and polite. There may have been tension rising between the two sides, but that was certainly not an excuse for the Spanish to attack unarmed Aztecs during a religious ceremony; which leads to the Aztecs to retaliate on June 30,1520 (pg. 664).

    And also, from Document 13.1, it was interesting to see the Emperor being critical of his surroundings, in one aspect of making sure the officials did their jobs right. For example, on page 652, he talks about going back over the calculations of the Bureau of Astronomy and telling them to “simply state their findings, and not to guess or exaggerate any observed omens.”

  20. R.Hunter says:

    visual 13.1 shows Montezuma status as a leader. He stands as the only person in the picture. But in the picture stands an alarming omen in the sky. This omen was said to have been present ten years before the Spanish invaded the Aztecs. I think the picture shows a bit of hindsight bias from the Aztecs. They said they knew something was going to happen, but did not know when or how. It seems to me that they didn’t want to accept the fact that they just flat out got beat. The Aztecs make it seem like this was a supernatural occurance/disaster and there was nothing they could really do about it. Although there was no way they could defend themselves from the Spanish, they still seem to act like nothing was their fault.

  21. dzdavidson says:

    Thanks for all of these great comments. Many of you are already taking a serious, analytical approach to these sources, and you are asking great questions. Be sure not to simply summarize what is in a source, but instead to try to analyze some aspect of it. Lots of these posts include really great insights into the material, but two stand out as good models to follow: Anna B and Joslyn P. Both enter into the topic of how rulers constructed, displayed, and exercised authority, and both students did a great job of using specific examples to work through these bigger issues.

    Nice work everyone, and thank you for your contributions!

  22. Garrett Mitchell says:

    Doc 13.4: Allow me to preface this by saying Louis the 14th is one of my least favorite characters in world history. As if his overabundance of extravagance while his people are left in squalor wasn’t enough, his arrogance of Kanye-ic proportions is adequate for me to have a distaste for the “Sun king”.Louis’ take on the treatment of his subjects shows he more patronizes them than helps them; Referring to them as “the common people”, he says it delights them to know “we like what they like,or what they excel in”. This sounds eerily similar to the reaction of someone who’s dog just brought them a dead bird as a “present”. Furthermore, Louis never once mentions how he helps his subjects (who are likely starving). “Did the king give you food for the village?” “no…but he gave me his autograph.” Louis also notes the effects of his presence and home on foreigners. He notes, “what could be called superfluous, makes a very favorable impression on them, of magnificence, of power, of grandeur …” Yes Louis, your house was very nice and I’m sure a diplomat from England who was sent to note the state of your country in the event the English wanted to start a war would be totally dissuaded from the notion of invasion after seeing how many fountains you have in your garden. XIV (pronounced Z-EE-V I think) also had enough delusions of grandeur to choke a horse (Of course, that was okay because he would just get twenty more horses after that first one choked), and I’m not sure about this, but he was probably always drunk… I mean, he was constantly involved with the House of Bourbon.He saw himself as the greatest thing ever and an oh so competent leader as apparent by the line, ” I would doubtless be capable of governing other empires, just as the sun was capable of lighting up other worlds if they were exposed to its rays.” Not only does he see himself as a great king, but he likens himself to the sun…Something that countless cultures have held as a God. His ego may be what gets my goat the most, and I mean that his ego could possibly make him take my goat because of his sense of divine right. He even writes like, pardon my French, une pompous ass (as evident in his first sentence which takes up eight and a half lines!) In closing, under the rule of Louis XIV, it’s no surprise his empire eventually fell like the wall of the Bastille.

  23. Marcusmvg says:

    One of the interesting things I discovered while reading was the sense of humanity.The “Reflections”, section really caught my attention. It was said that Emperor Kangxi was giving life to the people and killing them at the same time, that was the powers of the emperor. The gruesome execution Hu Chien-ching’s family kinda made me cringe , his whole family was murdered because they seized people’s land and wives and daughters, and murdering people after falsely accusing them of being thieves. He was finally impeached and the Board of Punishment wanted him exiled for three years but the emperor had he executed and he was executed with his family, and in his native place, so that all the local gentry would learn to never betray his trust. He showed his humanity by giving them pistons of powers to people he knew and also by killing those who crossed him. He also went around to different villages to speak to the commons people, he asked peasants about their officials, looked at their housed and disused their crops. This showed me how humble of an emperor he was, and that even though he had a high ranking position. he did not let that stand in the way of his relationship with the people of his kingdom.

  24. Jonathan McKenley says:

    While reading chapter 12 I couldn’t help but find the Ming dynasty in China intriguing. Its amazing how the empire lasted through 16 different emperors for over 250 years following the harsh treatment many Chinese suffered from the Mongol Yuan dynasty. The book explains how the Ming dynasty was one of great adventure and travel. The great Chinese mariners mapped the world bringing back treasures from around the globe. I did a little research and found out the ever-so-popular folding fan was a concept from the ancient Ming dynasty. Known as one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history, the Ming dynasty set many standards and norms for future dynasties to come.

  25. DHarris says:

    It was interesting to read about how the geographical locations influence the exploration of Oceans. The countries on the Atlantic rim of Europe had winds that blew steadily in one direction allowing for faster travel across the Atlantic Ocean. By understanding the wind currents it allowed for swift travel back and forth from the Americas to Europe. On the other side of the continent, in Asia, the winds were unpredictable. The notorious monsoon winds caused for difficult travel in the Indian Ocean. The Europeans exceled in navigation, mapmaking, ship design and sailing techniques allowed for the transportation of goods and slaves to be transported across the Atlantic Ocean. This encourage the mixing of different cultures and goods around the world

  26. Krys M. says:

    Visual source 13.2 has a lot going on in it and I believe that is why I spent so much time contemplating it. It is a painting of an occurrence possibly around the year 1519 when Doña Marina was a translator for Cortéz and the Spanish forces. The painting shows Doña standing close behind a seated Cortés who is lifted above the ground by some kind of platform. Seated on the ground appears to be an Aztec noble or perhaps Montezuma with three other Aztec men behind him. This makes it appear as if the Aztecs are holding Cortéz and the Spanish with high regard as if they were kings and queens. There is another Aztec on top of a balcony looking down on what is happening below and most everyone in the painting are pointing fingers at each other. On the ground next to Cortéz and the Aztecs are various creatures and inanimate objects.The animals appear to be a lamb, two owls, 6 birds, etc. and the rock like substances could be just that. From looking at the painting, appears that a grand discussion is commencing and a peaceful one at that. I appears sacrifices have been made through the caged animals, birds and other things laying in ground as peace offerings as well. Of course knowing what is to come this painting is a look at the preamble to the gruesome Spanish conquest of the Aztec Empire.

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