Why was the Aztec Empire seemingly uninterested in stopping Cortés?

Feb 2017
421
Latin America
Even when accounting for technology, the Aztecs seemed to have left Cortés, and later Pánfilo de Narvaez who joined him, to roam free in their territory or in the territory of their neighbours without caring one thing about stopping them. Basically, why didn't the Aztecs just send an army to stop them once they landed or once they spotted at the very least? I can understand them not stopping them already at sea because the Aztecs seemingly didn't have more than merchant ships and were not a naval power. But not sending a force to kill Cortés immediately? That's like the English letting even Spanish scouting ships land without at least sending a few men to try to stop them.
 

PADDYBOY

Historum Emeritas
Jan 2007
6,517
Scotland
Didn't Cortes have the support of tribes/nations that were enemies of the Aztecs ?
But yes, it does seem pretty stupid to allow Cortes to roam freely.
 

Zip

Jan 2018
648
Comancheria
One reason is that the Mexican leadership was poor; Moctecozuma was confused and indecisive. And the Spanish, even without allies, were very formidable, as their short but fierce war with Tlaxcala showed. Had Moctecozuma immediately sent an army against Cortes it might simply have been trounced.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Menshevik
Sep 2017
786
United States
I mean, I'm not really sure if they saw them as an invasion force necessarily. The Spanish were a strange and foreign people whom they didn't know a whole lot about.

Though I'm not sure exactly why they let Cortes consort with their enemies and march about their jungles, I think everything happened pretty unexpectedly and quickly. As far as cultural contact and conquest go, things went very fast and suddenly. The Romans and Gauls were neighbors for centuries, and the Romans were even vaguely aware of the Huns before their invasions and were familiar with eastern steppe peoples for quite some time.

The Spanish came from across the ocean. The first expedition to the Yucatan was in 1517, and the Aztecs were fully conquered by 1521. It's possible some information about the Spanish were passed from the Caribbean earlier, but the Aztecs had basically no time to react.

It's like if you saw a strange looking man climb in through a window, talk to your neighbors for a few moments, and then they all walk over to you and after the man says hi they all beat the crap out of you.
 
Nov 2018
34
Canada
I seem to remember reading how the aztec had a prophecy about one of there gods coming back, white man with a beard, sorry if im out of left field.
 
  • Like
Reactions: Menshevik

PADDYBOY

Historum Emeritas
Jan 2007
6,517
Scotland
I seem to remember reading how the aztec had a prophecy about one of there gods coming back, white man with a beard, sorry if im out of left field.
I have a vague memory similar to what you say. The Aztecs believed their world was going to end and a blond man would be responsible. It was written in the stars ? Or something like that.

Love this thread by the way.
 

Tulius

Ad Honorem
May 2016
6,166
Portugal
That's like the English letting even Spanish scouting ships land without at least sending a few men to try to stop them.
That is a bad analogy!

The “Spanish” and the English knew each other since they were “Spanish” and English.

While the Spanish and the Aztecs were dealing with a first contact. They were aliens. They didn’t had rules of contact and they had different strategies to deal with that.
 

Zip

Jan 2018
648
Comancheria
The Mexica (Aztecs) had a belief about a god named Quetzalcoatl who left Mexico but would supposedly return and from the east. This belief sprang from pre Mexica civilization in the area, perhaps the Toltecs, and may harken back to a real king who was exiled. Maybe.

The Mexica believed the world ran in cycles and the time between cycles was very dangerous because the world had already been destroyed and rebuilt several times. Cortes appeared during one of these transition periods.
 
Last edited:
Dec 2013
338
Arkansas
Several obvious reasons:

1) Cortez had very minimal numbers. So the Aztecs never saw him as much of a threat despite his weapons and most especially his horses which terrified the Aztecs.
2) Cortez won largely by co-opting local powers to fighting the Aztecs. These powers had been repeatedly defeated by the Aztecs so the Aztecs did not see them as a threat either but Cortez basically used his forces as "magic bullets" in the larger combat between the Aztecs and their enemies.
3) Despite their reputation for brutality (fully deserved) the Aztecs did not fight to kill or destroy their enemies. At least not initially. The Aztecs fought to capture their enemies alive so they could then be ceremonially sacrificed. This gave the Spaniards an edge when it came to the actual combat.
4) Aztec prophesy had several well known stories about a "light skinned" warrior who would come and one day take their empire away. Needless to say the Aztecs didn't want to piss off Cortez if he turned dout to be this light skinned warrior.
5) What was mentioned above about the Aztec Empires political weaknesses at that time. .