Montezuma II, also seen as Moctezuma, was the ninth Aztec emperor of Mexico who is best known for his confrontation with Hernan Cortez. Most information on Montezuma revolves around his befriending and eventual betrayal by Cortez, which some believe is the reason that the Aztec empire fell only 2 years after thier chance meeting. What is more interesting about Montezuma though is his lifestyle outside of his kingly duties.
Living in a palace in the capital city of Tenochtitlan (modern day Mexico City), Montezuma enjoyed a lavish lifestyle that rivaled that of Rome. The palace itself was not only enormous, it was decorated with hanging gardens, weapons embellished with gold and jewels whixh filled two entire houses on the property, and the most extravagant was the private zoo that included jaguars, foxes, pumas, eagles and various other exotic animals. There was also a 10 room aviary with both fresh and salt water pools that housed every color feather possible. Montezuma would have these feathers plucked and harvested for use in decorating the roal liter and royal clothing, mainly the feathers of the green quetzals since they were the highest prized and only used for royalty. It has also been said that Montezuma had a strange fascination with albinos, hunchbacks, and dwarves and he kept them in the palace locked in chambers for the amusement of his guests and for himself.
Outside of pleasure, Montezuma kept many gilded craftsmen, goldsmiths, silversmiths, stonecutters, masons, carpenters, painters, sculpters, and people who worked specifically with feathers, just to work on the needs and updates of the royal palace. It was reported by a visitor that Montezuma had 3,000 personal attendants waiting on him hand and foot and dozens of domestic servants, all to ensure that Montezuma himself had to do nothing at all.
It is no wonder that he had so many people working under him when you look at what a typical meal consisted of. Each meal would have at least 30 dishes that were specifically designed for the king. Some of the typical dishes would included turkey, venison, duck, pigeon, rabbit, quail, fish, wild boar, and pheasant served on the finest pottery. Some have reported that he actually ate alone behind a screen while being entertained by humpback jesters, jugglers, acrobats, musicians and dance troops.
Interestingly enough, as a young man Montezuma proved himself a successful soldier, first as a warrior and then later as a captain, up until the time of his uncle’s death when Montezuma took the throne. After he became king, there was no more reports of him being a warrior, instead he became a king who wore golden sandals and was always wearing exotic feathers and rare stones. He even bathed daily, which was uncommon and a certain luxury in the 16th century. Whenever Montezuma was out in the public, he would either be carried on a palaguin or walking on luurious fabrics that were laid out in front of him so that his feet never touch the ground, all the while being surrounded by 200 bodyguards, his wives, and many mistresses.
The two wives that we know that Montezuma had were Teotlalco and Tlapalizquixochtzin, but there are claims that there may have been more. Teotlalco was the daughter of King Matlaccohuatl and was Montezuma’s principle wife while Tlapalizquixochtzin was born a princess and was his second wife. Both women would provide him with an unknown number of children, but the number the experts seem to agree on is that he had 8 girls and 11 boys in total. Montezuma also had an unknown number of mistresses, some say that it was in the hundreds and over the course of his reign that number is plausible. One interesting fact we know about one of Montezuma’s children is that his daughter with Teotlalco, Dona Isabel Moctezuma, had an affair with Hernan Cortez which resulted in a illegitimate daughter. This means that the man who was resposible for taking down Montezuma was also the father of his grandchild.
With all his wives and concubines, we must take a look at the descriptions of Montezuma’s looks. Montezuma was born in 1466 and took the throne in1502 at the age of 36. After he took the throne, he was described as being of a normal, good height, of usual Indian complexion with short hair and a short black beard. He was not an overly muscular man, but did give the appearance of being strong with average muscles as he was said to be well proportioned in his build. Overall, he was completely average in every aspect of his being but it isn’t always the looks of a king that draw women to them.
Knowing that he was pampered to an extreme measure, Montezuma was much feared and respected by his own people and by those of other nations; he was the most powerful man in Central America. Most of the fear by other nations was a result of not being able to understand the ritual of human sacrifice, which expanded during Montezuma’s rule. To the Aztec’s, human sacrifice was a spiritual and religious experience that they took very seriously. After prisoners were captured, they would be led up the steps of the Great Pyramid on a near continual basis as a sacrifice for such things as to make sure that the sun would rise or that the crops would grow as it was feared that not enough sacrifices would anger the gods and misfortune would befall the land. So many people were sacrificed under Montezuma’s rule that it is said that the river near the Great Pyramid turned red for many years from all the blood that was spilled.
It was the success of his reign that took a toll on him that left him paranoid and fatalistic, he was even obsessed with omens that he religiously consulted his soothsayers about. His name is translated to “he who is angry in a noble manner” or “he is one who frowns like a lord” and it seems that he lived up to his name in the end, up until his death in 1520. His one great fault seems to have been in trusting Cortez, as Cortez ending up fighting against him, but taking a look into his personal life gives us an image of a man who may have forgotten that he was ruling an empire, a very vast empire.