The Aztec Empire was born on a swampy, pestilent island in the Valley of Mexico, its people no more than vassals of the surrounding tribes. In a period of 75 years, however, four great kings forged a nation of 38 provinces populated by 20 million people, and their capital, Tenochtitlan, rivaled Constantinople. Their form of government was a sun-worshiping theocracy headed by a priest-king, and their religion demanded human sacrifice on a scale rarely seen in history. Yet this mighty nation crumbled in less than 19 months before a small company of Spaniards. The key to this catastrophic collapse lies in the personality of Moctezuma II. Once a feared warrior-king, he fell victim to his own fears. Unfavorable prognostications drove him to the brink of suicide even before the Spaniards arrived, and their coming, he believed, marked the end of his reign. Aboriginal Aztec accounts, Spanish and Aztec eyewitnesses, and descendants of Aztec royalty present their story of the rise of the Empire and the Conquest, one of the great epic adventures of history. Previous books by author The View from the Top of the Temple Ancient Maya Civilization and Modern Maya Culture A Traveler's History of Mexico.
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