Cortes Enters Aztec Capital

Cortes' advance into the heart of the Aztec Empire was facilitated by Montezuma's belief that a pale-skinned god named Quetzalcoatl would come to take control of the empire. Hoping to dissuade Cortes, Montezuma sent sacks of gold to him. However, this gesture had the opposite effect, encouraging the Spanish to move forward. Upon Cortes' arrival, Montezuma seemed uncertain about how to react. He welcomed Cortes warmly and provided him with luxurious accommodations. Montezuma even offered to make Cortes the emperor of his empire.

Sensing Montezuma's fear, Cortes also recognized the vulnerability of his own position—surrounded by thousands of Aztec warriors in a city encircled by water. Consequently, Cortes decided to take Montezuma hostage. Montezuma remained in captivity for several months, during which time the Spanish looted the city's gold, melting down jewelry to create gold bars.