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Conquistador: Hernan Cortes, King Montezuma, and the Last Stand of the Aztecs Paperback – July 28, 2009
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"Sweeping and majestic...A pulse-quickening narrative."—Neal Bascomb, author of Red Mutiny: Eleven Fateful Days on the Battleship Potemkin
"A century before the Mayflower, a single man settled the destiny of the Americas far more momentously than the Puritans ever could....Conquistador offers a fascinating account of the first and most decisive of those encounters: the one between the impetuous Spanish adventurer Cortés and Montezuma, the ill-starred emperor of the Aztecs.... [An] almost unbelievable story of missionary zeal, greed, cruelty and courage."—Wall Street Journal
“Drawing heavily on both Spanish and Aztec sources…. [Levy stresses] the military strategy, diplomatic initiaitves, and personal relationship between Cortés and Aztec emperor Montezuma…. Well-written…. Highly recommended.”—Library Journal, starred review
“A fateful meeting of civilizations…. Cortes is front and center in this book…. [Levy’s] description of the final siege on Tenochtitlan is especially dramatic.”—Associated Press
“Explores just how far invaders will go to take what they want.”–Cape Cod Times
Top Customer Reviews
But there's another storyline in the book that I find just as fascinating. The disease of the heart which afflicted Cortes and his men also troubled Montezuma, for the Aztec Empire, despite its achievements in science and art, was also a bloodthirsty machine that subjugated native peoples, sacrified tens of thousands to pitiless gods, and created caste systems in which the many were ground under the feet of the few. What Levy gives us, then, is a double portrait of two invalids suffering from similar illnesses. One, a European captain with fewer than 500 men, the other a divine emperor with life-or-death power over 15 million people. In the end, both of them died from their diseases, Montezuma and his empire literally, Cortes morally and (despite his sporadic religious zealotry) spiritually. Curiously, neither of them seemed to have quite the necessary stamina to survive their illness.
In telling the story of the clash between these two men, Levy explores the tactics by which Cortes managed to defeat Montezuma: a combination of bluster, good luck, superior technology, alliances with disgruntled indigenous peoples, and hard fighting.Read more ›
In my opinion, Hugh Thomas' account Conquest: Montezuma, Cortes, and the Fall of Old Mexico is a far superior piece, succeding in giving a better feel of the clash of two completely different worlds, with the main characters far better placed in their temporal and cultural context.
The Conquest of Mexico was not a single event, it was not the result of disease, treachery, technology, or evil it was a long two year slog of battles won and battles lost. Too often the events surrounding the Conquest are simplified to issues of technology or disease and to a demonizing of the Spaniards. The reality is of course more nuanced and the simplification denigrates all sides.
This book does an admirable job of introducing the History and some of the issues related to the Conquest in an honest way. It draws on sources from all sides, including modern research and legacy studies. It presents the events in a complete enough narrative to tell the story with out getting bogged down in the details, some of which can be quite gory.
There are many other books available on this same topic but they tend to be one-sided or focused n on a single topic. When for instance a writer tries to make the case that Spanish victory was predicated on superior technology the writer would denigrate Spanish tactics, Aztec adaptations to technology and tactics. The focal point of this book is on the two leaders, Cortes and Montezuma.
The image of Cortes presented is a fairly complete image. This image may very well surprise many casual readers. Cortes was a real person and defies simple demonizing. He was physically very brave almost to the point of abject recklessness. The travail he endured is astounding. Cortes did not win every battle he presided over the long retreat from Mexico City and he proved capable of learning and adapting to the methods and abilities of his opponents.Read more ›
Levy writes with the gusto of a great swashbuckling epic, going into vivid detail of each battle and tense meetings of the two sides, while taking care to keep the facts straight. Cortes is lauded as a genius in both military and, more impressively, psychological warfare against the Aztecs, yet criticized for his religious zealotry and moments of shocking cruelty. Montezuma and his followers are depicted not as primitive jungle people, but as a highly advanced civilization commanding their empire from the beautiful Technotitlan (at the time, the most populated city on the planet) who were nonetheless overcome by the deadly triumvirate of horses, smallpox, and firearms.
This book makes for a fantastic companion piece to "Guns, Germs and Steel"; where that landmark book explains *why* the civilizations of the Americas were at an inherent disadvantage to Eurasian civilizations, this book shows us the results of millenia of separate cultural evolutions.
Or, in short, why the Spanish conquered the Aztecs, when if only a few variables had been different, the opposite could well have happened.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
As an avid reader of history and expedition, this is at this point one of the best books I have ever read. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Paul R Ryan
Thoroughly enjoyable and informative reading. Highly recommended.Published 4 months ago by Marcus Aurelius
Riveting! Mr. Levy does an incredible job with this book. It's a great story, well told.Published 4 months ago by KMAC
Going into this book my only frame of reference was a black and white Dr. Who Episode and a Neil Young song. Read more
Even though I knew it was historical fiction the dialogue was so believable I must believe that the source must be excellent!Published 6 months ago by Gustavo M. Arias
Good read expanded my knowledge of the cultures in pre European Mexico and Central AmericaPublished 6 months ago by G Stutts