Montezuma (Mex. Moncteptmatin, the sad or severe man), the name of two emperors of ancient Mexico. - Montezuma I., born about 1390, died in 1464. He served as general under his uncle, who preceded him on the throne. After his accession in 1436 or 1438 he made war upon the kingdom of Chalco in defence of his allies the Tezcucans. The Chalcos were routed in ft great battle, and their chief city was entirely destroyed. A war followed with the king of Tlatelolco, who was defeated and killed. Montezuma next conquered the province of Cuihixcas, and subsequently that of Tzompahuacan. In a war with Atonaltzin, a chief of the Mixtecas, he suffered reverses which led to a confederacy between Atonaltzin and the Huexotzincas and Tlascalans against the Mexicans; but Montezuma in his first encounter with them gained a signal victory, which greatly enlarged his empire. In 1457 he conquered Cuetlachtan, a province on the Mexican gulf, and carried 6,200 of the people to Mexico, where they were sacrificed to the pod of war. Montezuma II., the last of the Aztec emperors, born about 1480, succeeded his uncle Ahuitzotl in 1502, and was killed June 80, 1520. He was both a soldier and a priest, and had taken an active part in the wars of his predecessor.
When his election to the imperial dignity was announced to him, he was sweeping the stairs of the great temple of Mexico. At the commencement of his reign he led a successful expedition against a rebellious province, and brought back a multitude of captives to be sacrificed at his coronation. For several years he was constantly at war, and his campaigns, which extended as far as Honduras and Nicaragua, were generally suc-cessful. He made important changes in the internal administration of the empire, especially in the courts of justice, and became noted for strictness and severity in the execution of the laws, as well as for munificence to those who served him and in his expenditures for public works. He became equally noted also for arrogance, pomp, and luxury, and his heavy taxes led to many revolts. At the time of the arrival of Cortes in Mexico in 1519, Montezuma was alarmed not only by the internal troubles of his empire, but by the appearance of comets and other strange lights in the sky, and of mysterious tires in the great temple, which the seers interpreted as omens of the approaching downfall of the empire. Thus disheartened, he did not meet the invasion of the Spaniards with his usual energy.
He at first forbade the white men to approach his capital, and then sent an embassy to welcome them. When Cortes entered Mexico (Nov. 8) he was re-ceived by Montezuma with courtesv and apparent good will, and at first treated the em-peror with the greatest deference; but a collision between the Mexicans and a Spanish gar-rison at V era Cruz soon afforded a pretext for a change of measures. At the end of a week aft er his arrival he waited upon Montezuma with a few of h,s officers under pretence of a friendly visit, and. after upbraiding him with the transactions at Vera Cruz, took him cap-tive and carried bun to the Spanish head-qmrters The, emperor, fearing instant death if he made any opposition, assured his subjects, who were about to attempt a rescue as ho passed through the streets, that he accompanied the Spaniards of his own free will. Montezuma was for a while put in irons, and was so completely humbled that when Cortes offered to liberate him, he declined to return to his palace, apparently ashamed to be seen by his nobles. He was subsequently induced to swear allegiance to the king of Spain, and was kept a prisoner for seven months, till in June, 1520, the people of the capital rose in insurrection and besieged the Spaniards in their quarters.
He was induced by Cortes to address his subjects from the battlements of his prison in hopes of appeasing the tumult; but though at first listened to with respect, his appeals in behalf of the white men at length exasperated the Mexicans; a shower of missiles was discharged at him, a stone struck him on the temple, and he fell senseless. He refused all remedies and nourishment, tore off the bandages, and died in a few days. Some of the children of Montezuma became Christians, and were carried to Spain. From them descended the counts of Montezuma, one of whom was viceroy of Mexico from 1697 to 1701.