|Weapons||Espada Ropera, Alabarda, Arquebus, Steel Cuirass and Morion, Garrote|
|Activities||Conquering the Aztecs|
|Battle Status||Won vs. Ivan the Terrible|
|Experts||Jason Heck (16th Century Weapons Expert)
Kyle Lopez (Spanish Colonial Expert)
Hernán Cortés, the brutal Spanish explorer whose conquistadors conquered the largest empire in North America of the 16th Century;
vs. Ivan the Terrible, Russia's sadistic 16th Century tsar whose murderous, mounted death squads built Europe's largest empire of its time.
- C 1521 AD
- Age: 36
- Height: 5'4"
- Weight: 160 lb
- Symbol: Morion (Conquistador Helmet)
Christopher Columbus & Cuba
Between February 1482 – January 2, 1492; the Granada War allowed the Spanish Empire to reclaim the Iberian Peninsula from the Muslims. The Spanish monarchs showed an extreme desire for Catholic expansion; as seen in their forceful conversions led by the Spanish Inquisition against the remaining Muslim and Jewish populations in the Peninsula.
In 1492 Christopher Columbus discovered Cuba; leading to Spain's early expansion into the Americas. Cuba quickly became a wealthy colony due to its geographical location within the Caribbean and fertile farming land. Columbus would be the first Governor of the Indies from 1492–1499. However Colombus would be arrested by the Spanish Empire (for only 6 weeks) for political mismanagement of the islands and brutally repressing his Spanish workers; mutilating them for not mining enough gold or for committing crimes against the Natives (primarily trying to stop the kidnapping of Natives for sex workers).
Born in Medellin, Spain in 1485; Hernán Cortés attended the University of Salamanca when he was 14, but left after two years after hearing stories of the New World.
He reached the New World in 1504, and several years later, participated in the Spanish conquest of Hispaniola and Cuba (which begun under Christopher Columbus but escalated under Governor of Hispanolia Nicolás de Ovando y Cáceres), receiving a large estate of land and Native American slaves from the leader of the expedition. Cortes was most likely involved in the repression and genocide of the Taino people of Hispanolia: which (according to the historian David Holmstrom) saw the native population plummet from 250,000 to only 200 (however other estimates have estimates of the population plummeting from 8 million to 14,000.)
Colombus' second voyage to the Americas also introduced smallpox; which would eventually kill 90% of the Native American population. In 1501, Nicolás ordered the first importation of Spanish-speaking black slaves into the Americas: with Bishop Bartolomé de las Casas advocating for the escalation of the importation of slaves in 1515: beginning the Atlantic Slave Trade. This was primarily due to Africans having relatively superior resistance to the diseases that were killing the Native Americans.
Mexico & the Aztecs
In 1518, the Governor of Cuba, Diego Velázquez de Cuéllar, put Cortés in command of an expedition to explore and secure the interior of Mexico for colonization. At the last minute, Velézquez revoked his charter, but Cortés, in direct mutiny, ignored the orders and went ahead with the original plan. Cortes ordered his men to strip and scuttle (sink) his own fleet to prevent any return to Cuba by those Conquistadors loyal to de Cuéllar.
On 22 April 1519 Cortes founded the city of Villa Rica de la Vera Cruz: modern day Heroica Veracruz. He would use this port to justify his previous actions and regain support and supplies from the Spanish Empire. Cortes' success in establishing the city allowed him to manipulate the town council (that he also established) to assist him legally when the Spanish royalty was absent. The city of Veracruz is the largest city of the Mexican state of Veracruz thanks to its significance in the establishment of Spanish Mexico.
Cortes discovered enemies of the Aztecs and formed an alliance with various groups, especially the Tlaxcala whom the Aztecs massacred and raided frequently.
Cortes initially befriended the Aztecs in 8 November 1519, knowing it would allow him to position himself within the capital city of Tenochtitlan. On May 22, 1520: Cortes slaughtered many Aztec nobles attending the holy Feast of Toxcatl and kidnapped Emperor Moctezuma II. On May 24, 1520: Cortes was forced to split his army when the conquistador Pánfilo de Narváez was ordered by Diego to arrest Cortes. The Battle of Cempoala ended with Cortes defeating Narvaez's army, with hundreds of Narvaez's forces defecting to Cortes after the battle. However back in Tenochtitlan: the Conquistadors attempted to use Moctezuma II as a puppet: which led to the Aztecs revolting and stoning Moctezuma II to death in a riot. Cortes knew he had to flee, and did so on the night of June 30 – July 1, 1520 in an event known as La Noche Triste. Cortes constructed a wooden bridge to escape from Lake Texcoco without going through the main roads. However Aztec canoes approached the conquistadors and destroyed half of the bridge: causing many of Cortes' soldiers and allies to drown. Cortes was injured and his combined forces lost 3/4 of their men.
After returning to his allies in Tlaxcala to recover, Cortes prepared to lay siege to the Aztecs. The aforementioned Feast of Toxcatl and battles against the Aztec rebels severely damaged Tenochtitlan. Cuitláhuac was elected as the new Aztec Emperor thanks to his leadership in the revolt, but died only 80 days later due to smallpox. He would be succeeded by his cousin Cuauhtémoc: who is known as the last Aztec Emperor.
Siege of Tenochtitlan
Cortes was also aware of the causeways necessary to allow the Aztecs to move within and out of the city. On May 22nd 1521: Cortes led his army across Lake Texcoco to infiltrate Tenochtitlan to commit the sabotage. Cortes managed to transport Spanish frigates into the lake, allowing these massive vessels to dominate the Aztec canoes with broadside barrages. Cortes engaged the Aztecs at the 'Gate of the Eagle' and was outnumbered: but he managed to raze several neighborhoods in his retreat. While this phase of the siege was a tactical failure, the progress of the Spanish convinced more neighboring citystates to join the Conquistadors in fighting the Aztecs. Cotres would use individual small scale raids to slowly damage and burn Tenochtitlan piece by piece: known that the Aztecs would simply outnumber his forces in a conventional battle. This mistake was made by the Conquistador general Pedro de Alvarado during the invasion, making him lose many of his men when attempting to invade the city from the north. Cortes scolded Pedro initially, but realized that the Conquistadors were low on supplies and Pedro's attempted invasion did imply some success.
It was one of Cortes' slaves, possibly a man called Francisco Eguía, who was patient zero for the smallpox plague. Cortes managed to use this pandemic to his advantage as he returned to Tenochtitlan on May 26 to lay siege. 40% of the Aztec population would die from the disease alone. Aztecs also were somewhat dependent on imports and tributes, which worsened their chances of surviving the siege.
On June 30th: Cortes led his full army into the city from the south: with the goal of destroying the main marketplace of the city. The Aztecs again managed to outnumber the Conquistadors: and the bridges within the city were too narrow to allow the Conquistadors to retreat properly. Cortes was almost captured if not for the sacrifice of his footman who rescued Cortes from the Aztecs at the cost of his own life. However Cortes finally got resupplied with enough weapons and gunpowder to attempt to invade again. The Aztecs at this point were experiencing famine from Cortes' multiple raids against their supplies. This invasion was successful and the marketplace was destroyed.
Cortes had brought upon the fall of the Aztec Empire in 13 August 1521: confirmed by the capture of Cuauhtémoc. Cortes would transport Cuauhtémoc away from Mexico to avoid the Aztecs from rebelling again: however while Cortes was in Honduras he accused Cuauhtémoc of committing conspiracy with the local Chontal Maya against the Spanish. Cortes ordered his execution in early 1525.
Cortes would conquer the Tarascans on 17 of February 1530: allowing the Spanish to dominate the territory of modern day Mexico.
Aftermath of the Conquest of Mexico
The Viceroyalty of New Spain was declared in 1519. Spanish Mexico would quickly rebuild Tenochtitlan with Spanish architecture. Similar reforms led to Lake Texcoco becoming drained.
The colony fell on September 27, 1821 when the Spainish Empire was weakened during Napoleon's decolonization of the Americas and the Napoleonic Wars.
Cortés gained much gold (though became bankrupt multiple times) and died at 62 in Spain. His body was moved to Mexico but due to fears of being desecrated his body was constantly moved. Today it is protected by the Mexican state. The reputation of the Conquistadors today, Corets especially, is highly controversial. While they led the rise of the Spanish Empire; they also committed mass genocide, mass forced conversions to Catholicism and enslaved much of the Native Americans they governed. The diseases they exposed the Natives to (both intentionally and unintentionally) led to European empires buying African slaves (to compensate for the deaths of Native American slaves) and thus led to the beginning of the Colombian Triangle.
The Pike and Shot formation used by the Conquistadors were known as the Tercio. The Granada War (February 1482 – January 2, 1492) saw Spanish Arquebusiers and Pikemen form a combined unit with the pikes pointing forwards from the center while the arquebuses could still be fired from the front or the side flanks. This made the Tercio able to effectively repel infantry, cavalry and other long ranged Arquebusiers simultaniously.
The Battle of Rocroi on 19 May 1643 is considered to be one of the battles involving Spansih Tercio. French soldiers used more advanced muskets to negate the need for pikemen. French Musketeers were not weighed down by massive pikes and so were more maneuverable than Tercios while having more Muskets to fire. As the Flintlock Musket and Bayonet became introduced during the 1600s, pikes and halberds became mostly irrelevant as Napoleonic Tactics replaced Tercio Pike and Shot tactics.
|Short Range||Espada Ropera|
The battle begins in a field with Ivan the Terrible knelt in a silent prayer, surrounded by 2 Russian Streltsy soldiers and 2 Oprichniki horsemen. He looks toward the sky, and then looks down to a bloodied prisoner tied to two horses, who is about to be quartered. Ivan smirks at the condemned as he rises from his kneeling position. Elsewhere, Hernán Cortés and 4 of his conquistadors are out for a ride when Cortés suddenly spots the group of men. The First Tsar of Russia nods to one of the hooded Oprichniki and the horsemen begin to pull. Ivan laughs at the prisoner's pain as Cortés, who has dismounted from horseback, shows concern and signals for his men to take position with their Arquebus rifle. Ivan immediately stops laughing when he notices the group of men aiming their firearms at his death squad. Cortés gives the signal with his sword and the conquistadors open fire. Before the gunmen fire, Ivan quickly grabs one of his Streltsy soldiers and pulls him in front of him. The Russian is killed by the assault of bullets but the Terrible Tsar is knocked down to the ground by the force of the bullets. As the Spanish riflemen hurry to reload their rifles, Ivan gets back to his feet and runs over to one of the horses, pulling the Oprichnik down.
Meanwhile, the last Streltsy sets up his Bardiche axe as a mount for his Pischal rifle, shooting and killing one of the Spaniards who shot the other soldier. Ivan draws his Sablia and rides on, pulling the prisoner in half and dragging the torso behind him. The remaining soldier and the dismounted Oprichnik charge the Spaniards. The conquistadors calmly hold their ground as one of the Spaniards takes an Alabarda from his horse and hands it to Cortés. As the conquistadors continue to reload, Ivan rides up and slashes one of them in the face, killing him instantly. He then changes course and rides to a retreating conquistador who has his Espada Ropera drawn and slashes him in the back of the neck, also killing him.
Elsewhere, the mounted Oprichnik draws his Sablia and rides towards Cortés, who is still armed with his Alabarda. Cortés holds his ground and reaches with the poleaxe, pulling the hooded man down from horseback. Cortés then raises the poleaxe and brings it down into the Oprichnik's face. The last Oprichnik charges at the head conquistador with his saber drawn. Cortés lifts the axe from the dead man's hood, parrying the sword and countering with a thrust attack, which impales the Oprichnik through the chest. Cortés then calls for his horse, which the last mounted conquistador brings to him. The conquistador then rides on with his sword drawn. However, he is shot off his horse by the last Streltsy, who then finishes him off with a strike to the mid-section with his Bardiche while he is still down.
Cortés then charges forth on his horse, slashing the Russian in the face with his Espada Ropera as he lifts the heavy Bardiche for a strike. Ivan then spots Cortés and charges at him, sword raised. Ivan slashes Cortés as he rides by, but Cortés is unfazed as the saber bounces off his steel breastplate. After the charge is finished, Ivan notices that Cortés managed to cut him on his right cheek. Ivan gleefully licks the blood from his finger, then gives a shout as he and Cortés charge at each other, both men shouting. As the warriors ride past each other, Cortés ducks under Ivan's wild swing and thrusts his sword forward, puncturing Ivan's neck. Ivan slumps down in his saddle as he quickly bleeds out, then falls face down from his horse to the ground. Hernán Cortés then walks up to the fallen Tsar, holding his right breast where the sword struck him and kicks Ivan to make sure that he's dead. Seeing no movement, Cortés holds his sword up and kneels down, taking the dead Tsar's money pouch and finding gold coins. Smiling at his spoils, Cortés stands up and raises his sword, shouting "¡Gloria!" (Glory) triumphantly.
The reason why Cortés won was because of his superior armor as well that his alabarda was able to dismount Ivan's men off their horses. Not only that, Cortés also won the majority of X-Factors particularly for Psychological Health, whereas Ivan's unstable mentality meant he wasn't able to lead his troops as effectively in battle, especially if they were fighting a close fight.
- At 5' 4", Cortés is tied with Joan of Arc for the shortest European warrior, shorter even than Napoleon (famous for the myth of him being short).
- Cortés has 3 different armors shown in the Deadliest Warrior episode- no armor, cuirass and helmet only, and full knight armor. In real life, Cortés started his expeditions with little or no armor and progressively gained more armor to show his increasing wealth during his conquests. The armor shown on the TV show is during the conquest of the Aztecs, which was the middle of his campaigns.
- There is a common misconception that Hernan Cortes defeated the Aztecs with an army of at most a few thousands soldiers. However that was only the case regarding the European Conquistadors specifically; Cortes' forces were mostly other Native-American tribes, the Siege of Tenochtitlan was measured at 80,000-200,000 for the Spanish made alliance against the Aztecs. Cortes was able to establish an alliance against the Aztecs to defeat them. The militaristic nature of the Aztecs made them hated by the majority of their tributaries. Cortes' army was only 5% Spanish when he arrived in Tenochtitlan for the first time.
- There is historical evidence to suggest that Francisco Pizarro, the tyrant conquistador of Peru, was a distant cousin of Cortes.
- When initially arriving in the Aztec Empire, the Aztecs worshiped Hernan as a god due to his white skin; as Aztecs thought that their gods normally had lighter skin than that of an Aztec.
- Before the Columbian Exchange; there were no oranges in Florida, no bananas in Ecuador, no potatoes in Ireland, no coffee in Colombia, no pineapples in Hawaii, no rubber trees in Africa, no tomatoes in Italy, and no chocolate in Switzerland.
- The conquest of the Aztecs specifically led to several New World crops being imported to Europe; corn, chocolate, vanilla and chili.
- The West Indies got their name from India, as there was a misconception (that Christopher Columbus and many others believed) that sailing west from Europe would lead to India. Europeans also mistaken India for all of Asia; hence why Native Americans were never called 'Asians'.
- Bandeirantes were the Portugese equivalent of Conquistadors. They committed similar acts of invasions and enslavement of native peoples as the Conquistadors. Their conquests were relatively gradual and easy as Native Brazilians had no major empires and many of their tribes were not unified nor large enough to resist these invaders.
- Thanks to the Conquistador conquests of the Aztec and Incan Empires; Charles the V was declared to be the first emperor with 'The empire on which the sun never sets'.
- The Spanish Empire's desire for gold led to mass torture and genocide over the conquered natives. The natives were forced to give up their gold and work in mines as slaves. Those who failed to meet their quotas were tortured, disfigured or executed.
- One of the reasons why Christopher Columbus is so respected in the USA is due to the popular retelling of Columbus made by the famous writer Washington Irving (known for making Sleepy Hollow). Italian immigrants to the USA popularized this exaggerated depiction of Columbus as Columbus was Italian. This soon led to Columbus Day.
- The warcrimes and genocide committed by Conquistadors were normally justified by the idea that the Aztecs and other Native Americans were savage pagans that either deserved their punishments and needed to be forced into Christianity to 'save' their civilization. However this mentality had strong criticism within Spain and wasn't unilaterally embraced by all Spaniards; with Bartolomé de las Casas suggesting that the Natives should have been allowed to keep their independence.
- The warcrimes committed by the Conquistadors inspired the buccaneer pirate Daniel Montbars to wage war against the Spanish. Daniel was already rich, and so was one of the few examples of a Caribbean pirate who plundered as an act of vengeance rather than profit.
- The Spanish Empire became bankrupt primarily because of its overseas territories. The amount of silver discovered in the Americas created hyperinflation for the value of silver coins. The Spanish also had to maintain a massive armada to protect their colonies and Atlantic trade; an armada that was mostly destroyed by a series of unlucky storms and failed invasions of Great Britain.
- One of Colombus' sailors was patient-zero for the Native American smallpox epidemic. Between 1520 to 1580: the Native Mexican population dropped from 22 million to 2 million (9%).
- Pre-Colombian Native American population has been estimated to be as high as 100,000,000. Europe at this time was only 70,000,000.
- Native American populations in 1900 were 5% of their Pre-Colombian population. 90% of this population died from diseases like flu and smallpox; sometimes intentionally spread by Westerners. Only 5% of this population were killed by direct wars or massacres. Total estimates are at least 100 million; although this is difficult to confirm.
- The British Siege of Fort Pitt in Summer of 1763 was the first recorded use of using smallpox infested blankets to kill Native Americans.
- Pre-Colombian Native American population has been estimated to be as high as 100,000,000. Europe at this time was only 70,000,000.
- Conquistadors closely resembled the Tercio: a type of Spanish infantry soldier that relied on pike-and-shoot weapons.
- Conquistadors purged much of Mesoamerican culture; considering it too pagan and barbaric to remain intact, even for historical purposes. Only 4 Mayan codices (books) have been discovered intact by archaeologists.
- Conquistadors would declare a 'Requerimiento' to any Native American civilization they intended to conquer. The document demanded the entire population to convert to Christianity; and the refusal to do so would justify the Spanish to commit war, mass slavery and genocide against the heretical pagans. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spanish_Requirement_of_1513#Text
- The warcry of the Conquistadors was 'Santiago!'; the Spanish name of the Apostle; James, son of Zebedee.
- One of the reasons why Aztec and Incan golden artifacts are so rare is because they were melted down into ingots. The Catholic Spaniards saw no reason to preserve the pagan culture.
- Manco Inca's revolt (1535-1544) saw the Incan rebels mimic the Conquistadors; eventually obtaining Arquebuses and horses and learned how to use them in battle. However by this time; the Spanish began a mass migration to Peru, outnumbering the Incans despite matching Conquistador technology.
- Hacienda del Cochero is a modern day Mexican museum that was once an Inquisition torture chamber used to force Catholicism onto Aztec natives.
- The siege of Tenochtitlan was so severe that Aztec women and children joined the army in an effort to fight the Spanish.
- The conquest of what is modern day Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador was not done by Cortes but instead his general: Pedro de Alvarado.
- Mythbusting Christopher Colombus and early Spanish conquest of the Americas. 
- Hernán Cortés was portrayed by equestrian and mounted weapons expert Ardeshir Radpour, one of the experts on the Persian Immortal in the Persian Immortal vs Celt episode of Season 2.
- Some of the scenes from the episode was stock footage taken from BBC's Heroes and Villains - Hernán Cortés.
- Cortés himself killed 4 out of the 5 warriors he fought, tied for the highest number of kills for one warrior in a squad on squad fight (not counting Vampires vs. Zombies) with the Spetsnaz leader, Crazy Horse, and arguably Saddam Hussein.
- This fight was the first to involve matchlock firearms and was the earliest warriors of the 'modern fighters', the guns so primitive that only one type of gun was used per warrior.