|Montezuma II (c.1470-1520)|
The last independent Aztec ruler, Montezuma II ruled most of what is now Mexico on the eve of the Spanish conquest. When he came to power, the Aztec Empire was made up of semi-independent city-states. Montezuma spent most of his reign strengthening
his authority over the city-states and enforcing a more centralized government.
Fearing betrayal by those nobles who had served his predecessor, Montezuma replaced many of them with his own men and reformed his administration. He made it more difficult for commoners to attain high office and further distinguished the nobility by
giving them new privileges, thus creating a rich and lavish court whose ritual and ceremony emphasized his semidivine status.
When the Spanish arrived in Mexico in 1519, Montezuma failed to recognize their true intentions. Bewildered by their strange appearance and cunning in battle - they defeated towns that had long resisted the Aztecs - Montezuma adopted a placatary stance
that led to his own capture and death, as well as the end of the empire.