Hernando Cortez

After describing other parts of Montezuma's household, including a great aviary or collection of birds, and a menagerie, the chronicler gives us an account of Cortez's first tour through the city, accompanied by Montezuma. They first visited the great bazaar or market, held in the western part of the city. When we arrived there, we were astonished at the crowds of people, and the regularity which prevailed, as well as at the vast quantities of merchandise which those who attended us were assiduous in pointing out. Each kind had its particular place of sale, which was distinguished by a sign. The articles consisted of gold, silver, jewels, feathers, mantles, chocolate, skins, dressed and undressed, sandals, and other manufactures of the roots and fibres of nequen, and great numbers of male and female slaves, some of whom were fastened by the neck in collars to long poles. The meat market was stocked with fowls, game, and dogs. Vegetables, fruits, articles of food ready dressed, salt, bread, honey, and sweet pastry made in various ways, were also sold here. Other places in the square were appropriated to the sale of earthenware, wooden household furniture, such as tables and benches, firewood, paper, sweet canes filled with tobacco, mixed with liquid amber, copper axes and working-tools, and wooden vessels highly painted. Numbers of women sold fish, and little loaves made of a certain mud which they find in the lake, and which resembles cheese. The makers of stone-blades were busily employed shaping them out of the rough material; and the merchants who dealt in gold had the metal in grains, as it came from the mines, in transparent tubes, so that they could be reckoned; and the gold was valued at so many mantles, or so many xiquipils of cocoa, according to the size of the quills. The entire square was enclosed in piazzas, under which great quantities of grain were stored, and where were also shops for various kinds of goods. Courts of justice, where three judges sat to settle disputes which might arise in the market, occupied a part of the square, their under-officers, or policemen, being in the market inspecting the merchandise.'

Proceeding from the market-place through various parts of the city, the Spaniards came to the great teocalli, or temple, in the neighborhood of their own quarters. It was a huge pyramidal structure, consisting of five stories, narrowing above each other like the tubes of an extended spyglass (only square in shape), so as to leave a clear pathway round the margin of each story. The ascent was by means of a stone stair, of a, hundred and fourteen steps. Arrived at the summit, Cortez and his companions found it to be a large flat area, laid with stone; at one end of which they shuddered as they saw a block of jasper, which they were told was the stone on which the human victims were laid when the priests tore out their hearts to offer to their idols: at the other end was a tower of three stories, in which were the images of the two great Mexican deities Huitzilopochtli and Teztatlipoca, and a variety of articles pertaining to their worship. 'From the top of the temple,' says Bernal Diaz, 'we had a clear prospect of the three causeways by which Mexico communicated with the land, and we could now perceive that in this great city, and all the others of the neighborhood which were built in the water, the houses stood separate from each other, communicating only by small drawbridges and by boats, and that they were built with terraced tops. The noise and bustle of the market-place below us could be heard almost a league off; and those who had been at Rome and Constantinople said that, for convenience, regularity, and population, they had never seen the like.' At the request of Cortez, Montezuma, though with apparent reluctance, led the Spaniards into the sanctuary or tower where the gods were. 'Here,' says Diaz, 'were two altars, highly adorned with richly-wrought timbers on the roof, and over the altars gigantic figures resembling very fat men. The one on the right was their war-god, with a great face and terrible eyes. This figure was entirely covered with gold and jewels, and his body bound with golden serpents; in his right hand he held a bow, and in his left a bundle of arrows. Before the idol was a pan of incense, with three hearts of human victims, which were burning, mixed with copal. The whole of that apartment, both walls and floor, was stained with human blood in such quantity as to cause a very offensive smell. On the left was the other great figure, with a countenance like a bear, and great shining eyes of the polished substance whereof their mirrors are made. The body of this idol was also covered with jewels. An offering lay before him of five human hearts. In this place was a drum of most enormous size, the head of which was made of the skins of large serpents: this instrument, when struck, resounded with a noise that could be heard to the distance of two leagues, and so doleful, that it deserved to be named the music of the infernal regions.'