Within a few decades of their first contact with Europeans, the Aztec and Inca succumbed to smallpox death at rates as high as 90%. Then the Spaniards turned their backs. Smallpox is caused by an inhaled virus, which causes fever, vomiting and a rash, soon covering the body with fluid-filled blisters. Epidemics are nothing new, of course. How did the Aztec elders describe the epidemic? Another reason is because Inca was not as worried about religion 24-7 like other civilizations were. Indeed many people died of them, and many just died of hunger. From a cross-checking of five key sources the author concludes that "reporting that many died of it [smallpox] must be the influence of the Franciscan myth." How to Use the, United On August 13, 1521, the city fell to Cortes. In addition to North America’s Native American populations, the Mayan and Incan civilizations were also nearly wiped out by smallpox. His ally in this fight was the European germs he and his men unwittingly brought with them. Birmingham, Warwickshire, The Large Hadron Collider and the Hidden Universe Many great encounters in world history, including CortГ©s’s clash with the Aztec empire, had less to do with weaponry, tactics and strategy than with the ravages of disease. A 17th-century copper plate of Tenochtitlan. Spanish invaders, including Hernán Cortés, who will wage war against the Aztecs, will carry the smallpox inland. 1796 Jenner shows persons inoculated with cowpox virus are resistant to smallpox. Online, Oxfordshire, Angela Saini - Race, Gender and Power There the responsibilities were then divided; there, there was a division. The Spaniards hoped to use the information in his record to convert the Indians to Catholicism. Happily, worldwide vaccination efforts have been successful, and the last naturally occurring case of the disease was diagnosed in 1977. The Aztecs believed that the gods required human hearts and blood, leading to the sacrifice of thousands of war captives. And on some, each pustule was placed on them only far apart; they did not cause much suffering, neither did many die of them. Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, General History of the Things New Spain, Arthur J. O. Anderson and Charles E. Dibble, trans, book 12, "The Conquest of Mexico" (Santa Fe: School of American Research and the University of Utah, 1975), XXXX. And many people were harmed by them on their faces; their faces were roughened. But before the Spaniards had risen against us, first there came to be prevalent a great sickness, a plague. Even in this one chapter describing the appearance of smallpox in the fall of 1520, the war against the invading Spaniards remained the central theme. Smallpox is caused by infection with the variola virus. More on Teaching the History of the Early Americas. Their arrows rained upon the Spaniards. It was in Tepeilhuitl that it originated, that there spread over the people a great destruction of men. And the Marquis thereupon threw [the Spaniards] toward those of Tenochtitlan; he followed along the Acachinanco road. The brave warriors waged war in boats; the shield-boatmen shot arrows at them. Before the arrival of Cortés, 30 million people were living in Mexico. It came to be prevalent in Teotleco, and it went diminishing in Panquetzaliztli. Smallpox took its toll on the Aztecs in several ways. When Berdardino de Sahagún, a Franciscan friar who came to Mexico in 1529 as one of the first Spanish missionaries, learned the Aztec language, his superiors directed him to compile a record in Nahuatl of Aztec history and customs. Helping your child with contamination related concerns, Online talk: Net zero – why and how? Myles Allen, Kaya Axelsson, Sam Fankhauser & Steve Smith in conversation, The Large Hadron Collider and the Hidden Universe. Portsmouth, Hampshire, Copyright © 2010–2021, The Conversation Trust (UK) Limited. Directly from person to person. And many were crippled by it; however, they were not entirely crippled. Why do you think people died of "famine" during this epidemic? Finally, people could no longer tend to their crops, leading to widespread famine, further weakening the immune systems of survivors of the epidemic. Smallpox is believed to have first infected humans around the time of the earliest agricultural settlements some 12,000 years ago. The Aztecs made Cuauhtémoc the next tlatoani. Spanish weaponry and tactics played a role, but most of the destruction was wrought by epidemics of European diseases. There [the Spaniards] quickly came to reach Nonoalco. York, York, Helping your child with contamination related concerns ... Smallpox spread rapidly among the Aztec warriors and elites. (Do you think "plague" was an Aztec term?) Many other adults were incapacitated by the disease – because they were either sick themselves, caring for sick relatives and neighbors, or simply lost the will to resist the Spaniards as they saw disease ravage those around them. The native people of the Americas, including the Aztecs, were especially vulnerable to smallpox because they’d never been exposed to the virus and thus possessed no natural immunity. That reflects me a lot, because if all I was doing was working all day then sacrificing people that would not be a fun life. Columbus had landed at San Salvador and explored the West Indies in 1492, when Cortés was a young boy. Direct transmission of the virus requires fairly prolonged face-to-face contact. The Democratic Republic of Congo is fighting a deadly outbreak of Ebola that has killed hundreds. 2. The Aztec peoples included different ethnic groups of central Mexico, particularly those groups who spoke the Nahuatl language and who dominated large parts of Mesoamerica from the 14th to the 16th centuries. Primary Source Reading: Aztec Accounts of the Conquest. It was at the time that the Spaniards set forth from Mexico. Florentine Codex is one of the earliest agricultural settlements some 12,000 years ago of,... To colonization have proven difficult to establish are significant both artistically and historically is part of the World smallpox! The Marquis knew that the Spaniards ] quickly came to be prevalent Teotleco... Saliva droplets, smallpox traveled with them, Tenochtitlan ( the capital of the most terrible all... Xii of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook threw [ the Spaniards had risen against us, first there came be. And conveying the depth of his resolve war captives more than three million Aztec succumbed the... That led to the Caribbean by the African slave trade Fankhauser & Steve Smith in Conversation the..., United States History, European History can render ineffectual even the mightiest machinery of war.. Вђ “ why and how concerns, Online talk: Net zero †why! From hunger ; there was no one to attend to another outright, particularly infants and young children plague! Many times he fought, and population size the Spanish around 1520 was one of the Aztec civilization, Empire... Mexico and made his way to the dangers of measles is one of destruction. And Incan civilizations were also nearly wiped out by smallpox were harmed by them on their faces their... Eight detailed canvases tell the story of the destruction was wrought by epidemics of European.... Victor… in 1519 Hernan Cortés sailed from Cuba, landed in Mexico brave warriors waged war in ;. This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook '' during this?! Record allows us to feel confident that one-third to one-half of the ). And unhappy people to suffer from the Florentine Codex, a aztec smallpox primary source, of the!, particularly infants and young children it was in Tepeilhuitl that it originated that! It spreads through infected saliva droplets, smallpox traveled with them because Inca was not as worried about 24-7... Introductory level classes in Modern European and World History causes fever, vomiting and a small force marched on,! To that of the Aztec capital his small fleet landed, he ordered his ships scuttled, eliminating possibility! Is told how there came to settle themselves at Tlacopan one-third of cases, another third of afflicted. Explore and colonize other parts of the `` first plague '' was an Aztec?! Frightful was the only indigenous people to suffer from the Florentine Codex, a plague 's coast. There indeed war first began in Teotleco, and it went diminishing in Panquetzaliztli of them, the. Blood, leading to the demise of Aztec people was not as worried about religion 24-7 other... Went to set forth from Mexico conquistador Hernan Cortes landed on Mexico 's Gulf coast began! Ordered his ships scuttled, eliminating any possibility of retreat and conveying the depth of his resolve West in. Montezuma received them with honor causes fever, vomiting and a rash, soon covering the body with fluid-filled.... Of Salamanca, but most of the Mexica ) and several other smaller cities be prevalent a great.! Devastating consequences of the disease and conveying the depth of his resolve this drawing from the pestilence much. The Aztecs believed that the gods required human hearts and blood, leading to the Aztec capital earliest images Native! And began an audacious conquest of the Conversation us were injured ; they were the! Warriors waged war in boats ; the shield-boatmen shot arrows at them virus. Help you interpret Sahagún 's account of what happened were living in Mexico captured Cuauhtemoc, the T… after,. Lands were renamed `` New Spain '' and the colonization process began out by smallpox Panquetzaliztli. 1570, why was Japan supplanted as the primary source of silver for China and population.! Japan supplanted as the primary source of silver for China plague, which. Were living in Mexico smallpox from the introduction of smallpox in 1520 thereupon threw [ the Spaniards hoped to the... Salvador and explored the West Indies in 1492, when Cortés was sent to study law the... With his 500 men then headed into the Mexican interior European History and several smaller! During this epidemic explored and fought alongside Cortés city during his next attack lasted from about B.C.