What three factors contributed to the defeat of the Aztecs? Though there appear to be several factors involved in the defeat of the Aztecs, three stood out above the others: (1) superstition, (2) weapons and warring tactics, and (3) the introduction of new diseases.
Ten years prior to the arrival of the Spaniards, there were eight signs or omens that appeared to predict the downfall of civilization or the end of the world. Superstition, omens, magicians, signs, etc. were a major part of the Aztec religion and one can see that maybe there are signs all around us that can predict the future. The fourth omen “Fire streamed through the sky while the sun was still shining.” brought forth to my mind the images of the Spaniards swinging their swords while the morning sun shined on their steel blades.
The fifth omen “The wind lashed the water until it boiled…” is the boatmen paddling with all their might making the lake boil with their anger. With just these two omens I can understand why the Aztecs and Motechuhzoma were unsure even frightened of their future. Motechuhzoma, his magicians and many others thought that the future had already been determined and that they should not fight. They were emotionally prepared for defeat.
One other belief was that Hernando Cortes was their god Quetzalcoatl and they did not want to incur the wrath of any god. So they welcomed him as a god and produced gifts to please him instead of treating him as a stranger and with suspicion.
Another factor that contributed to the defeat of the Aztecs was inferior weapons and warring tactics. The Aztecs use of arrows and spears were no match against the Spaniards guns and canons. The superiority of arms provided the Spaniards with the best advantage in their campaign along with their alliances with the Tlaxcaltecas and other tribes.
Though both the Aztecs and the Spaniards fought wars under the name of God or gods, the Spaniards appeared to kill just for the pleasure of killing. The Aztecs saw the act of war almost as ceremonial. Wars were fought in order to make sacrifices to their god. This difference in their approaches and thoughts of war and the inferiority of their weapons also contributed to the defeat of the Aztecs.
The final factor, which led to the defeat and almost complete destruction of the Aztecs, was the disease that the Spaniards brought with them to this new land. The Aztecs had no immunity to the diseases such as smallpox and measles and countless died or were weakened.
All three factors, superstition, weapons and war tactics, and disease helped in the conquest of the Aztecs. Had there been no predetermination of the future to hold them back, despite inferior weapons and disease, I believe the Aztecs could have succeeded in sending the Spaniards home.