Moctezuma II, or Moctezuma Xocoyotl, was the last emperor of the expansive and powerful Aztec empire before its fall to the Spanish conquistadors in 1521.

Moctezuma was a theology student elected to be emperor in 1502. During his reign, the empire reached its maximum size by conquering surrounding groups. History books have varied descriptions of Moctezuma’s rule, some claiming his strength and great ability, others his indecisiveness and weak spirit. This could be because the Aztec and Spanish each wrote their own perspective on the events.

Moctezuma believed in the Aztec prophecy of the God Quetzalcoatl’s return to earth as a fair-skinned, light-haired man. Hearing of the Spanish arrival in 1519, Moctezuma believed this to be the return of this god. He feared the power of this god, and welcomed Hernán Cortés and his men without question. Cortés and his men took Moctezuma as a hostage and eventually seized the capital of Tenochtitlán and the entire empire.

Moctezuma II died in 1520, but the cause of his death is mostly unknown due to differing versions of history. The Spanish version says he was stoned to death by his own people, unhappy with his loss of power and the empire while the Aztec claimed the Spanish killed him after he became useless for their pursuits.