Conquerors Essay, Research Paper

In this paper I am going to compare and contrast the lives of Hernando Cortes and

Charlemagne. The common point I am going to prove in my paper is that they were both

men who had other roles to play, besides conquering lands, but at the end of their time

their most influential task was the expansion of their kingdoms for their respected regions,

and they also defeated many strong empires to do so.

Charlemagne or in Latin Carolus Magnus which means Charles the Great (Encarta,

Charlemagne, 1) was king of the Franks and emperor of the Romans who led his Frankish

armies to victory over many other peoples and nations. He mainly ruled most of western

and central Europe. Charlemagne came from a very noble family. He was the grandson of

Charles Martel, and was the son of Peppin the Short, or Peppin III who was the first

Caroline king of the Franks. (The Middle Ages, 170) He has a son by the name of Louis

the Pious (Dictionary of Medieval Civilization, 182) and a brother Carloman. Carloman

shared the rule of the Franks with him from 768 until his death in 771.

Peppin was extremely devoted to Pope Stephen II for he had crowned him, as well

as both his sons after he died, emperor in 754. Because of his great devotion he rushed to

the pope?s aid for military help many times. He took Charlemagne with him on most of

these expeditions, which quite possibly could have sparked Charlemagne?s interests for

conquering native lands. (The Middle Ages, 170) Peppin died in 768 and the

Charlemagne and his brother took over the kingdom from their. Three years later, in 771,

Carloman had an unexpected death and the kingdom was all Charlemagne.

In 770 Charlemagne had sought an alliance with the Lombards by marrying the

daughter of their king. After a little longer than a year Charlemagne got sick of his wife

and divorced her, and her father, Desiderius, was no longer friendly. In 772 the pope

pleaded for help to Charlemagne against the Lombards and Desiderius. So he fled to Italy

and despised of Desiderius and claimed himself as the emperor in 774. (Encarta,

Charlemagne, 1) He returned back to Rome in order to keep his promise with his father

to protect the papel powers. Between 771 and 804 he conquered Lombardy, Saxony,

Aver, and Bao and christianized them. He extended his rule to almost all of

western-Europe. (Middle Ages, 170) Charlemagne?s conquests gave him wealth and

independence for the Frankish nobles. He left his conquered peoples most of their same

laws and rules but arranged them to make sure that he would have an influence on the way

they lived, especially in their religion, Christianity. He strengthened his position as ruler

by sending personal representatives to all his captured lands to make sure that they were

living the way he wished. He even demanded for scholars to come to his capital, Achen,

and teach him and his administration to increase knowledge in his lands. (The Middle

Ages, 170)

On Christmas Day, in 800 Charlemagne was crowned by Pope Leo III in Saint

Peter?s Basilica. This act claimed Charlemagne as the great, pacific emperor of the

Romans. (Encarta, Charlemagne, 2) Many people felt that Charlemagne was very

annoyed when Charlemagne was crowned by the pope. Even though Charlemagne kept

the pope in highest reverence, he still considered him as one of his subjects. He feared

future popes would use this as a precedent for their right to crown. (Dictionary of

Medieval Civilization, 184) in 813 he crowned his only surviving son as emperor to be

sure that the pope would not have the power to crown. Charlemagne spent much money

on the defense and expansion of his lands while also being the sole ruler of the Franks.

Charlemagnes biographer best describes his life by the following: ?Charlemagne

was one of the great military leaders of the middle ages. he devoted his reign to the

expansion of the Frankish kingdom and became ruler of most of western Europe. He

helped to revive education and the arts in his kingdom and bring them about in new

kingdoms.? (The Middle Ages, 171)

Hernando Cortes, also known as Hernan Cortes, was born in Medellin,

Extremadura. He studied law at the University of Salamanaca, but cut short his university

career to see if he could make a living in the Americas. (Encarta, Cortes, 1) In the spring

of 1504 he decided to sail for Santa Domingo to begin his journey to America. There he

met a Spanish soldier and administrator Diego Velazquez. He told Cortes of his plans of

attacking Cuba and conquering it. In 1511 the two joined with a small force and took

over Cuba. Velazquez became the alcalde, or mayor, of Santiago de Cuba. (Encarta,

Cortes, 1) Cortes had persuaded Velazquez to give him the command of an expedition to

Mexico. The mainland had been discovered the year before by the Spanish and they found

wealth ?that was simply beyond their reaches,? so Velazquez agreed for Cortes to explore,

trade, and search for Christian captives there. (European Voyages of Exploration, 1)

Velazquez wasn?t sure if Cortes was the right man because of his ambitions, his

personal priorities, and for fear of him refusing to recognize authority when he established

a position there he went to cancel Cortes? permission, but it was too late, on February 19,

1519 with a force of around 600 mean, fewer than 20 horses and 10 field pieces Cortes

sailed from Cuba towards Mexico. Cortes sailed along the coast of the Yucatan peninsula

and landed in Mexico in March of 1519. He took over many towns on his way and

renounced Velazquez?s authority in many of them. He looted a town of Tobasco and

there he learned of the riches of the Aztecs and their ruler, Montezuma. (Encarta, Cortes,


Cortes then ordered his small fleet to persuade those under his command to accept

his authority. He wrote to king Charles V and told him of the riches of the Aztec empire

and how he wanted to conquer them and bring back the riches for this would be a ?just

war.? (European Voyages of Exploration, 2) The king allowed for Cortes to proceed on,

and he did so. His goal was now to conquer Mexico, not to explore, trade, and search for

Christian captives. He took numerous captives, one of which was Malinche, who

eventually became an interpreter, guide, and counselor for the Spaniards.

Cortes realized that there was no way he could conquer the Aztec empire alone.

So on his march there he found as many enemies of the Aztec as he could and they became

allies to the Spanish. The Cempoalans and the Tlaxcalans were the most helpful allies. (

European Voyages of Exploration, 2) It took them nearly 3 months to reach the outskirts

of the capital city of the Aztec, Tenochtitlan. When they first arrived there the Aztec

thought that Cortes was Quetzalcoatlin, a white-skinned god of the Aztec prophesy. At

first the Aztec welcomed the Spaniards to take as much gold and jewels as the felt like at

random throughout the town, but soon after Montezuma and his men weren?t so friendly.

For fear of being prisoners to the Aztecs Cortes took Montezuma as hostage and

demanded more gold for his ransom.

While Cortes was kidnapping Montezuma he heard that Velazquez was sending

troops in to capture the rebellious Cortes. When Cortes heard this he left a third of his

men with the Aztec and the other two-thirds went with him. They captured Narvaez, the

person sent by Velazquez, and killed him. (Encarta, Cortes, 3) Most of Velazquez?s men

went back with Cortes to the Aztec empire. While Cortes was gone he had left, Pedro de

Alvarado in charge. His harsh rule sparked a revolt of the Aztec when Cortes came back.

Cortes demanded that Montezuma told his people to end the rebellion, and when he did he

was stoned and died.

The Aztec were to strong for the Spaniards at first so they had to retreat to the

Tlaxcalan?s land until they were healthy again. In 1521 the Spaniards and their allies

blockaded the city so that nothing could get out, and a serious outbreak of smallpox and

other diseases broke out, the Aztec were not immune to such disease so they could not

defend themselves. Finally Cortes pushed into the city and destroyed everything including

the remaining survivors.

Cortes? hoped that his management of Spanish land in the Americas would resolve

him of the rebellion against Velazquez according the Spanish crown. He was right, and

had received many riches, a title of nobility, and fame. After the defeat of the Aztecs

Cortes pushed the boundaries of that empire and Spanish power spread rapidly through

the empire. His action was one of the single largest additions of land and treasure to the

Spanish Empire ever secured by an individual. (European Voyages of Exploration, 3)

The common link I found between these two men are that they both had other

tasks in mind, but in the end they both ended up expanding land in a huge way for their

countries and they were also great conquerors. Charlemagne?s main desire was to be the

sole ruler of the Frankish kingdom. By the end of his career he was the sole ruler of the

Roman Empire and of almost all of western-Europe. Cortes simply wanted to move to the

Americas to start a new life, but instead he met up with Velazquez and ended up

conquering the entire Aztec empire almost single-handedly.

These two men had performed some remarkable tasks. The amount of lands they

captured was unimaginable. They both conquered their lands with very little help from any

other outsiders. Charlemagne had help from the Lombards, and Cortes from other allies

that were enemies of the Aztec, but they both did not have a great number of men to help

them do it. I believe that both men used their brain, not strength, to defeat their enemies

and take over their lands. Charlemagne figured there was no way that his conquered lands

could get away with anything they shouldn?t so he decided to send representatives to his

conquered lands to make sure everything was going smoothly. Also, Charlemagne was

always having scholars come to his kingdom to teach him and his people to increase their

knowledge. Cortes tricked the Aztecs into thinking that he was a god and as a result they

gave him many riches.

One of the biggest similarities I see between the two me are that their conquests

earned them fame and riches. Cortes? conquest of the Aztecs was one of the greatest

accomplishments for the Spanish ever, (Encarta, Cortes, 3) and Charlemagne?s conquests

gave him principal fame in his career. (Dictionary of Medieval Civilization, 182) The

achievements are extremely remarkable for explorers and conquers, but it seems to be

even more remarkable for these to men considering Charlemagne was only supposed to

rule the Franks, and Cortes was only supposed to trade and explore in the Americas.

?Charlemagne,? Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia Microsoft Corporation: New York,


?Cortes, Hernan,? Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia Microsoft Corporation: New

York, 1993-1997.

Dahmus, Joseph. Dictionary of Medieval Civilization. pgs. 182-184. Macmillan

Publishing Company; New York, 1984.

The European Voyages of Exploration. University of Calgary Department of History:

The Applied Research Group, 1997;

Jordan, William. The Middle Ages. Vol. 1. Simon and Schuster Macmillan; New York,


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