Who were the conquistadors, and what did they do?
Aug 10, · Definition of Conquistador The word conquistador comes from Spanish and means "he who conquers." The conquistadors were those men who took up arms to conquer, subjugate, and convert native populations in the New World. Who Were the Conquistadors? Conquistador, (Spanish: “conqueror”) plural conquistadores or conquistadors, any of the leaders in the Spanish conquest of America, especially of Mexico and Peru, in the 16th century.
Pizarro departed for Peru in with men and 37 horses. Taking advantage of a civil war among the natives, Pizarro captured the reigning Inca ruler, Atahuallpaand, when Almagro arrived from Panama, conquered the capital city of Cuzco in November Pizarro founded a new capital, Limain Meanwhile, Alvarado arrived from Guatemala with intent to capture Quitobut he was persuaded to sell his army and ships to Almagro and Pizarro.
Later a quarrel between Almagro and Pizarro erupted in into a civil war, which Pizarro won. Pizarro himself was murdered in Pedro de Valdivia explored Chilefounding the city of Santiago in The conquistadores, given more to fighting and the search for gold than to governance, were quickly replaced by administrators and settlers from Spain. Additional Info. More About Contributors Article History. Print Cite verified Cite.
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Read More on This Topic. Pedrarias expanded the colony but was responsible for enslaving how to make a real anderson shelter murdering djd Indian population, despite royal orders for more humane Get a Britannica Premium subscription and gain access to exclusive content. Subscribe Now. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:.
Pedrarias expanded the colony but was responsible for enslaving and murdering vid Indian population, how to get into the citadel in fallout 3 royal orders for more humane treatment.
Eyewitness accounts of Aztec culture on the eve of the conquest are, of course, the most directly pertinent sources because they describe Aztec culture before it became transformed by the Spanish conquest.
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Ruthless Soldiers of the King of Spain
Sep 01, · The Spanish conquistadors were mainly explorers and soldiers. In the s Spain was at the height of its glory. Gold and silver poured in from its Author: Kathy Warnes. Mar 20, · What did the conquistadors do to the natives? In the Caribbean, most of the native populations were completely wiped out due to Spanish rapine and diseases. In Mexico, Hernan Cortes and Pedro de Alvarado (–) ordered the Cholula Massacre and the Temple Massacre respectively, killing thousands of unarmed men, women, and children. Social Studies, xeno Who were the conquistadors, and what did they do?
From the moment of Christopher Columbus' discovery of lands previously unknown to Europe in , the New World captured the imagination of European adventurers. Thousands of men came to the New World to seek fortune, glory, and land.
For two centuries, these men explored the New World, conquering any native people they came across in the name of the King of Spain and the hope of gold. They came to be known as the conquistadors. Who were these men? The word conquistador comes from Spanish and means "he who conquers. Conquistadors came from all over Europe. Some were German, Greek, Flemish, and so on, but most of them came from Spain, particularly southern and southwestern Spain.
The conquistadors typically came from families ranging from the poor to the lower nobility. The very high-born rarely needed to set off in search of adventure. Conquistadors had to have some money to purchase the tools of their trade, such as weapons, armor, and horses. Many of them were veteran professional soldiers who had fought for Spain in other wars, like the reconquest of the Moors or the "Italian Wars" Pedro de Alvarado was a typical example.
He was from the province of Extremadura in southwestern Spain and was the younger son of a minor noble family. He could not expect any inheritance, but his family had enough money to purchase good weapons and armor for him.
He came to the New World in specifically to seek his fortune as a conquistador. Although most of the conquistadors were professional soldiers, they weren't necessarily well-organized. They were not a standing army in the sense that we think of it. In the New World, at least, they were more like mercenaries.
They were free to join any expedition they wanted to and could theoretically leave at any time, although they tended to see things through. They were organized by units. Footmen, harquebusiers, cavalry, and so on served under trusted captains who were responsible to the expedition leader. Expeditions, such as Pizarro's Inca campaign or the countless searches for the city of El Dorado , were expensive and privately financed although the King still expected his 20 percent cut of any valuables discovered.
Sometimes the conquistadors themselves chipped in funds for an expedition in the hopes that it would discover great wealth. Investors were also involved: wealthy men who would provision and equip an expedition expecting a share of the spoils if it discovered and looted a rich native kingdom.
There was some bureaucracy involved, as well. A group of conquistadors could not just pick up their swords and head off into the jungle. They had to secure official written and signed permission from certain colonial officials first. Armor and weapons were crucially important for a conquistador. Footmen had heavy armor and swords made of fine Toledo steel if they could afford them. Crossbowmen had their crossbows, tricky weapons which they had to keep in good working order.
The most common firearm at the time was the harquebus, a heavy, slow-to-load rifle. Most expeditions had at least a few harquebusiers along. In Mexico, most conquistadors eventually abandoned their heavy armor in favor of the lighter, padded protection the Mexicans used. Horsemen used lances and swords. Larger campaigns might have some artillerymen and cannons along, as well as shot and powder.
Some conquistadors claimed that they were attacking the New World natives to spread Christianity and save the natives from damnation. Many of the conquistadors were, indeed, religious men. However, the conquistadors were far more interested in gold and loot.
The Aztecs and Inca Empires were rich in gold, silver, precious stones, and other things the Spanish found less valuable, like brilliant clothes made of bird feathers. Conquistadors who participated in any successful campaign were given shares based on many factors. The king and the expedition leader like Hernan Cortes each received 20 percent of all loot. After that, it was divided up among the men.
Officers and horsemen got a larger cut than foot soldiers, as did crossbowmen, harquebusiers, and artillerymen. After the King, officers, and other soldiers had all gotten their cut, there was often not much left for the common soldiers. One prize which could be used to buy off conquistadors was the gift of an encomienda. An encomienda was land given to a conquistador, usually with natives already living there. The word encomienda comes from a Spanish verb meaning "to entrust.
In return, the natives would work in mines, produce food or trade goods, and so on. In practice, it was little more than enslavement. The historical record abounds in examples of conquistadors murdering and tormenting native populations, and these horrors are far too numerous to list here.
During the conquest of Mexico, Cortes ordered a massacre of Cholulan noblemen. There are countless accounts of Spaniards torturing and murdering natives to obtain the location of the gold. One common technique was to burn the soles of someone's feet to get them to talk. At the time of the conquest, Spanish soldiers were among the finest in the world. Spanish veterans from dozens of Europeans battlefields flocked to the New World, bringing their weapons, experience, and tactics with them.
Their deadly combination of greed, religious zeal, ruthlessness, and superior weaponry proved too much for native armies to handle, especially when combined with lethal European diseases, such as smallpox, which decimated native ranks. Conquistadors left their marks culturally as well. They destroyed temples, melted down golden works of art, and burned native books and codices.
Defeated natives were usually enslaved via the encomienda system, which persisted long enough to leave a cultural imprint on Mexico and Peru. The gold the conquistadors sent back to Spain began a Golden Age of imperial expansion, art, architecture, and culture.
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Weapons and Armor. Loot and the Encomienda System. Famous Conquistadors. Christopher Minster. Professor of History and Literature. Christopher Minster, Ph. Updated August 10, Cite this Article Format. Minster, Christopher. Who Were the Spanish Conquistadors? Watch Now: Profile of Hernan Cortes. Armor and Weapons of the Spanish Conquistadors.
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