The Spanish conquista of the Americas occurred lengthy sufficient in the past — and left behind a spotty sufficient physique of historic information — that we are likely to understand it as a lot by simplifications, exaggerations, and distortions as we do by information. What we now name Mexico underwent “primarily an inner battle between totally different indigenous teams who noticed the arrival of strangers as a chance to withstand having to pay tribute to the Aztec Empire,” says Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico historical past professor Berenice Alcántara Rojas. “When the Spaniards initially attacked the Mexica capital, they had been swiftly pushed out.”
“Solely when aided by varied teams of Indigenous allies, in addition to by the unfold of a horrible smallpox epidemic, did they handle to drive the ruler Cuauhtemoc and different Mexica leaders to capitulate,” Rojas continues, drawing upon particulars offered within the model of the occasions specified by the Florentine Codex.
That encyclopedic sequence of twelve Sixteenth-century illustrated manuscripts lavishly paperwork the identified society and nature of that land on the time — and has now, practically 450 years later, been acknowledged as “essentially the most dependable supply of details about Mexica tradition, the Aztec Empire, and the conquest of Mexico.”
“In 1547, Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish Franciscan friar who dedicated most of his life to working intently with the Indigenous peoples of Mexico, started amassing details about central Mexican Nahua tradition, life, individuals, historical past, astronomy, flora, fauna, and the Nahuatl language, amongst different subjects,” says the Getty Analysis Institute. “Nahua elders, grammarians, scribes, and artists labored with Sahagún to compile a three-volume, 12-book, 2500-page illustrated manuscript, modeling its content material on European encyclopedias, particularly Pliny the Elder’s Pure Historical past,” all of which has been digitized, translated, and made obtainable on the Getty’s website.
A completely multicultural undertaking avant la lettre, the Florentine Codex (named for the Medici household library in Florence, the place it was despatched upon its completion) has solely simply change into accessible to a large on-line readership. Although it’s “been digitally obtainable through the World Digital Library since 2012, for many customers it remained impenetrable as a result of studying it requires data of sixteenth-century Nahuatl and Spanish, and of pre-Hispanic and early fashionable European artwork traditions.” By providing searchable textual content in fashionable variations of each these languages in addition to English — to say nothing of its browsable sections organized by individuals, animals, deities, and even by Nahuatl phrases like coyote and tortilla — the Digital Florentine Codex re-illuminates a whole civilization.
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Based mostly in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities, language, and tradition. His tasks embrace the Substack e-newsletter Books on Cities, the guide The Stateless Metropolis: a Stroll by Twenty first-Century Los Angeles and the video sequence The Metropolis in Cinema. Observe him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Fb.