La Noche Triste 

 The following extract is from William Prescott’s book The Conquest of Mexico, published in 1843:

 (After the death of Montezuma, Cortes and his men were trapped in the heart of Mexico City, under siege by the Aztec population).

 “There was no longer any question as to the expediency of evacuating the capital. The only doubt was as to the time of doing so, and the route.  The Spanish commander called a council of officers to deliberate these matters.

 “There was some difference of opinion in respect to the hour of departure.  The day-time, it was argued by some, would be preferable, since it would enable them to see the nature and extent of their danger, and to provide against it.

 “But, on the other hand, it was urged, that the night presented many obvious advantages in dealing with a foe who rarely carried his hostilities beyond the day.

 “These views were fortified, it is said, by the counsels of a soldier named Botello, who professed the mysterious science of judicial astrology.  He had gained credit with the army by some predictions which had been verified by the events. This man recommended to his countrymen by all means to evacuate the place in the night, as the hour most propitious to them, although he should perish in it.

 “It is possible Botello’s predictions had some weight in determining the opinion of Cortes. It is, however, quite as probable that he made use of the astrologer’s opinion, finding it coincided with his own, to influence that of his men, and inspire them with higher confidence.  At all events, it was decided to abandon the city that very night.

 “At midnight the troops were under arms, in readiness for the march.  Mass was performed by Father Olmedo, who invoked the protection of the Almighty through the awful perils of the night. The gates were thrown open, and, on the first of July 1520, the Spaniards for the last time sallied forth from the walls of the ancient fortress, the scene of so much suffering and such indomitable courage.”

 (After a terrible slaughter on this melancholy night, Cortes and the major part of his army succeeded in escaping the Aztec army, and returned a year later to lay siege to the capital and capture it.  Botello was among those killed in the breakout.).

Bob Makransky’s Astrology Corner © 2001

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