Last Aztec emperor in spotlight at British Museum


June 18, 2010 Updated Apr 8, 2009 at 2:11 PM EDT

The last ruler of the legendary Aztec Empire is being thrust into the spotlight at the British Museum, in a spectacular show about the ruler vanquished by the Spanish conquistadores in the 16th century.

"Moctezuma: Aztec Ruler", due to open on September 24, aims to "examine the histories that are not taught to us, from a non-Eurocentric point of view," said museum chief Neil MacGregor.

"No-one has ever looked at Moctezuma as an emperor, we see him as a victim of Cortes but he was a very successful and great emperor too," he told AFP, at a press viewing for the show this week.

Moctezuma II, who reigned in what is modern day Mexico from 1502-1520, was regarded by his subjects as semi-divine, but was forced to cede his empire by the invading Spanish conquistadores.

Objects from Mexico and Europe will be on display, most for the first time in Britain, including the famous heavy stone monument known as the Teocalli of Sacred Warfare.

The exhibition also comes ahead of the anniversaries next year of Mexico's independence in 1810, and the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

MacGregor added that "indigenous traditions are reviving and very strong today and we need to rethink the way Mexican history has been taught to us, which has only been done through Spain."

"The artistic achievements of the Aztecs astonished the Spanish and rest of the world, and have continued to wield a huge influence on Mexican art," he said.

"Moctezuma is the last in our series on great rulers and their legacies and presents perhaps one of the most fascinating examples of implosion of power and the clash of civilisations."

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