How Much Do You Know About the Spanish Empire?



By: Robin Tyler

6 Min Quiz

Image: Wiki Commons via Lupo

About This Quiz

The quest to find an alternate route to the East Indies consumed the seafaring nations of Spain and Portugal in the 1400s. 

A route did exist, down south past Africa, around the Cape of Good Hope and then north again, toward the Far East. But something quicker was needed. And so, these nations sent their explorers west in the hope they could discover the East Indies that way.

What they discovered was a new world waiting to be conquered. 

And with that, the Spanish Empire expanded at a massive rate. Sending men west, they began their exploration of Central and South America, meeting a range of tribes in the process. The Spanish were brutal in their dealings with these local people, often performing cruel acts in an attempt to find out the location of gold and other precious metals.

Not all of them, however, went to plunder and steal.

In this quiz, we will test your knowledge of the Spanish Empire in a time when it was one of the fastest growing on the planet. 

Who were the men who led these expeditions? Which ancient nations did they defeat, and what native leaders did they deal with?

Let's see how you fare!

During his first expedition, Columbus traveled on which ship?

The Santa Maria belonged to a certain Juan de la Cosa and was commandeered for the journey. There were two other ships with Columbus, the Pinta and the Santa Clara (also called the Nina).


A third ancient nation was the last to fall to the conquistadors. Can you name it?

The Inca were the final nation to fall to the Spanish. Living in Peru they, were conquered by 1533.


Which of these is a famous conquistador?

A minor noble, Hernan Cortes chose the New World as his point of exploration. Cortes was known for his brutality toward the inhabitants of the New World.


Who was the leader of the Aztecs when Cortes arrived on his expedition?

Montezuma II was the leader of the Aztecs when Hernan Cortes and his men arrived in their territory. He sent them gold as tribute.


Which nation did he famously defeat during his expedition to the New World?

The Aztecs had a well-established society which saw people arranged in group of city states that traded with each other, formed alliances and even went to war.


Hernan Cortes, however, is not responsible for defeating the Incas. That was achieved by another conquistador. Can you name him?

Francisco Pizarro was responsible for defeating the Inca nation in Peru. Interestingly, he was a distant cousin of Hernan Cortes.


Translated, what does the name given to them mean?

Well they certainly knew what they were going to to New World for, didn't they? And conquer they did ... often with great cruelty.


In which modern country did this nation live?

The Aztecs were native to Mexico and had lived there from around 1300.


What tribe, a rival of the Aztecs, supported Cortes in his conquest of them?

An independent group, the Tlaxcaltecas helped Hernan Cortes overcome the Aztecs. Before the arrival of the Spanish, the Tlaxcaltecas and the Aztecs had been at war.


Name the first Spanish settlement in the New World.

Santo Domingo was first established in 1496, interestingly, by Christopher Columbus' brother, Diego. This was on the island of Hispaniola.


What mythical city of gold became the focal point for many conquistadors?

The legend of El Dorado changed over time, but many believed it was a city in the New World which was made of gold. It became the focal point of many conquistador expeditions.


The inhabitants of the New World were ravaged by diseases the conquistadors brought with them which they had no immunity to. Name one of them?

Having never had to deal with smallpox before and not having antibodies to fight it, smallpox devastated the local populations in many areas the conquistadors explored


Which foodstuff are the conquistadors said to have discovered on their conquests?

Montezuma II, the Aztec leader when Hernan Cortes arrived on his exploration, is said to have sent him gold and chocolate as tribute.


Although he is not considered a conquistador, this explorer is often credited with discovering America. Who is he?

Although Italian, Amerigo Verspucci sailed under the Spanish flag. He is credited with discovering America, the first explorer to do so.


The discovery of the new world saw many from Spain opt to travel there in search of riches. What collective name were these people given?

Those who chose to seek fame and fortune in the New World were called conquistadors.


Who did Columbus lobby in Spain to fund his journeys?

Columbus tried to get funding from the Spanish monarchy for a long time before they finally agreed to sponsor his first voyage. King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella had initially turned him down.


Another ancient New World nation was defeated by the conquistadors. Name them, please.

Between 1524 and 1526, the Spanish defeated the Mayan nation, whose people lived in the Yucatan Peninsula.


By 1515, Spain's explorers had conquered a number of areas in the New World including the island of ________ where the Spanish influence is still seen today.

Yes, the Spanish were a major influence on the island and indigenous people of Cuba, which certainly can still be seen today.


How much did Inca emperor Atahualpa offer for safe passage from the conquistadors?

Incredible but that's what he offered. It is said he filled up a room three times in presenting this gold and silver to the Spanish. It didn't help. He was executed.


What ocean did the Spanish discover in 1513?

During their discoveries, the Spanish found the Pacific Ocean. This was found by Vasco Núñez de Balboa.


Where did Columbus land when traveling west on his first journey?

The first land sighted during the journey and upon which Columbus landed was the Bahamas. It had taken five weeks to cross the Atlantic Ocean.


Conquistador Juan de la Cosa went on to own Christopher Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria. What is his claim to fame while in the New World?

Juan de la Cosa was a cartographer by trade and had even sailed with Columbus. He wanted to map as much of the New World as possible.


Spain's early explorer was actually Italian. What was his name?

Although he was Italian, Christopher Columbus was an excellent seafarer, trained in Portugal. He helped discover the new world while looking for an alternate way to the East Indies.


The first real stable settlement in continental America, however, was only established in 1510. Name it, please.

Established in 1510, Santa María la Antigua del Darién gave the Spanish a solid base from which to accelerate their expansion of the New World.


Spanish influence soon spread to other areas throughout South America. Which country did they NOT colonize?

Once they had dispatched with the three major nations in the Incas, Mayans and Aztecs, Spanish forces quickly advanced through the rest of South America except Brazil.


Spain, along with what other seafaring nation, were the leaders in exploration in the 16th century?

Portugal was the world's foremost seafaring nation at the time, with Spain eager to follow their neighbors in the finding and conquest of new lands.


It wasn't all death and destruction from the conquistadors, however. Francisco de Orellana is credited with an incredible act of endurance. What was it?

A seriously impressive feat, Francisco de Orellana navigated the Amazon during 1541 and 1542.


What was the conquistadors' chosen method of torture? This was often used to get the locals to tell them where to find gold.

That's got to hurt! I would have told them where the gold is in a flash!


How many journeys did Columbus undertake sailing west?

Christopher Columbus undertook four journeys to the west. These were in 1492, 1493, 1498 and 1502.


The new land was called __________ by Columbus.

Columbus immediately claimed the land for Spain, calling it San Salvador


What does the name chosen by Columbus for the new land actually mean?

While the local people called the island Guanahani, the name San Salvador, chosen by Columbus, meant Holy Savior.


Juan Diaz de Solis was the conquistador who discovered what is now modern day Uruguay. He could not enjoy his discovery, however, because ________

Whether this story is true remains up for debate. He was killed by either the Charrúa or Guarani indians. The Guarani were know to practice cannibalism.


What reason stopped them from conquering the country?

And still today, while all South American countries speak Spanish, Brazil speaks Portuguese. They had arrived in Brazil in 1500 under the command of Pedro Alvares Cabral.


Which food stuff did the conquistadors bring back from the Aztecs that we still eat today?

Guacamole, which we still love today, was an Aztec dish. It was thought to be an aphrodisiac by the Spanish.


How did the conquistadors manage to overcome the odds in terms of numbers in defeating the tribes of the New World?

Some would argue that early primitive guns were the reason the conquistadors were successful. Although they certainly played a part, they were very slow to load. The secret of the Spanish success was armor. The weapons of the locals struggled to pierce it.


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