INCAS, an American Indian people of Peru who in the two centuries before
the Spanish discovery of America conquered an
area stretching from the southern border of present-day Colombia to central Chile. Centering on the city of Cusco (Cuzco) in
the Peruvian Andes, the Inca domain included the coastal and mountain regions of Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and the northern
areas of Chile and Argentina--the only true empire existing in the New World at the time of Columbus, and the greatest political
achievement of the American Indians. In the native language the term ``Inca'' was the title of the Indian emperor. Today,
however, it is also applied to the original tribe of conquerors and to all those people who made up the empire (who probably
called themselves capac-cuna, ``great ones'' or ``glorious ones,'' in pre-Spanish times).
The habitat of the former Inca empire is spectacular and varied. In
the mountains, at altitudes between 7,000 and 10,000 feet
(2,150-3, 000 meters), are temperate zones capable of sustaining an intensive agriculture. The imposing mountain range, the
Andean cordilleras, divides in extreme southeastern Peru to form the Lake Titicaca basin, a 12,600-foot (3,840-meter)-high
plateau. This and the other high intermontane plateaus that continue south and east into Bolivia and northwestern Argentina are
called the altiplano; it forms a treeless region of long grass seared by the noonday sun, frigid at night. The bulk of the Andean
population lived here. To the southwest are salt marshes, while in the extreme south dense mountains give way to the rolling
pampas of Argentina.
The coastal area is desert, for the Humboldt Current, which sweeps up
from the south, is colder than the adjacent land;
therefore, the moisture in the winds going from sea to land does not condense through cooling. Beginning at Tumbes, 3° south
latitude, these desert conditions predominate throughout the whole coast of Peru and continue down to the Rio Maule, in Chile.
The sea, however, is filled with plankton, which attracts a very rich and varied marine life; this marine life in turn is fed on by
myriads of sea birds, whose droppings on the arid coastal islets are the source of guano, a fertilizer extensively used for
agriculture. The 2,000-mile (3,200-km)-long coastal plain, ranging from 1 and 50 miles (1.6-80 km) in width, is broken only
every 30 miles (48 km) or so by rivers. In the valleys of these rivers, coastal cultures, using irrigation, flourished.
It was these two disparate areas of Peru--mountain and desert--that
the Incas knit together in an economic and social
East of the cordilleras is the Montaña. The area is characterized
by deep forest-covered valleys and wildly plunging rivers. Still
farther east, the Andes flatten out into the Amazon jungle. The hot, humid portions of the Montaña and the people of the region
alike were called yungas by the Incas. The Indians of this region resisted the Incas with considerable success.
Before the Incas.
The Incas arrived comparatively late on the Peruvian cultural scene.
Humans had been living for thousands of years on the coast
and were growing and weaving cotton and planting such domesticated crops as corn, squash, and beans before about 3000
b.c. The oldest of the high cultures of the Andes was the Chavin culture, which began between 1200 and 800 b.c. and lasted
until about 400 b.c. Its center, which continued to be important as late as Inca times, was the stone-built city of Chavin de
Huantar in a narrow valley beyond the Cordillera Blanca in the central Andes. At a later date other cultures developed on the
north coast, notably the Mochica (c. 100 b.c.-a.d. 800), a caste-minded empire which developed a high craftsmanship in
building, ceramics, and textiles.
Along the southern coast, the Paracas culture (c. 400 b.c.-a.d. 400),
wrapped in mystery, is famed for its textiles, doubtless the
finest ever loomed in pre-Columbian America. Paracas culture influenced the early Nazca culture located in five oasis-valley
farther south. In the Titicaca Basin there developed about a.d. 800 the great Tiahuanaco culture. Its capital and ceremonial
center at the southern end of Lake Titicaca was built of massive worked stones held together with inset bronze projections
(tenons). The famed Sun Gate, constructed of massive stones, with its sun god weeping tears in the form of many animals,
found its way, as a motif, into all Andean and coastal cultures. Further north, at Huari, close to present-day Ayacucho, the
Tiahuanaco theme of the weeping god was developed even futher. It was from here, presumably, that a combined
religious-military invasion was launched down the Pisco Valley to the coast. From the years a.d. 1000 to 1300 the Tiahuanaco
Empire dominated most of the coastal cultures--evident in the recurring motif of the weeping god. When the empire collapsed,
the suppressed local political units sprang into new life and evolved into local empires. The greatest (and the contemporaneous
rival of the Incas) was the kingdom of the Chimus--Chimor (1300-1463) with its capital at Chan-Chan (near the present-day
coastal city of Trujillo). Chan-Chan was 8 square miles (20.7 sq km), with irrigated gardens, immense step pyramids, and
stone-lined reservoirs. The empire was a center of large-scale weaving and pottery industries. It possessed a good
communications system and in time it came to rule over 600 miles (960 km) of the Peruvian coast.
Such was the cultural inheritance of the Incas. They were the heirs
rather than the originators (as they claimed) of Peruvian
culture. They were organizers--but incomparable organizers.
The First Inca.
The legendary founding of Cusco by the first Inca, Manco Capac, is placed
about a.d. 1100. Cusco lies in the hollow of a
valley at 11, 207 feet (3,416 meters); on two sides, the Andes rise precipitously, and at its southern end the valley stretches for
miles between the double row of mountains. Manco Capac, according to legend, came up this valley from the south; following
instructions of the sun god he threw his golden staff into the Cusco earth, and when the staff disappeared, suggesting the land's
fertility, he founded his city. It is generally agreed, and archaeologically confirmed, that Inca history actually begins about 1200
and continues through 13 ruling Incas, ending with the death of Atahualpa at the hands of the Spaniards in 1533. In the 12th
century, however, the Incas were only one of the myriad tribes that occupied the Andes area.
The Incas began by enlarging their hold beyond the immediate valley
of Cusco. By 1350, during the reign of Inca Roca, they
had conquered all areas close to Lake Titicaca in the south as well as the valleys to the immediate east of Cusco. To the north
and east the region around the Upper Urubamba River also soon fell to the Incas, and their realm then began to spread
There they faced two hardy tribes, the Soras and Rucanas, whom they
besieged and overcame. About 1350 the Incas bridged
the Apurimac River and its immense canyon. It had previously been bridged at three different places to the southwest; but the
new suspension bridge built by the Incas crossed at the point which formed a straight line from Cusco to Andahuaylas and was
the Incas' largest bridge, 148 feet (45 meters) long. They called it huacachaca, ``the holy bridge.'' With this event the Incas
collided with the Chanca, a powerful, belligerent tribe which disputed the Apurimac passage. Toward the end of the reign of
Viracocha (died 1437) the Chancas made a surprise attack and invaded Cusco. Viracocha fled for safety to the Urubamba
Valley, but his son organized the defense of Cusco, and the Chancas were completely defeated.
The son, Pachacuti (``earth shaker''), was made Inca (r. 1438-1463);
under him, the Incas swept northward as far as Lake
Junin; southward they conquered all of the Titicaca area. Between 1463 and 1493 Pachacuti' s son, Topa Inca, pushed the
conquest into Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina, then north again as far as Quito, Ecuador. In 1463 the armies of Topa Inca, by
means of a flanking attack, overwhelmed the coastal kingdom of Chimor. The Chimu rulers were whisked off to Cusco as royal
The last indisputable Inca, Huayna Capac, who came to power in 1493,
the year after Columbus landed in America, made the
final conquests. He extended the empire so that it included Chachapoyas on the right bank of the upper Rio Marañon in
northern Peru, and his warriors reduced the belligerent tribes on the Isle of Puná (off the coast of Ecuador) and around
Guayaquil on the adjacent shore. The final Inca extension was even farther to the north; in 1525 the frontiers reached
Rumichaca, a natural bridge over the Ancasmayo River, which now marks, more or less, the boundary between Ecuador and
INCA EMPIRE AND CULTURE
Quechua, the language of the Incas, bears only a distant relationship
to Aymará, the language spoken in the vicinity of Lake
Titicaca. It is not known what the Incas spoke before Quechua was made their official language by the Inca Pachacuti in 1438.
Because of their conquests and their system of population transference, Quechua eventually became the dominant language. It
is to this day spoken by a large percentage of Peru's inhabitants.
The population of the Inca Empire was composed primarily of farmer-
soldiers. Agricultural routine was the order of their life,
and under the guidance of ``professionals'' the entire Inca realm became a center of plant domestication. More than half of the
products that the world eats today were developed or cultivated in the Andean area. Among these are more than 20 varieties
of corn and 240 varieties of potato, camote (sweet potato), squash, a variety of beans, manioc (from which come farina and
tapioca), peppers, peanuts, and quinoa (pigweed, which is the source of a cereal). By far the most important crop was the
potato. Able to withstand heavy frosts, it was planted as high as 15,000 feet (4,600 meters); at these heights the night freeze
was used for dehydration, as the alternating freezing and thawing squeezed out the moisture until the potato was reduced to a
light flour, called chuño. Corn (sara) was cultivated up to an altitude of 13,500 feet (4,100 meters) and was eaten fresh
(choclo), parched and popped (kollo), made into a hominy (mote), and, finally, made into an alcoholic beverage (saraiaka or
chicha). To make the latter, the corn kernels were softened by the women. The saliva of the chewer converted the starch--an
enzyme distillate--into a malt sugar which became a dextrose and was thus converted into alcohol.
In Inca times all tribes were on about the same technological level
in their agriculture. Work was communal, and the most
important implement was the taclla, a simple digging stick consisting of a pole with a thick fire-hardened point.
Arable land was not unlimited. Rain generally falls in the Andes between
December and May, but there are often years of
drought. Water had to be brought to arable lands by canals, many of which showed superb engineering techniques. Terracing
of the land to prevent erosion was begun by the pre-Inca tribes and elaborated under the Incas.
Andean agriculture was sedentary; the slash-and-burn techniques practiced
by the Mexican Indians and the Mayas, in which
virgin forest land was constantly being cleared and planted, were not normally employed by the Andean peoples. The Middle
American cultures had no natural fertilizer except decayed fish and human feces, whereas in Peru the coastal farmer had guano
and the Andean farmer had taqui, the offal of the llama.
The domesticated llama was developed from the wild guanaco thousands
of years before the appearance of the Incas. It can
resist the Andean cold and the desert heat; it served as a beast of burden--carrying up to a hundred pounds; it supplied meant
(which when sun-dried was called charqui) and wool, used mostly for ropes and cargo sacks. Its dung was important as a
fertilizer. Llamas, like camels, use a common voiding place, so that taqui is easily gathered; it was one of the important factors in
Andean sedentary agriculture.
Social Organization: The Ayllu.
At the base of the social pyramid of the Inca Empire was the ayllu,
a clan of families living together in a restricted area and
sharing land, animals, and crops. Everyone belonged to an ayllu; one was born into it and died within it. The commune could be
small or large; it could even be a town. No individuals owned land; land was owned by the ayllu, or later the emperor, and was
only loaned to each member for his use. Each autumn the land was divided again; the allotments were increased or decreased
depending upon the size of the family. Planting and harvesting were communal.
At the age of twenty a man was expected to marry. If he did not, a mate
was selected for him by the chieftain. Marriage for the
workers was strictly monogamous, but all members of the ruling class had more than one wife.
Some women had a chance to leave the ayllu and better their life. These
were the ``chosen women,'' who were selected
because of their beauty or special talents and taken to Cusco or one of the provincial capitals. There they were taught weaving,
cooking, and the rituals of the Sun, the state religion. Many of the ``chosen women'' became wives of officials, and some
became concubines of the Inca himself.
The State: Tawantin-suyu.
Tawantin-suyu, meaning four quarters, was the name given by the Incas
to their state. Four roads, which went to the ends of
each quarter, no matter how distant, came out of Cusco; each road bore the name of the suyu to which it ran. 1) Anti-suyu
included all the land east of Cusco; this domain contained the montaña and the jungle, and was continually harassed by attacks
from the only partially pacified tribes of the area. 2) Cunti-suyu embraced all the lands west of Cusco, including the conquered
coastal empires, from Chan-Chan through the Rimac (now Lima Valley) down to Arequipa. 3) Colla-suyu was the largest in
extent; located south of Cusco, it took in Lake Titicaca and regions in Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. 4) Chincha-suyu contained
all the land and tribes which lay to the north, up to Rumichaca. Each quarter was ruled by an apo, or governor, related by
blood ties to the Inca--and answerable only to him.
Organization by Tens.
The pattern of political and, in turn, economic organization was based
upon decimal groupings of individuals. Although the
system varied regionally, typically at the base was the puric, an able-bodied tax- paying Indian. Ten workers had what we
would call a ``straw boss'' (the Incas called him coñka-kamayoc); ten of these groups had a foreman (pacha-koraka); ten
foremen were ruled by another, ideally the headman (mallcu) of a large village. Ten thousand people came under a district
governor (homo-koraka), and ten districts were under the governor ((apo) of the quarter. For every 10,000 people there were
The Inca was selected by a council of advisers of the royal lineage.
There was no clear line of succession; the most competent
of the legitimate sons of the Inca's principal wife (coya) was usually selected. The Inca had one real wife, but he maintained a
menage of royal concubines; Huayna Capac is estimated to have had in the male line alone 500 descendants living at the time of
the Spanish conquest. These formed the Inca' s own royal ayllu. It was from them that he chose his important administrators.
The empire was one of the world's few real theocracies, for the Inca was not only ruler but also, in the eyes of his people, a
demigod and the head of the state religion. The Inca Empire was a totalitarian state, and the Incas were absolute rulers whose
power was checked only by the influence of custom and the fear of revolt.
Taxation: The Mit'a.
Every puric was obliged to give a certain amount of work to the state.
This tax-through-work service was called mit'a. Only the
state and religious officials were exempt. Each ayllu cultivated fields within its communally held lands for the Sun and the Inca,
that is, for religion and the state. The crops from these fields, planted and harvested communally, were stored for official use.
Another form of work service was prescribed for various projects: road building, bridge building, mining, and the erection of
temples, forts, and royal residences. All was under the supervision of professionals. Accurate records of work service for each
community were kept on a knotted string-- the quipu. In addition to work service, every puric formed part of an agrarian militia
and was liable to military service at any given moment. When he was absent on a military campaign other members of the ayllu
cultivated and harvested his allotment of land.
The system devised by the Incas to organize and assimilate newly conquered
territory was an extension of the idea of work
service. As soon as any region was conquered, the unreliable part of the local population was moved out and a safe
Quechua-speaking population was moved in; these latter were the mit'a-kona (called mitamaes by the Spaniards). Local
customs, dress, and language of the conquered population which remained were allowed, but officials had to learn and use
Quechua. It was the duty of the mit'a-kona to bring Inca culture to the newly conquered peoples. The mit'a-kona were of three
orders: military (to guard frontier stations), political (to win over the population and coordinate the conquered peoples), and
economic. Often, when a planned Inca highway ran through an entirely depopulated area, mit'a-kona were placed there to
provide upkeep for roads and bridges and to extend the suzerainty of the Inca Empire. The mit'a-kona were given social and
economic benefits much like the benefits accorded the soldiers of the Roman legions when serving in distant lands. So complete
was the Inca integration of the Andes, Montaña, and coast, that even today the entire area retains the mark of Inca culture.
Seven million people still speak Quechua dialects, the ayllus are maintained in the form of comunidades; and the Inca culture
continues to be manifest in music, agricultural practices, and the character of the people.
Roads, Bridges, and Couriers.
Roads, bridges, and the courier system were the tactical elements which
held the empire together. The Incas took over the
roads of earlier civilizations and developed more than 10,000 miles (16,000 km) of new all-weather highways (capac nan).
Since pre-Columbian Peruvians did not have the wheel, the roads were constructed for foot and llama caravans. Still, the
coastal road was a standard 24 feet (7.3 meters) wide; it was 2,520 miles (4,055 km) in length, running from Tumbes at the
northern boundary down to Purumuaca at Rio Maule in Chile. The Andean road, since it crossed mountainous terrain, was
narrower; it varied between 15 and 24 feet (4.6-7.3 meters). Its length was 3,250 miles (5,230 km), and it had no less than a
hundred bridges, either of wood or stone or fiber-cable suspension; four bridges alone crossed the chasms of the Apurimac
River. Distance markers were used every 41/2 miles (7.2 km) and rest stations for travelers were placed alongside the road
every 12 to 18 miles (19-29 km). In addition, the communication system had smaller stations for couriers (chasquis); the
chasquis ran in relays, each covering a mile and a half (2.4 km). It has been proven that this chasqui system was able to convey
a message over 1,250 miles (2,000 km) in five days.
Record Keeping: The Quipu.
Official records and the folk stories of the Incas were kept by ``rememberers.
'' Neither the Incas nor any other South
American cultures had writing- -in any form. Instead, the Incas used a mnemonic device called the quipu, from the Quechua
word for a knot. This consisted of a main cord from which dangled a series of smaller colored strings into which knots were
tied. The quipus were accompanied by a verbal comment without which the meaning of what each quipu conveyed would have
been unintelligible. The record keepers knowing the theme of each quipu were called quipu- camayocs. Each governor of a
province had attached to his person many such quipu-camayocs, who kept an accurate account of population, tribute, and
soldiers. A decimal count was used, there even being a symbol for zero (an empty space). The Spanish conquerors, the
conquistadors, much admired this system.
Special quipu-camayocs were responsible for maintaining a record of
Inca accomplishments. Through them, history was
selected and manipulated. The accomplishments of whole generations of conquered tribes were blotted out so that the Inca
claim of having founded the great Andean civilization could not be contradicted.
In the Inca concept, religion and state were one. Viracocha was the
creator god, the one source of power; he was aided in his
divine administration by servant gods, the most important of which was the sun god, Inti. The sun god became the symbol for
the Incas; his name was always invoked, and his image was the motif of the official religion. There were also gods for all natural
phenomena. Inca religion consisted of numerous decentralized cults, but the most enduring centered on the huaca, a magic and
holy object or spirit. Huaca had many ramifications: a lake, river, or mountain was a huaca; a temple could be a huaca; often
huaca was associated with agriculture, and stones gleaned from fields in cultivation were gradually transformed into a temple
which became huaca.
Religion was practical and life was religion. Agriculture was holy,
and anything connected with it became huaca. Belief in
immortality was general. The nobleman, no matter what his morals, went back to live with the Sun and had warmth and plenty.
The common man, if virtuous, went to the same abode; if not he writhed in a sort of hell (oko- paca) where there was cold and
Religion and custom guided conduct. Reduced to a single moral precept,
the rule for good conduct was: Ama sua, ama llulla,
ama chella--``Do not steal; do not lie; do not be lazy.''
Inca art forms had a tendency towards austerity. Weaving, especially
in vicuña wool, was of the highest quality, but it lacked
the inventiveness of the weaving of coastal peoples. The cutting of semiprecious stones was a widely practiced art, although the
Inca stonecutters depended on the coastal trade for shell and stones.
Goldsmithing was an Inca specialty. Almost all the gold mines worked
in historical times had been previously mined by the
Incas. Smiths who worked gold and silver lived in a special district and were exempt from taxes. The best examples of their art
have not survived, since all went into the crucible of conquest; but according to the Spaniards who first saw it, Cusco seemed
ablaze with worked gold. Some of the buildings were covered with gold plate imitating Inca stone work. The grass-thatched
roofs of some of the temples had strands of gold that mimicked the grass; a setting sun would catch the gleam of gold and
suggest a golden roof. The fabulous Curi-cancha, the golden enclosure which enjoined the Temple of the Sun in Cusco, had a
golden fountain; actual-size representations of maize plants with leaves and ears of gold were ``planted'' in an earth made up of
clods of gold, and there were twenty life-size golden llamas grazing on golden grass in the golden enclosure.
The most awe-inspiring of Inca contributions to material culture was
in architecture. Inca architecture had not the subtlety of the
Mayan, with its profuse ornamentation; nor had it the emotional impact of the Aztec; but Inca engineering and structural
daring--the grandiose concept of its cities and the handling of rock mass--finds no rival in either the New World or the Old.
The number and size of Inca structures, even in ruins, is simply overwhelming. Sites such as Machu Picchu, perched in a saddle
10,000 feet (3,000 meters) high between two Andean peaks, gives an idea of what Inca urban planning must have been.
In constructing a foundation, the natural outcrop of rock was cut out
and stones, without mortar, were set in to make the
building part of its natural surroundings. Inca architecture had great plasticity. The Inca artisans built with sun-baked brick when
rock was not available; they could also use precisely cut stone in pattern, or they could build in massive form, with huge rocks.
The pucara, or fortress, of Sacsahuaman that guarded Cusco is a case
in point. It is without doubt one of the greatest structures
of its kind anywhere. Fifteen hundred feet (460 meters) in length, it is composed of three massive tiers of stone walls, which
have a combined height of 60 feet (18 meters). The walls are broken into 46 salients, retiring angles, and buttresses. The
cyclopean foundations contain stones which weigh more than 30 tons; these stones have beveled edges. The 300,000 or more
stones that form the fortress are irregularly polygonal and locked so well structurally that they have defied innumerable
earthquakes as well as the attempts of man himself to dislodge them. The fortress, replete with fighting towers, underground
passages, habitations, and an intricate system of water distribution, was begun in 1438 and finished in 1508; it took 30,000
workmen over 70 years to complete it.
THE FALL OF THE EMPIRE
Many reasons can be offered for the fall of the Incas, but the sudden
conquest of a mighty empire by only a handful of
Spaniards is still hard to comprehend. The Indian empires of Central Mexico had already succumbed to the Spaniards, who
under Hernán Cortes had invaded Mexico in 1519. However, the Incas were unaware of such events, inasmuch as there was
no direct contact of Aztec and Maya with Inca. The white man's presence became known only in 1523 or 1525, when a
Spaniard named Alejo Garcia led an attack with Chiriguano Indians on an Inca outpost in the Gran Chaco, a dry lowland to the
southeast of the Inca realm. In 1527 Francisco Pizarro appeared briefly at Tumbes on the northwest Peruvian coast and then
sailed away, leaving behind two of his men. Shortly afterward, Ecuador was devastated by a pestilence (possibly smallpox)
brought by one of them.
Huayna Capac died in 1527. He is said to have felt that the empire was
too large to be governed only from Cusco. Succession
to the Incaship was immediately disputed between Huascar, residing in Cusco, and Atahualpa, the favorite of Huayna Capac's
500 sons, living in Ecuador. A five- year-long civil war which devastated the empire ensued between the two half-brothers.
Atahualpa's final victory occurred only two weeks before the second arrival of Pizarro. The victorious chief was resting at the
provincial capital of Cajamarca in what is today northwestern Peru, surrounded by 40,000 veterans and planning to march to
Cusco, there to be formally acknowledged Inca.
Pizarro arrived at Tumbes on May 13, 1532; he began his march toward
Cajamarca with 177 men, of whom 67 were cavalry.
Atahualpa knew all this; his intelligence reports were precise, but the interpretation placed on these reports was fatuous. He
was told that the horses were no good at night; a man and animal were one, and when the horse or rider fell they were useless;
guns were only thunderbolts and could be fired only twice; and the long steel Spanish swords were as ineffectual as a woman's
weaving battens. In any of the hundred narrow defiles of the Andes through which the small Spanish detachment climbed, it
could have been annihilated.
When the Spaniards occupied Cajamarca they sent out an invitation for
Atahualpa to visit them in the city, which was walled on
three sides. No one has yet been able to explain satisfactorily why Atahualpa allowed himself to walk into an ambush. He was
well aware of Pizarro' s strength, and ambush was a much-used Inca military tactic. Perhaps other factors, not sensed by the
Spaniards, guided the Inca in his movements. At vespers on Nov. 16, 1532, Atahualpa marched into the square of Cajamarca,
displaying all the panoply of power. Although he was surrounded by thousands of his followers, the Inca and his men came, as
Pizarro wished, unarmed. There was an unintelligible parley between a Christian priest and the Inca demigod; then the
Spaniards set upon the Indians. The whole action took thirty minutes; the only Spanish casualty was Pizarro, wounded in the
arm while defending Atahualpa, whom he wished to take alive and unhurt.
After that, except for fierce local skirmishes at several places, there
was no serious resistance until 1536. Atahualpa,
imprisoned, bargained for his life by agreeing to fill twice with silver and once with gold the large room in which he was kept,
but it was not enough. On the pretense that Atahualpa planned to launch an attack once they were loaded down with their loot,
the Spaniards kept Atahualpa in custody and eventually charged him with ``crimes against the Spanish state.'' They formally
tried and executed him by garroting, a form of strangulation, on Aug. 29, 1533.
The shock of all these events reduced the Inca people to a state of
strange timidity, and the Spaniards easily advanced
southward over the great Inca highway to Cusco, which they captured on Nov. 15, 1533. From there, by organizing their new
realm, they soon turned Spanish conquest into Spanish domination.
The Neo-Inca State.
After establishing the former Inca capital, Cusco, as the center of
Spanish power in Peru, Francisco Pizarro, to give a
semblance of legitimacy to the newly imposed regime, selected a grandson of Huayna Capac to ``take the royal fringe as Inca.''
The new Inca, Manco II, was given no power and subjected by the Spaniards to trying indignities, but he bore this during the
first years of his reign in order to give himself time to develop a plan of action.
In 1536, while part of the Spanish occupying force under Diego de Almagro
was off on an exploratory expedition in Chile,
Manco II, under a pretext of delivering up more Inca gold, slipped off--and into revolt.
The timing of the Inca's revolt was auspicious. Almagro and Pizarro
had quarreled over the division of the spoils of the Inca
Empire, and the invasion of Chile was only the prelude to a civil war between factions led by the two Spaniards. The natives
had felt the ``yoke of peace'' long enough to know that the exactions they were suffering would be permanent unless they
On Apr. 18, 1536, four Inca armies, after killing every Spaniard in
the outlying districts, converged on Cusco. As in a hunt,
they beat their quarry into a central area for annihilation. But Hernando Pizarro, Francisco's half-brother and an experienced
soldier, commanded the besieged forces of Cusco; although he had only 130 soldiers and about 2,000 Cañari Indian
auxiliaries, he managed to withstand the siege in one of history's memorable displays of military skill. Meanwhile, Lima, which
Pizarro had made his capital in 1535, was also under attack by the Incas. The area that surrounded the city was level, and the
Spaniards were able to use their cavalry with devastating effect. This siege was quickly ended. However, four relief columns
sent by Pizarro were unable to reach besieged Cusco. The three-month- long siege was lifted only because of the need of the
Inca warriors to return to farming and because of the arrival near Cusco of Almagro and his troops returning from Chile.
Manco II, with thousands of his followers and carrying the mummies of
his ancestors, retired to prepared positions within the
massif of Vilcabamba, the mountainous terrain northwest of Cusco. There he created a Neo-Inca state, from which he led his
warriors in attacks on the Spaniards. Pizarro set up Ayacucho as a barracks town to defend the royal road south of Cusco
against the sallies of Manco's warriors. Meanwhile, the civil wars between Pizarro's forces and Almagro's ``men of Chile''
continued. In 1538 Almagro was captured and executed; three years later, Pizarro in turn was murdered by the men of Chile.
New leaders of the factions came to the force. In the Battle of Chupas (fought near Ayacucho in 1542) the Inca aided the men
of Chile against the King's troops, and when the latter prevailed, six of the defeated men of Chile took refuge in the Neo-Inca
state. The Spaniards taught the Indians to ride horses, repair guns, and operate hand forges; this, plus the firearms, clothes,
pikes, and money which the Indians took from waylaid Spaniards using the royal road made it possible for them to equip a
In one of their raids, copies of the ``New Laws'' promulgated by the
King of Spain in 1544 were found. In an effort to right the
abuses of the conquerors the King offered a new program, and on this basis Manco II sent one of the renegade Spaniards,
Gomez Perez, out of Vilcabamba to negotiate with the viceroy, Blasco Nuñez Vela. The civil wars were still at their height, and
Nuñez Vela was deposed before negotiations were brought to a successful conclusion. Shortly afterward, the Spaniards living
with Manco II fell into dispute with him, struck and killed him, and were in turn slaughtered.
Sayri Tupac and Titu Cusi.
The Neo-Inca state developed under Sayri Tupac, Manco II's son. To their
large herds of llamas and alpacas the Indians
added sheep, cattle, and pigs. They bound themselves to the Antis tribesmen living in the Upper Amazon, and by 1555, twenty
years after its inception, the Neo-Inca state included some 80,000 adherents.
In that year Sayri Tupac went over to the Spaniards and left Vilcabamba
for the warmer climate of the Yucay Valley, where he
was eventually poisoned by his own people. His brother, Titu Cusi Yupanqui, became Inca and reopened the war on the
Spaniards. Every attempt to invade the mountains ended in failure. In 1565 Friar Diego Rodriguez entered the Inca stronghold
alone for the purpose of inducing the Inca to come out. His description of the rituals surrounding the Inca and the number and
belligerency of the warriors is important for its information on the strength of the Inca state. The attempt to induce the Inca to
leave ended in failure. Another missionary tried again the following year; but during the negotiations, Titu Cusi became ill and
died. His death was laid to the missionary, who was executed, as were the members of another embassy of Spaniards.
Tupac Amaru, the Last of the Incas.
Tupac Amaru, another son of Manco II, now became Inca. His only distinction
was that he was to be the last. The Spaniards
now decided to breach the great stronghold of Vilcabamba in the three known entries. After a sharp struggle, Tupac Amaru
and all of his principal captains were captured and in 1572, chained neck to neck, were marched to Cusco. The Inca was
hastily tried and led to the great square of Cusco. There, before a mass of people packed so tightly that ``if an orange had been
thrown it would not have reached the ground,'' Tupac Amaru, the last of the Incas, was beheaded by a Cañari Indian. The
Neo-Inca state had endured as a serious threat to the Spanish occupation from 1536 until 1572.
During the colonial era that followed the Spanish conquest of Peru,
many of the Inca state institutions were retained and
adapted to fit the needs of the conquerors. Spanish rule was largely indirect: the colonial administrators and landowners
transmitted their demands through local chieftains, or curacas, and did not directly interfere with the daily life of the Indian
householder. Like the Incas, the Spanish practiced mass resettlement of villages, demanded a work-tax of the Indians, and
maintained a separate class of servants and artisans. But Spanish demands for gold and produce were intolerably harsh, and the
greed of the landowners and the corruption of the administrators provoked numerous Indian uprisings throughout the colonial
period. Even today the Quechua Indian peasants of Peru and Bolivia speak Quechua and retain many elements from Inca days
in their religion, their family life, and their agricultural techniques. See also Indians, American: The Central Andes.
Copyright © 1996 P.F. Collier, A Division of Newfield Publications, Inc.
Von Hagen, Victor W., INCAS., Vol. 12, Colliers Encyclopedia CD-ROM, 02-28-1996.