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Pizarro executes last Inca emperor

Pizarro executes last Inca emperor

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Atahuallpa, the 13th and last emperor of the Incas, dies by strangulation at the hands of Francisco Pizarro’s Spanish conquistadors. The execution of Atahuallpa, the last free reigning emperor, marked the end of 300 years of Inca civilization.

High in the Andes Mountains of Peru, the Inca built a dazzling empire that governed a population of 12 million people. Although they had no writing system, they had an elaborate government, great public works and a brilliant agricultural system. In the five years before the Spanish arrival, a devastating war of succession gripped the empire. In 1532, Atahuallpa’s army defeated the forces of his half-brother Huascar in a battle near Cuzco. Atahuallpa was consolidating his rule when Pizarro and his 180 soldiers appeared.

Francisco Pizarro was the son of a Spanish gentleman and worked as a swineherder in his youth. He became a soldier and in 1502 went to Hispaniola with the new Spanish governor of the New World colony. Pizarro served under Spanish conquistador Alonso de Ojeda during his expedition to Colombia in 1510 and was with Vasco Nunez de Balboa when he discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513. Hearing legends of the great wealth of an Indian civilization in South America, Pizarro formed an alliance with fellow conquistador Diego de Almagro in 1524 and sailed down the west coast of South America from Panama. The first expedition only penetrated as far as present-day Ecuador, but a second reached farther, to present-day Peru. There they heard firsthand accounts of the Inca empire and obtained Inca artifacts. The Spanish christened the new land Peru, probably after the Vire River.

Returning to Panama, Pizarro planned an expedition of conquest, but the Spanish governor refused to back the scheme. In 1528, Pizarro sailed back to Spain to ask the support of Emperor Charles V. Hernan Cortes had recently brought the emperor great wealth through his conquest of the Aztec Empire, and Charles approved Pizarro’s plan. He also promised that Pizarro, not Almagro, would receive the majority of the expedition’s profits. In 1530, Pizarro returned to Panama.

In 1531, he sailed down to Peru, landing at Tumbes. He led his army up the Andes Mountains and on November 15, 1532, reached the Inca town of Cajamarca, where Atahuallpa was enjoying the hot springs in preparation for his march on Cuzco, the capital of his brother’s kingdom. Pizarro invited Atahuallpa to attend a feast in his honor, and the emperor accepted. Having just won one of the largest battles in Inca history, and with an army of 30,000 men at his disposal, Atahuallpa thought he had nothing to fear from the bearded white stranger and his 180 men. Pizarro, however, planned an ambush, setting up his artillery at the square of Cajamarca.

On November 16, Atahuallpa arrived at the meeting place with an escort of several thousand men, all apparently unarmed. Pizarro sent out a priest to exhort the emperor to accept the sovereignty of Christianity and Emperor Charles V., and Atahuallpa refused, flinging a Bible handed to him to the ground in disgust. Pizarro immediately ordered an attack. Buckling under an assault by the terrifying Spanish artillery, guns, and cavalry (all of which were alien to the Incas), thousands of Incas were slaughtered, and the emperor was captured.

Atahuallpa offered to fill a room with treasure as ransom for his release, and Pizarro accepted. Eventually, some 24 tons of gold and silver were brought to the Spanish from throughout the Inca empire. Although Atahuallpa had provided the richest ransom in the history of the world, Pizarro treacherously put him on trial for plotting to overthrow the Spanish, for having his half-brother Huascar murdered, and for several other lesser charges. A Spanish tribunal convicted Atahuallpa and sentenced him to die. On August 29, 1533, the emperor was tied to a stake and offered the choice of being burned alive or strangled by garrote if he converted to Christianity. In the hope of preserving his body for mummification, Atahuallpa chose the latter, and an iron collar was tightened around his neck until he died.

With Spanish reinforcements that had arrived at Cajamarca earlier that year, Pizarro then marched on Cuzco, and the Inca capital fell without a struggle in November 1533. Huascar’s brother Manco Capac was installed as a puppet emperor, and the city of Quito was subdued. Pizarro established himself as Spanish governor of Inca territory and offered Diego Almagro the conquest of Chile as appeasement for claiming the riches of the Inca civilization for himself. In 1535, Pizarro established the city of Lima on the coast to facilitate communication with Panama. The next year, Manco Capac escaped from Spanish supervision and led an unsuccessful uprising that was quickly crushed. That marked the end of Inca resistance to Spanish rule.

Diego Almagro returned from Chile embittered by the poverty of that country and demanded his share of the spoils of the former Inca empire. Civil war soon broke out over the dispute, and Almagro seized Cuzco in 1538. Pizarro sent his half brother, Hernando, to reclaim the city, and Almagro was defeated and put to death. On June 26, 1541, allies of Diego el Monzo—Almagro’s son—penetrated Pizarro’s palace in Lima and assassinated the conquistador while he was eating dinner. Diego el Monzo proclaimed himself governor of Peru, but an agent of the Spanish crown refused to recognize him, and in 1542 Diego was captured and executed. Conflict and intrigue among the conquistadors of Peru persisted until Spanish Viceroy Andres Hurtado de Mendoza established order in the late 1550s.

11c. The Inca Empire: Children of the Sun

When Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro landed in Peru in 1532, he found unimaginable riches. The Inca Empire was in full bloom. The streets may not have been paved with gold &mdash but their temples were.

The Coricancha , or Temple of Gold, boasted an ornamental garden where the clods of earth, maize plants complete with leaves and corn cobs, were fashioned from silver and gold. Nearby grazed a flock of 20 golden llamas and their lambs, watched over by solid gold shepherds. Inca nobles strolled around on sandals with silver soles protecting their feet from the hard streets of Cuzco.

The Inca called their empire Tahuantinsuyu , or Land of the Four Quarters. It stretched 2,500 miles from Quito, Ecuador, to beyond Santiago, Chile. Within its domain were rich coastal settlements, high mountain valleys, rain-drenched tropical forests and the driest of deserts. The Inca controlled perhaps 10 million people, speaking a hundred different tongues. It was the largest empire on earth at the time. Yet when Pizarro executed its last emperor, Atahualpa, the Inca Empire was only 50 years old.

The true history of the Inca is still being written. According to one story, four brothers emerged from Lake Titicaca. During a long journey, all but one disappeared. Manco Capac survived to plunge a golden staff into the ground where the Rios Tullamayo and Huantanay meet. He founded the sacred city of Cuzco.

The Sacred City of Cuzco

Cuzco is nestled in a mountain valley 10,000 feet above sea level. It formed the center of the Inca world. The first emperor, Pachacuti transformed it from a modest village to a great city laid out in the shape of a puma. He also installed Inti, the Sun God, as the Incas' official patron, building him a wondrous temple.

And he did something else &mdash which may explain the Inca's sudden rise to power. He expanded the cult of ancestor worship. When a ruler died, his son received all his earthly powers &mdash but none of his earthly possessions. All his land, buildings, and servants went to his panaqa, or other male relatives. The relatives used it to preserve his mummy and sustain his political influence. Dead emperors maintained a living presence.

A new ruler had to create his own income. The only way to do that was to grab new lands, subdue more people, and expand the Empire of the Sun.

From the heights of Machu Picchu, the entire Urabamba Valley in the Andes Mountains can be seen.

How was this done? Life in traditional Andean villages was fragile. One married couple would help another planting or harvesting crops. They would receive help in their own fields in return. The Inca tailored this practice of reciprocity &mdash give-and-take &mdash to their own needs.

Their cities centered on great plazas where they threw vast parties for neighboring chiefs. Festivities continued for days on end, sometimes lasting a month. Dignitaries were fed, and given gifts of gold, jewels, and textiles. Only then would the Inca make their requests for labor, to increase food production, to build irrigation schemes, to terrace hillsides, or to extend the limits of the empire.

Machu Picchu and Empire

The Inca were great builders. They loved stone &mdash almost as much as they revered gold. At magical Machu Picchu, a frontier fortress and a sacred site, a mystic column, the hitching post of the Sun, is carved from the living rock. Another slab is shaped to echo the mountain beyond.

Spanish leader Francisco Pizarro captured and ransomed the last Inca emperor, Atahuallpa, for 24 tons of gold worth $267 million today. After receiving the ransom from the Inca people, the conquistadors strangled Atahuallpa anyway.

Temples and fortifications at Machu Picchu were constructed from vast, pillowy boulders, some weighing 100 tons or more. Constructed without mortar, the joins between them are so tight as to deny a knife-blade entry. A vast labor force was required. There are records of 20 men working on a single stone, chipping away, hoisting and lowering, polishing it with sand, hour-by-hour for an entire year.

A network of highways allowed Inca emperors to control their sprawling empire. One ran down the spine of the Andes, another along the coast. Inca builders could cope with anything the treacherous terrain required &mdash steep paths cut along mountain sides, rope suspension bridges thrown across steep ravines, or treacherous causeways traversing floodplains. Every mile and a half they built way stations as resting points. Bands of official runners raced between them covering 150 miles a day. A message could be sent 1200 miles from Cuzco to Quito in under a week.

The Inca Empire ranged 2,500 miles from Ecuador to southern Chile before its destruction at the hands of Spanish conquistadors in 1532.

Everyone was expected to contribute to the empire. Land was divided in three. One third was worked for the emperor, one third was reserved for the gods, and one third the people kept for themselves. All were required to pay taxes as tribute.

The Inca could not write. Tax collectors and bureaucrats kept track of things with quipu , knotted strings. Varying lengths, colors, knot-types, and positions, enabled them to store enormous quantities of information.

Despite its glory, the Incas was a brittle empire, held together by promises and threats. When Pizarro executed the last emperor, it rapidly collapsed. Catholic priests demanding allegiance to a new Christian god soon replaced the Children of the Sun. As they had for thousands of years, the hardy peoples of the Andes adapted. They took what they must from their new masters, and held onto as many of their old ways as they could.

Golden Greed: Spanish conquistadors and the fate of the last free Inca Emperor Atahualpa

All history is a blend of fact and legend. In the life of the young Inca emperor Atahualpa, it is a fact that he was treacherously kidnapped and executed by Spanish conquistadors, while the legend is whether or not part of the massive ransom his subjects were to pay to his captors remains hidden in the Andes Mountains.

Atahualpa became Lord of the Inca Empire in the 16 th century after defeating his brother Huáscar in a civil war. All was well until Spanish explorer Francisco Pizarro arrived.

This is a portrait of Atahualpa, drawn from life, by a member of Pizarro’s detachment

Pizarro and his band of 160 sullied conquistadors had been exploring the western coast of South America for two years, searching for a rumored wealthy empire in the Andes. In November of 1532, they found the town of Cajamarca – along with Atahualpa. Upon the arrival of Pizarro and his crew, Atahualpa was not concerned since he was protected by a loyal army of thousands of men. What he did not know is that Pizarro was already aware of the Inca emperor’s powerful army, as well as the enormous amounts of silver and gold carried by Atahualpa and Inca nobility. Pizarro was also familiar with how Hernán Cortes had captured the Aztec emperor Montezuma to acquire vast riches, and Pizarro was ready to do the same.

Pizarro positioned his heavily armed conquistadors around Cajamarca. He then sent a priest, Father Vicente de Valverde, to meet with the Inca nobility. The priest showed them a Christian breviary, which they found unremarkable and threw to the ground. The Spaniards took this as a sacrilegious action on the Inca’s part and swarmed into Cajamarca’s square, massacring Inca nobility and warriors as cannons thundered. Conquistadors on horseback chased down frightened natives trying to escape. Clad in heavy steel armor, the Spanish did not have a single casualty from the battle. Atahualpa was captured, and the aftermath of the battle between the Incas and the Spanish left thousands of Inca civilians, soldiers, and nobility dead.

Pizarro met with Atahualpa, who was being kept under close watch at the Temple of the Sun. Atahualpa was permitted to speak with some of his surviving subjects as a native interpreter translated everything into Spanish for Pizarro to understand. The young emperor realized that Pizarro and his conquistadors wanted gold and silver they had quickly looted temples and other locations in Cajamarca. The Spanish told Atahualpa that he would be released for the right amount of gold and silver. This was no problem for Atahualpa, and he gave a colossal offer that stunned the Spanish – the emperor declared that he would fill a room of 22 feet in length and 17 feet in width with gold and silver up to eight feet high.

The Spanish seized on the offer and even had it notarized. Atahualpa gave word to his subjects, and porters soon delivered the fortune of gold and silver to the Spanish from all locations of the Inca empire. As Atahualpa waited for his ransom deliveries to finish arriving, his empire fell into pandemonium.

Emperor Atahualpa during the Battle of Cajamarca

Surviving Incas, who viewed their emperor as semi-divine, would not risk attacking the Spanish to rescue Atahualpa for fear he would be killed. His brother Huáscar was still alive and being held prisoner, and Atahualpa feared he would escape and become the new emperor. Atahualpa quickly ordered his brother’s death.

Atahualpa still had three huge armies in the empire under his finest generals Quisquis, Chalcuchima, and Rumiñahui. They learned their emperor had been taken prisoner by the Spanish, but they decided not to attack. Unfortunately, Chalcuchima would be deceived and captured by Francisco Pizarro’s brother, Hernando. Quisquis and Rumiñahui took up the fight against the Spanish in the following months.

By 1533, the Spanish conquistadors were hearing rumors that Rumiñahui, the best of all the Inca generals, and his giant army were preparing for a fierce battle against the Spanish. No one in the Spanish camp knew where the Inca general was. Francisco Pizarro acted on the rumors, sending men out in all directions to find the Inca army, but they found nothing. The Spanish were now concerned about an attack and viewed Atahualpa as a dangerous burden. In a panic, they tried Atahualpa for treason, claiming he had ordered Rumiñahui to rebel and executed the last free emperor of the Inca empire on July 26, 1533.

Pizarro meets with the Inca Emperor Atahualpa, 1532

Atahualpa’s ransom was paid, and it was phenomenal. The room, as he promised, was filled with gold and silver even as greedy conquistadors demolished priceless objects so that the room would fill up less quickly. The loot even included Atahualpa’s 15-karat gold, 183-pound throne, which Francisco Pizarro received as a “gift”.

Once all of the ransom was melted down, it weighed in at over 13,000 pounds of gold and over 26,000 pounds of silver. After paying the 20% tax imposed on conquest loot by the King of Spain, the 160 conquistadors received portions of Atahualpa’s ransom according to their rank. Even the lowest soldier’s portion would be worth more than $500,000 in today’s market. Francisco Pizarro, aside from his “gifts”, got 14 times the portion of his fellow conquistadors, About Education reported.

Atahualpa, Fourteenth Inca,

The saga of the Incas and their emperor Atahualpa is certainly tragic. The story lives on in factual history, but another part of it has survived as a legend. Based on cursory historical documents, some believe that the Spanish conquistadors did not receive all of Atahualpa’s ransom. According to the legend, a group of Inca natives was on its way to Cajamarca with gold and silver when they heard that Atahualpa had been executed. The general in charge decided to hide the treasure in an unidentified cave within the Andes.

Purportedly, a Spaniard named Valverde discovered it 50 years later, but it was lost again until a man named Barth Blake found it in 1886. Blake later died under dubious circumstances, and no one has seen the lost Inca treasure since. Thus, the legend continues.

Seizure of Atahualpa at Cajamarca

Is the last payment of Atahualpa’s treasure hidden in the Andes? If so, it would mean that part of his legacy still exists for experts to discover and study.

It would also be a fitting comeuppance for the long-dead conquistadors, who believed they had stolen all that the Inca empire had to offer.

Atahualpa the last Inca Emperor. Executed by the Catholic Church AFTER he was forced to convert to Christianity

How about that for some disgusting christian behaviour?

The last Inca Emperor Atahualpa was to be executed by burning on the stake. A fitting form of execution for a heathen. But than Vincent de Valle Viridi a Dominican friar offered Atahualpa a way out of this painful exectution. Convert to Christianity and all will be well. He said.

So Atahualpa did convert. Only to be executed by strangulation instead.

Playing Devil's advocate here (I know nothing of the event): by converting him to christianity before killing him, they only destroyed his mortal body while saving his immortal soul. Very thoughtful, kindhearted conquistadors, right?

I have no love for religion, but he wasn't executed by the church, he was executed by conquistadors who weren't even operating under the permission of the Spanish government (in fact, they were told not to go).

He was excited under a religious pretext. The same pretext that they used to justify conquering the new world and plundering it The Incans killed and waged war under a religious pretext as well.

I admit my the title was missleading but he was killed in the name of the christian religion after he converted to christianity. If he was killed with the blessing of the roman catholic church or not isn't really relevant. In my opinion at least.

Peruvian here. He was given a bible which he didn't understand and threw away. That was blasphemous and made Pizarro order the spaniards to attack, or so the germans would have us believe.

you are splitting the hairs of a bald man

Pizarro did actually have the explicit backing of the Spanish crown. Cortez was the one who went rogue, though he gained support later.

I do know a bit about conquistadors and no wonder I do know a little bit about their atrocious acts but nonetheless, I've never really read about this particular incident and can anyone tell me why did they kill him even though he converted to Christianity?

As long as he lived, he was a threat to their power. He was a living god to the people and killing him demoralized them to the point that they gave up all thought of rebellion.

If you have never read about the Ransom of Atahualpa, it will knock your socks off. Here's a wikipedia entry for starters: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ransom_Room (Clicking through to the article gives context. The thumbnail is weak.)

As to precisely why he was killed, there is a wide variety of opinion. My own theory, not supported by academia or experts. just my own belief: Pizarro may have learned from neighboring cultures en route to Cuzco just how brutal and ruthless the Inca could be. The Spanish were frightened by the scale and scope of Inca wealth and armed might, and were shitting their pants at the thought of a fair fight. Decapitating a theocracy where the king is a god was the safe play.

How Inca Empire ended?

Disease. Disease was a very important factor that led to the collapse of the Inca Empire. Smallpox, which was a very dangerous disease back then, arrived way before the arrival of the Spanish. It is said that this disease was brought to Peru because of European Traders.

Secondly, does the Inca Empire still exist? The Incas, an American Indian people, were originally a small tribe in the southern highlands of Peru. In less than a century, during the 1400s, they built one of the largest, most tightly controlled empires the world has ever known. Roads, walls, and irrigation works constructed by the Incas are still in use today.

Consequently, when did Inca empire end?

The fall of the Inca Empire. Conquest of the Inca Empire Map. From around 1200 when the first Inca, Manco Capac, settled in Cusco, until 1533 when the last Inca, Atahualpa, was executed the Inca civilization had grown from a group of settlers to the largest empire in Pre-Columbian America.

How did the Inca keep their empire united?

The Inca unified, strengthened, and added to their empire mostly through peaceful means (but also through conquest as well). Third, the Inca encouraged the worship of their sun god whom they called "Inti." Further, they considered the Incan king to be the "son of the sun."


  • 1526–1529 – Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro make first contact with the Inca Empire at Tumbes, the northernmost Inca stronghold along the coast
  • c. 1528 – The Inca Emperor Huayna Capac dies from European-introduced smallpox. Death sets off a civil war between his sons: Atahualpa and Huáscar
  • 1528–1529 – Pizarro returns to Spain where he is granted by the Queen of Spain the license to conquer Peru
  • 1531–1532 – Pizarro's third voyage to Peru. Spaniards form a bond with the Natives (Huancas, Chankas, Cañaris and Chachapoyas) who were under the oppression of the Inca Empire, and Pizarro includes them among his troops to face the Incas. Atahualpa is captured by Spanish.
  • 1533 – Atahualpa is executed after he orders Huáscar to be killed De Almagro arrives Pizarro submits Cuzco and installs seventeen-year-old Manco Inca as new Inca Emperor
  • 1535 – Pizarro founds the city of Lima De Almagro leaves for present-day Chile
  • 1536 – Gonzalo Pizarro steals Manco Inca's wife, Cura Olcollo. Manco rebels and surrounds Cuzco. Juan Pizarro is killed, and Inca general Quizo Yupanqui attacks Lima
  • 1537 – Almagro seizes Cuzco from Hernando and Gonzalo Pizarro. Rodrigo Orgóñez sacks Vitcos and captures Manco Inca's son, Titu Cusi. Manco escapes and flees to Vilcabamba, which became the capital of the Neo-Inca State
  • 1538 – Hernando Pizarro executes Diego de Almagro
  • 1539 – Gonzalo Pizarro invades and sacks Vilcabamba Manco Inca escapes but Francisco Pizarro executes Manco's wife, Cura Olcollo
  • 1541 – Francisco Pizarro is murdered by Diego de Almagro II and other supporters of De Almagro
  • 1544 – Manco Inca is murdered by supporters of Diego de Almagro. The Inca do not stop their revolt
  • 1572 – Viceroy of Peru, Francisco Toledo, declares war on the Neo-Inca State Vilcabamba is sacked and Túpac Amaru, the last Inca Emperor, is captured and executed in Cuzco. The Neo-Inca capital of Vilcabamba is abandoned the Spanish remove inhabitants and relocate them to the newly established Christian town of San Francisco de la Victoria de Vilcabamba[8] : xiii–xv

The civil war between Atahualpa and Huascar weakened the empire immediately prior to its struggle with the Spanish. Historians are unsure of whether a united Inca Empire could have defeated the Spanish in the long term due to factors such as the high mortality from disease and its related social disruption, and the superior military technology of the conquistadors, who possessed horses, dogs, metal armor, swords, cannons, and primitive, but effective, firearms. [9] Atahualpa appeared to be more popular with the people than his brother, and he was certainly more valued by the army, the core of which was based in the recently conquered northern province of Quito.

At the outset of the conflict, each brother controlled his respective domains, with Atahualpa secure in the north, and Huáscar controlling the capital of Cuzco and the large territory to the south, including the area around Lake Titicaca. This region had supplied large numbers of troops for Huáscar's forces. After a period of diplomatic posturing and jockeying for position, open warfare broke out. Huáscar seemed poised to bring the war to a rapid conclusion, as troops loyal to him took Atahualpa prisoner, while he was attending a festival in the city of Tumibamba. However, Atahualpa quickly escaped and returned to Quitu. There, he was able to amass what is estimated to be at least 30,000 soldiers. While Huáscar managed to muster about the same number of soldiers, they were less experienced.

Atahualpa sent his forces south under the command of two of his leading generals, Challcuchima and Quisquis, who won an uninterrupted series of victories that soon brought them to the very gates of Cuzco. On the first day of the battle for Cuzco, the forces loyal to Huáscar gained an early advantage. However, on the second day, Huáscar personally led an ill-advised "surprise" attack, of which the generals Challcuchima and Quisquis had advanced knowledge. In the ensuing battle, Huáscar was captured, and resistance completely collapsed. The victorious generals sent word north by charqui messenger to Atahualpa, who had moved south from Quite to the royal resort springs outside Cajamarca. The messenger arrived with news of the final victory on the same day that Pizarro and his small band of adventurers, together with some indigenous allies, descended from the Andes into the town of Cajamarca.

Francisco Pizarro and his brothers (Gonzalo, Juan, and Hernando) were attracted by the news of a rich and fabulous kingdom. They had left the then impoverished Extremadura, like many migrants after them. [7] : 136

There lies Peru with its riches
Here, Panama and its poverty.
Choose, each man, what best becomes a brave Castilian.

In 1529, Francisco Pizarro obtained permission from the Spanish Monarchy to conquer the land they called Peru. [7] : 133

According to historian Raúl Porras Barrenechea, Peru is not a Quechuan nor Caribbean word, but Indo-Hispanic or hybrid. Unknown to Pizarro, as he was lobbying for permission to mount an expedition, his proposed enemy was being devastated by the diseases brought to the American continents during earlier Spanish contacts.

When Pizarro arrived in Peru in 1532, he found it vastly different from when he had been there just five years before. Amid the ruins of the city of Tumbes, he tried to piece together the situation before him. From two young local boys whom he had taught how to speak Spanish in order to translate for him, Pizarro learned of the civil war and of the disease that was destroying the Inca Empire. [8]

After four long expeditions, Pizarro established the first Spanish settlement in northern Peru, calling it San Miguel de Piura. [7] : 153–154

When first spotted by the natives, Pizarro and his men were thought to be Viracocha Cuna or "gods". The Natives described Pizarro's men to the Inca. They said that capito was tall with a full beard and was completely wrapped in clothing. The Natives described the men's swords and how they killed sheep with them. The men did not eat human flesh, but rather sheep, lamb, duck, pigeons, and deer, and cooked the meat. Atahualpa was fearful of what the white men were capable of. If they were runa quicachac or "destroyers of peoples," then he should flee. If they were Viracocha Cuna Runa allichac or "gods who are benefactors of the people," then he should not flee, but welcome them. [ citation needed ] The messengers went back to Tangarala, and Atahualpa sent Cinquinchara, an Orejon warrior, to the Spanish to serve as an interpreter.

After traveling with the Spanish, Cinquinchara returned to Atahualpa they discussed whether or not the Spanish men were gods. Cinquinchara decided they were men because he saw them eat, drink, dress, and have relations with women. He saw them produce no miracles. Cinquinchara informed Atahualpa that they were small in number, about 170–180 men, and had bound the Native captives with "iron ropes". When Atahualpa asked what to do about the strangers, Cinquinchara said that they should be killed because they were evil thieves who took whatever they wanted, and were supai cuna or "devils". He recommended trapping the men inside of their sleeping quarters and burning them to death. [10]

After his victory and the capture of his brother Huáscar, Atahualpa was fasting in the Inca baths outside Cajamarca. Pizarro and his men reached that city on 15 November 1532.

Pizarro sent Hernando de Soto to the Inca leader's camp. Soto rode to meet Atahualpa on his horse, an animal that Atahualpa had never seen before. With one of his young interpreters, Soto read a prepared speech to Atahualpa telling him that they had come as servants of God to teach them the truth about God's word. [11] He said he was speaking to them so that they might

"lay the foundation of concord, brotherhood, and perpetual peace that should exist between us, so that you may receive us under your protection and hear the divine law from us and all your people may learn and receive it, for it will be the greatest honor, advantage, and salvation to them all."

Additionally, they invited the Incan leader to visit Pizarro at his quarters along the Cajamarca plaza. When De Soto noticed Atahualpa's interest in his horse, he put on a display of "excellent horsemanship" in close proximity. Atahualpa displayed hospitality by serving refreshments. [7] : 166–170 [12]

Atahualpa responded only after Francisco Pizarro's brother, Hernando Pizarro, arrived. He replied with what he had heard from his scouts, saying that Spanish were killing and enslaving countless numbers on the coast. Pizarro denied the report and Atahualpa, with limited information, reluctantly let the matter go. At the end of their meeting, the men agreed to meet the next day at Cajamarca. [8]

The next morning, on 16 November 1532, Pizarro had arranged an ambuscade around the Cajamarca plaza, where they were to meet. At this point, Pizarro had in total 168 men under his command: 106 on foot and 62 on horses. When Atahualpa arrived with about 6,000 unarmed followers, Friar Vincente de Valverde and the interpreter Felipillo met them and proceeded to "expound the doctrines of the true faith" (requerimiento) and seek his tribute as a vassal of King Charles. The unskilled translator likely contributed to problems in communication. The friar offered Atahualpa the Bible as the authority of what he had just stated. Atahualpa stated, "I will be no man's tributary." [7] : 173–177

Pizarro urged attack, starting the Battle of Cajamarca. The battle began with a shot from a cannon and the battle cry "Santiago!" [12] The Spaniards unleashed volleys of gunfire at the vulnerable mass of Incas and surged forward in a concerted action. Pizarro also used cavalry charges against the Inca forces, which stunned them in combination with gunfire. [7] : 177–179 Many of the guns used by the Spaniards were however hard to use in close combat. The effect was devastating, the shocked Incas offered such feeble resistance that the battle has often been labeled a massacre, with the Inca losing 2,000 dead and Spanish having just 1 soldier wounded.

The majority of Atahualpa's troops were in the Cuzco region along with Quisquis and Challcuchima, the two generals he trusted the most. This was a major disadvantage for the Inca. Their undoing also resulted from a lack of self-confidence, and a desire to make public demonstration of fearlessness and godlike command of situation. [12] The main view is that the Inca were eventually defeated due to inferior weapons, 'open battle' tactics, disease, internal unrest, the bold tactics of the Spanish, and the capture of their emperor. While Spanish armour was very effective against most of the Andean weapons, it was not impenetrable to maces, clubs, or slings. [13] [14] Later, most natives adapted in 'guerrilla fashion' by only shooting at the legs of the conquistadors if they happened to be unarmored. [15] However, ensuing hostilities such as the Mixtón Rebellion, Chichimeca War, and Arauco War would require that the conquistadors ally with friendly tribes in these later expeditions.

Though the historical accounts relating to the circumstances vary, the true Spanish motives for the attack seemed to be a desire for loot and flat-out impatience. The Inca likely did not adequately understand the conquistadors' demands. [16] And, of course, Pizarro knew they did not have the slightest chance against the Inca army unless they captured the Emperor.

By February 1533, Almagro had joined Pizarro in Cajamarca with an additional 150 men with 50 horses. [7] : 186–194

After Atahualpa was captured at the massacre at Cajamarca, he was treated with respect, allowed his wives to join him, and the Spanish soldiers taught him the game of chess. [17] : 215,234 During Atahualpa's captivity, the Spanish, although greatly outnumbered, forced him to order his generals to back down by threatening to kill him if he did not. According to the Spanish envoy's demands, Atahualpa offered to fill a large room with gold and promised twice that amount in silver. While Pizarro ostensibly accepted this offer and allowed the gold to pile up, he had no intention of releasing the Inca he needed Atahualpa's influence over his generals and the people in order to maintain the peace. The treasure began to be delivered from Cuzco on 20 December 1532 and flowed steadily from then on. By 3 May 1533 Pizarro received all the treasure he had requested it was melted, refined, and made into bars. [12] Hernando Pizarro went to gather gold and silver from the temples in Pachacamac in January 1533, and on his return in March, [17] : 237 captured Chalcuchimac in the Jauja Valley. Francisco Pizzaro sent a similar expedition to Cuzco, bringing back many gold plates from the Temple of the Sun.

The question eventually came up of what to do with Atahualpa both Pizarro and Soto were against killing him, but the other Spaniards were loud in their demands for death. False interpretations from the interpreter Felipillo made the Spaniards paranoid. They were told that Atahualpa had ordered secret attacks and his warriors were hidden in the surrounding area. Soto went with a small force to scout for the hidden army, but the trial of Atahualpa was held in his absence. Among the charges were polygamy, incestuous marriage, and idolatry, all frowned upon in Catholicism but common in Inca culture and religion.

The men who were against Atahualpa's conviction and murder argued that he should be judged by King Charles since he was the sovereign prince. Atahualpa agreed to accept baptism to avoid being burned at the stake and in the hopes of one day rejoining his army and killing the Spanish he was baptized as Francisco. On 29 August 1533 Atahualpa was garrotted and died a Christian. He was buried with Christian rites in the church of San Francisco at Cajamarca, but was soon disinterred. His body was taken, probably at his prior request, to its final resting place in Quito. Upon de Soto's return, he was furious he had found no evidence of any secret gathering of Atahualpa's warriors. [12]

Pizarro advanced with his army of 500 Spaniards toward Cuzco, accompanied by Chalcuchimac. The latter was burned alive in the Jauja Valley, accused of secret communication with Quizquiz, and organizing resistance. Manco Inca Yupanqui joined Pizarro after the death of Túpac Huallpa. Pizarro's force entered the heart of the Tawantinsuyu on 15 November 1533. [7] : 191,210,216

Benalcázar, Pizarro's lieutenant and fellow Extremaduran, had already departed from San Miguel with 140 foot soldiers and a few horses on his conquering mission to Ecuador. At the foot of Mount Chimborazo, near the modern city of Riobamba (Ecuador) he met and defeated the forces of the great Inca warrior Rumiñawi with the aid of Cañari tribesmen who served as guides and allies to the conquering Spaniards. Rumiñahui fell back to Quito, and, while in pursuit of the Inca army, Benalcázar was joined by five hundred men led by Guatemalan Governor Pedro de Alvarado. Greedy for gold, Alvarado had set sail for the south without the crown's authorization, landed on the Ecuadorian coast, and marched inland to the Sierra. Finding Quito empty of its treasures, Alvarado soon joined the combined Spanish force. Alvarado agreed to sell his fleet of twelve ships, his forces, plus arms and ammunition, and returned to Guatemala. [7] : 224–227 [17] : 268–284

After Atahualpa's execution, Pizarro installed Atahualpa's brother, Túpac Huallpa, as a puppet Inca ruler, but he soon died unexpectedly, leaving Manco Inca Yupanqui in power. He began his rule as an ally of the Spanish and was respected in the southern regions of the empire, but there was still much unrest in the north near Quito where Atahualpa's generals were amassing troops. Atahualpa's death meant that there was no hostage left to deter these northern armies from attacking the invaders. Led by Atahualpa's generals Rumiñahui, Zope-Zupahua and Quisquis, the native armies were finally defeated, effectively ending any organized rebellion in the north of the empire. [7] : 221–223,226

Manco Inca initially had good relations with Francisco Pizarro and several other Spanish conquistadors. However, in 1535 he was left in Cuzco under the control of Pizarro's brothers, Juan and Gonzalo, who so mistreated Manco Inca that he ultimately rebelled. Under the pretense of recovering a statue of pure gold in the nearby Yucay valley, Manco was able to escape Cuzco. [7] : 235–237

Manco Inca hoped to use the disagreement between Almagro and Pizarro to his advantage and attempted the recapture of Cuzco starting in April 1536. The siege of Cuzco was waged until the following spring, and during that time Manco's armies managed to wipe out four relief columns sent from Lima, but was ultimately unsuccessful in its goal of routing the Spaniards from the city. The Inca leadership did not have the full support of all its subject peoples and furthermore, the degrading state of Inca morale coupled with the superior Spanish siege weapons soon made Manco Inca realize his hope of recapturing Cuzco was failing. Manco Inca eventually withdrew to Tambo. [7] : 239–247

Archaeological evidence of the rebellion incident exists. The remains of about 70 men, women, and adolescents were found in the path of a planned expressway near Lima in 2007. Forensic evidence suggests that the natives were killed by European weapons, probably during the uprising in 1536. [18]

After the Spanish regained control of Cuzco, Manco Inca and his armies retreated to the fortress at Ollantaytambo where he, for a time, successfully launched attacks against Pizarro based at Cuzco and even managed to defeat the Spanish in an open battle. [7] : 247–249

When it became clear that defeat was imminent, Manco Inca retreated further to the mountainous region [7] : 259 of Vilcabamba and established the small Neo-Inca State, where Manco Inca and his successors continued to hold some power for several more decades. His sun, Túpac Amaru, was the last Inca. After deadly confrontations, he was murdered by the Spanish in 1572.

In total, the conquest took about forty years to complete. Many Inca attempts to regain the empire had occurred, but none had been successful. Thus the Spanish conquest was achieved through relentless force, and deception, aided by factors like smallpox and a great communication and cultural divide. The Spaniards destroyed much of the Incan culture and introduced the Spanish culture to the native population.

A struggle for power resulted in a long civil war between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro in which Almagro was killed. Almagro's loyal followers and his descendants later avenged his death by killing Pizarro in 1541. This was done inside the palace of Francisco Pizarro in a fight to the death by these assassins, most of which were former soldiers of Diego de Almagro who were stripped of title and belongings after his death. [19]

Despite the war, the Spaniards did not neglect the colonizing process. Spanish royal authority on these territories was consolidated by the creation of an Audiencia Real, a type of appellate court. In January 1535, Lima was founded, from which the political and administrative institutions were to be organized. In 1542, the Spanish created the Viceroyalty of New Castile, that shortly after would be called Viceroyalty of Peru. Nevertheless, the Viceroyalty of Peru was not organized until the arrival of a later Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1572. Toledo ended the indigenous Neo-Inca State in Vilcabamba, executing the Inca Túpac Amaru. He promoted economic development using commercial monopoly and built up the extraction from the silver mines of Potosí, using slavery based on the Inca institution of forced labor for mandatory public service called mita.

The integration of Spanish culture into Peru was carried out not only by Pizarro and his other captains, but also by the many Spanish who also came to Peru to exploit its riches and inhabit its land. These included many different kinds of immigrants such as Spanish merchants, peasants, artisans, and Spanish women. Another element that the Spanish brought with them were African slaves to work alongside captive Incas for use in labor with things such as agriculture and mining for silver. [20] These people all brought with them their own pieces of Spanish culture to integrate into Peruvian society.

The arrival of the Spanish also had an unexpected impact on the land itself, recent research points out that Spanish conquest of the Inca altered Peru's shoreline. [21] Before the Spaniards arrived, inhabitants of the arid northern Peruvian coast clad massive sand dune–like ridges with a -likely- accidental form of “armor”, millions of discarded mollusk shells, which protected the ridges from erosion for nearly 4700 years prior to the Spanish arrival, and produced a vast corrugated landscape that is visible from space. This incidental landscape protection came to a swift end, however, after diseases brought by Spanish colonists decimated the local population and after colonial officials resettled the survivors inland, without humans to create the protective covering, newly formed beach ridges simply eroded and vanished. [22] According to Archaeologist Torben Rick, parts of the northern coast of Peru may look completely natural and pristine, “but if you rewind the clock a couple of millennia, you see that people were actively shaping this land by creating beach ridge systems". [23]

Effects of the conquest on the people of Peru Edit

The long-term effects of the arrival of the Spanish on the population of South America were simply catastrophic. While this was the case for every group of Native-Americans invaded by Europeans during this time period, the Incan population suffered an exceptionally dramatic and rapid decline following contact. It is estimated that parts of the empire, notably the Central Andes, suffered a population decline ratio of 58:1 during the years of 1520–1571. [24]

The single greatest cause of the decimation of native populations was Old World infectious diseases, carried by colonists and conquistadors. As these were new to the natives, they had no acquired immunity and suffered very high rates of death. More died of disease than any army or armed conflict. [25] As the Inca did not have as strong a writing tradition as the Aztec or Maya, it is difficult for historians to estimate population decline or any events after conquest. But, it is sometimes argued, and equally disputed among scholars. that the Inca began to contract these diseases several years before the Spanish appeared in the region, as it was possibly carried to their empire by traders and travelers. The outbreak, argued to be hemorrhagic smallpox, reached the Andes in 1524. While numbers are unavailable, Spanish records indicate that the population was so devastated by disease that they could hardly resist the foreign forces.

Historians differ as to whether the illness of the 1520s was smallpox a minority of scholars claim that the epidemic was due to an indigenous illness called Carrion's disease. In any case, a 1981 study by N. D. Cook the shows that the Andes suffered from three separate population declines during colonization. The first was of 30–50 percent during the first outbreak of smallpox. When a measles outbreak occurred, there was another decline of 25–30 percent. Finally, when smallpox and measles epidemics occurred together, which occurred from 1585 to 1591, a decline of 30–60 percent occurred. Collectively these declines amounted to a decline of 93 percent from the pre-contact population in the Andes region. [26] Mortality was particularly high among children, ensuring that the impact of the epidemics would extend to the next generation. [4]

Beyond the devastation of the local populations by disease, they suffered considerable enslavement, pillaging and destruction from warfare. The Spanish took thousands of women from the local natives to use as servants and concubines. As Pizarro and his men took over portions of South America, they plundered and enslaved countless people. Some local populations entered into vassalage willingly, to defeat the Inca. Native groups such as the Huanca, Cañari, Chanka and Chachapoya fought alongside the Spanish as they opposed Inca rule. The basic policy of the Spanish towards local populations was that voluntary vassalage would yield safety and coexistence, while continued resistance would result in more deaths and destruction. [27]

Another significant effect on the people in South America was the spread of Christianity. As Pizarro and the Spanish subdued the continent and brought it under their control, they forcefully converted many to Christianity, claiming to have educated them in the ways of the "one true religion." [28] [29] With the depopulation of the local populations along with the capitulation of the Inca Empire, the Spanish missionary work after colonization began was able to continue unimpeded. It took just a generation for the entire continent to be under Christian influence. [6]

Peter Shaffer's play The Royal Hunt of the Sun (1964) dramatizes the conquest of the Incas. In the play, Pizarro, Atahualpa, Valverde and other historical figures appear as characters.

The conquest is also used as a starting point for the Matthew Reilly novel Temple, where the siege of Cusco is used. Many historical figures are mentioned, especially Pizarro who is mentioned as the pursuer of the protagonist.

The Inca are featured in the third Campaign in Age of Empires 3, having a Lost City hidden in the Andes. They are also in the Multiplayer, found primarily in the areas making up Chile and Argentina.

The conquest is parodied in The Simpsons TV series, in the episode "Lost Verizon", written by John Frink. [30]

Pizarro and his fellow conquistadors feature as antagonists in the 1982 animated serial The Mysterious Cities of Gold.

I wish Your Majesty to understand the motive that moves me to make this statement is the peace of my conscience and because of the guilt I share. For we have destroyed by our evil behaviour such a government as was enjoyed by these natives. They were so free of crime and greed, both men and women, that they could leave gold or silver worth a hundred thousand pesos in their open house. So that when they discovered that we were thieves and men who sought to force their wives and daughters to commit sin with them, they despised us. But now things have come to such a pass in offence of God, owing to the bad example we have set them in all things, that these natives from doing no evil have turned into people who can do no good.. I beg God to pardon me, for I am moved to say this, seeing that I am the last to die of the Conquistadors."

When has it ever happened, either in ancient or modern times, that such amazing exploits have been achieved? Over so many climes, across so many seas, over such distances by land, to subdue the unseen and unknown? Whose deeds can be compared with those of Spain? Not even the ancient Greeks and Romans.

When I set out to write for the people of today and of the future, about the conquest and discovery that our Spaniards made here in Peru, I could not but reflect that I was dealing with the greatest matters one could possibly write about in all of creation as far as secular history goes. Where have men ever seen the things they have seen here? And to think that God should have permitted something so great to remain hidden from the world for so long in history, unknown to men, and then let it be found, discovered and won all in our own time!

The houses are more than two hundred paces in length, and very well built, being surrounded by strong walls, three times the height of a man. The roofs are covered with straw and wood, resting on the walls. The interiors are divided into eight rooms, much better built than any we had seen before. Their walls are of very well cut stones and each lodging is surrounded by its masonry wall with doorways, and has its fountain of water in an open court, conveyed from a distance by pipes, for the supply of the house. In front of the plaza, towards the open country, a stone fortress is connected with it by a staircase leading from the square to the fort. Towards the open country there is another small door, with a narrow staircase, all within the outer wall of the plaza. Above the town, on the mountain side, where the houses commence, there is another fort on a hill, the greater part of which is hewn out of the rock. This is larger than the other, and surrounded by three walls, rising spirally.

Warfare and Weapons

A resilient empire, the Inca Empire maintained what was the most powerful military at that time. The commander in chief of the Inca army was the Sapa Inca. The military was made up of soldiers who came from different ethnic groups, and anyone could be drafted into military service at any time. No part of the empire escaped contribution to the military.

Weapons were mainly arrows, clubs, throwers, spears, maces with heads made from bronze or copper, etc. The massive size of the Inca army also worked to their advantage. The Incas fought several battles, and one of the most remarkable ones is the battle they fought with the Mapuches.

Pizarro & the Fall of the Inca Empire

In 1533 CE the Inca Empire was the largest in the world. It extended across western South America from Quito in the north to Santiago in the south. However, the lack of integration of conquered peoples into that empire, combined with a civil war to claim the Inca throne and a devastating epidemic of European-brought diseases, meant that the Incas were ripe for the taking. Francisco Pizarro arrived in Peru with an astonishingly small force of men whose only interest was treasure. With superior weapons and tactics, and valuable assistance from locals keen to rebel, the Spanish swept away the Incas in little more than a generation. The arrival of the visitors to the New World and consequent collapse of the Inca Empire was the greatest humanitarian disaster to ever befall the Americas.

The Inca Empire

The Incas themselves called their empire Tawantinsuyo (or Tahuantinsuyu) meaning 'Land of the Four Quarters' or 'The Four Parts Together'. Cuzco, the capital, was considered the navel of the world, and radiating out were highways and sacred sighting lines (ceques) to each quarter: Chinchaysuyu (north), Antisuyu (east), Collasuyu (south), and Cuntisuyu (west). Spreading across ancient Ecuador, Peru, northern Chile, Bolivia, upland Argentina, and southern Colombia and stretching 5,500 km (3,400 miles) north to south, a mere 40,000 Incas governed a huge territory with some 10 million subjects speaking over 30 different languages.


The Incas believed they had a divine right to rule over conquered peoples as in their mythology they were brought into existence at Tiwanaku (Tiahuanaco) by the sun god Inti. As a consequence, they regarded themselves as the chosen few, the 'Children of the Sun', and the Inca ruler was Inti's representative and embodiment on earth. In practical terms, this meant that all speakers of the Inca language Quechua (or Runasimi) were given privileged status, and this noble class then dominated all the important political, religious, and administrative roles within the empire.

The rise of the Inca Empire had been spectacularly quick. Although Cuzco had become a significant centre some time at the beginning of the Late Intermediate Period (1000-1400 CE), the process of regional unification only began from the late 14th century CE and significant conquest in the 15th century CE. The Empire was still young when it was to meet its greatest challenge.


Pizarro & the Conquistadores

Francisco Pizarro and his partner Diego de Almagro were both in their mid-50s, from humble backgrounds, and neither had won any renown in their native Spain. Adventurers and treasure-seekers, they led a small group of Spanish adventurers eager to find the golden treasures their compatriots had found in the Aztec world of Mexico a decade earlier. Sailing down the Pacific coast from Panama in two small caravel merchant ships, they searched on in Colombia and the Ecuadorian coast but could not find the gold they so desperately sought. This was Pizarro's third such expedition, and it seemed his very last chance for fame and glory.

Then, in 1528 CE, one Bartolomé Ruiz (the expedition's pilot) captured a raft off the coast which was full of treasure. There might, after all, be something worth exploring deeper in South America. Pizarro used the discovery as a means to secure the right from the Spanish king Charles V to be governor of any new territory discovered with the Crown getting its usual one-fifth of any treasure found. With a force of 168 men, which included 138 veterans, 27 cavalry horses, artillery, and one friar, a Father Valverde, Pizarro headed for the Andes.

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In 1531 CE, making slow and careful progress, he reached and conquered Coaque on the Ecuadorian coast and waited for reinforcements. These arrived the following year and swelled the Spanish force to 260 men of which 62 were cavalry. The force moved on down the coast to Tumbes, pillaging as they went and putting the natives to the sword. Moving on again they began to see the tell-tale signs of a prosperous civilization – storehouses and well-built roads. They formed a new settlement at San Miguel (modern Piura), and by the end of the year 1532 CE Pizarro was ready to make first contact with the rulers of what seemed a huge and wealthy empire.

Trouble in the Empire

When the foreign invaders arrived in Peru the Incas were already beset by some serious internal problems. As we have seen, their massive empire was a politically fragile and loose integration of conquered states whose subservience came from Inca military dominance and the taking of hostages - both of important persons and important religious artefacts - to ensure a continued, if uneasy, compliance to Cuzco's rule. Unpopular taxes were extracted in the form of goods or service (military and general labour), and many communities were forcibly resettled to other parts of the empire or had to welcome new communities of people more loyal to their overlords.


The Incas also imposed their religion on conquered peoples, even if they allowed the continued worship of some gods provided they were given a lesser status to Inti. The Incas even imposed their own art across the empire as a way to visually impress exactly who was the ruling class. There were some benefits to Inca rule – a more regulated food supply, better roads and communications, the possibility of Inca military protection, and occasional state-sponsored feasts. All in all, though, the lot of a conquered area was such that, in many cases, when a rival power threatened Inca rule, loyalty to preserve the empire was somewhat lacking. Some areas, especially in the northern territories were constantly in rebellion, and an ongoing war in Ecuador necessitated the establishment of a second Inca capital at Quito.

Perhaps more significantly than this unrest, when Pizarro arrived on the scene the Incas were fighting amongst themselves. On the death of the Inca ruler Wayna Qhapaq in 1528 CE, two of his sons, Waskar and Atahualpa, battled in a damaging six-year civil war for control of their father's empire. Atahualpa finally won but the empire was still beset by factions yet to be fully reconciled to his victory.

Finally, if all those factors were not enough to give the Spanish a serious advantage, the Incas were at that time hit by an epidemic of European diseases, such as smallpox, which had spread from central America even faster than the European invaders themselves. Such a disease killed Wayna Qhapaq in 1528 CE and in some places a staggering 65-90% of the population would die from this invisible enemy.


Pizarro Meets Atahualpa

On Friday, 15th of November, 1532 CE, the Spaniards approached the Inca town of Cajamarca in the highlands of Peru. Pizarro sent word that he wished to meet the Inca king, there enjoying the local springs and basking in his recent victory over Waskar. Atahualpa agreed to finally meet the much-rumoured bearded white men who were known to have been fighting their way from the coast for some time. Confidently surrounded by his 80,000 strong army Atahualpa seems not to have seen any threat from such a small enemy force, and he made Pizarro wait until the next day.

The first formal meeting between Pizarro and Atahualpa involved a few speeches, a drink together while they watched some Spanish horsemanship, and not much else. Both sides went away planning to capture or kill the other party at the first available opportunity. The very next day Pizarro, using the conveniently labyrinth-like architecture of the Inca town to his advantage, set his men in ambush to await Atahualpa's arrival in the main square. When the royal troop arrived, Pizarro fired his small canons, and then his men, wearing armour, attacked on horseback. In the ensuing battle, where firearms were mismatched against spears, arrows, slings, and clubs, 7,000 Incas were killed against zero Spanish losses. Atahualpa was hit a blow on the head and captured alive.

Atahualpa's Ransom & Death

Either held for ransom by Pizarro or even offering a ransom himself, Atahualpa's safe return to his people was promised if a room measuring 6.2 x 4.8 metres were filled with all the treasures the Incas could provide up to a height of 2.5 m. This was done, and the chamber was piled high with gold objects from jewellery to idols. The room was then filled twice again with silver objects. The whole task took eight months, and the value today of the accumulated treasures would have been well over $50 million. Meanwhile, Atahualpa continued to run his empire from captivity, and Pizarro sent exploratory expeditions to Cuzco and Pachacamac while he awaited reinforcements from Panama, enticed by sending a quantity of gold to hint at the wealth on offer. Then, having got his ransom, Pizarro summarily tried and executed Atahualpa anyway, on the 26th of July, 1533 CE. The Inca king was originally sentenced to death by burning at the stake, but after the monarch agreed to be baptised, this was commuted to death by strangulation.


Some of Pizarro's men thought this was the worst possible response, and Pizarro received criticism from the Spanish king for treating a foreign sovereign so shabbily, but the wily Spanish leader had seen just how subservient the Incas were to their king, even when he was held captive by the enemy. As a living god, Pizarro perhaps knew that only the king's death could bring about the total defeat of the Incas. Indeed, even in death, the Inca king exerted an influence over his people for the severed head of Atahualpa gave birth to the enduring Inkarri legend. For the Incas believed that one day the head would grow a new body and their ruler would return, defeat the Spanish, and restore the natural order of things. Crucially, the period of Atahualpa's captivity had shown the Spanish that there were deep factions in the Inca Empire and these could be exploited to their own advantage.

The Fall of Cuzco

Having cut off the snake's head, the Spanish then set about conquering Cuzco with its vast golden treasures which were reported by Hernando Pizarro following his reconnaissance expedition there. After that, they could deal with the rest of the empire. The first battle was with troops loyal to Atahualpa near Hatun Xauxa, but the Spaniards were helped by the local population delighted to see the back of the Incas. The Spaniards were given supplies from the local Inca storehouses, and Pizarro established his new capital there. Local assistance and the plundering of the Inca storehouses would become a familiar pattern which aided Pizarro for the remainder of his conquest.

The invaders next defeated an army in retreat at Vilcaswaman but did not have everything their own way and even suffered a military defeat when an advance force was attacked by surprise on their way to Cuzco. The next day the Old World visitors resumed their unstoppable march, though, and swept all before them. A brief resistance at Cuzco was overcome, and the city fell into Pizarro's hands with a whimper on 15th of November, 1533 CE. The treasures of the city and the golden wonders of the Coricancha temple were ruthlessly stripped and melted down.

Pizarro's first attempt to install a puppet ruler - Thupa Wallpa, the younger brother of Waskar - failed to restore any sort of political order, and he soon died of illness. A second puppet ruler was installed – Manqo Inka, another son of Wayna Qhapaq. While he ensured the state did not collapse from within, Pizarro and his men left to pacify the rest of the empire and see what other treasures they could find.

Conquering the Empire

The Spanish were severely tested in the northern territories, where armies led by Ruminawi and Quizquiz held out, but these too capitulated from internal strife and their leaders were killed. The Europeans' relentless conquest could not be answered. In this, they were greatly helped by the Inca mode of warfare which was highly ritualised. Such tactics as deceit, ambush, and subterfuge were unknown to them in warfare, as were changing tactics mid-battle and seizing opportunities of weakness in the enemy as they arose. In addition, Inca warriors were highly dependent on their officers, and if these conspicuous individuals fell in battle, a whole army could quickly collapse in panicked retreat. These factors and the superior weaponry of the Europeans meant the Incas had very little chance of defending a huge empire already difficult to manage. The Incas did quickly learn to fight back and deal with cavalry, for example by flooding areas under attack or fighting on rough terrain, but their spears, slings, and clubs could not match bullets, crossbows, swords, and steel armour. The Spaniards also had nearly half the population of the old empire fighting for them as old rivalries and factions re-emerged.

The Spanish soon found out that the vast geographical spread of their new empire and its inherent difficulties in communication and control (even if their predecessors had built an excellent road system) meant that they faced the same management problems as the Incas. Rebellions and defections spread all over, and even Manqo Inka rebelled and formed his own army to try and win real power for himself. Cuzco and the new Spanish stronghold of Cuidad de Los Reyes (Lima) were besieged by two huge Inca armies, but the Spaniards held out until the attackers had to retreat. The Inca armies were largely composed of farmers, and they could not abandon their harvest without starving their communities. The siege was raised again the next year, but once more the Spanish resisted, and when they killed the army leaders in a deliberately targeted attack, resistance to the new order ebbed away. Manqo Inka was forced to flee south where he set up an Inca enclave at Vilcabamba. He and his successors would resist for another four decades. Finally, in 1572 CE, a Spanish force led by Viceroy Toledo captured the Inca king Thupa Amaru, took him back to Cuzco, and executed him. The last Inca ruler was gone and with him any hope of restoring their once great empire.


Atahualpa, following victory in the war with his brother, had killed historians and destroyed the Inca quipu records in what was intended to be a total renewal, what the Incas called a pachakuti or 'turning over of time and space', an epoch-changing event which the Incas believed periodically occurred through the ages. How ironic then, that Atahualpa was to suffer a pachakuti himself and the new rulers would similarly loot, burn, and destroy every vestige of Andean culture they could find. The arrival of the Old World into the New turned it upside down. Nothing would ever be the same again.

The Spanish, after decades of their own internal problems, which included the murder of Pizarro, eventually established a stable colonial government in 1554 CE. For the Andean people, their way of life, which had stretched back millennia despite the Inca interruption, would be challenged again by the new epoch. These were the lucky ones, though, as by 1570 CE 50% of the pre-Columbian Andean population had been wiped out. For those ordinary people who survived the ravages of war and disease, there was to be no respite from a rapacious overlord once again eager to steal their wealth and impose on them a foreign religion.

Watch the video: BBC Conquistadors 2of4 The Conquest of the Incas Full Documentary Films (May 2022).