Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire

Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire

The Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas. This historic process of military conquest was made by Spanish conquistadores and their native allies. After years of preliminary exploration and military skirmishes, 169 Spanish soldiers under Francisco Pizarro and their native allies ambushed the Sapa Inca Atahualpa (emperor of the Inca Empire) and captured him in the 1532 Battle of Cajamarca. It was the first step in a long campaign that took decades of fighting to subdue the mightiest empire in the Americas. In subsequent years Spain extended its rule over the Empire.


The Inca Empire at the time of the Spanish arrival

When the Spanish arrived at the borders of the Inca Empire in 1528, the empire spanned a considerable distance.[1] Extending southward from the Ancs Maya (meaning Blue River) which is now known as the Patia River in southern Colombia to the Maule River in Chile, and eastward from the Pacific Ocean to the edge of the Amazonian jungles, the empire covered some of the most mountainous terrain on earth. In less than a century the empire had grown in extent from about 155,000 sq mi/400,000 km2 in 1448, to 690,000 sq mi/1,800,000 km2 (or about the size of the eastern seaboard of the United States) in 1528, just before the arrival of the Spaniards. This vast area of land varied greatly in both culture and in climate. Because of the greatly varying cultures and geography, many areas of the empire were left under local leaders, who were watched and monitored by Inca officials. However, under the administrative mechanisms established by the Incas, all parts of the empire answered to, and were ultimately under the direct control of, the Emperor.[2] Scholars estimate that the population of the Inca Empire probably numbered over 17,000,000.[3]

Some scholars[who?] believe that while the Spanish conquest was undoubtedly the proximate cause of the collapse of the Inca Empire, it may very well have been past its peak and in the process of decline. In 1528, Emperor Huayna Capac (Young Lord) ruled the Inca Empire (or as the Inca called it, Tahuatinsuyu, or the "Land of the Four Quarters", which referred to the four major administrative areas into which the empire was divided). He could trace his lineage back to a "stranger king" named Manco Cápac, the mythical founder of the Inca clan, who supposedly emerged from a cave in a region called Pacariqtambo.

More importantly, Huayna Capac was the son of the previous ruler, Túpac Inca, and the grandson of Pachacuti, the Emperor who had begun the dramatic expansion by conquest of the Inca Empire from its base in the area around Cuzco. On his accession to the throne, Huayna Capac had continued the policy of expansion by conquest by bringing Inca armies north into what is today Ecuador. While he also had to put down a number of rebellions during the course of his reign, by the time of his death his legitimacy was as unquestioned as was the reality of Inca power. Expansion had created problems, however. Many parts of the empire maintained their cultural identity, and were at best restive participants in the imperial project. The large extent of the empire, the extremely difficult terrain of much of it, and the fact that all communication and travel had to take place on foot, seems to have caused increasing difficulty in administering the empire effectively.

Among the most important aspects of Huayna Capac's reign were his sons. While he had many legitimate and illegitimate children (legitimate meaning born of his sister-wife), two sons are historically important. The first was Prince Túpac Cusi Hualpa, also known as Huáscar, whose mother was Coya (meaning Empress) Mama Rahua Occllo. The second was Atahualpa, an illegitimate son who was likely born of a daughter of the last independent King of Quitu, one of the states conquered by Huayna Capac during the great expanse of the Inca Empire.[3] These two sons would play pivotal roles in the final years of the Inca Empire.

Pizarro and his men were greatly aided in their enterprise by the fact that they arrived when the Inca Empire was in the midst of a war of succession between princes Huáscar and Atahualpa. Atahualpa seems to have spent more time with Huayna Capac during the years when he was in the north with the army conquering Ecuador. Atahualpa was thus closer to, and had better relations with the army and its leading generals. When both Huayna Capac and his eldest son and designated heir, Ninan Cuyochic, died suddenly in 1528 from what was probably smallpox, a disease introduced by the Spaniards into the Americas during their conquest of Mexico, the question of who would succeed as emperor was thrown open as Huayna had died before he could nominate the new heir. At the time of Huayna Capac's death Huáscar was in the capital Cuzco, while Atahualpa was in Quitu with the main body of the Inca army. Huáscar had himself proclaimed Sapa Inca (i.e. "Only Emperor") in Cuzco, but the army declared its loyalty to Atahualpa. The resulting dispute led to the Inca Civil War. (For a discussion of Inca population, see Inca Empire.)

Chronology of events through the last years of the Inca Empire

  • 1526–1529 – Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro make first contact with Inca Empire at Tumbes, the last Inca stronghold in the North
  • 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, Atahualpa captured by Spaniards
  • 1533 – Atahualpa is executed; Almagro arrives; Pizarro captures Cuzco and installs seventeen year old Manco Inca as new Inca emperor
  • 1535 – Pizarro founds the city of Lima; Almagro leaves for 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 Orgonez sacks Vitcos and captures Manco Inca's son, Titu Cusi. Manco escapes and flees to Vilcabamba, the new Inca capital
  • 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 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 Vilcabamba; Vilcabamba is sacked and Túpac Amaru, the last Inca emperor, is captured and executed in Cuzco. The Inca capital of Vilcabamba is abandoned; the Spaniards remove inhabitants and relocate them to the newly established Christian town of San Francisco de la Victoria de Vilcabamba.[4]

Beginning of the conflict

The Civil War between Huáscar and Atahualpa would weaken (and perhaps more importantly, distract) the empire immediately prior to its struggle with the Spanish, although it is unclear how much of a difference a united Inca Empire would have made in the long term due to factors such as disease, and to the fact that the Inca military technology was vastly inferior to that of the Spaniards, who possessed horses, armor, swords,cannons, and primitive, but effective, firearms.[5] It appears that of the two brothers, Atahualpa wacs probably more popular with the people, and certainly so with the army, the core of which was based in the recently conquered northern province of Quitu. 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 area to the south, including the area around Lake Titicaca that supplied large numbers of troops for his forces. After a period of diplomatic posturing and jockeying for position open warfare soon broke out. Huáscar seemed poised to bring the war to a rapid conclusion, when 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 thirty thousand soldiers. While Huáscar managed to muster about the same number of soldiers, his soldiers were less experienced as soldiers. 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, knowledge of which had been obtained by Challcuchima and Quisquis. In the ensuing battle Huáscar was captured, and resistance completely collapsed. The victorious generals immediately sent word north by chasqui messenger to Atahualpa, who had moved south from Quitu to the royal resort springs outside Cajamarca. The messenger arrived with news of the final victory on the same day Pizarro and his small band of adventurers, together with some Indian allies, descended from the Andes into the town of Cajamarca.

Arrival of Pizarro

Francisco Pizarro and his brothers (Gonzalo, Juan, and Hernando) were attracted by the news of a rich and fabulous kingdom, escaping like many migrants throughout the centuries from the today impoverished Extremadura.

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

—Francisco Pizarro

In 1529, Francisco Pizarro obtained permission from the Spanish Monarchy to conquer the land they called Peru. 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, his proposed enemy was being devastated by the diseases brought to the American continents by the earlier Spanish contacts. When Pizarro arrived in Peru in 1532, he found it vastly different than 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 who 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.[4]

After four long expeditions, Pizarro established the first Spanish settlement in northern Peru, calling it San Miguel de Piura.

When first spotted by the natives, Pizarro and his men were thought to be viracocha cuna or "gods". The Indians described Pizarro's men to the Inca. They said that capito was tall with a full beard and was completely wrapped in clothing. The Indians described the men's swords and how they kill sheep with them. The men do not eat human flesh, but rather sheep, lamb, duck, pigeons, and deer, and cook 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. 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 and 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 numbers, about 170–180 men, and have Indians bound with "iron ropes". Atahualpa asked what to do about the men, and Cinquinchara replied that they should be killed because they are evil thieves who take whatever they want and are supai cuna or "devils". He recommended trapping the men inside of their sleeping quarters and burning them to death.[6]

At this point in time Pizarro had 168 men under his command: 106 on foot and 62 on horses. Then, Pizarro sent his captain Hernando de Soto to invite Atahualpa to a meeting. 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.[7] 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." Atahualpa responded only after Hernando Pizarro arrived. He responded with what he had heard from his scouts, that Pizarro and his men 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.[4]

Capture of Atahualpa

After his victory over his brother, Atahualpa began his southward march from Quito to claim the Inca throne in Cuzco. Atahualpa had heard tales of "white bearded men" (i.e. the Spanish and Portuguese) . Some accounts say that Atahualpa sent messengers with presents to Pizarro and his men to induce them to leave, and others contend that it was Pizarro who sent a messenger to Atahualpa requesting a meeting. Most accounts agree, however, that Atahualpa met with Pizarro voluntarily.

Atahualpa and his forces met with the Spaniards at Cajamarca on the evening of 15 November. Rather than meeting with Atahualpa himself, Pizarro sent Hernando de Soto, friar Vincente de Valverde and native interpreter Felipillo to speak with the Inca leader. De Soto spoke with Atahualpa for a while and told them that they were emissaries from King Charles I of Spain. They also said they came in peace and were prepared to serve him against his enemies. Atahualpa nearly scoffed at that as he believed their behavior was not what one would expect of embassies and emissaries. In fact he knew of their earlier atrocities against the nuns dedicated to serve the god Inti in his temple. He demanded a full accounting of their behavior in his country and an apology from their leader Pizarro. He did however agree to meet with them in the city the next day.

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De Soto noticed the sight of his horses were unnerving some of the Inca's attendants so with an incredible display of horsemanship, he performed the tricks an experienced horseman would do. He stopped short of the Inca with the horse just inches away from Atahualpa. While this frightened the attendants, the Inca was unblinking. This told the Spaniards that they were not dealing with a fearful one like Moctezuma II in Mexico and it gave them even more fear the night of the 15th and early on the 16th. Atahualpa displayed hospitality by serving chicha and agreed to meet Pizarro the following day.[8]

The next morning, Pizarro had his men strategically placed around the square where they were to meet. When Atahualpa came with 7,000 unarmed soldiers and attendants, Friar Valverde spoke with him about the Spanish presence in his lands as well as engaged in a poorly executed attempt to explain to him the precepts of the Catholic religion, an attempt which was certainly not helped by an unskilled translator. After doing so, he offered Atahualpa a Bible in the expectation that he and his men would immediately convert to Christianity in preference to being considered an enemy of the Church and Spain by the Spanish Crown.

The Inca-Spanish confrontation in the Battle of Cajamarca left thousands of natives dead

Atahualpa stated that he was no one's vassal and asked where they got their authority. A popular but widely disputed[by whom?] legend states that Valverde pointed to the Book saying that it contained God's word and handed it over to Atahualpa. Supposedly, when the Inca was presented with the Book he shook it close to his ear and asked "Why doesn't it speak to me?" Having literally never seen a book before, he then threw the unfamiliar object aside. Supposedly, this is what gave the Spanish a reason to attack, starting the Battle of Cajamarca on 16 November 1532. Though the historical accounts relating to these circumstances vary, the true motivations for the attack seemed to be a desire for loot and flat-out impatience, in that the Inca did not adequately understand the Conquistadores' demands.[citation needed] Pizarro executed Atahualpa's 12-man honor guard and took the Inca captive at the so-called ransom room, where they demanded a lofty sum of precious gems and metals to be exchanged for Atahualpa.

The fact that such a small number of Spanish troops were able to defeat the thousands Inca warriors at Cajamarca is attributable to many factors, among them that the Spanish had caballeros, cannon and guns while the Inca had only rustic armament. The Inca Empire also had a highly centralized chain of command directly related to the emperor's well-being or military victories which created a fictional perception of how the various gods perceived the Inca to either soldiers or commoners alike. This meant that once the Spaniards held the emperor hostage, they effectively paralyzed the empires' forces for a time.

At the signal to attack, the Spaniards unleashed volleys of gunfire at the vulnerable mass of Incas and surged forward in a concerted action. 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 compared to five of Pizarro's men. Contemporary accounts by members of Pizarro's force explain how the Spanish forces used a cavalry charge against the Inca forces, who had never seen horses, in combination with gunfire from cover (the Inca forces also had never encountered guns before). Other factors in the Spaniard's favor were their steel swords, helmets and armor, against the Inca forces which only had leather armor and crude armament. The Spanish also had a three small cannon which were used to great effect on the crowded town square. The first target of the Spanish attack was the Inca Emperor and his top commanders; once these had been killed or captured the Inca forces were disorganized as the command structure of the army had been effectively decapitated.

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 and their undoing was due to a lack of self-confidence, and a desire to make public demonstration of fearlessness and godlike command of situation.[8] 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.[9][10] However, ensuing hostilities like the Mixtón Rebellion, Chichimeca War, and Arauco War would require that the conquistadors ally with friendly tribes in these later expeditions.

The battle began with a shot from a cannon and the battle cry Santiago![8] Many of the guns used by the Spaniards were hard to use in the close-combat situations that the Spanish found themselves in, and most natives adapted in 'guerrilla fashion' by only shooting at the legs of the conquistadors if they happened to be unarmored.[11] 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 the Spanish 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.

Atahualpa feared that if Huáscar came into contact with the Spanish, he would be so useful to them that Pizarro would no longer need Atahualpa and have him killed. To avoid this, Atahualpa ordered Huáscar's execution,[citation needed] which took place not far from Cajamarca according to some chronicles. Others mentioned that Huáscar had been previously killed in battle, and a few others that Huáscar was killed before Pizarro's arrival.

When Atahualpa was captured at the massacre at Cajamarca, he was treated with respect and is rumored to have learned from the Spanish soldiers the game of chess. Pizarro held Atahualpa for a ransom of gold and silver which began to arrive 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.[8]

One of the main events in the conquest of the Incan Empire was the death of Atahualpa, the last Sapa Inca on 29 August 1533

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 army to look for the hidden army, but a trial for Atahualpa was held in his absence. Among the charges were polygamy, incestuous marriage, and idolatry, all frowned upon in Catholicism but common in the Inca 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; ironically, he received the name 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 because he never found a trace of evidence of the secret gathering of Atahualpa's warriors.[8]

Having deprived the Inca empire of leadership, Pizarro and another conquistador, Hernando de Soto, moved south to Cuzco, the heart of Tawantinsuyu, which they captured in November 1533; they then led their men in an orgy of looting, pillaging, and torture in search of more precious metals.[citation needed]

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 Rumiñahui 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 encountered another, quite sizable, conquering party led by Guatemalan Governor Pedro de Alvarado. Bored with administering Central America, Alvarado had set sail for the south without the crown's authorization, landed on the Ecuadorian coast, and marched inland to the Sierra. Most of Alvarado's men joined Benalcázar for the siege of Quito.

Rebellion and reconquest

The situation went quickly downhill. As things began to fall apart, many parts of the Inca Empire revolted, some of them joining with the Spanish against their own rulers. Many kingdoms and tribes had been conquered or persuaded to join the Inca empire. They thought that by joining the Spaniards, they could gain their own freedom. But these native people never foresaw the massive waves of Spaniard immigrants coming to their land and the tragedy that they would bring upon their people.

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 inflicted considerable damage on the Spanish. In the end, however, the Spanish succeeded in re-capturing Quito, effectively ending any organized rebellion in the north of the empire.

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 performing religious ceremonies in the nearby Yucay valley, Manco was able to escape Cuzco.

Spaniards executing Túpac Amaru, the last Inca of Vilcabamba, in 1572

Diego de Almagro, originally one of Francisco Pizarro's party, returned from his exploration of Chile, disappointed in not finding any wealth similar to that of Peru. King Charles I of Spain (Holy Roman Emperor Charles V) had awarded the city of Cuzco to Pizarro, but Almagro attempted to claim the city nonetheless. Manco Inca hoped to use the disagreement between Almagro and Pizarro to his advantage and attempted the recapture of Cuzco during the spring of 1537. The siege of Cuzco was waged until the following spring, and during that time Manco's armies managed to wipe three 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 Cuszo was failing. Manco Inca eventually withdrew to Vilcabamba after only 10 months of fighting, and therefore, the Spanish reinforcements from the Indies arriving under the command of Diego de Almagro eventually took the city once again without conflict..

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. However, when it became clear that defeat was imminent, they retreated further to the mountainous region of Vilcabamba, where the Manco Inca continued to hold some power for several more decades. His son, Túpac Amaru, was the last Inca. After deadly confrontations, he was murdered by the Spanish in 1572. The Spaniards destroyed almost every Inca building in Cuzco,[citation needed] built a Spanish city over the old foundations, and proceeded to colonize and exploit the former empire.

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, legendary courage and remarkable cunning, aided by factors like smallpox and a great communication and cultural divide. The Spaniards destroyed most of the Incan culture and introduced the Spanish culture to the native population.


Pizarro and his followers founding Lima

A struggle for power resulted in a long civil war between Francisco Pizarro and Diego de Almagro in which Almagro was killed. Almagro's descendants later avenged his death by killing Pizarro. Despite the war, the Spaniards did not neglect the colonizing process. Its most significant act was the foundation of Lima in January, 1535, from which the political and administrative institutions were organized. The necessity of consolidating Spanish royal authority on these territories, led to the creation of a Real Audiencia (Royal Audience). 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 the Viceroy Francisco de Toledo in 1572. Toledo ended the indigenous state of Vilcabamba, executing the Inca Túpac Amaru. He also promoted the economic development from the commercial monopoly and the mineral extraction of the argentiferous mines of Potosí, using the Inca institution called mita.

Effects of the conquest on people of the Empire

The long term effects of the arrival of the Spanish on the population of South America were simply catastrophic. While this is the case for every group of Native-Americans that encountered Europeans from the fifteenth century onwards, the Incan population suffered a dramatic and quick 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.[12]

The single greatest cause of the demise of native populations was disease. Old World diseases brought over unknowingly by colonists and conquistadors wreaked havoc on native populations at a greater rate than any army or armed conflict.[13] The fact that the Inca did not have as strong of a writing tradition as the Aztecs or Maya is one reason why it is more difficult to estimate population decline or any events after subjugation. However, it is apparent that illness from the Spaniards predated their actual presence in the region by several years. The outbreak, believed to be hemorrhagic smallpox, entered the Andes in 1524. While numbers are unavailable, Spanish records indicate that the population was so devastated by disease that their forces could hardly be resisted. However, whether the illness of the 1520s was actually smallpox has been contested; a minority of scholars claim that the epidemic was actually due to an indigenous illness called Carrion's disease. In any case, a study by N. D. Cook, the results of which were published in 1981, show that the Andes suffered from three separate population declines during colonization. The first was of 30–50 percent during the first outbreak of smallpox. Then, when smallpox was followed with the measles, another decline of 25–30 percent occurred. Finally, when smallpox and measles appeared 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 population pre-contact in the Andes region.[14]

Beyond the devastation of the local populations by disease, there was also considerable enslavement, pillaging and destruction from warfare. Thousands of women were taken from the local populations by the Spanish and used by conquistadors as personal vassals. As Pizarro and his men took over portions of South America they plundered and enslaved countless people. There are some Spanish documents that suggest that the local populations entered into vassalage willingly, but these are likely cases of people being threatened with death after the destruction of their region. The basic policy of the Spanish towards local populations was that voluntary vassalage would yield safety and coexistence while continued resistance would lead to more death and destruction.[15]

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." With the destruction 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.[3]

In fiction

The conquest of the Incas is dramatized in Peter Shaffer's play The Royal Hunt of the Sun. 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 Cuzco is used. Many historical figures are mentioned, and the (fictional) brother of 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. The player has to make his/her way through a blizzard in the mountains before reaching a verdant valley containing the hidden Inca City. They are also in the Multiplayer, found primarily in the areas making up Chile and Argentina. They have spearmen, bola-throwers, and have (as upgrades), the great Inca road systems, cotton armor, and Chasquis messengers. This section of the Campaign is set after the conquest of the Inca, and the player has to fend off a separate attack similar to the Spanish Conquest.

The conquest is also parodied in the Simpsons TV series, in the chapter "Lost Verizon", written by John Frink.[16]


I wish your 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."
—Mansio Serra Leguizamon[17]
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.
—Francisco Xeres, Report on the Discovery of Peru
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!
Pedro Cieza de LeónChronicles of Peru
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.
—Francisco Xeres, Massacre, Gold and Civil War

See also


  1. ^ Atahualpa, Pizarro and the Fall of the Inca Empire, by Shannon N. White
  2. ^ Covey (2000).
  3. ^ a b c Means (1932).
  4. ^ a b c MacQuarrie (2007).
  5. ^ Kubler (1945).
  6. ^ Betanzos et al. (1996).
  7. ^ Seed (1991).
  8. ^ a b c d e Innes (1969).
  9. ^ Jay O. Sanders. "The Great Inca Rebellion". Retrieved 30 June 2010. 
  10. ^ Jane Penrose (2005). Slings in the Iron Age. ISBN 9781841769325. Retrieved 30 June 2010. 
  11. ^ Lockhart, James (1993). "Introduction". We people here: Náhuatl accounts of the Conquest of Mexico. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 7–8. 
  12. ^ Newson (1985).
  13. ^ The Story Of... Smallpox – and other Deadly Eurasian Germs
  14. ^ Lovell (1992).
  15. ^ Gibson (1978).
  16. ^ The Simpsons Archive, Season 20
  17. ^ Woods, Michael (2001). Conquistadors. London: BBC Worldwide. p. 272. ISBN 056355116X. 


  • Bauer, Brian S. (1991). "Pacariqtambo and the Mythical Origins of the Inca". Latin American Antiquity 2 (1): 7–26. doi:10.2307/971893. JSTOR 971893. 
  • Covey, R. Alan (2000). "Inka Administration of the Far South Coast of Peru". Latin American Antiquity 11 (2): 119–138. doi:10.2307/971851. JSTOR 971851. 
  • de Betanzos, Juan; Hamilton, Roland; Buchanan, Dana (1996). Narrative of the Incas. Austin: University of Texas Press. ISBN 0292755600. 
  • Gibson, Charles (1978). "Conquest, Capitulation, and Indian Treaties". The American Historical Review 83 (1): 1–15. doi:10.2307/1865900. JSTOR 1865900. 
  • Hemming, John (1970). Conquest of the Incas. New York: Harcourt. ISBN 0151225605. 
  • Innes, Hammond (1969). Conquistadors. New York: Alfred A. Knopf. 
  • Kubler, George (1945). "The Behavior of Atahualpa, 1531–1533". The Hispanic American Historical Review 25 (4): 413–427. doi:10.2307/2508231. JSTOR 2508231. 
  • Kubler, George (1947). "The Neo-Inca State (1537–1572)". The Hispanic American Historical Review 27 (2): 189–203. doi:10.2307/2508415. JSTOR 2508415. 
  • Lovell, W. George (1992). "'Heavy Shadows and Black Night': Disease and Depopulation in Colonial Spanish America". Annals of the Association of American Geographers 82 (3): 426–443. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8306.1992.tb01968.x. 
  • Macquarrie, Kim (2007). The Last Days of the Incas. New York: Simon and Schuster. ISBN 9780743260497. 
  • Means, Philip A. (1932). Fall of the Inca Empire and the Spanish Rule in Peru, 1530–1780. New York: Scribner. 
  • Newson, Linda A. (1985). "Indian Population Patterns in Colonial Spanish America". Latin American Research Review 20 (3): 41–74. JSTOR 2503469. 
  • Seed, Patricia (1991). "'Failing to Marvel': Atahualpa's Encounter with the Word". Latin American Research Review 26 (1): 7–32. 

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