Conquest of the Inca Empire

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O inca empire it was a great empire that existed in the regions corresponding to the current territories of Ecuador, part of Chile and Argentina. Like the Aztec peoples, the Incas were dominated after the arrival of the Spaniards. The expedition that led to the conquest of the Incas was organized by Francisco Pizarro in 1532.

Incas

The Incas were indigenous peoples who, like the Aztecs, were conquerors, as their great power and wealth were based on control and taxes levied on various other peoples. The empire was so large that, at the time of the arrival of the Spaniards, their possessions extended over four thousand kilometers|1|.

The main Inca city was Cuzco, where the Inca emperor (called Sapa Inca) reigned. Traditions refer to Pachacuti as the first Inca emperor, enthroned in 1438. The Incas spoke Quechua (a language still spoken today, mainly in Peru and Bolivia) and survived from agriculture.

When the Spaniards arrived in the Inca Empire in 1532, they found it in a state of civil war. This happened because of the disputes over the succession of power that were fought between the two sons of Huayna Capac:

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Atahualpa and huascar. The former emperor, Huayna Capac, had died of smallpox.

Spanish expedition

The Spanish expedition that started the conquest of the Incas was organized by the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro, a commoner who had arrived in America at the age of 34 (in 1532, he was 56). Pizarro owned domains in Castile del Oro (Panama) and, based on reports from other explorers, became interested in the region called “Biru”, where it was said to have great wealth.

In 1527 he undertook an expedition to locate the Inca Empire. However, this expedition failed, and Pizarro found only peoples subjugated by the Incas. In 1529, Pizarro obtained authorization from the Spanish king, Carlos V, to undertake the conquest of that empire. So he left Panama with about 200 men, 27 horses and indigenous people, who were his interpreters.|2|.

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When he reached the Inca-held regions, Pizarro discovered that a civil war had broken out between the forces of Atahualpa and Huáscar, resulting in Atahualpa's victory. Then Pizarro organized a meeting with Atahualpa in the mountains of Cajamarca, on the way to Cuzco. During this meeting, a disagreement between the Spaniards and the Incas resulted in the massacre of these indigenous people, and then their leader, Atahualpa, was taken prisoner.

Atahualpa offered Pizarro a room full of gold for his release. Pizarro accepted the offer, however, did not release him. Later, Atahualpa was hanged at the behest of the Spaniard. Some reports say that Pizarro did this under the guidance of Diego de Almagro.

After Atahualpa's death, the civil war between his supporters and those of Huáscar intensified. The Spaniards then took advantage of this, which led to the weakening of the Inca Empire. Thus, the Spaniards conquered the capital Cuzco and, in sequence, Quito. To ensure contact with Panama, Pizarro founded the city of Lima on the Peruvian coast in 1535.

Francisco Pizarro's death

Pizarro's expedition in the lands of the Incas ended in 1541, after his assassination. Pizarro's death was a chapter in the dispute between him and Diego Almagro for control of Cuzco. This episode resulted from a retaliation against Pizarro, as he had had Almagro killed in 1538. Anyway, by that time, the Inca Empire had already been weakened by the Spaniards, who installed the bases for the colonization of the Viceroyalty of Peru.

|1| MAHN-LOT, Marianne. The Conquest of Spanish America. Campinas: Papirus, 1990, p. 50.
|2| Idem, p. 52.

* Image credits: Zoltan Katona and Shutterstock


By Daniel Neves
Graduated in History

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