What is the origin and history of the Inca Empire?What is the origin and history of the Inca Empire?

What is the origin and history of the Inca Empire?

Story of the Inca Empire

If the Inca Empire knew its climax only few years before the Spanish Conquest, its origin take root during the 12th century of our era. According to the legend, the first emperor, Manco Capac, appeared from the waters of Titicaca Lake with his wife, he heard his father’s voice the Solar God Inti, telling him to find Q’osqo, the world’s navel, to put a golden baton in the land until it disappeared. There, would be the fertile valley where would be developed a new civilization who will rule the world. He is the first of the 13 emperors that will success until the fall of their domination. Historians estimated that in fact, this civilization took origin in the Sacred Valley region, made stronger by the fertility of its environment, but that she had Amazonian origins. 

It is from 1438 that the empire became stronger. After a battle doomed to lose against their terrible neighbors, the Chankas, the Inca Viracocha run and it’s his son who took the rules of the kingdom. When he obtained (miraculously) the victory, this one proclaimed himself as the ninth emperor, Pachacutec (in quechuan, “the one who change the world”). From this moment, he began a tremendous conquest in order to submit the surrounding peoples. This was also Pachacutec who started to build masterpieces that marked Cusco city (he ordered to build Qoricancha and a Place in the Main Square) and the agricultural improvements (river diversions, etc.) that allowed agricultural prosperity of the people. Considered like the Napoleon of the Incas, it was him who imposed the reform to an organization strong enough to rule the entire empire. His successors, Tupac Yupanqui and Huayna Capac extended the empire, from South Colombia to North Chili. 

The intern organization of the Inca Empire was exceptional because it improved to maintain a king of imperial order in a huge territory, with very different populations and very few communication. To assure the Empire unification, several strategies are used. Firstly, impose the cult of the Solar God named Inti without prohibit the local cults, those ones were adapted so they could integrate better this Inca cultural variant. Then, Cusquenian colon dispatched to annexed territories (with promises of social ascension), and the population transfer to distant campaigns to cultivate, mixed with other people to confuse cultural identities. The Empire, named Tahuantisuyo, was divided in 4 “districts”, joining it in Cusco city, the world’s navel. Roads across mountains and valleys, the famous Inca Trail, were the only roads of communication available, post houses were present at regular interval along the way. In the heart of the Empire, a strong organization was necessary to keep the order. A strong army and a bureaucracy well-organized assured the good functioning of the Empire. One of the organization characteristic of the Empire is the pooling of all the goods and the payment of a tax in the form of work time. The redistribution of resources between the different regions was in accordance with necessities (natural disaster, etc.). Finally, the ultimate army of Inca domination had probably been the theocratic element of this civilization; the emperor wasn’t “only” an emperor, he was a living God, the representative and incarnation of the Sun God on earth. Once the peoples convinced of this, the rebellion was much more complicated to do because the Inca Empire had succeeded to go deeper into consciences, in the world view of these peoples. 

But, plenty of omens, predictions and rumors were present during the end of this Empire, even before Pizarro and Spanish men trampled South America. 

The rivalry to succession to the throne of two Huayna Capac’s sons, Huascar (from Cusco) and Atahualpa (from Quito, in the north), had already begun to wreak havoc in politic about the Empire supreme power. A civil war started, Atahualpa kidnapped his brother and the submitted peoples went for it to claim their independence or more autonomy. It was this context of intern chaos when Pizarro arrived. More concerned by the intern disorder than the arrival of some strange creatures with white skin, Atahualpa didn’t beware and he is captured in Cajamarca by some conquistadors; this is the first Spanish victory. In exchange of his liberty, Atahualpa promised a fabulous ransom of gold and silver. From his jail, he ordered to murder his brother, in fear that this one take up the throne. 

But, once given the ransom, obviously, Atahualpa haven’t been released but indeed murdered. With Atahualpa’s death, true living god for the Incas, this is the entire Empire which is beheaded; stampede started. The arrival to Cusco in 1533 finished with pillage and many battles, relatively difficult (only a few dozen of Spanish were presents) but Pizarro achieved to push back the Incas, further on the valley, obliging them to flee in the depth jungle, in Vilcabamba. The Spanish triumph is now complete and the pillage of richness can start with peace of mind. 

After those bloody episodes, the economic and social heart of the country is turned to the coast and to the City of the Kings, the actual Lima, and center of exchanges between Spain and its colonies, and first major port of the Spanish Americas. Cusco became a simple provincial town, without any interest. The most important trace of this period is the construction of Santo Domingo Church over the ceremonial center of Qoricancha. Tupac Amaru II ‘s revolt in 1780 unfolded in the imperial city, symbol of the forgotten Inca heritage, but the murderous crackdown on the Main Square marked symbolically the state of domination in Cusco and in the whole country. Apart from this, there isn’t striking event that came to disrupt the way things go in the city of Cusco, no more and no less than the rest of Peru. Actually, it was the “rediscovery” of Machu Picchu in 1911 which marked the biggest change for the city’s history.

List of successive rulers of the Inca Empire 

Periods Names of the rulers 


1230 - 1260 SINCHI ROCA


1290 - 1320 MAYTA CAPAC

1320 - 1350 CAPAC YUPANQUI

1350 - 1380 INCA ROCA

1380 - 1400 YAHUAR HUACAC

1400 - 1438 VIRACOCHA INCA


1471 – 1493 TUPAC YUPANQUI

1493 - 1527 HUAYNA CAPAC

1527 - 1532 HUASCAR

1532 - 1533 ATAHUALPA

1533 - 1533 TOPA HUALPA

1533 - 1545 MANCO INCA

1545 - 1560 SAYRI TUPAC


1571 - 1572 TUPAC AMARU

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