When Did the Inca Empire Fall?

Machu Picchu is perhaps the most famous example of Inca ruins.
Machu Picchu is perhaps the most famous example of Inca ruins.

One of the world's oldest civilizations, the Inca Empire was a pre-Columbian empire located in the western part of South America. By 1527, the Inca Empire spanned an area of about 770,000 sq mi (2,000,000 km2), making it one of the largest empires in the world during the 16th century. The Inca Empire covered parts of the modern-day countries such as Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Peru. The Inca Empire existed from the 15th to 16th century.

About the Inca Empire

Within its boundaries, the empire was a symbol of diversity, both geographically and demographically. Several cultural groups lived within the empire, practicing various religious and social traditions. The geographical and cultural diversity of the empire allowed for a central government where local leaders operated under the supervision of Inca officials. The Inca officials answered to the ultimate power, the Emperor. Before the coming of the Spanish, the Inca represented the royal ruling class. The Spanish used the name to refer to both the ruling class and the subjects. The Incans are credited for the discovery of terrace farming which made possible the cultivation of crops in mountainous regions. 

Rise of the Inca Empire

The rise of the Inca Empire is explained by several myths and oral traditions. The Inca are believed to have settled in Peru in the 12th century. Manco Capac established the first Inca dynasty (the Kingdom of Cusco) with Cuzco (today a UNESCO World Heritage Site) as the capital. The regional growth of the Inca dynasty began during the 14th century under the leadership of Mayta Capac. In the reign of Pachacuti-Cusi Yupanqui, the Inca Empire attacked neighboring villages conquering through violence and sometimes peacefully assimilating other tribes. He entreated rulers of neighboring tribes to peacefully join his empire with the promise of abundant wealth. Refusal of his requests resulted in military conquests of the desired territory.

Arrival of the Spanish

The growth of the Inca Empire continued until the 16th century with the coming of the Spanish. With his team of conquistadors, Francisco Pizzaro received the royal approval from the Spanish queen to conquer the Inca Empire. The coming of the Spanish into Inca led the spread of diseases, particularly influenza and chickenpox, which decreased the output of the working class as well as the nobility. The worst effect was the death of the Incan emperor leaving sons contesting for the throne. Succession disputes between the ruling family, unrests in the newly conquered territories, and the spread of chickenpox further weakened the Inca Empire against external attacks. Disputes between the sons of Emperor Huayna Capac triggered the Incan civil war giving the Spanish conquerors an upper hand in acquiring support from the local leaders.

Fall of the Inca Empire

The Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire lasted for 40 years from 1532. Several battles were fought between the Incas and the Spanish who worked together with the native allies. These battles include the Battle of Cajamarca in 1532, in which Atahualpa was captured and executed. After his death, Manco Inca served as the emperor until his death in 1544. The Spanish empire had superiority over the Incas regarding their military knowledge and tactics as well as support from native tribes who sought to end the rule of the Inca dynasty. Later, the struggle between the Spanish and the Incas involved a shift in allegiance with parties avenging the deaths of their leaders or rising in rebellion against Spanish rule. The fall of the Inca Empire ended with the execution of all the Incan rulers and their families in 1572.


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