Atahualpa Inca Emperor

Atahualpa (1500-1533) was the favorite son of Huayna Capac ruler of the Inca Empire.

At Huayna Capac’s death (1528) in Quito, he received the kingdom of Quito while his half brother, Huascar inherited the rest of the Tahuantinsuyo empire.

Back in the 16th century this Indian Empire spanned parts of today’s Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Chile, and Bolivia.

Huascar, had the imperial throne in the capital city of Cuzco (Peru) to the south, and his half-brother Atahualpa, had the northern portion of the kingdom, with its center in the City of Quito

The division led to civil war between the half-brothers, reaching a peak in 1532 with the defeat and imprisonment of Huascar.

At this point the Spaniards entered Peru. Francisco Pizarro and about 180 men reached Atahualpa’s base at Cajamarca in November 1532.

The confrontation between the Spanish conquistador and the Inca, who had thousands of troops camped nearby, took place in the main square of the town.

The Inca rejected the call of Pizarro’s emissary, the priest Valverde, to swear obedience to the king of Spain and to acknowledge Christianity as the true religion, and he threw to the ground the breviary that was proffered.

Pizarro then ordered his soldiers to attack the Inca troops and captured him.

He soon realized that the Spanish wanted gold and silver and arranged for a kingly ransom to be paid. Meanwhile, he was allowed to run his Empire from captivity.

One of his first orders was the execution of Huascar, who was butchered by his captors at Andamarca, not far from Cajamarca.

He ordered the execution when he was told by the Spanish that they wanted to see Huascar. Fearing that his brother would make some sort of deal with the Spanish, he ordered his death.

Meanwhile, in Cuzco, Quisquis was executing all of the members of Huascar’s family and any nobles who had supported him.

Pizarro used him to control the Inca empire. Eventually, the Spanish executed the Inca warrior in 1533, ending the Inca Empire.

Cultural destruction followed on a large scale. It took just eight years for the Spanish to destroy an ancient culture, replacing it with a system of slave owners and slaves.

The Inca Empire

The word “Inca” meant “King,” and generally only referred to one man, the ruler of the Empire.

Atahualpa was one of many sons of Inca Huayna Capac, an efficient and ambitious ruler. The Incas could only marry their sisters: no one else was deemed noble enough.

They had many concubines, however, and their offspring were considered eligible for rule.

The Inca Emperors were considered to be divine, directly descended from the Sun.

Their warlike culture had spread out from the Lake Titicaca area quickly, conquering one tribe and ethnic group after another to build a mighty Empire that spanned from Chile to southern Colombia including present day Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia.

Often, brutal civil wars would break out upon the death of an Emperor as his sons fought for his throne.

This produced much chaos but did result in a long line of strong, fierce, ruthless Inca lords that made the Empire strong and formidable.

War Between Huascar and Atahualpa

At first, Huascar made an attempt at capturing Quito, but the Indian army under Quisquis pushed him back.

Atahualpa sent Calicuchima and Quisquis after Cuzco and left Rumiñahui in Quito.

The Cañari Indian people, who inhabited the region of modern day Cuenca City to the south of Quito, allied with Huascar.

As Atahualpa’s forces moved south across the Ecuador Inca Trails they punished the Cañari severely, devastating their lands and massacring many of the people.

This act of vengeance would come back to haunt the Inca people later, as the Cañari Indians would ally with Spanish conquistador Sebastian de Benalcazar when he marched into Quito.

In a desperate battle outside of Cuzco, Quisquis routed Huascar’s forces sometime in 1532 and captured him. He then moved south to take possession of his Empire.

Death of Atahualpa

The Inca promised to fill a large room half full with gold and twice over with silver in order to secure his release, and in late 1532, messengers spread out to the far corners of the Empire to order his subjects to send gold and silver.

As precious works of art poured into Cajamarca, they were melted down and sent to Spain.

In July of 1533 Pizarro and his men began hearing rumors that the mighty army of Rumiñahui, still back in Quito, had mobilized and was approaching with the goal of liberating the Inca lord.

Spanish accusations that the Inca was plotting against them and that, he had successfully ordered, from prison, the assassination of his brother Huascar, gave Pizarro the excuse for placing Atahualpa on trial.

The sentence that he be burned to death. He was horrified, since the Inca believed that the soul would not be able to go on to the afterlife if the body were burned.

Friar Vicente de Valverde, who had earlier offered the Bible to the Inca emperor, intervened again, telling him that if he agreed to convert to Christianity he would convince the rest to commute the sentence.

The Inca agreed to be baptized under Christian faith. He was given the name Juan Santos Atahualpa and, in accordance with his request, was strangled instead.

Atahualpa was killed by the Spaniards on August 29, 1533, leaving the Inca empire open to complete subjugation by the European invaders.


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