BECK index

Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Incas

by Sanderson Beck

Toltecs and Anasazi
Aztecs to 1519
Incas to 1532

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Humans may have lived in the western hemisphere more than fifty thousand years ago as indicated by legends of ancient Lemuria or Mu. A land bridge from Asia to North America was apparently used by migrating hunters between 40,000 and 8,000 BC. The oldest physical evidence by radiocarbon dating is from southern Chile about 33,000 years ago, though some archaeologists dispute this is human evidence. Generally accepted radiocarbon dating goes back about 19,000 years. Paleo-Indian hunting peoples pursued large game between 30,000 and 8,000 BC. Stone artifacts have been found from about 15,000 years ago. Stone spear points indicate that the Clovis people in the New Mexico area were hunting mammoths about 11,000 BC. About 9,000 BC as the glaciers were melting, the climate became warmer and drier. Mexica culture began developing about 7,000 BC. The Mexico area cultivated maize (corn) by 5,000 BC and beans by 4,000 BC. These and squash became the staple foods. Chili peppers and avocados were also domesticated.

Another ancient culture developed between the Andes mountains and the Pacific coast in what is now Ecuador, Peru, and northern Chile. By 4000 BC settlers had established villages cultivating squash, gourds, kidney and lima beans, and cotton. Coincidental with similar activity in Egypt, pyramids were built between 2800 and 2600 BC by progressively filling in the lower rooms of the mounds. These pyramids indicate that there must have been a hierarchy of power, probably associated with religion, that could get workers to construct increasingly large public buildings. Irrigation must have been mastered to support communities in such arid country. About 2000 BC U-shaped buildings were built on top of the mounds at La Galgada. In the second millennium BC pottery became very refined, and intensive farming with corn (maize) developed with an improved variety used in the ninth century BC. Religion became even more important. Burials were deep in the ground with accompanying objects of art, and temples became larger.

The Chavin people apparently worshipped a feline symbol representing a jaguar or puma. Evidence of bows and arrows have been found, but the primary weapons were the spear and spear-thrower. To these people religion seems to have been much more important than war or widespread trade. Coca plants were grown, and an oracle was established at Pachacamac and other sites. Trade and communication seems to have been good along the central Peruvian coast. The Chavin culture spread from the northern highlands south and, after a devastating tidal wave inundated the coastal area about 500 BC, into that region following its climatic deterioration. However, after about two centuries of intensive influence in most areas the Chavin culture began to fade away. Unfortunately there is no writing describing this religious movement.

The Olmec culture developed civilization about 1500 BC. These people lived on the southern shore of the Gulf of Mexico where they practiced slash-and-burn farming. They supplemented their diet with deer, wild pigs, and fish. They built with adobe bricks, creating mounds and platforms for the dwellings of the elite who ruled. The Olmecs provided for most of their own needs but traded for obsidian to make cutting blades. They carved jade and stones and are perhaps best known for the colossal heads between five and ten feet tall. These heads, which seemed to be fitted with helmets, remind us today of football helmets, and they may have been used for a ball game that they played as well as for war. Respect for the jaguars of the jungle somehow developed into a powerful religious symbol, and the Olmecs may have been called the people of the jaguar. The terraced platforms eventually became large pyramids.

During the final centuries BC the Olmec culture gradually influenced and became absorbed by other people living nearby. The Izapa lived in the Pacific plain where the prized cacao grew. Izapan art depicts jaguars captured and used in human rituals, bird gods flying, gods in canoes on waves with fish beneath, gods descending headfirst, seated humans tending incense, and a warrior decapitating an enemy.

Pyramids were built in the Chiapas area in the sixth century BC. Pottery found there indicates a diversity of trading partners. A link between the Olmecs and the Maya seems to be the Zoque people who lived there and spoke a Mixe-Zoquean language that has a common origin with Mayan language. As population increased and spread, agricultural land became more valuable. Eventually elite groups of people formed to protect and manage the best land, as indicated by larger temples and funerary constructions. In the south Kaminaljuyu controlled the highland products such as obsidian and jade. Nakbe became a trading center by controlling the ports of the river routes at the base of the Yucatan peninsula in the lowlands. Colha provided quartz chert and Komchen salt. Gradually the Mayans absorbed or replaced the Mixe-Zoqueans and established their authoritarian political institutions with hereditary rulers, who began to commemorate themselves with dates and hieroglyphic texts in the first century BC.


Although they did not use the wheel, metal tools, horses, money, or alphabetic writing, the people in the western hemisphere developed prosperous civilization. In central Mexico by 300 CE the city of Teotihuacan had about 80,000 people. Raids and small wars resulted in captured warriors being ritually sacrificed. Teotihuacan would be a leading power for the next five centuries, though building slowed about 550. Urban dwellers lived as families in large apartment compounds. Obsidian was used for tools and traded. Metals were not used in Mesoamerica until after 800 CE; then gold and silver came from the south. Alloys were not popular until the 13th century. A great goddess was the primary deity in Teotihuacan, though there was also a storm god and the feathered serpent that was to become famous as Quetzalcoatl. Art did not depict human individuals until later during the decline. Much of Teotihuacan was smashed and burned in a major fire about 750. Because foreigners were probably not involved, this was likely a revolution against the ruling elite. Zapotec people in the Oaxaca valley, who seemed to have co-existed peacefully with Teotihuacan for so long, also ended centralized government by 900.

In what is now southern Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador, the Mayan populations in the first centuries CE increased and began building monumental temples and tombs. Those at Kaminalijuyu controlled obsidian and jade and dominated the southern area. Others at Nakbe and El Mirador controlled local resources and trade. Powerful hereditary rulers emerged who commemorated their deeds in dated hieroglyphic sculptures. In the third century CE the city of Tikal began building large pyramids. In 378 Great Jaguar Paw recorded the conquest of Uaxactun, where the warrior Smoking Frog was put in charge. Symbols of war and sacrifice were adopted from Teotihuacan icons, and wars were timed according to the planet Venus. The Mayans excelled in mathematics and astronomy; their calendar was extremely accurate. In the late 5th century Kan Boar's portraits abandoned the war and captive motifs of his predecessor Stormy Sky, and Tikal seemed to prosper with some social mobility. However, they were defeated in a war led by Caracol ruler Lord Water in 562. Caracol waged wars for more than a century, also timing their battles to the movements of the planet Venus. Caracol's Lord Kan II claimed to defeat and sacrifice Naranjo captives in 631.

From the mid-7th century until the decline, two centuries of wars occurred as massive fortifications were erected. A Tikal prince founded Dos Pilas about 640, but later he defeated Tikal in two wars. The 25th ruler of Tikal, Shield Skull, was captured and sacrificed by this first Petexbatun ruler in 679 according to the hieroglyphics at Dos Pilas. The second Petexbatun ruler Shield God K (r. 698-727) expanded his kingdom by military force in the southwestern lowlands, while Naranjo's Smoking Squirrel raided the Yaxha region in 710. The third Petexbatun ruler in 735 portrayed the Seibal king beneath his feet and married a princess from Cancuen. Petexbatun power, which controlled the largest lowland Mayan kingdom ever, was suddenly curtailed in 760 when the 4th king after ruling twenty years was captured and sacrificed at Tamarindito, and the capital at Dos Pilas was overcome. The kingdom broke up into warring chiefdoms for a half century, and then the area was abandoned. At Bonampak wall paintings depicted bloody sacrifices of nine captives.

To the west of Petexbatun, Yaxchilan managed to weather a conflict with Copan in 653 and with Palenque the next year as Six Tun Bird Jaguar ruled for half a century until 681; then his son Shield Jaguar II ruled Yaxchilan to 742, claiming he captured five places. Palenque king Pacal reigned from 615 to 683 and only recorded one war in 659 with Yaxchilan. His son Chan-Bahlum (r. 684-702) continued his father's building, as did another son, Kan Xul II (r. 702-25), who was captured in 711 raiding his southern neighbor Tonina. However, Palenque was one of the first cities to collapse, as its last date was recorded in 799. Tikal demonstrated revitalized power in 695 when its 26th ruler Ah Cacau claimed to capture Jaguar Paw of Calakmul. After a reign of half a century Ah Cacau was succeeded by his son in 734; but the power of Tikal gradually declined, and 889 was the last date they recorded. Yaxchilan king Shield Jaguar III recorded several conquests in the last five years of the 8th century, but the last date recorded at Yaxchilan was 808.

In the southeast (Honduras) the people of Copan expanded their territory during the long reigns of Butz Chan (578-628) and Smoke Imix (628-95). Great Copan building was continued by Eighteen Jog (Rabbit); but he was captured and sacrificed in 738 by Quirigua ruler Cauac Sky, who celebrated their increased power by inaugurating a century of building. Copan declined, and its last monument was dated 822. Quirigua's power seems to have been more suddenly eclipsed by occupation, and their last record was in 810. Most of the Mayan cities in the southern and central lowlands declined during the 9th century, and the last known inscriptions of Palenque and Piedras Negras, like those of Yaxchilan, related to military issues. Numerous causes for the decline have been suggested, such as disease, overpopulation, ecological disasters, revolutions, fatalism, wars, conquest by the Putun Maya, and trade isolation. Probably it was some combination of these factors. Yet it can also be argued that the end of the period of massive architecture and inscriptions glorifying their rulers did not mean the end of Mayan civilization but merely the end of an era in which a powerful elite ruled large numbers of peasants. When the large kingdoms broke up, social mobility became more possible.

In the 9th century Seibal was invaded by Putun and Itza Mayans. The Itza Maya began their domination in the northern Yucatan peninsula when, led by a Chontal Mayan named Kakupacal, they occupied Chichen Itza in 850. Kakupacal and others expanded the Itza realm by force and trade. Most of their building was in the late 9th century, but their capital at Chichen Itza thrived until about 1200. In the west the Puuc city of Uxmal was prominent; the Puuc built many causeways between their communities. In the east Coba maintained its independence from Itza incursions and was connected to Yaxuna by a causeway of 100 kilometers. The Itza were driven from the Yucatan area by the Mayapan ruler Hunac Ceel about 1221. Mayapan did without ball courts, sacrifices, sweat baths, and had few religious buildings, as the upper class dealt with commerce. The Quiché Maya left the chronicle, Popol Vuh, which recounted their migration to the north led by Balam Quitze and their conquest of the Pokomam Maya in the east in the 13th century. Quiché Mayans expanded in the 14th century and reached their maximum power in the mid-15th century; but the Cocom dynasty was massacred as Mayapan was destroyed in a revolt led by Ah Xupan Xiu in 1441.

Most archaeologists agree that the Mayans were governed by an elite class. When rivals or enemies from the elite were captured, they were often sacrificed, while most prisoners were probably made slaves, servants, or laborers. Orphans gained by purchase or kidnapping were also used for human sacrifice; slaves were bought and sold. Ceremonies and a ball game played on a court with a rubber ball were very important to the Mayans. According to the Spanish missionary Las Casas, men retired to a special building, and while separated from their wives they fasted and made daily offerings of their blood for up to a hundred days prior to a major festival. The priesthood, like the rulers, was headed by a hereditary elite family, which directed the sun priests, diviners, and seers whose visions were induced by peyote. Others assisted in the human sacrifices that cut out the heart of the victim. Such sacrifices were probably not performed as often as the Aztecs later did. Mayan rituals often focused on the sacred corn (maize).

Later Mayan hunters would pray for understanding before they would take life or disrupt the forests. These attitudes may have long endured and might have been learned from the hard experiences during the decline after population had increased. Later Mayans, like the Mexican Itza and the Spanish, were criticized in the Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel for having lost their innocence in carnal sins, causing lack of judgment, bad luck, and sickness. The great teachings of heaven and earth had been lost. Before these came, this author claimed there was no robbery, greed, tribute, nor violent strife.

Popol Vuh, the Maya Quiché book of counsel containing creation stories and legends, probably developed over centuries and was written down in a Roman alphabet by 1558. The Earth is formed from sky and sea by Maker, Modeler, Bearer, Begetter, Heart of the Lake, Heart of the Sea, and Sovereign Plumed Serpent in discussion with Heart of Sky, Heart of Earth, Newborn Thunderbolt, Sudden Thunderbolt, and Hurricane. They sow the earth with seeds that sprout, and their first try produces animals that squawk, chatter, and howl. The second attempt to create humans fails when they dissolve without reproducing. Then they consult the grandmothers Xpiyacoc and Xmucane, a divine matchmaker and a divine midwife. The next people have no hearts and minds and are destroyed in a flood and abused by killer bats and jaguars; for having eaten animals these people are eaten. Their descendants are the monkeys. The second part of Popol Vuh tells how the two divine boys Hunahpu and Xbalanque defeat and destroy Seven Macaw and his two sons, a maker of mountains (Zipacna) and Earthquake, because of their self-magnification and in revenge for the four hundred boys that Zipacna killed.

In the third part ball playing offends the lords of the underworld at Xibalba; so One and Seven Hunahpu journey there to play One and Seven Death. They face several tricks, traps, and tests, and they are buried at the Ball Game Sacrifice; but the head of One Hunahpu causes a calabash tree to bear fruit. Blood Moon becomes pregnant by his skull and escapes sacrifice, returning to Xmucane on Earth to give birth to Hunahpu and Xbalanque. They learn how to overcome the animals that prevent clearing the forest for gardening. Rat helps them find the ball game equipment, and they too are challenged to play at Xibalba. Before they leave, Hunahpu and Xbalanque plant corn as a sign of their death and rebirth. The heroic twins overcome the tricks of Xibalba with the help of mosquito; they lose the game, but ants get them the flowers they wagered. They endure more tests, but a bat cuts off Hunahpu's head, which is replaced by a squash. Playing ball with Hunahpu's head, they knock it out of the court, and a rabbit helps them switch it with a squash. Hunahpu and Xbalanque are ground up and reborn again and finally get the Xibalbans to limit their attacks on humans to those with weaknesses or guilt.

Meanwhile Xmucane mourns the death of the corn and rejoices when it sprouts again. With the corn flour Xmucane makes the first real humans-Jaguar Quitze, Jaguar Night, Not Right Now, and Dark Jaguar, the ancestors of the Quiché people. At first they have complete vision and perfect understanding, but Heart of Sky fogs up their vision so they can see clearly only what is close; they are given beautiful wives, and they multiply. They get fire from Tohil, but he and two other gods are turned to stone when the sun rises for the first time; now the gods can only speak to them in spirit form. Followers of these gods try to appease them by abducting people, sacrificing them, and rolling their heads onto the roads. So the Quiché send two radiant maidens to seduce their three boys. This fails, and the enemy tribes prepare for war. The Quichés are victorious and force the tribes to pay tribute regularly. Rebellions that occur are defeated, and victims are sacrificed. The Quiché king takes the title of Plumed Serpent, and the capital at Rotten Cane has three great pyramids and 23 palaces. Religious retreats involve fruit fasts lasting from 180 to 340 days. Wars occur, ending in tribute, and the lineage is recounted up to the Spanish period.

Toltecs and Anasazi

In the central highlands of Mexico the Toltecs were dominant from the 10th to the 12th century with their major city at Tollan (Tula). Itzas arrived at Chichén about 918, and Toltec Chichén was not destroyed until about 1250. A Mixtec legend tells of a ruler named Eight-Deer Ocelot-Claw, who succeeded his father as king of Tilantongo at age 19 in 1030, won several battles, married many wives and sired numerous children, went to Tollan, and tried to set up a bureaucratic empire at Tutupec by uniting it with Mixteca Alta and Baja. Eight-Deer had the men of the royal families he conquered sacrificed, and he or his sons married their widows and daughters. When the ruler of Xipe-Bundle died in 1047, Eight-Deer was concerned that some of his relatives would try to rule the city. So he allied himself with the Toltec Four-Tiger and sacrificed his half-brother Twelve-Earthquake. However, his little empire soon failed, and in 1063 Eight-Deer was defeated, captured and sacrificed.

Toltec legends tell of Quetzalcoatl incarnating as Ce Acatl Topiltzin, son of the Chichimec leader Ce Tecpatl Mixcoatl, who ruled Culhuacan 1122-50. Three years after his father died, Topiltzin went to Tollan and claimed the title of Quetzalcoatl as a divine king. Art, metalwork, and crafts thrived, and everyone prospered. According to Mendieta, Quetzalcoatl did not sacrifice men or animals, and he prohibited war and violence. Tollan had a population of about 120,000. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan told how the wizards tried to trick Quetzalcoatl into offering human sacrifices; but he never did it because he loved the Toltec people. This angered the magicians, and they began to mock him. By tricks and evil deeds (inspired by the evil god Tezcatlipoca) Huemac humiliated Quetzalcoatl, who fled Tollan and set himself on fire to become the morning star (Venus). Huemac was also forced to flee and died in Chapoltepec. Though several versions varied, these legends probably commemorated the fall of Tollan in about 1168. In most accounts Huemac fled to Cincalco, where he committed suicide. The Aztecs used the word toltec to refer to a skilled artisan, and Aztec pottery was found in the ceremonial centers destroyed at Tollan; but who actually destroyed Tollan is unknown.

After the fall of Tollan, the Toltec decline was gradual. For two centuries the basin of Mexico was ruled by various Mexica groups and Chichimecs (Dog People), who invaded the Toltecs from the northwest after their defenses were removed. Chichimec leader Xolotl settled at Tenayuca about 1201 and then made Texcoco a capital. Xolotl's son Nopaltzin killed Topiltzin's grandson Nauhyotl, the ruler of Culhuacan, possibly in 1248. Tochintecuhtli and Huetzin seem to have established a kingdom, and the latter was succeeded by Nonoalcatl in 1272.

To the northwest (in New Mexico, Colorado, and Arizona) the Mogollon and Hohokam cultures were influenced by the Anasazi from the north. In the 12th century the Anasazi suffered a half century of droughts, and by the 13th century they had abandoned Chaco Canyon. They moved into the Moteuczoma Valley, which had 30,000 inhabitants while about three thousand lived in the cliffs of the Mesa Verde mountains. About 1400 CE the Hohokam, who had been influenced by Mexican culture through trade, migrated out of the area probably to the south. The Anasazi developed into the Pueblo culture and lived in large communal houses, moving south as the more war-like Navaho and Apaches raided their towns from the north. Then the Pueblos moved east to the Rio Grande Valley. The Navahos took over what had been Anasazi territory, and the Apaches replaced the Mogollons and Hohokams. The Hopi and Zuni had large communities and used rock shelters to defend themselves against the more aggressive Apaches. They also used irrigation canals and hillside terracing for their farming; another withdrawal occurred after the middle of the 15th century. Hopi means peaceful, and they lived communally, emphasizing spiritual principles and the social group rather than individual prominence. Councils of priests made decisions, and warriors acted as police and only for defense.

Aztecs to 1519

Little is known about the specific ethics of most of the natives in the Americas before the Europeans came, because only the Mayans left writing. Significant exceptions are the Aztecs and Incas, because they developed powerful empires and were conquered by the Spaniards. Most of the tribes lived simply and cooperatively, probably with fewer ethical violations. All of the Americas had about a hundred million people, but less than ten million lived north of Mexico.

In the 13th century Tariacuri planned a Tarascan empire in Tzintzuntzan, where a king would rule guided by the deity Curcaueri; worship of any other patron deity was a capital crime. The gods were given credit for victories in war but did not justify them; wars were not fought for sacrifices, although captives were sacrificed. Tarascans tried to capture the salt deposits at Ixtapan from the Aztecs. The Aztecs also went to war for economic purposes. Aztecs appointed local administrators, but the Tarascan dynasty did not share power. Aztec legends begin with the Mexica migrating for two centuries after being originally from Aztlan. Their warlike hummingbird god (Huitzilopochtli) symbolized the spirits of fallen warriors. By the end of the 13th century they had settled in Chapoltepec.

The Mexicas were driven from Chapoltepec about 1315 by Copil, the son of Huitzilopochtli's sister, whom they had previously abandoned. They soon returned, but four years later they were attacked by a coalition that probably included the Tepanecs; the Mexica ruler Huitzilihuitl was sacrificed in Culhuacan, and they settled just west of there at Tizaapan. The Mexica traded with the Culhuacans and treated them like brothers, intermarrying and becoming Culhua Mexica. Aiding Culhuacan in a war against Xochimilco, they were ordered to take no prisoners and cut their ears off.

After being vassals to the Tepanecs of Azcapotzalco, the Mexica went south. According to legend they settled in a swampy area where an eagle sat on a cactus with a serpent in its beak, though Mexica had lived there for centuries. Tenochtitlan, an island in a lake, was founded in 1325 and Tlatelolco in 1358; the two cities became rivals. While being ruled by their first king, Acamapichtli (r. 1372-91), the Mexica served as mercenaries for Tepanec king Tezozomoc (r. 1371-1426), helping them to conquer Tenayuca and Culhuacan. The Tepanec empire collected tribute from the Mexica as well as from others. The closest relatives of the late king selected the next Mexica king-Acamapichtli's son Huitzilihuitl (r. 1391-1414), who was allowed to marry Tezozomoc's granddaughter. The Mexica helped the Tepanecs conquer Tlaxcala in 1395 and were given some of the acquired lands. Three years later they invaded Cuauhtinchan, and in 1411 the Mexica grabbed Chalco but had to give it up to a coalition that included the Tepanecs. Huitzilihuitl died about 1414 and was succeeded by his son Chimalpopoca.

Meanwhile Ixtlilxochitl had become king of Texcoco in 1409; after refusing to have Texcoco make cotton into mantles for the Tepanecs, he claimed to be emperor of the Chichimecs. Ixtlilxochitl further aggravated the Tepanecs by rejecting Tezozomoc's daughter and marrying the sister of Chimalpopoca. Tezozomoc attacked Texcoco in 1415 but was repulsed and was later besieged at Azcapotzalco for several months. The skillful Tezozomoc managed to gain Chalco and Otumba as allies, and together they attacked Texcoco and killed Ixtlilxochitl in 1418. Control of Texcoco was given to the Mexica, but most of the tribute went to the Tepanecs. Ixtlilxochitl's 16-year-old son Nezahualcoyotl with his friend Coyohua managed to survive and lived in Tenochtitlan for a while; the prince was allowed to return to Texcoco in 1424. Tezozomoc tried to get Coyohua to kill his master, but he refused.

When water at Tenochtitlan was becoming polluted, an aqueduct was built from Chapoltepec. Conflict over the building materials was said to have caused the death of Tezozomoc in 1426. He was given an elaborate funeral and had chosen as his successor his son Tayauh, who was supported by the Mexica. Chimalpopoca's advice to Tayauh to kill his brother Maxtla was overheard. Maxtla then used the same trick to kill Tayauh, and he had Chimalpopoca captured and killed in Tenochtitlan; his killers also tracked down and murdered Tlacateotl, ruler of Tlatelolco. This story may have been Aztec propaganda to cover up the more probable version that Itzcoatl arranged for Tepanecs from Tacuba to kill Chimalpopoca. Nezahualcoyotl came to Tezozomoc's funeral but was protected by the occasion from Maxtla, who appointed a bastard brother of Nezahualcoyotl to rule Texcoco; but this young man's treacherous plot against Nezahualcoyotl failed.

Itzcoatl was the brother of Huitzilihuitl and became Mexica king in 1427. He was greatly aided by his nephews Moteuczoma Ilhuicamina (Montezuma I) and Tlacaelel. As a diplomat Tlacaelel courageously went to Azcapotzalco. Maxtla claimed his Tepanec people were hostile to the Mexica, and war was ritually declared in 1428. Tlacaelel managed to escape the Tepanecs and returned to Tenochtitlan. There the nobles and warriors were ready to fight, but the common people wanted peace. According to Aztec history, the lords promised to sacrifice themselves if they lost, and the people agreed to serve them and pay tribute if they won.

Persecuted by the Tepanecs, Nezahualcoyotl joined Itzcoatl in an alliance against them. Maxtla had also alienated Cuauhtitlan by his cruel treatment and transferred the slave-dealing center from there to Azcapotzalco. Moteuczoma Ilhuicamina went to Chalco to gain their help; but having been at war with the Mexica for so long, they imprisoned him. He escaped and went on to Huexotzingo, where Cuauhtitlan accounts of Maxtla's excesses so enraged them that they murdered the Tepanec envoys. Huexotzingo and Tlaxcala also helped Nezahualcoyotl regain much of his realm at Texcoco, and together they attacked Azcapotzalco, forcing Maxtla to give up his siege of Tenochtitlan, which enabled Moteuczoma to take Tacuba. The allies besieged Azcapotzalco for 114 days until the Tepanec general Mazatl was wounded, and his army fled. The unpopular tyrant Maxtla was captured and sacrificed by Nezahualcoyotl. Most of the land went to the nobles and the warriors rather than the people of the clans, who all together only got as much as Tlacaelel and Moteuczoma.

The lands of the Mexica nobles were farmed by serfs. The state had some lands to supply the government. Some communal lands were farmed by freemen, who had to pay tribute. The Mexica king had about four close relatives of important influence but also a larger council of a dozen or so nobles. Warriors were rewarded for their services. Priests were influential nobles who educated other nobles; others were only given military training. Judges and officials were supposed by the historian Sahagun to be impartial, but merchants had privileges and their own law courts. The common people were not allowed to wear fine cotton clothes, jewelry, feathers, or partake of certain foods and drinks such as cocoa; no one was supposed to drink alcohol much until they were past fifty. People could become enslaved for crimes or be sold into it for debt; apparently most war captives were sacrificed. Slavery was not hereditary, though the poor or starving might sell their children.

Ancient words of advice by Mexica nobles to their children indicate they were motivated by a strong sense of honor and disdained to engage in common trade. They were urged to be clean and pure, and women could avoid poverty by spinning and weaving. Chastity and fidelity to one mate were encouraged, though two or three young men might share a paramour before they were married. Kings and nobles often had more than one wife. Everyone was admonished not to be vain, proud, or praise themselves, which provokes the anger of the Near and Close Lord. Rather one should bow one's head and be truly meek and humble, because the Lord knows one's heart and sees within us what we merit. The ideal was to be pure of vice and filth, and it was considered a blessing to die in war.

All the nobles were educated to be priests in the calmecac (school); the rich could get their sons in with gifts, and it was said those with poor gifts were not excluded. The youths slept in the calmecac, and discipline was strict. Serious offenses like being with a woman or drinking could be punished by death, and minor sins, like not awaking to pray at midnight, were purged with bloodletting. During fasts they got only water and plain corn-cakes once a day either at noon or midnight. Verbal discourse was valued, and songs were studied from books. According to writings inscribed during the Spanish period, priests were expected to be chaste, truthful, moderate, and devout. They also claimed that the chief priest called Quetzalcoatl was not selected by lineage but for being the best person with the purest and most compassionate heart. Aztec artists were inspired by the Toltecs, whom they admired. A good feather artist, for example, should be skillful, a master of oneself, and it was his duty to humanize the desires of the people; but a bad artist ignores how things look, is greedy, and scorns other people. A good painter is wise; God is in his heart, and he puts divinity into things and converses with his own heart.

Tlacaelel served three Mexica kings as cihuacoatl (snake woman); he was an able administrator but may have overseen the book burning under Itzcoatl intended to erase their humiliating Tepanec history. Though Nezahualcoyotl participated in the massacre of Azcapotzalco and the taking of other cities, he codified the laws of Texcoco and was known for his wisdom and justice. He went among the poor incognito to learn from them, and in his realm he only allowed war prisoners to be sacrificed. He supervised the construction of dams and canals that greatly enhanced agriculture. The causeway and aqueduct from Chapoltepec to Mexica were begun under Itzcoatl and were completed in 1466. Nezahualcoyotl gave prizes in the arts, crafts, music, and poetry. He wrote poetry about human mortality in this world and immortality in the next; yet he believed songs would last. He felt alone and empty of wisdom but praised the Giver of Life who distributes truth and brings joy.

Itzcoatl initiated the Mexica (Aztec) empire by conquering Coyoacan, Xochimilco, Cuitlahuac, and the remaining towns in the valley of Mexico. After conquering Cuernavaca, Itzcoatl died in 1440, and Moteuczoma Ilhuicamina was elected king. Moteuczoma was a successful general and also a high priest; he expanded the Mexica empire to the Gulf coast and organized botanical and zoological gardens. He had campaigned against Chalca to gain victims for his coronation. When they captured and killed two sons of Nezahualcoyotl and prepared for war, the Mexica mobilized every man and boy in 1444 and gained the Tepanecs and Acolhuas as allies. The final battle was fought on the feast day of the Chalca god Camaxtli so that they would have captives to sacrifice. The victorious Mexica took five hundred prisoners and sacrificed them. The long war with the Chalca was suspended when the Mexica suffered a great famine, though the Mexica found cause to make the Cohuixcas tributaries in 1448. The need for sacrificial victims stimulated the Mexica, Tepanecs, and Acolhuas in the valley to take on the Cholultecs, Tlascaltecs, and Huexotxincas in ritual combats to gain captives. A young man was not really recognized as a warrior until he had captured a soldier by himself, and it took four captures before he was considered a veteran.

A plague of locusts had devoured crops in 1446, and floods caused devastation three years later. Nezahualcoyotl oversaw the building of a dike to protect Tenochtitlan. The bad harvest in 1450 was followed by two years in which frosts destroyed the corn (maize) and a year of drought so that in 1454 there was no seed to sow. Famine became extreme as people sold themselves and their children into slavery to people along the coast; Mexica rulers prohibited the selling of a child for less than 400 ears of corn. With a new 52-year cycle rains came in 1455; but the Mexica imperial system had broken down, and in superstitious desperation they increased the number of human sacrifices; Moteuczoma and his brother Tlacaelel even planned so-called "wars of flowers" with the Tlaxcala and Huexotzingo for the purpose of getting more victims. Moteuczoma Ilhuicamina led the campaign against the peoples on the Gulf coast, and tribute was exacted from them. He demanded that the people of Cotaxtla supply them with mantles twice as long as before. After many were killed, the common people denounced their leaders and turned them over to the Mexica, who replaced the chiefs and doubled their tribute. Prisoners were not sacrificed but were given to the nobles with Tlacaelel receiving a large number.

Next the Mexica army turned north and invaded the Huastecs, killing and taking captives. Back at Tenochtitlan they were sacrificed at the festival of their own god Xipe Totec after fighting in an arena against better-armed opponents. The captor of the prisoner supervised the ritual. A long war with Chalco finally resulted in their subjugation when three despairing Chalco princes came over to the side of the Mexica in 1465, making it a part of the Aztec empire. The next year Moteuczoma led an attack against Tepeaca and three other towns, which agreed to pay tribute and accept Mexica's god. Moteuczoma Ilhuicamina died in 1468 and left no legitimate sons; his brother Tlacaelel declined to succeed him, and Nezahualcoyotl recommended nineteen-year-old prince Axayacatl. He led the campaign to subdue the Cotaxtla rebellion in 1470.

Nezahualcoyotl died in 1472; though he had sixty sons and 57 daughters from forty wives, he was succeeded by his oldest legitimate son, eight-year-old Nezahualpilli. Three sons challenged him, but Axayacatl and the Tacuba saved Nezahualpilli by bringing him to Tenochtitlan, where he was crowned king of Texcoco. In 1473 some maidens of Tlatelolco complained that they had been ravished by youths from Tenochtitlan. The Tlatelolcan ruler Moquihuix had married Axayacatl's sister but had rejected her for more attractive concubines. She warned her brother, who was able to gather more allies, including Texcoco, and they defeated and killed Moquihuix. The Tlatelolcans submitted that they were only merchants and offered tribute; they were put under a military governor from their neighboring city of Tenochtitlan. Axayacatl used his military power to exact unfair trade agreements, such as from the cities of Xoconoxco (Soconusco) in the east. In 1474 a dispute between Toluca and Tenancingo resulted in the latter asking for help from Axayacatl, who took advantage of the conflict to gain tribute from both. Axayacatl was wounded in the thigh, but many captives were gained for the sacrifices to celebrate the inauguration of the Stone of the Sun, which weighed 24 tons and became famous as the Aztec Calendar Stone.

In 1478 the Mexica once again subdued the rebellious Huastecs of Tuxpan; but that year they found tougher resistance from the Tarascans in the north. About 24,000 Mexica took on 40,000 Tarascans; but after two days of fighting they fled, having lost 20,000 men. Nonetheless Matlaltzinco was brought into the Mexica empire. Axayacatl died in 1481 and was succeeded by his older brother Tizoc. Nezahualpilli advised him to take care of widows, orphans, and the elderly as well as his warriors. Tizoc followed the Mexica custom of launching a war to gain sacrificial victims for his coronation by invading Metztitlan in the north; but his campaign was a dismal failure as they lost three hundred men and brought home only forty captives. Tizoc also tried to suppress a rebellion in Toluca, and his battles were commemorated on an extant stone; but he was unpopular and was probably poisoned in 1486 so that his younger brother Ahuitzotl could replace him.

Ahuitzotl was an aggressive king and began his reign by attacking the cities of Xiquipilco, Chiapas, and Xilotepec, providing many victims for his lavish coronation that cost a year's tribute and to which he invited even his enemies. Ahuitzotl insisted that allies join him in quelling the unrest in the coastal province of Huastec. The pyramids of the Great Temple in Tenochtitlan were inaugurated in 1487 with four days of sacrifices that were reported by several sources to claim an astonishing 80,400 lives. These sacrifices were justified by the belief that such rituals were necessary to keep the sun on its course. The captive warriors were mollified by being honored as gods prior to their hearts being cut out. Next the Mexica king ruthlessly devastated the rebellious cities of Teloloapan and Oztoma, killing all the adults and distributing 40,000 children around the empire.

Ahuitzotl wanted to colonize some areas with four hundred people taken from each of Tenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tacuba; but Nezahualpilli persuaded him to reduce the numbers to half and let people volunteer. Ahuitzotl sent his daughters to be wives of Nezahualpilli, who later caught his queen with three lovers and had the four executed. Nezahualpilli was severe in his justice, having also executed two rebellious sons. A judge was condemned to death for hearing a case in his home, as was another for favoring a noble over a poor man. His reforms included nullifying a law that made children slaves if their parents were, thus resisting the trend toward more slavery in the late empire.

Ahuitzotl's empire enabled the Mexica to gain cotton from the northern coastal region and gold and cochineal from the Oaxaca Zapotecs, who revolted against the unfair trade in 1496. Ahuitzotl tried to prevent his victorious warriors from plundering, and they resented his limited sharing of booty. When the rulers of Tehuantepec offered to pay much tribute to prevent a slaughter, Ahuitzotl pleased everyone by distributing it to his men. When the people of Tehuantepec tried to trade with Xoconoxco, the latter called them cowards for being lackeys of Mexica. Tehuantepec appealed to Ahuitzotl. His armies defeated Xoconoxco, but once again the warriors complained when they were not allowed to pillage. When the city of Tenochtitlan needed fresh water, Ahuitzotl forced the ruler of Coyoacan to make his springs available. Warned that this would cause flooding, Ahuitzotl went ahead anyway; the springs and heavy rains flooded the lagoon, causing much damage before Nezahualpilli could repair the dikes and remove the new dams with help from divers.

When Ahuitzotl died in 1502, the nobles had several outstanding candidates to choose from for their next king. Nezahualpilli warned that the empire was overextended and that they needed an experienced statesman. They elected Moteuczoma Xocoyotl (Montezuma II), the 34-year-old son of Axayacatl. Moteuczoma was known for his aristocratic attitudes and may even have promised to favor the nobility, for he began his reign by dismissing all the commoners who had worked in the government under Ahuitzotl. The former king had chosen many commoners for their abilities, but Moteuczoma refused even to hire his own half-brothers. Children of slave mothers were definitely rejected, and the only other necessary requirement besides nobility seems to have been their height. Moteuczoma had been found cleaning the temple when he was elected, and he was an ascetic disciplinarian who favored strict punishments. He even sent people to bribe judges and punished those who succumbed to the temptation. Once he was surrounded by the nobility, the new king ordered that all those who had served Ahuitzotl were to be executed.

Moteuczoma Xocoyotl began his military campaigns by attacking Nopallan on the Oaxaca coast. He warned cities that any rebellion would be crushed. At the usual sacrifices during his coronation the guests ate psychedelic mushrooms. After suppressing a rebellion in distant Xoconoxco, where he ordered all those over fifty killed, Moteuczoma made it his policy to consolidate his empire by conquering the independent cities nearest his capital. He bullied the commercial city of Tlatelolco into providing more support for his military expeditions. In 1503 he captured Achiotla in Oaxaca. The next year a war broke out between Tlaxcala and Huexotzingo, usually allies; after the former burned the latter's crops, Moteuczoma intervened and occupied Huexotzingo but was defeated by the Tlaxcalans. After his army massacred the people of Yanhuitlan, the people of Zozollan fled to the mountains. In 1506 the city of Teuctepec sent out an army that was defeated; though the fortress could not be taken, Moteuczoma ordered the many prisoners sacrificed. Threatened with the death of half their population in 1511, the Mixtec city of Tlaxiaco submitted and only had some prisoners sacrificed as gladiators.

Mexica fought Tlaxcala and its ally Huexotzingo for several years. During this war Moteuczoma Xocoyotl sent the Acolhua army of Nezahualpilli and let them be ambushed as he watched. In 1512 a new stone was dedicated, and 12,000 Mixtecs were sacrificed. Nezahualpilli died in 1515, and Moteuczoma chose his own nephew Cacama as the new king of Texcoco. That year Moteuczoma once again sent his army to occupy Huexotzingo in its battle against Tlaxcala; but most were killed or taken prisoner. Nonetheless Moteuczoma made many other conquests. The Chichimec prince Ixtlilxochitl organized a revolt and took his partisans to independent Meztitlan, while his brother Cacama was being crowned. In 1517 Ixtilxochitl marched south with a hundred thousand men and gained support from several cities. Moteuczoma sent his general Xochitl, but he was defeated, captured, and burned alive. Ixtlilxochitl sent a message to Cacama, and they agreed to divide their kingdom. The Huexotzingo chief captured the Tlascaltec warrior Tlalhuicol and sent him to Moteuczoma, who offered him freedom and employed him as a general against the Tarascos. Tlalhuicol returned with spoils but volunteered to be a gladiator, killing eight Anahuac warriors before he was sacrificed.

The people of Huexotzingo finally made peace with Tlaxcala and returned to their homes in 1518. Moteuczoma Xocoyotl had been receiving premonitions and disastrous omens along with rumors of invading foreigners; frustrated that they were saying his empire would fall, he had astrologers, magicians, and sorcerers killed. He was sacrificing more victims to inaugurate the refurbishing with gold of a temple to their war god Huitzilopochtli when he received definite news of strangers led by Juan de Grijalva. An embassy was sent with generous gifts, but the Spaniards had departed. The next year the ships of Cortes arrived. By then Tenochtitlan had more than 120,000 people and the valley of Mexico more than a million.

Cortes in Mexico 1519-1528

Incas to 1532

Many cultures prospered in the Andes regions long before the Inca empire rose to power. The Mochica developed a thriving culture in the first six centuries CE along the northern coast, building aqueducts and canals in every valley and large pyramids at Moche to the sun and moon. Their artisans pioneered working gold, silver, copper, and their alloys in the new world. Great differences in their houses and clothes indicate a stratified society. Warriors were honored, and women were only depicted in domestic tasks. Along the southern coast the Nazca seemed to be more peaceful and egalitarian, living in smaller villages with similar accommodations. Their religion respected the ancestors but seemed to be more individual than collective worship. The Nazca produced the immense line drawings of a spider and hummingbird in the barren plains that can be seen in their entirety only from the sky. On the central coast Tiwanaku and Huari cultures developed. Artistic icons of puma heads with tears indicate that their religion somehow replaced the Nazca culture and spread throughout the Andes area (except to Cuzco), providing a transition from the Mochica to the Chimú. After 1000 CE the Chimú capital at Chanchan had 50,000 people, and every valley had an urban center with social classes.

Inca origins in the 13th century are explained by the legend of Manco Capac leading a migration to Cuzco, getting rid of his three brothers, and marrying his sister. According to Garcilaso de la Vega, the second king Sinchi Roca drew tribes into the Inca empire by love rather than force and told his people to live in peace and that he would assist them when they were in need. Garcilaso and some chroniclers described the Inca empire expanding through the efforts of several kings; but if so, there must have been setbacks, because the eighth king Viracocha Inca was still fighting the nearby Chanca, Lupaca, and Colla with Cuzco besieged. Viracocha began the historical imperial expansion by garrisoning conquered peoples and placing Inca officials over them. Viracocha wanted his son Urcon to succeed him, but the oldest son Inca Roca wanted the capable third son Cusi Inca Yupanqui to be the next ruler. The Colla attacked the Lupaca and were defeated by them. The Chanca had taken over the Inca neighbor Quechua and invaded Cuzco. Viracocha and Urcon barricaded themselves in the fortress; but Cusi Yupanqui with Roca led a heroic defense against the attacking Chanca. The Incas overcame the Chanca in several battles. When Viracocha died, Urcon became king. However, Cusi Yupanqui, refusing to recognize him, took the throne and the name Pachacuti in 1438.

Pachacuti leveled villages for six miles in every direction in order to build a large city at Cuzco. Pachacuti's armies began their conquest by killing the men of their nearby enemies. The surrounding mountains were taken over next. After the Chanca were subdued at Ichupampa, their skulls and skins were turned into drums. Urcon was declared an outlaw and was hunted down and killed; Viracocha Inca submitted, and Pachacuti was crowned and probably wedded to Urcon's sister and wife. The new Inca emperor set about expanding and integrating his empire. Pachacuti made his oldest son Amaru Inca co-regent, and after a drought he was worshiped for feeding the hungry with corn, potatoes, and quinoa. A Colla coalition was defeated, and its leader Chuchi Capac was sacrificed at Coricancha. However, Amaru Inca was not a strong military leader, and his father deposed him after about five years.

A Chanca contingent led by Hancohuallu accompanied the Inca army under Pachacuti's brother and general Capac Yupanqui. They conquered Aimara, Umasuyu, Cotapampa, and Chilque. Above Huanco, the Chancas deserted and fled into the forest. Pachacuti ordered Capac Yupanqui to kill them. Capac Yupanqui went beyond his orders by invading Cajamarca in the north; even though he was successful there, when he returned to Cuzco, Pachacuti had him and his brother executed for disobedience and for allowing the Chancas to escape. Chanca rebels led by Hastu Huaraca eventually capitulated and were sent to Collao. Rebellion broke out in lands to the north as far as Cajamarca. Incas at this time began moving conquered people to regions with similar climates, where they could adapt and be less rebellious, replacing them with obedient peasants. Next Pachacuti's army quelled revolts near Lake Titicaca encouraged by the Lupaca, whom they also crushed.

Once local enemies were eliminated and Inca power became known, diplomatic means often were successful. Knowing they would be slaughtered if they resisted, leaders could maintain their positions under Inca governors. Subjected towns provided not only supplies but also men for the Inca army, which thus grew as it moved. Pachacuti left behind several sayings criticizing envy, and he declared that judges who allowed a plaintiff to visit them in secret should be considered thieves and be punished with death. He organized the Inca empire so that loyalty to the tribe was combined with loyalty to the emperor, and he promoted a religion for the same purpose. Seeing the limitations of the sun god, Pachacuti proclaimed the Creator Ticci Viracocha Pachayachachi the supreme God. He rewarded the best leaders by giving them the best wives. At Cuzco, Pachacuti had the swamp filled and artificial banks constructed. Provincial Inca nobles were required to live in Cuzco for four months each year. Mining operations brought much gold and silver into the capital, but none was allowed to leave without imperial authorization to use it for temples or to reward governors. Those coming into Cuzco were also searched for weapons.

Incas lived in clans called ayllu, were endogamous, patrilineal, and did not have totems. Each family had their own land, but the ayllu worked communally, farming the sacred and state lands first and taking care of the land of widows and families of men in public service. Local chiefs were retained, but complete loyalty was demanded by the Inca emperor, who was served directly by the most outstanding young men and women. The most beautiful girls were selected at age ten and educated for four years in spinning, weaving, and domestic tasks. Those not taken by the emperor or nobles as secondary wives were consecrated as "virgins of the sun." The sons of the nobles spent four years learning the Quechua language, Inca religion and history, arithmetic, and record keeping using knotted cords. Discipline was by caning, up to ten blows per day on the soles of the feet. History was memorized by at least three historians for each emperor. Inca nobles related to the emperor governed each of the four quarters of the empire. Local leaders called curacas were hereditary chiefs over villages of a hundred men up to cities of ten thousand. Officers over smaller groups were appointed by their curaca, and their positions were not hereditary.

The state, headed by the Inca emperor and nobles, dominated everyone; but they provided for all the needs of the people. The emperor was called the friend of the poor. Those in distress received food from state storehouses, even if they had just been defeated in war. The aged were given food from state warehouses if they drove birds away from the fields. The emperor's word was law, and judges were expected to follow royal edicts. Crime was rare; if it was motivated by some need, the official responsible for not meeting the need might be punished. Disputes between provinces were settled by royal envoys or by the emperor himself. Treason and disobedience of the emperor were punished with death as were murder, arson, theft from the state, desertion from the army or public service, and breaking into a convent. Only a governor or the emperor could decree a capital punishment, and a curaca who did so was punished. Inca nobles were judged only by the court of twelve judges in Cuzco. Women and the lower class were not allowed to testify. Nobles guilty of adultery were executed, but commoners were only tortured. Another punishment was to be sent to work on the hot coca plantations.

In addition to working the sacred and state lands, the common men also had to serve in the army or perform public works in mines or for bridges, roads, and buildings; the people also had to provide everything the army needed. These services replaced tax or tribute, because they had no money. Roads were so good that relay runners could move a message 150 miles per day, and stations with warehouses provided all the needs of the imperial army in which men from all regions served under Inca officers. Incas excelled in making and decorating textiles.

The educated considered God the omniscient creator, and worship of the sun and the emperor as his son was spread throughout the empire. As there is only one sun, there was one emperor; people taken into the empire were expected to worship the sun. A storm god was importuned for rain, and the moon goddess was important in periodic festivals. People in the highlands worshiped the earth goddess also, and those along the coast the sea goddess. Sins were confessed to priests, who took measures to make sure confessions were complete. Human sacrifice was rare among the Incas, and a girl so chosen was considered honored and blessed. Illness was thought a punishment for sin; healing was not only by magic but also by using various herbs.

In 1463 Pachacuti made his 15-year-old son Topa Inca his co-regent. His older brothers Auqui Yupanqui, Tillca Yupanqui, and the illegitimate Topa Capac led the army against the rebelling Quechuas and the Chimor. Topa Inca was given credit for conquering Vilcas. After driving off the Chimor, Topa turned Cajamarca into a fortress. Topa was the tenth Inca emperor, and Minchançaman was ninth leader of the Chimor. Wherever they conquered, the Incas collected tribute and imposed their religion, banning cannibalism and sodomy. When their capital Tumibamba was taken, many thousands of the Cañars were transferred south. In 1466 Topa returned to Cuzco in triumph. Next the Inca army invaded as far as Ecuador to capture the great city of Quito, where Topa left Challco Mayta to govern. On the coast the Incas captured the city of Tumbez, which was ruled by a polyandrous female curaca. By 1470 Minchançaman had been captured and taken to Cuzco. Pachacuti was so envious that he had Tillca Yupanqui and other leaders executed. Gold and silver were used to make statues of the gods Viracocha, Inti, and Mama Ocllo. The elderly Pachacuti abdicated, and Topa Inca was crowned.

In the south a hundred thousand Chinchas were prospering in farming, fishing, and commerce. Topa led his army and forced them to pay tribute while granting them autonomy. Others chose to resist, and the Incas gave up after eight months of trying to take Huarco. While campaigning, Topa let the capital be ruled by his brother Amaru Inca. When Topa took his army east toward the Amazon jungles, he learned Collao was revolting because of the forced labor imposed on them by Pachacuti. The rebellion spread in the south and took years for Topa to suppress and reorganize. Once while Topa was away, his older brother Topa Capac returned to Cuzco with his troops. The furious Topa Inca quickly came back and had his brother and many others put to death. Topa Inca popularized the chewing of coca leaves and made coca production a state monopoly. He disliked the provincial huacas (spiritual powers) and had many of their religious shrines burned. Acclaimed for defeating the Collas, Topa Inca went further south to Chile; according to Garcilaso, he spent six years campaigning there and lost fifty thousand men. In his last four years Topa had to go back to fight rebellion in the north as far as Quito.

When Topa Inca died in 1493, his heir apparent Huayna Capac was only five years old. His father's cousin Hualpaya was proclaimed regent; but conspirators supporting him were caught smuggling arms into the capital and were killed. Huayna Capac was forced to grow up quickly and went on a pilgrimage as his illegitimate brother Sinchi Roja governed from Cuzco. Some doubted the paternity of his first son Ninan Cuyochi because the Emperor was still only ten years old. Huayna Capac's second son was Atahualpa, and his third son was named Huascar. Viceroy Huaman Achachi led a campaign against an uprising in Quito but returned to govern Cuzco. Huayna Capac persuaded the Colla and Lupaca curacas to support the northern war. Huascar was named heir apparent, and princes Ninan Cuyochi and Atahualpa were sent north to learn military command.

The war against the Carangui people of northern Ecuador began about 1511. Victories by the Carangui forced Huayna Capac to lead his army out of Quito. A mutiny in the Inca army was led by Michi, but Huayna Capac managed to mollify the soldiers with a religious display, sharing of treasure, and orgiastic celebrations. The brave Auqui Toma led the Inca army in battle but was killed. Huayna Capac commented that men are only food for war, but he took command again. The Carangui were finally devastated by 1522. Huayna Capac led his men further into Ecuador but soon encountered a spreading plague that had been brought by the Spanish. Huayna Capac and many others were infected, and the Inca emperor was dead by 1526. Also in the 1520s Huayna Capac sent his relative Guacane southeast of Cochabamba; but Guacane was defeated and killed by 8,000 Guarani warriors from Paraguay. Huayna Capac had to send Yasca to fortify this frontier against the threat of these Chiriguanos.

Ninan Cuyochi was declared emperor, but news came that he had also died in the epidemic. Huascar had already seized power in Cuzco. The queen Rahua Ocllo reluctantly agreed to let Huascar marry his sister Chuqui Huipa, and Huascar was crowned the twelfth and last Inca emperor. His brother Atahualpa sent word, asking to remain as viceroy in Quito; but his embassy was insulted, and he feared going to Cuzco without his troops and stayed at Tumibamba. Huascar plotted and had Atahualpa captured, but a girl helped him escape. Atahualpa prepared for the civil war that killed a hundred thousand people. He ordered a massacre of Cañars at Tumibamba, and the city was razed. He won another bloody battle and took Cajamarca. By 1531 Huascar was trying to defend Cuzco, and he finally tried to negotiate but was mocked by his mother Mama Rocha. From Cajamarca, Atahualpa ordered Huascar, his family, and supporters killed, and about 1500 Incas were put to death. Then every fifth or third person within fifteen miles of Cuzco was also killed. This war was abruptly ended, as Atahualpa learned in 1532 that Spaniards led by Pizarro had arrived.

Pizarros and Peru 1532-1580

Copyright © 2005 by Sanderson Beck

This chapter has been published in the book America to 1744. For ordering information please click here.

America Chronology to 1744
Mayans, Toltecs, Aztecs, and Incas
Spanish Conquest 1492-1580
Brazil and Guiana 1500-1744
Spanish Colonies and the West Indies 1580-1744
Colonial Latin America 1744-1808
Bolivar and South American Liberation
Northern America to 1642
English, French, and Dutch Colonies 1643-1664
New France 1663-1744
New England 1664-1744
New York to Pennsylvania 1664-1744
Maryland, Virginia, Carolinas, and Georgia 1663-1744
Franklin's Practical Ethics
Summary and Evaluation of America to 1744

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