13 min

1100 to 1533

Inca Empire

by Something Something

The Inca Empire (Quechua: Tawantinsuyu, lit. "four parts together"), also known as the Incan Empire and the Inka Empire, was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was in the city of Cusco. The Inca civilization arose from the Peruvian highlands sometime in the early 13th century. The Spanish began the conquest of the Inca Empire in 1532 and its last stronghold was conquered in 1572.

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1100 Jan 1 -

Cuzco Valley

The Inca people were a pastoral tribe in the Cusco area around the 12th century. Peruvian oral history tells an origin story of three caves. The center cave at Tampu T'uqu (Tambo Tocco) was named Qhapaq T'uqu ("principal niche", also spelled Capac Tocco). The other caves were Maras T'uqu (Maras Tocco) and Sutiq T'uqu (Sutic Tocco). Four brothers and four sisters stepped out of the middle cave. They were: Ayar Manco, Ayar Cachi, Ayar Awqa (Ayar Auca) and Ayar Uchu; and Mama Ocllo, Mama Raua, Mama Huaco and Mama Qura (Mama Cora). Out of the side caves came the people who were to be the ancestors of all the Inca clans.

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Kingdom of Cusco

1200 Jan 1 -

Cuzco, Peru

The Inca, led by Manco Capac(leader of the ayllu, a nomadic tribe), migrate to the Cuzco Valley and establish their capital at Cuzco. Upon arriving to the Cusco valley, they defeated three small tribes that lived there; the Sahuares, Huallas and Alcahuisas, and then settled in a swampy area between two small streams, that today corresponds with the main plaza of the city of Cusco. He oversees the construction and development of the Kingdom of Cusco, initially a small city-state. Archaeologist John Rowe calculates 1200 AD as an approximate date for the founding of the Inca dynasty — long before the foundation of the empire.

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Incas remain in Cuzco

1200 Jan 2 -

Cuzco, Peru

For approximately 200 years, the Incas remain settled in Cusco and its surrounding area. According to Gordon Francis McEwan (The Incas: New Perspectives), “Between A.D. 1200 and 1438 eight Incas ruled without the Incas expanding much outside their heartland in Cusco.”

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Terrace Farming


Sinchi Roca

1230 Jan 1 -

Cuzco, Peru

He is said to have created a territorial division of his domains and is considered to be the initiator of the first census of the Inca population. He also ordered all members of his ethnic group (Inca) to pierce their ears as a sign of nobility. He solidifies Inca power in Cusco by creating an army composed of soldiers who belonged to the nobility cast. Sinchi Roca dresses his soldiers in uniform which intimidated his enemies. The chronicler Pedro Cieza de León states that Sinchi Roca built terraces and credited with bringing great quantity of soil to improve the fertility of the valley and of building the first water canal in the Huatanay and Tullumayo rivers.

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The Acllas were the most culturally educated women in the empire and lived cloistered in the Acllahuasi or House of the Acllas


Lloque Yupanqui

1260 Jan 1 -

Acllahuasi, Peru

He was the son and successor of Sinchi Roca. Although some chronicles attributed minor conquests to him, others say that he did not wage any wars, or that he was even occupied with rebellions. He is said to have established the public market in Cuzco and built the Acllahuasi. In the days of the Inca Empire, this institution gathered young women from across the empire; some were given by the Inca as concubines to nobles and warriors and others were dedicated to the cult of the Sun god. Sometimes they were simply servants.

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Mayta Capac

1290 Jan 1 -

Arequipa, Peru

Mayta Cápac (Quechua Mayta Qhapaq Inka) was the fourth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cuzco, He was referred to as the reformer of the calendar. The chroniclers describe him as a great warrior who conquered territories as far as Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, and Potosí. While in fact, his kingdom was still limited to the valley of Cuzco. Mayta Cápac put the regions of Arequipa and Moquegua under the control of the Inca empire. His great military feat was the subjugation of Alcabisas and Culunchimas tribes.

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Cápac Yupanqui

1320 Jan 1 -

Ancasmarca, Peru

Yupanqui was a son and successor of Mayta Cápac while his elder brother Cunti Mayta became high priest. In legend, Yupanqui is a great conqueror; the chronicler Juan de Betanzos says that he was the first Inca to conquer territory outside the valley of Cuzco—which may be taken to delimit the importance of his predecessors. He subjugated the Cuyumarca and Ancasmarca. Garcilaso de la Vega reports that he improved the city of Cuzco with many buildings, bridges, roads and aqueducts.

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War with the Chancas


Inca Roca

1350 Jan 1 -

Ayacucho, Peru

Inca Roca (Quechua Inka Roq'a, "magnanimous Inca") was the sixth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cusco (beginning around CE 1350) and the first of the Hanan ("upper") Qusqu dynasty. After Cápac Yupanquiʻs death, the hanan moiety rebelled against the hurin, killed Quispe Yupanqui, and gave the throne to Inca Roca, son of another of Cápac Yupanquiʻs wives, Cusi Chimbo. Inca Roca moved his palace into the hurin section of Cuzco. In legend, he is said to have conquered the Chancas (among other peoples), as well as established the yachaywasi, schools for teaching nobles. More soberly, he seems to have improved the irrigation works of Cuzco and neighboring areas, but the Chancas continued to trouble his successors. (He creates yachaiwasis or schools for the nobles. Under his reign he establishes friendly ties with nearby tribes).

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Yawar Waqaq

1380 Jan 1 -

Cuzco, Peru

Yawar Waqaq[a] (Hispanicized spellings Yahuar Huacac, Yáhuar Huácac) or Yawar Waqaq Inka was the seventh Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cusco (beginning around CE 1380) and the second of the Hanan dynasty. His father was Inca Roca (Inka Ruq'a). Yawar's wife was Mama Chicya (or Chu-Ya) and their sons were Paucar Ayllu and Pahuac Hualpa Mayta. As a child he was kidnapped by the Ayarmacas because of a marital conflict. He eventually escaped with the help of one of his captor's mistresses, Chimpu Orma. Assuming the reign at the age of 19, Yawar conquered Pillauya, Choyca, Yuco, Chillincay, Taocamarca and Cavinas. Yahuar Huaca is not very healthy and spends most of his time in Cusco. He appoints his second son Pahuac Gualpa Mayta as his successor but is killed by one of his concubines who wanted her son to be the Sapa Inca. Yahuar Huaca is also assassinated along with his other sons.

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Viracocha Inca

1410 Jan 1 -

Cuzco, Peru

Viracocha (in hispanicized spelling) or Wiraqucha (Quechua, the name of a god) was the eighth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cusco (beginning around 1410) and the third of the Hanan dynasty. He was not the son of Yawar Waqaq; however, it was presented as such because he belonged to the same dynasty as his predecessor: the Hanan.

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Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui becomes ruler by defeating the Chanca

1438 Jan 1 -

Machu Picchu

The Chanca (or Chanka) tribe, a “powerful warlike confederation” (McEwan), attacks the city of Cusco as it attempts an aggressive expansion to the south. Pachacuti led the military defense against the Chanka while his father and his brother, Urco Inca, fled the manor. The victory over the Chankas made Inca Viracocha recognize him as his successor around 1438. He conquered the provinces of Colla-Suyu and Chinchay-Suyu. Along with his sons, Tupac Ayar Manco (or Amaru Tupac Inca), and Apu Paucar Usnu, he defeated the Collas. Additionally, he left garrisons in subjugated lands. Pachacuti rebuilt much of Cusco, designing it to serve the needs of an imperial city and as a representation of the empire. Most archaeologists now believe that the famous Inca site of Machu Picchu was built as an estate for Pachacuti.

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The Inca Empire expands

1463 Jan 1 -

Chan Chan

Pachacuti places his son, Túpac Inca Yupanqui (or Topa Inca), in charge of the Inca army. Túpac Inca pushes the borders of the Inca Empire to new extremes, heading north into Ecuador after securing vast swathes of central and northern Peru. Túpac Inca's most important conquest was the Kingdom of Chimor, the Inca's only serious rival for the Peruvian coast. Túpac Inca's empire then stretched north into modern-day Ecuador and Colombia. He conquered the province of Antis and subdued the Collas. He imposed rules and taxes, creating two Governor Generals, Suyuyoc Apu, one in Xauxa and the other in Tiahuanacu. Tupac Inca Yupanqui created the fortress Saksaywaman on the high plateau above Cuzco, which included storehouses for provisions and clothing.

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Battle of the Maule

1480 Jan 1 -

near the Maule River?

The Battle of the Maule was fought between a coalition of Mapuche people of Chile and the Inca Empire of Peru. The account of Garcilaso de la Vega depicts the three-day battle, which is generally believed to have occurred in the reign of Tupac Inca Yupanqui (1471-93 CE). Arguably the Inca's advances in Chile were halted by their unwillingness to commit greater resources in fighting the Mapuche. There are conflicting arguments between sources for the specific date, location, causes, etc for this battle.

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Huayna Capac


Huayna Capac

1493 Jan 1 -

Quito, Ecuador

Tupac Inca died about 1493 in Chincheros, leaving two legitimate sons, and 90 illegitimate sons and daughters. He was succeeded by Huayna Capac In the south, Huayna Capac continued the expansion of the Inca Empire into present-day Chile and Argentina and tried to annex territories towards the north in what is now Ecuador and southern Colombia. As Sapa Inca, he also built astronomical observatories in Ecuador such as Ingapirca. Wayna Qhapaq hoped to establish a northern stronghold in the city of Tumebamba, Ecuador, where the Cañari people lived. Ruins of the Inca city of Pumpu. Wayna Qhapaq used to spend time relaxing in the nearby Chinchay Cocha lake connected to the city by a river. In Ecuador, formerly known as the Kingdom of Quito, Wayna Qhapaq absorbed the Quito Confederation into the Inca Empire after marrying the Quito Queen Paccha Duchicela Shyris XVI in order to halt a long protracted war. From this marriage Atawallpa was born (1502 AD) in Caranqui, Ecuador. Wayna Qhapaq died in 1524. When Wayna returned to Quito he had already contracted a fever while campaigning in present-day Colombia (though some historians dispute this), likely resulting from the introduction of European disease like measles or smallpox

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Imperial expansion into the Amazon halted

1527 Jan 1 -

Chinchipe, Ecuador

The empire's push into the Amazon Basin near the Chinchipe River was stopped by the Shuar in 1527. The empire extended into corners of Argentina and Colombia. However, most of the southern portion of the Inca empire, the portion denominated as Qullasuyu, was located in the Altiplano.


Inca Civil War

1529 Jan 1 -

Quito, Ecuador

Huayna Capac dies, possibly from smallpox (an epidemic had been tearing through the New World immediately after its introduction by the Spanish). Catastrophically, Huayna Capac had failed to name an heir before his death. The ensuing power struggle between his two sons, Huáscar and Atahualpa, eventually leads to a civil war. Huascar assumes the throne supported by the nobility in Cusco. Meanwhile Atahualpa, who was considered a more capable administrator and warrior, is crowned Sapa Inca in Quito. It is unknown how many Inca were killed or died during the civil war. The estimated population of the Inca empire before an epidemic (probably of a European disease) and the Spanish conquest is estimated at between 6 and 14 million people. The civil war, an epidemic, and the Spanish conquest resulted in a population decline over several decades estimated as 20:1 or 25:1, meaning that the population declined by 95 percent.

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Battle of Puná

1531 Apr 1 -

Puna, Ecuador

The Battle of Puná, a peripheral engagement of Francisco Pizarro's conquest of Peru, was fought in April 1531 on the island of Puná (in the Gulf of Guayaquil) in Ecuador. Pizarro's conquistadors, boasting superior weaponry and tactical skill, decisively defeated the island's indigenous inhabitants. The battle marked the beginning of Pizarro's third and final expedition before the fall of the Inca Empire.

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Battle of Quipaipán

1532 Jan 1 -

Cuzco, Peru

The Battle of Quipaipán was the decisive battle of the Inca Civil War between the brothers Atahualpa and Huáscar. After the victory at Chimborazo, Atahualpa stopped in Cajamarca as his generals followed Huáscar to the south. The second confrontation took place at Quipaipán, where Huáscar was again defeated, his army disbanded, Huáscar himself captured and - save for the intervention of Pizarro - the entire Inca empire nearly fallen to Atahualpa.

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John Everett Millais (1846), “Pizarro Seizing the Inca of Peru.”


Battle of Cajamarca

1532 Nov 16 -

Cajamarca, Peru

The Battle of Cajamarca also spelled Cajamalca (though many contemporary scholars prefer to call it Massacre of Cajamarca) was the ambush and seizure of the Inca ruler Atahualpa by a small Spanish force led by Francisco Pizarro, on November 16, 1532. The Spanish killed thousands of Atahualpa's counselors, commanders, and unarmed attendants in the great plaza of Cajamarca, and caused his armed host outside the town to flee. The capture of Atahualpa marked the opening stage of the conquest of the pre-Columbian civilization of Peru.

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Atahualpa is executed by the Spaniards

1533 Aug 1 -

Cajamarca, Peru

Atahualpa offered the Spaniards enough gold to fill the room he was imprisoned in and twice that amount of silver. The Inca fulfilled this ransom, but Pizarro deceived them, refusing to release the Inca afterwards. During Atahualpa's imprisonment Huáscar was assassinated elsewhere. The Spaniards maintained that this was at Atahualpa's orders; this was used as one of the charges against Atahualpa when the Spaniards finally executed him, in August 1533. In accordance with his request, he was executed by strangling with a garrote on 26 July 1533. His clothes and some of his skin were burned, and his remains were given a Christian burial.

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Battle of Cusco

1533 Nov 15 -

Cuzco, Peri

The Battle of Cusco was fought in November 1533 between the forces of Spanish Conquistadors and of the Incas. After executing the Inca Atahualpa in 26 July 1533, Francisco Pizarro marched his forces to Cusco, the capital of the Incan Empire. As the Spanish army approached Cusco, however, Pizarro sent his brother Juan Pizarro and Hernando de Soto ahead with forty men. The advance guard fought a pitched battle with Incan troops in front of the city, securing victory. The Incan army under the command of Quizquiz withdrew during the night. The next day, 15 November 1533, Pizarro entered Cusco, accompanied by Manco Inca Yupanqui, a young Inca prince who had survived the massacre that Quizquiz had done to the nobility in Cusco. The Spanish plundered Cusco, where they found much gold and silver. Manco was crowned as Sapa Inca and helped Pizarro to drive Quizquiz back to the North.

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Neo-Inca State

1536 Jan 1 -

Vilcabamba, Ecuador

The Spanish installed Atahualpa's brother Manco Inca Yupanqui in power; for some time Manco cooperated with the Spanish while they fought to put down resistance in the north. Meanwhile, an associate of Pizarro, Diego de Almagro, attempted to claim Cusco. Manco tried to use this intra-Spanish feud to his advantage, recapturing Cusco in 1536, but the Spanish retook the city afterwards. Manco Inca then retreated to the mountains of Vilcabamba and established the small Neo-Inca State, where he and his successors ruled for another 36 years, sometimes raiding the Spanish or inciting revolts against them.

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Almagro's forces took possession of Cusco


Siege of Cusco

1536 May 6 -

Cuzco, Peru

The siege of Cusco (May 6, 1536 – March 1537) was the siege of the city of Cusco by the army of Sapa Inca Manco Inca Yupanqui against a garrison of Spanish conquistadors and Indian auxiliaries led by Hernando Pizarro in the hope to restore the Inca Empire (1438–1533). The siege lasted ten months and was ultimately unsuccessful.

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Siege of Lima


Siege of Lima

1536 Aug 1 -

Lima, Peru

In August 1536, some 50,000 warriors marched on Lima under the command of Manco Inca’s most valiant general, Quizo Yupanqui, with orders to kill every Spaniard in the newly founded capital. The siege failed and Quizo, the Inca general died, and the Inca army retreated. Francisco Pizzarro would mount a relief of the Siege of Cuzco.

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Battle of Ollantaytambo

1537 Jan 1 -

Ollantaytambo, Peru

The Battle of Ollantaytambo took place in January 1537, between the forces of Inca emperor Manco Inca and a Spanish expedition led by Hernando Pizarro during the Spanish conquest of Peru. To end the stand-off, the besieged mounted a raid against the emperor's headquarters in the town of Ollantaytambo. The expedition, commanded by Hernando Pizarro, included 100 Spaniards and some 30,000 Indian auxiliaries against an Inca army more than 30,000 strong.

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Manco Inca murdered

1544 Jan 1 -

Vilcabamba, Ecuador

A group of renegade Spaniards murder Manco Inca. These same Spaniards had arrived at Vilcabamba as fugitives and were given sanctuary by Manco. Until this point, the Incas at Vilcabamba had engaged in guerrilla activities against the Spaniards. With their leader gone, all significant resistance ends.

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Tupac Amaru, the last Sapa Inca of Vilcabamba


The Last Inca: Túpac Amaru

1572 Jan 1 -

Cuzco, Peru

Francisco Toledo, the new Viceroy of Peru (Pizarro had been assassinated by rival Spaniards in 1541), declares war on Vilcabamba. The independent state is sacked and the last Sapa Inca, Túpac Amaru, is captured. The Spaniards take Túpac Amaru to Cusco, where he is beheaded in a public execution. The fall of the Inca Empire is complete.

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1573 Jan 1 -

Cusco, Peru

After the fall of the Inca Empire many aspects of Inca culture were systematically destroyed, including their sophisticated farming system, known as the vertical archipelago model of agriculture. Spanish colonial officials used the Inca mita corvée labor system for colonial aims, sometimes brutally. One member of each family was forced to work in the gold and silver mines, the foremost of which was the titanic silver mine at Potosí. When a family member died, which would usually happen within a year or two, the family was required to send a replacement.

The effects of smallpox on the Inca empire were even more devastating. Beginning in Colombia, smallpox spread rapidly before the Spanish invaders first arrived in the empire. The spread was probably aided by the efficient Inca road system. Smallpox was only the first epidemic. Other diseases, including a probable Typhus outbreak in 1546, influenza and smallpox together in 1558, smallpox again in 1589, diphtheria in 1614, and measles in 1618, all ravaged the Inca people.

There would be periodic attempts by indigenous leaders to expel the Spanish colonists and re-create the Inca Empire until the late 18th century.


  • Hemming, John. The conquest of the Incas. London: Macmillan, 1993. ISBN 0-333-10683-0
  • Livermore,;H.;V.,;Spalding,;K.,;Vega,;G.;d.;l.;(2006).;Royal Commentaries of the Incas and General History of Peru.;United States:;Hackett Publishing Company.
  • McEwan, Gordon Francis (2006). The Incas: New Perspectives. W.W. Norton, Incorporated. ISBN 9781851095742.
  • Oviedo,;G.;d.,;Sarmiento de Gamboa,;P.,;Markham,;C.;R.;(1907).;History of the Incas.;Liechtenstein:;Hakluyt Society.

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