The death of the Inca Empire- a legendary civilisation

The history of the Incas

The Incan empire or Tahuantinsuyu ( as the Inca people called it) was the largest and an extended empire in the pre-columbian America. It started flourishing under the emperor named Pachacuti between 1400 and 1533. The Inca Empire was centered around Cuzco which is a highland valley in the Andes mountain of Peru. Their empire stretched into the present day Ecuador, Colombia, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. The civilization developed in Peru around the early 13th century. Though they consisted of many tribes, the ruling emperor and the nobles were members of the Inca tribe.

The Incan Empire

The first great Inca emperor was Pachacuti Yupanqui, a warrior who came to power in 1438. His son, Tupac and grandson Huayna Capac, extended the empire in 1525. The Incan emperor was considered as a God during those days and regarded as a descendant of the sun.

The kings were pampered to the extreme, their palaces were furnished with the finest textiles. They wore silver shoes and drank from gold and silver cups.

Extent of the Empire

The festival of the sun

The Incan emperor was regarded as the descendant of the sun. The Capac Raymi, the great festival of the sun was held in Cuzco in long and short days of every year. At dawn , the emperor offered a golden cup of sacred beer and sacrificed a white Illama to Inti, the sun god, to gain his help and protection. Other deities include supreme Viracocha and Goddesses of earth and the sea.

The remains of the Incas

Running of an empire

The official language was Quechua but there were other languages spoken. The empire was strictly governed by the emperor. The common people worked for days every year for the emperor, fighting battles,building bridges and roads and planting crops. The roads ran throughout the empire,crossing mountains by bridges made of ropes. Some roads were carved from rock and some were paved. Roads were mostly used by Chasquis, the royal messengers and merchants who travelled on Illamas to carry goods and messages. No wheels were used during that time.

Their daily life

The rise of the Incas was quick. Agricultural land and herds were divided into 3 parts- production for the state religion and Gods, for the Inca emperor and for the farmers own use.

Most of the population consisted of farmers. They kept Illamas and Alpacas for wool and meat.They grew maize, potatoes and other vegetables in terraced fields. Cotton and woolen clothes were woven by hands and pots were made from clay. Families lived in houses made from mud bricks. The roads and cities were guarded by stone fortresses.

The religious rituals

The rituals they performed were of ancestoral worship and the practice of mummification and offerings to the Gods of drink, foods and precious materials. Sacrifices involved both animals , humans and sometimes children were pacified to honour the Gods and to ensure good health of the king. The Incas forced their religions on the local populations by building temples and sacred sites. They built relics ,conquered people and other civilizations ,thus extending their empire over a larger area.

European settlement

During the 1400's , the Inca had built up a great empire in the Andes.In the early 1500s, European settlers from Spain and Portugal arrived.Greedy for gold and silver, they had enslaved and killed many Indians. They brought with them diseases unknown to the continent, which wiped out millions of people. Missionaries introduced Christianity to replace traditional beliefs.

Little did they know that the Napoleonic war in the early 1800s would weaken the hold of Spain and Portugal on their South American colonies.

Attack by Spanish Invaders

The fall of an empire

The empire collapsed after the Spanish invaded in the year 1532 by conquistador Francisco Pizarro. The Incas became engaged in war in Ecuador. The trouble built up by the spread of an epidemic – the smallpox which killed one emperor named Wayna Qhapaq in 1528 along with more than half of the Inca population.

The son of Wayna Qhapaq , Atahualpa was executed by the Spanish invaders for a ransom of 24 tons of gold. Though the Spanish received the ransom, Emperor Atahualpa was strangled to death by the invaders.

The last emperor to have ruled the Inca empire was Tupac Amaru in 1572 who was later executed by the Spanish.

Death of Atahualpa

Machu Picchu-The road to the sky

Last days of the Incan empire

The myths surrounding the Inca Empire

The Incas had no writing system. Historical events were often passed on from generation to generation by word of mouth. It is said they used knotted , coloured strings called quipus to keep records. Ancient myth says that Manco Capac was the legendary founder of the Inca and Cusco dynasty. He was assumed to be the son of the sun god. He along with his sister and wife Mama Ocllo was given the sole responsibility of guiding the people along the right path and to teach them certain skills like weaving and pottery.

The descendants of the Incas

Historians have concluded that the Inca civilisation was one of the largest civilisation to have existed in the world.No other civilisations had been found with well-developed and advanced transportation and governmental system. The roads built by the Incas were long-lasting with seismic events in mind.

The present day South American population consists of the descendants of the Incas. More than half of them being peasants.The Incan culture maybe lost but even to this day, the descendants follow the Incan culture and live in the shadow of their ancestors. The South American government has decided to preserve their culture and heritage.

May the Inca legacy live on through their descendants.

© 2016 Stephy Varghese

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