The Inca/Tehuantinsuyu Empire
by Margaret Odrowaz-Sypniewski, B.F.A.

Legend tells that the Incas were thought to have come from the lands near Lake Titicaca and then wandered north to the valley of Cuzco. The first oral history tells that the first Inca was Manco Capac and his sister who lived on the Isle of the Sun in Lake Titicaca.

Manco Capac had four brothers surnamed Ayar, meaning "a wild quinoa grain, and four sisters called mama. They were also said to live in caves twenty miles southeast of Cuzco. The brothers turned into stone and Manco Capac had the four sisters as his wives.

Inti was the Sun God. Viracocha was the Incan creator god. Viracocha also had Lake Titicaca as his place of origin. Another god called Pachacama is another supreme god. Since the Incas thought of themselves as earthly gods, they often added these names to their own.

The Incas were of the Quechua language group. They were of medium height and thickset with large hands and small wrists. Their chests were large, which happens when breathing in high altitude's thin air. Their legs were well developed and their feet widespread. They had high cheek bones, prominent aquiline noses, and small almond-shaped eyes (with an epicanthic fold). Their skin was light chocolate to bronze colored.

The acllas were the chosen women of the Inca. Incan girls were much like the vestial virgins of ancient Rome, in that they were raised to serve the cult of the Inti or Sun God. They were also the concubines of the Incan rulers. They were taken from their parents by age eight (8), to Cuzco, and taught by elderly women called Mama Cunas. Cuzco was the Inca capital. Cuzco was located in the valley of Cuzco in central Andean Peru. The acllas were to keep the sacred fire of the Inti burning and they also were taught to prepare food and chicha (corn beer) for ceremonial occasions. The most elaborate feast was ceremony of the Inti Raymi. This feast was during their summer solstice in December. Remember that that seasons are the opposite of ours since they lived below the equator. The acllas were also given to foreign rulers to make political alliances.

Amautas were members of the Inca's court. They were poets and philosophers and they kept the oral histories alive much like the Bards of Great Britain. Although the Inca often censored which deeds should be told to other generations. It is thought that the Incas took out the less flattering events and replaced them with a more kingly versions.

The curaca were the Incan nobility, they were either related to the Inca or had done a great favor for the Inca.

The Inca's head wife was a coya (queen). In the early beginnings of the Inca dynasty the ruler married women of other tribes for political alliances. Later on, when the Inca was supreme over the land, he married his own sister as a principal wife. The right to marry within the clan belonged to the Inca only. Marriage within a totem group was prohibited:

This way divine descent could not be questioned by anyone since they were of the same lineage. The Inca had a polygamous arrangement with concubines into the hundreds. It is estimated that the last Inca, before the conquest, had five hundred living descendants.

The Kingdom of Hurin Cuzco:

circa 1200? ... Manco Capac, which means "supreme rich one," was the traditional founder of Cuzco and the Inca royal house. He was the eldest son in a family called Ayar. His mother was said to have died in childbirth. His father died when he was 10-12 years old and he was then raised by two of his father's priests. Manco Capac was thought to be "son of the Sun." Manco Capac's sister was Mama Ocllo, and she was his main wife. He had three other sisters who were part of his "harem."

...Sinchi Roca was the son of Mama Ocllo and Manco Capac.

...Lloque Yupanqui (son)was a twelfth century ruler.

...Mayta Capac (son)ruled in the late twelfth century.

...Capac Yupanqui (son)

...Inca Roca (son) was a thirteenth century ruler.

...Yahuar Huacac (son)

...Viracocha Inca (son)was named after Atun-Viracocha or "great creator."

The Empire:

1438-1471 ... Pachacuti Inca Yucanqui (son) was crowned in 1438. In 1463 he took command of the army. Later, he abdicated and died in 1472. He was said to have saved Cuzco from attack from the rival city-state of Chanca. He organized his soldiers in anticipation of the attack, eliminating the element of surprise. His son was Inca Urco. His armies captured parts of Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina.

1471-1493 ... Topa Inca (son of Pachacuti) was assassinated. He received reports of the bearded stranger who came in large ships (the Spanish) from other tribes. These reports coincided with a series of ill omens in the Incan community. The Priests foretold of evil and disaster, when they all witnessed the death of an eagle, which fell out of the sky. This eagle was mobbed by buzzards during ceremonies, which were in honor of the sun god Inti. The eagle was a powerful totem amoung the Incas as with other Native American Indians. A powerful eagle being bought down by buzzards foretold the fall of the Incan Empire, in the minds of their priests.

1493-1524 ... Huayna Capac (son of Topa Inca) was the father of Huscar Capac and Atahualpa. He died of smallpox in 1527, after the arrival of the Spaniards, as did another son, his original heir apparent. His next son took the throne before his death since his father was gravely ill of heart, soul, and a disease they knew nothing about. It is not certain, but his heir might have died before him?

1524-1532 ... Huascar Capac (son of Huayna Capac) had caused a civil war among his people because of his wars with his brother Atahualpa. Atahualpa captures his brother, takes his crown, and then kills him in 1533.

1532 ... Atahualpa (brother of Huascar Capac). He deposes his brother and later is deposed himself. Atahualpa dies in 1533, after being captured at Cajamarca, and then being beheaded by the Spanish conqueror Pizarro. This was after the Spanish conquered the Inca.

A legend developed about the Inkarri, or "return of the king." Legends thought that the severed head of Atahualpa would grow a new body and lead his people into victory over the Spanish.

The Vilcabamba State:

1533 ........ Topa Huallpa (another brother of Atahualpa) was poisoned.

1533-1545 ... Manco Inca (brother of Atahualpa) was put on the throne because the Spanish thought his presence might thwart the rebellion that was brewing against the Spanish. The Spanish were amazed at the gold and silver in Peru and also by the quality of their goldsmithing. This is the same way the Spanish acterd in the State of Oaxaca, in Mexico. The great Cellini could not imagine how they fused silver and gold there in the Mixtec cultures. The Spanish did keep some pieces for their museums but most were melted and made into coins. The Spanish plundered Inca gold that lined the walls and gardens of Coricancha, the Inca Temple of the Sun. This plundering made Spain rich for a time, but then they slipped into financial ruin as the quantity of gold and silver on the European market made it yield less profits. The Coricancha Temple was a sacred place and it contained the mummies of the former Incas. These mummies were paraded in the streets at their high festivals. Coricancha was located in the main square of Cuzco, between the Huantanay and Tullamayo Rivers. Peru, like Mexico, had central parkways which held the Cathedrals and the Public facilities. These same main plazas were the place of festivals. The walls of Coricancha were covered with sheet gold and were referred to as the sweat of the sun. There were silver embellishments as well. Here the Inca gods were housed:

  1. Viracocha - the Supreme creator
  2. Inti - the Sun god
  3. Quilla - the Moon goddess
  4. Chaska-Qoylor - the god of Venus. Like Mexico, Venus was an important planet to the Inca and its movements were observed.
  5. Ilapa - the god of the weather
  6. Cuichu - the god of the rainbow.

It was in this temple that the Incan goldsmiths and craftsmen created cast gold and silver models of the creatures of the world, such as butterflies, other insects, jaguars, llama, guinea pigs, etc. Another room within the temple held the mummies of past Incan emperors (Jones, 192).

1545-1560 ... Sayri Tupac (son)

1560-1571 ... Titu Cusi Yupanqui

1571-1572 ... Tupac Amaru (brother) was deposed, and was beheaded in 1572, with the Spanish conquest of the Vilcabamba state.

Many think that the Inca rulers proceeding Pachacuti were only legend. Dates are not sure until Pachacuti, when the Spanish recorded them.


Brundage, B.C. Empire of the Sun. Norman, OK: Oklahoma University Press, 1963.

................Lords of Cuzco. Norman, OK.: Oklahoma University Press, 1967, 373.

von Hagan, Victor W. Realm of the Incas. New York: The New American Library, 1961.

Jones, David M. and Brian L. Molyneaux. Mythology of the American Nations. London: Anness Publishing, Ltd., 2004.

Longhena, Maria and Walter Alva. The Incas. New York: Barnes & Noble Books.

Poma de Ayala, Felipe Guaman. Nueva Cronica y Buen Gobierno. Paris, 1936.

Zuidema, R.T. The Ceque System of Cuzco: The Social Organization of the Inca. Leiden, 1964.

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