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The Inca

The Inca Empire (called Tawantinsuyu in modern spelling Aymara and Quechua, or Tahuantinsuyu in old spelling Quechua, which means Land of the Four Corners), was an empire located in South America from 1438 CE to 1533 CE. Over that period, the Inca used conquest and peaceful assimilation to incorporate in their empire a large portion of western South America, centred on the Andean mountain ranges. The Inca empire proved short-lived: by 1533 CE, Atahualpa, the last Inca, was killed on the orders of the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro, marking the beginning of Spanish hegemony.

The official language of Tahuantinsuyu was Quechua, although over seven hundred local languages were spoken. The Inca leadership encouraged the worship of their gods, the foremost of which was Inti, the sun god. The meaning of the phrase tawantin suyu in Quechua is "the four regions between", which referred to the four provinces whose corners met at the empire's capital, Cusco (Qosqo). The foreign name Inca Empire is derived from the word Inca, which means "Emperor." Today the word Inca still refers to the emperor, but can also refer to the people or the civilization, and is used as an adjective when referring to the beliefs of the people or the artifacts they left behind.

The Incan City of Manchu Picchu

The Inca had two origin beliefs. In one, Tici Viracocha of Colina de las Ventanas in Pacaritambo sent forth his four sons and four daughters to establish a village. Along the way, Sinchi Roca was born to Manco and Ocllo, and Sinchi Roca is the person who finally led them to the valley of Cuzco where they founded their new village. There Manco became their leader and became known as Manco Capac.

In the other origin myth, the sun god Inti ordered Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo to emerge from the depths of Lake Titicaca and found the city of Cuzco. They traveled by means of underground caves until reaching Cuzco where they established Hurin Cuzco, or the first dynasty of the Kingdom of Cuzco.

We know of these myths mostly by means of oral tradition, since the Incas did not have writing. There probably did exist a Manco Capac who became the leader of his tribe. The archeological evidence seems to indicate that the Inca were a relatively unimportant tribe until the time of Sinchi Roca, also called Cinchi Roca, who is the first figure in Inca mythology whose existence can be supported historically.

The Inca people began as a tribe in the Cuzco area around the 12th century CE. Under the leadership of Manco Capac, they formed the small city-state of Qosqo, or Cuzco in Spanish. In 1438 CE, under the command of Sapa Inca (paramount leader) Pachacuti, they began their conquest of the Andean regions of South America and adjacent lands. At its height, Tahuantinsuyu included what are now Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, and also extended into portions of what are now Chile, Argentina and Colombia.

Pachacuti reorganized Cuzco into the Tahuantinsuyu. The Tahuantinsuyu was a federalist system which consisted of a central government with the Inca at its head and four provincial governments with powerful leaders: Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE), Contisuyu (SW), and Collasuyu (SE). The four corners of these provinces met at the center, Cuzco. The land Pachacuti conquered was about the size of the thirteen colonies of the United States in 1776, and consisted of nearly the entire Andes mountain range. Tahuantinsuyu as of 1463 CE is shown in red on the map. Pachacuti is also thought to have built Machu Picchu, either as a family home or as a Camp David-like retreat.

Pachacuti would send spies to regions he wanted in his empire who would report back on their political organization, military might and wealth. He would then send messages to the leaders of these lands extolling the benefits of joining his empire, offering them presents of luxury goods such as high quality textiles, and promising that they would be materially richer as subject rulers of the Inca. Most accepted the rule of the Inca as a fait accompli and acquiesced peacefully. The ruler's children would then be brought to Cuzco to be taught about Inca administration systems, then return to rule their native lands. This allowed the Inca to indoctrinate the former ruler's children into the Inca nobility, and, with luck, marry their daughters into families at various corners of the empire.

Pachacuti's son, Túpac Inca, conquered even more land, most importantly the Kindom of Chimor, the Inca's only serious rival for the coast of Peru. Túpac Inca's empire stretched north into modern day Ecuador and Colombia. Huayna Cápac added some land area though less than his father and grandfather.

Tahuantinsuyu was a patchwork of languages, cultures and peoples. The components of the empire were not all uniformly loyal, nor were the local cultures all fully integrated. For instance, the Chimú used money in their commerce, while the Inca empire as a whole had an economy based on exchange and taxation of luxury goods and labour (it is said that Inca tax collectors would take the head lice of the lame and old as a symbolic tribute). The portions of the Chachapoya that had been conquered were almost openly hostile to the Inca, and the Inca nobles rejected an offer of refuge in their kingdom after their troubles with the Spanish.

In 1532, when Spanish explorers led by Francisco Pizarro arrived on the coast of Peru, the empire stretched as far north as present-day Colombia and as far south as Chile and Argentina. However, a war of succession and unrest among newly-conquered territories had already considerably weakened the empire. Pizarro did not have a formidable force; with fewer than 200 men and only 27 horses, he often needed to talk his way out of potential confrontations that could have easily wiped out his party. However, many people joined Pizarro's army on the way, increasing the force to several thousand. The Inca fought fiercely against the Spanish conquistadors, but could not simultaneously face the technology of the Spanish (particularly firearms and cannon) and rebellion among subject tribes. Cuzco was definitively lost in 1536. The Inca leadership retreated to the mountain regions of Vilcabamba, where it remained for over another thirty years. In 1572, the last of the Inca rulers, Túpac Amaru, was beheaded and Tahuantinsuyu officially came to an end.

After the fall of Tahuantinsuyu, the new Spanish rulers brutally repressed the people and their traditions. Many aspects of Inca culture were systematically destroyed, including their sophisticated farming system. The Spanish used the Inca mita (mandatory public service) system to literally work the people to death. 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 one family member died, which would usually happen within a year or two, the family would be required to send a replacement.

The major languages of the empire, Quechua and Aymara, were employed by the Catholic Church to evangelize in the Andean region. In some cases, these languages were taught to peoples who had originally spoken other indigenous languages. Today, Quechua and Aymara remain the most widespread Amerindian languages.

The legend of the Inca has served as inspiration for resistance movements in the region. These include the 1780 rebellion led by Tupac Amaru II against the Spanish, as well as contemporary the guerrilla movements Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) and Sendero Luminoso in Peru and Tupamaros in Uruguay.

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Inca".