Kingdom of Cusco

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See also: Inca Empire and Cuzco
Kingdom of Cuzco

Map of the Kingdom of Cusco.
Capital Cusco
Languages Quechua, Puquina.
Religion Inca religion
Government Monarchy
Sapa Inca
 -  1200-1230 Manco Cápac
 -  1230-1260 Sinchi Roca
 -  1260-1290 Lloque Yupanqui
 -  1290-1320 Mayta Cápac
 -  1320-1350 Cápac Yupanqui
 -  1350-1380 Inca Roca
 -  1380-1410 Yahuar Huacac
 -  1410-1438 Viracocha (Inca)
Historical era Pre-Columbian
 -  Manco Cápac organized the Kingdom of Cusco 1197
 -  Pachacuti created the Tawantinsuyu 1438
Area 40,000 km² (15,444 sq mi)
Today part of  Peru

The Kingdom of Cusco (sometimes spelled Cuzco and in Quechua Qosqo or Qusqu) was a small kingdom in the Andes that began as a small city-state founded by the Incas around the 12th century. In time, through either warfare or peaceful assimilation, it began to grow and was succeeded by the Inca Empire.


A Brief Overview[edit]

The Inca people began as a tribe in the Cuzco area around the 12th century AD. Under the leadership of Manco Cápac, they formed the small city-state of Cusco (Quechua Qosqo), shown in red on the map below.

In 1438 AD, under the command of the Sapa Inca (paramount leader) Pachacuti (world-shaker), the Incas began a far-reaching expansion. The land which Pachacuti conquered was about the size of the Thirteen Colonies at the outbreak of the American Revolution of 1776, and consisted of nearly the entire territory of the Andes mountain range.

The Kingdom of Cusco in 1438, shown in red on the map.

Pachacuti reorganized the kingdom of Cusco into an empire, the Tahuantinsuyu, a federalist system that consisted of a central government with the Inca at its head and four provincial governments with strong leaders: Chinchasuyu (NW), Antisuyu (NE), Kuntisuyu (SW), and Qullasuyu (SE). Pachacuti is thought to have built the citadel of Machu Picchu, either as a family home or as a vacation estate.

Sapa Incas[edit]

The Sapa Inca of the first dynasty of the Kingdom of Cusco were, in order, Manco Cápac, Sinchi Roca, Lloque Yupanqui, Mayta Cápac, and Cápac Yupanqui. Evidence of state organization dates from 1200 AD.[1] Little is known of this population, but in later years the meaning of cápac meant warlord and sinchi meant leader adding to the idea they could have been rulers.

Long before the Spanish found the Inca, the Inca civilization had begun as a small, centralized state that eventually grew to cover a large amount of territory along the western coast of South America from Colombia to Chile. The Inca civilization spread rapidly from their small beginnings in the Kingdom of Cuzco located in southern Peru.

The Beginning of the Empire[edit]

The following outlines each of the Incan rulers and a few of their accomplishments in greater detail.

Manco Capac: (c. 1200 - 1230)[edit]

"The somewhat mythological first Inca of Tawantinsuyu. According to Inca legend, he was the son of the Inti the Sun God, and he founded the city of Cusco. Manco Capac was a major figure in Inca mythology, but the legend of Manco tends to vary depending on who one might ask. According to some Manco Capac was the son of Inti the sun god, and Mama Quilla, goddess of the moon and sister to Inti."[2] "In the Inti legend Manco Capac and his siblings were sent to Earth by their father to construct a temple of the Sun. The temple was built in their father’s honor in Cusco. According to others Manco Capac was the son of Tici Viracocha, creator of mankind, the sun, the moon and all that existed. According to this Viracocha legend Manco Capac and his siblings all dwelt near Cusco and they brought together their own people with tribes that they met as they traveled. Either way; Manco Capac is believed to be the founder of the Inca civilization and ruler of Cusco for roughly forty years."[2]

Sinchi Rocca: (c. 1240s?) and Lloque Llupanqui: (c. 1260s?)[edit]

"The second Inca, honored by legend as being the founder of the empire."[3] "It is believed that the expansion of the Inca empire continued under the rule of Sinchi Roca."[2] The most notable story of Sinchi Roca is the story of the Inca diplomat Teuotihi who was sent to a nearby kingdom to pass a message from the Inca. Unfortunately, Teuotihi was beheaded and his corpse was returned to Sinchi Roca. Sinchi Roca saw this as act of war and went to battle with the offending kingdom. According to the legend, Sinchi Roca and the Inca were victorious and they reigned over their new territory with a tight grip and watchful eye.

"After his death the Inca were ruled by Sinchi Roca’s son, Lloque Yupanqui. As legend tells Lloque Yupanqui was particularly ugly and was often referred to as the “Unforgettable Left-Handed One” due to his incredible lack of beauty."[2] Still, Lloque Yupanqui was notable for his rule of the Inca through his establishment of the Cuzco public market and the building of Acllahuasi. Acllahuasi was a place where women from all around the Inca empire were gathered and given to nobles as concubines, sold as servants, or given to the cult of the sun god.

Mayta Capac: (c. 1290s?)[edit]

Mayta Cápac (Quechua Mayta Qhapaq Inka) was the fourth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cuzco (beginning around 1290 CE) and a member of the Hurin dynasty.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.

His great military feat may have been the subjugation of another tribe in the valley, the Alcaviza.[citation needed]

In 1134, Mayta Cápac put the regions of Arequipa and Moquegua under the control of the Inca empire.

Capac Yupanqui: (c. 1320s - 1350s?), Inca Rocca: (c. 1350s - 1370s?), and Yahuar Huaca: (c. 1370s - 1400?)[edit]

"The first Inca to promote the idea of further expansion. It is said that he expanded the borders of the empire for the first time since Sinchi Rocca. Following the rule of Capac Yupanqui a new dynasty in Inca civilization was begun by Capac’s son, Inca Roca. The rule of Inca Roca is crucial in that he was the first Incan ruler who was not the primary heir to the empire. The primary heir to the Hurin dynastsy, Quispe Yupanqui, was murdered after a rebellion against the empire, and so the throne was instead given to Inca Roca, son of another of Capac’s wives."[2] Inca Roca is noted for greatly improving irrigation methods during his rule of the Inca empire.

"Inca Roca was followed by his son, Yahuar Huacac, the seventh ruler of the Inca kingdom."[2] Yahuar’s rule of the Inca marked great changes in the kingdom and while the legend of the actual outcome of battle with the neighboring Chancas is uncertain, the Chancas were eventually defeated. One legend mentions that Yahuar left Cuzco after the attack on the Chancas and that the Chancas were actually defeated by his son, Viracocha. Another legend tells that Yahuar’s son Viracocha was the one who retreated and it was Viracocha’s son Pachacuti that defeated the Chancas. Up until this point, the Chancas had been a big problem for the Incas, launching small attacks and invasions on the Inca kingdom's borders.

"While some legends tell of Yahuar’s son Viracocha also abandoning Cuzco and others tell of him being instrumental in the defeat of the Chancas, one common thread surrounds the rule of Viracocha."[2] As legend tells, Viracocha was the first of the Inca rulers to expand the kingdom into the territories that he and his empire conquered while previous rulers had only pilaged them and left them to cope. Little else is mentioned about Viracocha other than the succession of the throne to his son, Pachacuti. It was Pacacuti that made the Inca Empire into a true empire, beyond just the Kingdom of Cuzco.

Pachacuti: (1438 - 1471)[edit]

"Started the empire by defeating the Chancas. He then expanded the empire up and down the western coast of South America, defeating the Ancocoyuch in 1465. He is credited with forming the basis of Incan administration and city planning. According to Incan legends, he also ordered the construction of Machu Picchu. It is thought that Machu Picchu was constructed as his home."[2] "The confusion as to who abandoned Cuzco is at times told in favor of Pachacuti saving the Inca’s from the neighboring Chancas. This side of the story says Pachacuti stayed to fight the Chancas while both his father and older brother fled the kingdom in terror. It was this bravery that supposedly won Pachacuti the position of co-ruler of the Inca kingdom alongside his father who came back after the Chancas had been defeated. After Viracocha’s death, Pachacuti took over as the sole ruler of the empire."[2]

Expansion of the Incan Empire[edit]

"During Pachacuti's reign, the Inca empire expanded at an astounding rate due to Pachacuti’s militarization of the empire. Until his death Pachacuti, often in coordination with his son Tupac, managed to expand the Inca empire from just outside of Cuzco south to Chile and north to Ecuador. Pachacuti is not only known for the expansion of the Inca empire but he is also recognized for complete reorganization within the empire as well, something his predecessors had neglected to do."[2] "During Pachacuti’s reign the Inca empire was organized into four provinces each of which was governed by local leaders who controlled appointed officials under him in order to more efficiently run the empire."[2]

The Coming of the Spanish[edit]

Huayna Capac: (1493 - 1525)[edit]

"The next ruler was not the son of Tupac, instead he was Huayna Capac."[2] Being eleventh Inca ruler, Huayna managed to maintain the rate of the expansion of the Inca empire and pushed south into Chile and Argentina and north to Ecuador and Columbia. Due to this massive expansion of the empire Huayna struggled to establish a second stronghold within the empire and set about establishing rule in Quito (the capital of modern day Ecuador) as well.

Huascar and Atahualpa Civil War[edit]

"Spanish introduction of smallpox to South America lead to the death of 200,000 people in the region, Huayna Capac being the most notable victim of the new disease."[2]

"Upon his death Huayna divided the Inca civilization between his legitimate heir, Huascar, who received the southern half of the empire and Cuzco, and his favorite son, Atahualpa, who received the northern half of the empire and Quito.[2] After 4 years of peace, a war began over the land of the Cañar, which voluntarily wanted to secede and annex itself to the Inca Empire. During the course of the war Atahualpa was caught and made prisoner, but managed to escape and continue the war. Eventually, Huascar was made captive and Atahualpa reunited the divided Empire and made himself sole ruler of the Inca Empire. Shortly afterwards the Spaniards, who had just landed in Tumbez, requested an audience with Atahualpa in Cajamarca, where the Spaniards deceptively imprisoned him. While in prison Atahualpa gave orders to kill Huascar. While theory abounds as to why Atahualpa ordered his half-brother killed rather than freed to fight his Spanish captors, one possible theory is that Atahualpa did not consider the Spaniards a significant long-term threat to the empire but rather barbarians from beyond Ecuador interested only in such wealth that they could carry. Another theory is that Atahualpa may have also been aware that Huascar was a more attractive hostage for the Spaniards, as Huascar would be indebted to the Spaniards if they freed him, and they could ingratiate themselves to Huascar and his Incan nobles if they ordered Atahualpa killed, whereas there was no easy way for the Spaniards to align themselves with Atahualpa's nobles after they had captured their emperor and ordered a ransom. To gain his freedom Atahualpa agreed to pay a ransom. Over several months gold and silver was delivered to Cajamarca, however, the Spaniards feared that Atahualpa had sent secret orders to arrange for an army to break Atahualpa out of captivity via the messengers who were slowly delivering the ransom, and so Atahualpa was ordered executed by strangulation.

Tupac Huallpa: (1533)[edit]

When it became clear that Pizarro needed a puppet emperor, Tupac Huallpa, the younger brother of Atahualpa, was recruited for the job. Unfortunately, he shortly fell ill and died."[3]

Manco Inca Yupanqui: (1533 - 1545)[edit]

"At first he was the second puppet emperor recruited for Pizarro, being another younger brother of Atahualpa's, but he was seen by the people as the best of the post-Cusco Incas. He turned on his captors and fled to the city of Vilcabamba. He would rule independent of the Spanish until he was killed by a group of Conquistadors in 1545."[2]

Paullu Inca: (1536 - 1549)[edit]

"Yet another son of Huayna and brother to Atahualpa. He would betray Manco's interests after his half-brother's murder by allying with Spain and becoming the puppet Inca of Cusco. The much-hated ruler was even baptized Don Melchor Carlos Inca before his death."[3]

Sayri-Tupac Inca: (1545 - 1557)[edit]

"Made Inca after the murder of Manco Inca. He was the first son of Manco, and was five years old at his inauguration. He would try to negotiate with the Spanish to get land grants near Cusco, but died in 1561 while living with the Viceroy before a deal could be made."[2]

Titu Cosi Yupanqui: (1557 - 1571)[edit]

"A shrewd and able ruler over Vilcabamba. The second son of Manco to rule, he was the most capable diplomat in Incan history, letting Spanish traders and missionaries enter a small part of Vilcabamba, embracing Christianity, but maintaining Incan tradition and autonomy."[2]

The Fall of A Civilization[edit]

Tupac Amaru: (1571 - 1572)[edit]

The last legitimate Inca to rule, and, unfortunately, the most unfit. With the death of his elder brother Titu Cosi, he ordered the execution of all Spanish people living in Vilcabamba, and led an unsuccessful and poorly planned rebellion against the colonists. This resulted in his death and the end of Incan sovereignty, for Vilcabamba was occupied and the survivors enslaved.

"The most terrifying aspect of the great Inca empire was its short existence. By 1430, the realm of the Inca consisted of little more than the river valley around Cuzco."[4] "Less than a century later, through conquest and a clever policy of incorporating the best aspects of the societies they enslaved, the Incas controlled a huge amount of territory almost 1 million square kilometers--an area that extended from northwest Argentina to southern Colombia. The Incan capital, at Qosqo, was undeniably the wealthiest city in all of the Americas, with temples literally covered in heavy gold plating. Although Qosqo's architecture remains only in rubble and foundations, the architectural accomplishments of the Inca have survived intact at the astounding ceremonial centre of Machu Picchu."[4]

"In 1532, at the height of its power, the Inca empire was driven by a war of succession."[4] "In the midst of one of the greatest tragedies of history, Francisco Pizarro and his Spanish conquistadors arrived. Showing an unremarkable ability to turn the situation in his favour, Pizarro used lies and deceit to gain an audience with Atahualpa, the Inca ruler, whom he very calmly assassinated. In the face of intense resistance, Pizarro and his men took Cuzco and sacked the city. Although the Incas continued to fight for the next several years, their empire had ended and Spanish rule had begun."[4]


  1. ^ Covey, Alan R.; Southern Methodist University (January 2006). "Chronology, Succession, and Sovereignty:The Politics of Inka Historiography and Its Modern Interpretation". Comparative Studies in Society and History 48 (1): 169–199. doi:10.1017/s0010417506000077. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "Learn About the Mysterious Inca Civilization". Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c "The Inca". Retrieved 20 November 2012. 
  4. ^ a b c d "PERU". Retrieved 20 November 2012. 


  • (Spanish) María Rostworowski. Enciclopedia Temática del Perú: Incas. Lima: El Comercio S.A., 2004.
  • (Spanish) Editorial Sol 90. Historia Universal 5: América precolombina. Barcelona, España, 2002.
  • (English) Bushnell. Peru, Ancient people and places.
  • (English) MacQuarrie, Kim. The Last Days of the Incas. Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7432-6049-7.