A publication of the Archaeological Institute of America
Atahualpa, Last Inca Emperor
Ruled A.D. 1532-1533
After fighting a bloody civil war against his brother, the prince Atahualpa emerged as the sole leader of the Inca in 1532. But his reign was short-lived. While traveling to the Inca capital Cuzco to claim his throne, Atahualpa was seized at the town of Cajamarca by a small band of Spanish troops led by Francisco Pizarro. Legend has it that Atahualpa offered to fill a room with gold and silver in exchange for his release, but Pizarro had him executed in 1533. The Spanish gave Atahualpa a Christian burial in Cajamarca, but numerous accounts suggest his body was exhumed by his followers and mummified.
Ecuadorian historian Tamara Estupiñán of the French Institute of Andean Studies has spent more than a decade examining records from the period. Based on her analysis of the documents, she thinks one of Atahualpa’s generals, Rumiñahui, brought the emperor’s mummy to what is now Ecuador for safekeeping. She pinpoints the recently rediscovered site of Maiqui-Machay as Atahualpa’s final resting place. David Brown, a research fellow at the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory, is one of a group of researchers who have conducted recent fieldwork at the site, which was a small rural settlement occupied for several centuries before the Inca. “I think the evidence gathered by Tamara is certainly suggestive and points to the possibility that the mummy could have been carried there,” says Brown. “But the archaeology is lagging behind.” It’s unlikely that Atahualpa’s mummy survived the centuries, but other evidence from the Inca occupation of Maiqui-Machay could emerge to support Estupiñán’s bold thesis. “It remains for archaeologists to test through careful fieldwork,” says Brown.
Battle of Cajamarca
|Part of the Spanish conquest of Peru|
|Spanish Empire||Inca Empire|
|Commanders and leaders|
Juan Pizarro II
Hernando de Soto
|3,000–8,000 unarmed personal attendants/lightly armed guards |
|Casualties and losses|
5,000 taken prisoner
The Battle of Cajamarca was the ambush and capture of the Inca ruler Atahualpa by Francisco Pizarro and a small Spanish force on November 16, 1532. The Spanish killed thousands of Atahualpa’s counsellors, commanders and unarmed attendants in the great plaza of Cajamarca, and caused his armed host outside the town to flee. The seizure of Atahualpa marked the opening stage of the conquest of the pre-Columbian Inca civilization of Peru.
The confrontation at Cajamarca was the culmination of a months-long struggle involving espionage, subterfuge, and diplomacy between Pizarro and the Inca via their respective envoys. Atahualpa had received the invaders from a position of immense strength. Encamped along the heights of Cajamarca with a large force of battle-tested troops fresh from their victories in the civil war against his half-brother Huascar, the Inca felt they had little to fear from Pizarro’s tiny army, however exotic its dress and weaponry. In a calculated show of goodwill, Atahualpa had lured the adventurers deep into the heart of his mountain empire where any potential threat could be isolated and responded to with massive force. Pizarro and his men arrived on Friday November 1532. The town itself had been largely emptied of its two thousand inhabitants, upon the approach of the Spanish force of 150 men, guided by an Inca noble sent by Atahualpa as an envoy. Atahualpa himself was encamped outside Cajamarca, preparing for his march on Cuzco, where his commanders had just captured Huascar and defeated his army.
The book History Of The Conquest Of Peru, written by 19th century author William H. Prescott, recounts the dilemma in which the Spanish force found itself. Any assault on the Inca armies overlooking the valley would have been suicidal. Retreat was equally out of the question, because any show of weakness might have undermined their air of invincibility, and would invite pursuit and closure of the mountain passes. Once the great stone fortresses dotting their route of escape were garrisoned, argued Pizarro, they would prove impregnable. But to do nothing, he added, was no better since prolonged contact with the natives would erode the fears of Spanish supernaturality that kept them at bay.:171-172
Pizarro gathered his officers on the evening of November 15 and outlined a scheme that recalled memories of Cortés’ exploits in Mexico in its audacity: he would capture the emperor from within the midst of his own armies. Since this could not realistically be accomplished in an open field, Pizarro had invited the Inca to Cajamarca.:172-173
The next afternoon, Atahualpa led a procession of “a greater part of the Inca’s forces”, but Pizarro’s fortunes changed dramatically when Atahualpa announced that most of his host would set up camp outside the walls of the city. He requested that accommodations be provided only for himself and his retinue, which would forsake its weapons in a sign of amity and absolute confidence.:174-175
Shortly before sunset Atahualpa left the armed warriors who had accompanied him, on an open meadow about half a mile outside Cajamarca. His immediate party still numbered over seven thousand but were unarmed except for small battle axes intended for show. Atahualpa’s attendants were richly dressed in what were apparently ceremonial garments. Many wore gold or silver discs on their heads and the main party was preceded by a group wearing livery of chequered colors, who sang while sweeping the roadway in front of Atahualpa. The Inca himself was carried in a litter lined with parrot feathers and partly covered in silver, carried by eighty Inca courtiers of high rank in vivid blue clothing. Atahualpa’s intention appears to have been to impress the small Spanish force with this display of splendor and he had no anticipation of an ambush.
The Spaniards had concealed themselves within the buildings surrounding the empty plaza at the centre of the town. Infantry and horsemen were concealed in the alleyways which opened onto this open square. Spanish infantry were deployed to guard the entrances to a stone building in the centre of the square while men armed with arquebuses and four small cannon took place within it.Pizarro ordered his men to remain silent and hidden until the guns were fired. During the hours of waiting tension rose amongst the greatly outnumbered Spanish and Pedro Pizarro recalls that many of his fellows urinated “out of pure terror”.
Upon entering the square the leading Incans in attendance on Atahualpa divided their ranks to enable his litter to be carried to the centre, where all stopped. An Incan courtier carrying a banner approached the building where the artillery was concealed, while Atahualpa, surprised at seeing no Spanish called out an enquiry.
After a brief pause FriarVincente de Valverde, accompanied by an interpreter, emerged from the building where Pizarro was lodged. Carrying a cross and a missal the friar passed through the rows of attendants who had spread out to allow the Inca’s litter to reach the centre of the square. Valverde approached the Inca, announced himself as the emissary of God and the Spanish throne, and demanded that he accept Catholicism as his faith and Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor as his sovereign ruler. Atahualpa was equally insulted and confused by Valverde’s words. Although Atahualpa had already determined that he had no intention of conceding to the dictates of the Spanish, according to chronicler Garcilaso de la Vega he did attempt a brusque, bemused inquiry into the details of the Spaniards’ faith and their king, which quickly bogged down in poorly-translated semantics and increased the tension of all the participants. Spanish sources differ as to the specific event which initiated combat, but all agree it was a spontaneous decision following the breakdown of negotiations (such as they were) with Atahualpa.
Inca account of events
Titu Cusi Yupanqui, son of Manco II and a nephew of Atahualpa, dictated the only Inca eyewitness accounts of the events leading up to the battle. According to Titu Cusi, Atahualpa had received “two Viracochas“, Pizarro and de Soto, in November 1532, offering them a golden cup containing ceremonial chicha. “The Spaniard poured it out.” The Spaniards then gave Atahualpa a letter (or book) which they said was quillca (word) of God and of the Spanish king. Offended by the wasting of the chicha, Atahualpa threw the “letter or whatever it was” on the ground, telling them to leave.:4,60-61
On November 16, Atahualpa arrived at Cajamarca with “no weapons for battle or harnesses for defense,” although they did carry tomes (knives) and lassos for hunting llamas. The Spanish approached and told Atahualpa that Virococha had ordered them to tell the Inca who they were. Atahualpa listened then gave one a gold cup of chicha which was not drunk and given no attention at all. Furious, Atahualpa stood and yelled “If you disrespect me, I will also disrespect you”, at which the Spanish attacked.:61-62
Titu Cusi’s only mention of a Bible being presented and then tossed to the ground is restricted to the day before the battle, an omission that has been explained as due either to its relative insignificance to the Inca or to confusion between the events of the two days. His account of the battle itself is heavily influenced by Inca mythology and ritual and is not considered a reliable account.
At the signal to attack, the Spaniards unleashed gunfire at the vulnerable mass of Incans and surged forward in a concerted action. The effect was devastating and the shocked and unarmed Incans offered little resistance. The Spanish forces used a cavalry charge against the Incan forces, in combination with gunfire from cover (the Incan forces also had never encountered firearms before) combined with the ringing bells on the horses to frighten the Inca.:176-180
The first target of the Spanish attack was Atahualpa and his top commanders. Pizarro rushed at Atahualpa on horseback, but the Inca remained motionless. The Spanish severed the hands or arms of the attendants carrying Atahualpa’s litter to force them to drop it so they could reach him. The Spanish were astounded that the attendants ignored their wounds and used their stumps or remaining hands to hold it up until several were killed and the litter slumped. Atahualpa remained sitting on the litter while a large number of his attendants rushed to place themselves between the litter and the Spanish, deliberately allowing themselves to be killed. While his men were cutting down Atahualpa’s attendants, Pizarro rode through them to where a Spanish foot soldier had pulled the Inca from his litter. While he was doing so, other soldiers also reached the litter and one attempted to kill Atahualpa. Recognizing the value of the Emperor as a hostage, Pizarro blocked the attack and received a sword wound to his hand in consequence.
The main Inca force, which had retained their weapons but remained “about quarter of a league” outside Cajamarca, scattered in confusion as the survivors of those who had accompanied Atahualpa fled from the square, breaking down a fifteen foot length of wall in the process. Atahualpa’s warriors were veterans of his recent northern campaigns and constituted the professional core of the Inca army, seasoned warriors who outnumbered the Spaniards more than 450 to 1 (80,000 to 168). However, the shock of the Spanish attack—coupled with the spiritual significance of losing the Sapa Inca and most of his commanders in one fell swoop—apparently shattered the army’s morale, throwing their ranks into terror and initiating a massive rout. There is no evidence that any of the main Inca force attempted to engage the Spaniards in Cajamarca after the success of the initial ambush.
Atahualpa’s wife, 10-year-old Cuxirimay Ocllo, was with the army and stayed with him while he was imprisoned. Following his execution she was taken to Cuzco and took the name Dona Angelina. By 1538 she was Pizarro’s mistress, bearing him two sons, Juan and Francisco. Following his assassination in 1541 she married the interpreter Juan de Betanzoswho later wrote Narratives of the Incas, part one covering Inca history up to the arrival of the Spanish and part two covering the conquest to 1557, mainly from the Inca viewpoint and including mentions of interviews with Inca guards who were near Atahualpa’s litter when he was captured. Only the first 18 unpublished chapters of part one were known until the complete manuscript was found and published in 1987.
- MacQuarrie, Kim (2012). The Last Days of The Incas. p70.: Hachette. ISBN 9781405526074.
- Jared Diamond Guns, Germs And Steel, Random House 2013 (p76), states that the Inca personnel were purely Atahualpa’s personal attendants and nobles, whereas John Michael Francis (2006, Iberia and the Americas: Culture, Politics, and History: a Multidisciplinary Encyclopedia, v1, Santa Barbara, Ca.; ABC-CLIO, p322) states that they were “ceremonially armed guards”.
- Most sources state that no Conquistadors were killed, while others state that five or fewer were killed.(Spencer C. Tucker, 2010, Battles That Changed History: An Encyclopedia of World Conflict, Santa Barbara, Ca.; ABC-CLIO, p172.) Among modern sources stating categorically that no Spaniards were killed are (e.g.) Kim MacQuarrie, The Last Days of The Incas, Hachette publishing 2012, p84.
- Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. Penguin Books 1987. p. 31.
- Prescott, W.H., 2011, The History of the Conquest of Peru, Digireads.com Publishing, ISBN 9781420941142
- Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. Penguin Books 1987. pp. 38–39.
- Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. Penguin Books 1987. p. 38.
- Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. Penguin Books 1987. p. 38.
- Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. Penguin Books 1987. pp. 39–40.
- Yupanqui, T.C., 2005, An Inca Account of the Conquest of Peru, Boulder: University Press of Colorado, ISBN 087081821X
- Thomas Cummins Toasts with the Inca: Andean abstraction and colonial images on quero vessels University of Michigan Press 2002 Pg 15 – 19 ISBN 0-472-11051-9
- Cook, Alexandra and Noble (1999). Discovery and Conquest of Peru (Translation of book 3 of a 4 book compilation of interviews with Pizarro’s men and Indians by Pedro Cieza de León). Duke University Press ISBN 0-8223-2146-7.
- Juan de Betanzos Narratives of the Incas University of Texas Press, 1996 Pg 265 ISBN 0-292-75559-7
- Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. Penguin Books 1987. pp. 42–43.
- Juan de Betanzos, Narratives of the Incas, pp. 9-12
- William H. Prescott (2006). History Of The Conquest Of Peru. BiblioBazaar. ISBN1-4264-0042-X.
- Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies. W.W. Norton & Company, March 1997. ISBN 0-393-03891-2
- Felipe Guamán Poma de Ayala: El primer nueva corónica y buen gobierno. Det Kongelige Bibliotek 
- Kim MacQuarrie: The Last Days of the Incas. Simon & Schuster, 2007. ISBN 978-0-7432-6049-7.
- Michael Wood: The Conquistadors. 2002 PBS
|Sapa Inca (14th)|
|Reign||1532 – 26 July 1533|
|Died||26 July 1533
|Burial||29 August 1533
Atahualpa, also Atahuallpa, Atabalipa (in hispanicized spellings) or Atawallpa (Aymara and Quechua) (c.1500–26 July 1533) was the last Sapa Inca (sovereign emperor) of the Inca Empire (Tawantinsuyu) before the Spanish conquest. Atahualpa became emperor when he defeated and executed his older half-brother Huáscar in a civil war sparked by the death of their father, Inca Huayna Capac, from an infectious disease (possibly smallpox).
During the Spanish conquest, the Spaniard Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa and used him to control the Inca Empire. Eventually, the Spanish executed Atahualpa, effectively ending the empire. Although a succession of several emperors, who led the Inca resistance against the invading Spaniards, claimed the title of Sapa Inca as rulers of the Neo-Inca State, the empire began to disintegrate after Atahualpa’s death.
Atahualpa was the son of the Inca Huayna Capac from Tomebamba (Ecuador), and his mother was the Quito princess Paccha Duchicela, from Caranqui (Ecuador). The union was a politically expedient one, as the southern EcuadorianAndes had been conquered by Huayna Capac’s father, Túpac Inca Yupanqui some years earlier and Huayna Capac had recently conquered the northern Ecuadorian Andes, where Paccha Duchicela’s royal family had some influence.
Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa states Atahualpa was the illegitimate son of Huayna Capac and his cousin, Tocto Coca. Atahualpa decided to stay behind in Quito after his father’s death, which prompted Huascar to declare war.:112,119–120
Most chroniclers suggest that Atahualpa was born in Quito, though other stories suggest various other birthplaces.
His leading generals were Quizquiz, Chalkuchimac, and Rumiñawi. In April 1532, Quizquiz and his companions led the armies of Atahualpa to victory in the battles of Mullihambato, Chimborazo and Quipaipan. The Battle of Quipaipan was the final one between the warring brothers. Quizquiz and Chalkuchimac defeated Huáscar’s army, captured him, killed his family, and seized the capital, Cuzco. Atahualpa had remained behind in the Andean city of Cajamarca.:146–149
Here he encountered the Spanish, led by Pizarro.:158
Atahualpa and his army had camped on a hill just outside Cajamarca. He was staying in a building close to the Konojhot springs. His soldiers were living in tents they had set up around him. When Pizarro arrived in Cajamarca, the town itself was mostly empty except for a few hundred acllas. The Spaniards billeted in certain long buildings on the main plaza, and Pizarro sent an embassy to the Inca, led by Hernando de Soto, consisting of 15 horsemen and an interpreter; shortly thereafter he sent 20 more horsemen as reinforcements in case of an Inca attack. These were led by his brother, Hernando Pizarro.
The Spaniards invited Atahualpa to visit Cajamarca to meet Pizarro, which he resolved to do the following day. Meanwhile, Pizarro was preparing an ambush to trap the Inca: while the Spanish cavalry and infantry were occupying three long buildings around the plaza, some musketeers and four pieces of artillery were located in a stone structure in the middle of the square. The plan was to persuade Atahualpa to submit to the authority of the Spaniards and, if this failed, there were two options: a surprise attack, if success seemed possible, or keeping up a friendly stance if the Inca forces appeared too powerful.
Prison and execution
It was after the death of Pizarro, Inés Yupanqui, the favorite sister of Atahualpa, who had been given to Pizarro in marriage by her brother, married a Spanish cavalier named Ampuero and left for Spain. They took her daughter by Pizarro with them, and she was later legitimized by imperial decree. Francisca Pizarro Yupanqui married her uncle Hernándo Pizarro in Spain, on October 10, 1537— they had a son, Francisco Pizarro y Pizarro. The Pizarro line survived Hernando’s death, although it is extinct in the male line. Pizarro’s third son, by a relative of Atahualpa renamed Angelina, who was never legitimized, died shortly after reaching Spain. Another relative, Catalina Capa-Yupanqui, who died in 1580, married a Portuguese nobleman named António Ramos, son of António Colaço. Their daughter was Francisca de Lima who married Álvaro de Abreu de Lima, who was also a Portuguese nobleman.
Depictions in popular culture
Atahualpa Inca’s conflict with Pizarro was dramatized by Peter Shaffer in his play The Royal Hunt of the Sun, which originally was staged by the National Theatre in 1964 at the Chichester Festival then in London at the Old Vic. The role of Atahualpa was played by Robert Stephens and by David Carradine (who received a Tony Award nomination) in the 1965 Broadway production.Christopher Plummer was Atahualpa in the 1969 movie version of the play.
- El Guaman, el Puma y el Amaru: Formación Estructural Del Gobierno Indígena by Hugo Burgos Guevar
- See, Hemming p. 557, fn. 78
- Template:REf Bertonio
- Template:REf Simi
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 28.
- de Gamboa, P.S., 2015, History of the Incas, Lexington, ISBN 9781463688653
- Prescott, W.H., 2011, The History of the Conquest of Peru, Digireads.com Publishing, ISBN 9781420941142
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 28–29.
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 29.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 31–32.
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 32.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 32–33.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 33, 35.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 34–35.
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 36.
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 39.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 38–39.
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 40.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 40–41.
- “Narative of the Incas”, Juan de Betanzos, trans. Hamilton & Buchanan, 1996 Uni. of Texas Press, p263
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 41.
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 42.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 42, 534.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 42, 534–535.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 42–43.
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 43.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 39–40.
- Hemming, The Conquest, pp. 49, 536.
- Some sources indicate Atahualpa was named after St. John the Baptist and killed on Aug. 29, the feast day of John the Baptist’s beheading. Later research has proven this account to be incorrect. See, Hemming p. 557 fn. 78.
- Hemming, The Conquest, p. 79. Traitor Ruminaui hearing of the Inca’s death fled to Quito where the remaining hoard of the Kings ransom gold was kept in trust by Quilliscacha who now on Atahualpa last wishes was now Inca, but was killed by Ruminaui. Ruminaui killed the Royal Inca descendants for his own greed.
- Prescott, William. History of the Conquest of Peru, chapter 28
- “The Royal Hunt of the Sun”. Internet Broadway Database. Retrieved 4 February2012.
- “The Royal Hunt of the Sun”. Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 4 February 2012.
|Library resources about Atahualpa|
- Brundage, Burr Cartwright (1963). Empire of the Inca. Foreword by Arnold J. Toynbee. Norman, University of Oklahoma Press.
- Hemming, John (1993). The Conquest of the Incas. London: Macmillan. ISBN 0-333-10683-0
- Prescott, William H.The Discovery and Conquest of Peru.
- Rostworowski, Maria (1998). History of the Inca Realm. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-63759-6
- MacQuarrie, Kim (2008) The Last Days of The Incas. Piatkus Books. ISBN 978-0-7499-2993-0