The Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire, also known as the Conquest of Peru, was one of the most important campaigns in the Spanish colonization of the Americas.
When did the Spanish conquer the Incas?
From 1492 to the 1800s, Spanish explorers were the bullies of the New World. Beginning with Columbus in 1492 and continuing for nearly 350 years, Spain conquered and settled most of South America, the Caribbean, and the American Southwest. Yeah, they kept themselves busy.
In the early 1500s, Spanish forces sailed across the Pacific and conquered the Aztec and Incan civilizations, even though the invading armies were greatly outnumbered by the indigenous population. This conquest was due, in part, to differences in technology and experience.
Under Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (1438–71) the Inca conquered territory south to the Titicaca Basin and north to present-day Quito, making subject peoples of the powerful Chanca, the Quechua, and the Chimú.
On November 16, 1532, Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish explorer and conquistador, springs a trap on the Incan emperor, Atahualpa. With fewer than 200 men against several thousand, Pizarro lures Atahualpa to a feast in the emperor’s honor and then opens fire on the unarmed Incans.
Spanish conquistadores commanded by Hernán Cortés allied with local tribes to conquer the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlán. Cortés’s army besieged Tenochtitlán for 93 days, and a combination of superior weaponry and a devastating smallpox outbreak enabled the Spanish to conquer the city.
The Spanish had a positive effect on Aztec civilization because they helped modernize the society. They introduced the Aztecs to domestic animals, sugar, grains, and European farming practices. Most significantly, the Spanish ended the Aztec’s practice of human sacrifice.
Between 1519 and 1521 Hernán Cortés and a small band of men brought down the Aztec empire in Mexico, and between 1532 and 1533 Francisco Pizarro and his followers toppled the Inca empire in Peru. These conquests laid the foundations for colonial regimes that would transform the Americas.
The Spanish were able to defeat the Aztec and the Inca not only because they had horses, dogs, guns, and swords, but also because they brought with them germs that made many native Americans sick. Diseases like smallpox and measles were unknown among the natives; therefore, they had no immunity to them.
Learn about Francisco Pizarro conquest of the Incas and the death of Atahuallpa marking the end of the Inca Empire. Overview of Francisco Pizarro’s conquest of the Incas, with a focus on the death
How were the Spanish able to overtake them? Again, smallpox and weapons brought by the Spanish played an important role in Pizarro’s conquest. In addition, Pizarro convinced other tribes under Inca rule to join them in defeating the Inca Empire. Cortés and Pizarro are often called Spanish Conquistadors.
The Incas conquered a vast territory using reciprocity or alliances. If they did not accept the gifts they used force to subdue the tribe and since the Incas had a more powerful military force they always succeeded. The local leaders were executed to secure loyalty among the population.
Spanish chroniclers from the 16th century claimed that when the conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro first encountered the Incas they were greeted as Gods, “Viracochas”, because their lighter skin resembled their God Viracocha.
The Maya occupied a territory that is now incorporated into the modern countries of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador; the conquest began in the early 16th century and is generally considered to have ended in 1697.
And yet Tenochtitlán was swiftly conquered by the Spanish in 1521—less than two years after Hernándo Cortés and Spanish conquistadors first set foot in the Aztec capital on November 8, 1519.
Spanish interest in the west coast of South America grew after Vasco Núñez de Balboa discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513, but it was not until 1524 that Francisco Pizarro, aided by another soldier, Diego de Almagro, and a priest, Hernando de Luque, undertook explorations that led to the conquest of Peru.