|Route of Pizzaro's march|
Pizzaro and his men undoubtedly carved out an epic voyage through the jungles and mountains of South America; driven by greed and thoughts of unlimited wealth. As leader Pizzaro a deeply unpleasant and brutal man, was responsible for driving his small force from Ecuador down into the heart of the Inca Empire.Their line of march was littered with ruined towns and bodies of those dead from recent fighting. Once he realised that a civil war was in progress Pizzaro planned to manipulate the warring factions as Hernando Cortes had done in Mexico.
Atahualpa and his army were camped in the mountains at Cajamarca, just off Pizzaro’s line of march. Atahualpa was informed of the arrival of 150 strangers when they landed on the mainland and commenced pillaging the countryside and abusing the residents. He sent a close adviser to visit the Spaniards. His evident authority impressed the Spanish; the local chief was‘Greatly frightened and stood up, for he dare not remain seated in his presence.’[i]
The envoy’s attitude towards themselves also impressed them‘He entered as casually as if he had been brought up all his life among Spaniards. After having delivered his embassy….he enjoyed himself for two or three days among us.’[ii]
The envoy inspected the Spaniards and their accoutrements, was very interested in their swords and ended by inviting them to meet with Atahualpa at Cajamarca. Pizzaro accepted and sent Atahualpa a gift of a fine Holland shirt and two Venetian glass goblets.
The Spaniards marched into the mountains and could have been destroyed quite easily at this point, had the Inca not underestimated the Spaniards; but the small size of the Spanish group may have assured Atahualpa that they were not a threat. They arrived at the valley of Cajamarca on 15th November. They camped outside the town. After a brief visit to the town, a group of the Spaniards visited Atahualpa in his camp.After the visit the Spaniards were invited to take lodgings in Cajamarca; the one hundred and fifty Spaniards, were outnumbered four hundred to one. But the Spaniards, unlike the Inca, were armed with the latest in high-tech weaponry; artillery. Pizzaro and his men invited the Sapa Inca to meet with them. Pizzaro set up an ambush; hiding the Spanish cannons, with a line of fire across the square where Atahualpa was to be met.
The Spaniards were bound by the Requirement, an order of the Royal Council, enabling the Conquistadores to attack peoples that were not receptive to Christianity[iii]. The Requirement was to be proclaimed before any bloodshed took place. Friar Vincente de Valverde, a Dominican, proffered the bible to Atahualpa, after proclaiming that he had been sent by the King of Spain to reveal Christianity to the heathen Inca. Atahualpa was unable to open the bible and the friar attempted to help him. After inspecting the volume, which he was naturally unable to read, Atahualpa threw the bible down.
‘But after examining it he threw it angrily down among his men, his face a deep crimson.’[iv]
The friar gave the signal to activate the ambush, on the spurious grounds that Atahualpa, in doing this, had rejected the message of Christianity. He was captured after a fierce battle, the Inca warriors overcome by modern technology.
Death of a Dupe
Not long after his capture Atahualpa was informed that his brother Huascar was being brought captive from Cuzco. Pizzaro told Atahualpa that he wanted to meet Huascar, reasoning that two claimants to the Inca throne were better than one. Atahualpa ordered that his brother be killed, but told the Spaniards that the execution was unauthorised. Atahualpa had already killed a number of his siblings and the deaths continued. The brother with the best claim to being Sapa Inca, Tupac Huallpa, took refuge with the Spanish.Atahualpa promised the Spaniards a room full of gold and silver, as he was concerned that he would lose his life. Pizzaro recognised the value of his hostage, whose chiefs still obeyed his orders, even in captivity. He promised to give Atahualpa his freedom if he did not indulge in treasonous behaviour. Pizzaro
‘Gave him to understand that he would return to Quito, the land that his father had left him.’[v]
Accordingly he ordered that his generals remain in the south to consolidate their victory, collect his ransom and not attempt to rescue him, as he believed Pizzaro’s promises. Atahualpa’s orders seemed to convey his acceptance of the Spaniard’s presence, when he could barely wait for the departure of the odious strangers. Meanwhile the Spaniards were sending for reinforcements.
During his period of captivity the Spanish observed Atahualpa‘A man of thirty years of age, of good appearance and manner, although somewhat thick-set. He had a large face, handsome and fierce, his eyes reddened with blood. He spoke with much gravity, as a great ruler. He made very lively arguments…….he was a wise man. He was a cheerful man, although unsubtle. When he spoke to his own people he was incisive and showed no pleasure.’[vi]
The observations of Gaspar de Espinosa were inevitably coloured by the contempt of a civilised and Christian man, looking down on a semi-civilised savage, who had ‘rejected’ the teachings of Christ.
While the ransom was being collected one of Atahualpa’s most senior generals, Calcuchima[vii], agreed to join Atahualpa at Cajamarca; a decision that helped bring about collapse of the Inca resistance to the Spanish invaders. To persuade Calcuchima to disclose the whereabouts of even more gold Pizzaro and his men had him tortured and eventually he, like Atahualpa, was murdered.The Spaniards were reinforced on 14th April 1533 by a contingent of one hundred and fifty led by Diego da Amalgro. Atahuelpa’s ransom, at 2010 figures, is estimated to be worth £31,000,000.00[viii]. Despite payment of the ransom Atahuelpa was not released and he then ordered an attack on Cajamarca. The chief of the town warned Pizzaro. The Conquistadores were eager to leave for Cuzco, where fabulous wealth awaited them. They discussed taking Atahuelpa as hostage with them, but were worried about attacks by other Inca generals.
The Spaniards were conflicted about killing Atahualpa, but da Amalgro was one of those supporting the killing of Atahualpa. The decision was made under pressure from da Amalgro with assistance from opportunistic royal officials. Told that he would be burned to death[ix] Atahualpa was ‘persuaded’ to convert to Christianity and was executed by garrotting on 29 August 1533.Atahualpa was succeeded as Sapa Inca by his brother Tupac Huallpa, who was used by the Spanish as a puppet. The Spanish bled the Americas dry of gold and silver; used to decorate the churches in Spain and to prosecute wars in Europe. When the supply of precious metals in the New World ran out Spanish expansion ceased and the country could only look back on its past glories. Future dangers to European stability came from French designs on the Spanish state, as opposed to Spanish expansionism.
BibliographyThe Incas – Nigel Davies, Folio Society 2001
The Conquest of the Incas – John Hemming, Book Club Associates 1974En.wikipedia.org
[i] The Conquest of the Incas - Hemming
[iii] Specifically Roman Catholicism
[iv] The Conquest of the Incas - Hemming
[vii] Calcuchima’s military reputation had been garnered during the reign of Huayna Capac and he might have been able to lead resistance against the Spaniards
[viii] Using the retail price index or £56,000,000.00 using average earnings; www.measuringworth.com
[ix] Against Inca beliefs