The Inca Civil War

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  2. February 2, 2013 3:39 pm

The Inca Civil War

The Inca Civil War was a war of succession that lasted from 1529 to 1532. The leaders of each side were Huáscar and Atahualpa, two sons of the recently-deceased emperor.

When Francisco Pizarro’s expedition entered South America, they brought smallpox with them, a disease that had never been present in the New World and that the natives had no resistance for. Two of the people to fall victim to the disease were the Incan emperor Huayna Capac and his son and heir, Ninan Cuyochi. Both died in 1527. Ninan died before his father; after Ninan’s death, Huayna divided the empire between his two remaining sons. Tradition dictated that the oldest son of the emperor would succeed him, making Huayna’s decision to divide the empire a break with tradition.

Huáscar was Huayna’s son borne of pure royal blood. He inherited the northern part of the empire. His brother Atahualpa was older but considered illegitimate. Atahualpa inherited the southern part of the empire. Huáscar considered it an insult that his illegitimate brother should inherit any part of the empire, the whole of which Huáscar viewed as his birthright. He demanded that Atahualpa swear allegiance to him, which Atahualpa did, sending messengers and trusted military officials to present Huáscar with gifts and to declare Atahualpa’s loyalty. However, Huáscar killed the messengers and refused to accept the gifts his brother had sent, suspicious that Atahualpa would rebel. Atahualpa declared war on his brother.

Atahualpa defeated Huáscar’s army. However, during the war, Francisco Pizarro’s armies intervened, and both Huáscar and Atahualpa were captured. Pizarro declared that he would determine who should succeed Huayna. Atahualpa had Huáscar killed so that there would be no choice in who inherited the throne; Pizarro later claimed that Atahualpa had committed a crime in killing the legitimate heir and had him executed. The Spanish conquest of the Incan Empire soon followed.

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