The Inca Empire – Earth-Shaker – Extra History – #2


Cusco, 1438 The emperor, called Sapa Inca,
son of the Sun God, Inti, has returned to the capital but he is afraid. Waiting for him, is his son, Inca Yupanqui. Twenty years before an army had marched on Cusco, and in response the emperor fled to a mountain fortress
with his chosen heir, but the emperor also left Yupanqui, his third son, to hopelessly defend the city. Yet the sun god saw Yupanqui’s bravery, and intervened. It was said that even the stones themselves rose up to fight on the prince’s behalf. But with the enemy routed, the emperor did not return. Afraid of his son’s new power. So for twenty years, Yupanqui rebuilt Cusco, in the emperor’s absence, as his father sent assassins to kill his usurpic child. But now, the emperor has returned and in doing so, he formally hands over his position to his son, and grants him a new name: Pachacuti. The Earth Shaker. Pachacuti turned out to be a pretty good name for this ninth ruler of the Inca, because while the name did mean, Earth shaker, it was also a philosophical concept. In Quechua, the Inca’s primary language, a Pachacuti was a historic event, a cataclysm, that overturned space and time remaking the world. It was a good title for the man who would forge the kingdom of Cusco, into an empire. Now Cusco was likely expansionalist before Pachacuti And they probably have been laying the groundwork for empire building, in the previous two centuries of the kingdom’s descendancy. Their agricultural terraces were productive enough to support large populations, and they had a system for freeze-drying potatoes and llama meat to make long-lasting military rations In fact, the word “jerky” comes from the Quechua term for dried meat. On top of all that, their system of roads
and agricultural storehouses, increased the range of their reach. And their labor system allowed them to call up large numbers of troops. See, the Incan economy didn’t use money, or commerce of any kind, Instead, the state took its tax in labor. During the agricultural off-season, peasants in Inca lands would be drafted for infrastructure construction. Building roads, temples, or agricultural terraces, or perhaps doing metal work on gold, or weapons, if it was a local specialty. And in return, they would be issued
anything they needed, from government storehouses. But labor service could also mean marshalling for war. When the Sapa Inca called up his army, the local chief or local representative
would organize a labor draft, then the people, few of them professional warriors, would show up armed in their traditional ethnic clothing, and carrying whatever weapons they favored. Some of these far-ranging societies were slingers; others, spearmen; some, Amazonian archers
with poison-tipped arrows. And others, shock troops
from fiercest societies the Inca had conquered. Others still, the least military-talented, essentially served as cannon fodder. And when Pachacuti took the throne of Cusco, the first thing he did was to put out the call, to muster for war. Because not only did he need to solidify his power, but he also dreamed of conquering
all of the Andes. Pachacuti’s father had extended
Inca territory beyond Cusco and that meant Pachacuti was already
one step ahead of the kingdom’s rivals. Outside the walls of his capital, there was no group large or cohesive enough
to really rival them. The Andes being nothing but warring ethnic groups, too splintered to resist a large power. In fact, local societies were so outmatched by Cusco that some historians argue that Pachacuti’s miraculous defense might be a myth. Invented or heavily embellished to legitimize his coup. In this climate of fractured powers and small groups. Even Cusco’s modest territorial holdings, just a few population centers dominated, proved impossible to resist, whether diplomatically or militarily. Pachacuti drove south, taking mountain forts and wrestling control away from local tribes. And he took their leaders back to Cusco, where he would lay them down in a line, and walk on their heads to show dominance… …before beheading them. Whew. Dominance combo. Some he flayed, stuffing their empty skins with ashes. And with each conquered territory, he gained more laborers for his roads and more soldiers for his armies. But he didn’t fight everyone. Indeed, if he had, his conquests would have never happened so quickly. For the Inca, military force was a last resort. And initially, they would send ambassadors with gifts and offers of marriage. Essentially promising them, apart from the labor tax, nothing would change in the local government, culture, or society. In return, the society would get access to Inca roads and storehouses. Oh! And as an added bonus. They wouldn’t be destroyed. Hurray! If gifts and alliances fail, however, then the Inca would threaten military force. And considering they could field armies of over 100,000 warriors, this was often pretty persuasive. Especially when they used the mountainous terrain to appear without warning. Many a local noble, brave in his stone palace would quickly capitulate. Once he saw an Inca army suddenly appear outside his walls. Drums stretched with the skin of defeated enemies and playing flutes made from human bone. Only in a minority of cases did the Inca have to actually fight. When he reached modern day Bolivia, Pachacuti deemed it far enough and returned to the capital. But for his next expedition, he sent his brother north into the Andes in a bid to conquer all the way to the coast. This move gave the burgeoning Inca state access to the sea and solidified the transformation of Inca power. Pachacuti no longer ruled a kingdom. The Earth Shaker now had his empire. Buuuut… war is dangerous for a ruler. Good rulers delegate, but that sometimes meant you delegate away your glory. And that was especially not ideal in a state like the Incas where there was no specific grounds for succession and primogeniture didn’t hold sway. Theoretically, any male relative could succeed Pachacuti: a son, an uncle, or a brother. Maybe one who gained a reputation as a conqueror for instance. So on the northern expedition’s glorious return to Cusco, Pachacuti charged his brother and all the generals with treason over a troop uprising aaaaand executed them. There! That fixed it. This would actually set a pattern. If you were a general in the Inca empire, you wanted to be successful, just not too successful. Especially if you were related to the Sapa Inca. Generals that won stunning victories almost always got beheaded upon returning to Cuzco because the Sapa Inca was the child of the Sun and you do not outshine the Sun. Pachacuti learned a valuable lesson. If you’re going to delegate to someone, make sure you’re comfortable with them getting the credit. So as a result, he sent his son and chosen heir, Topa Inca Yupanqui, whose name, I kid you not, is sometimes pronounced Túpac, and I ain’t mad atcha, on a new northern expedition. Now this was sort of a war internship. A way to help him gain experience. while burnishing his ruler resume. Zoey you got one of those, right? The gambit worked spectacularly. Pachacuti could rule the center, while his son fought the brutal military campaigns on the coast in modern Ecuador. And head first forays east into the Amazon. These grinding campaigns sharpened Topa Inca into a fierce ruthless warrior, one willing to dam a settlement’s water supply to force surrender. He also learned how to maximize his military force, rotating his Andean troops back into the mountains periodically so they could recover from the unfamiliar coastal and jungle environments. Still the Inca had difficulty pushing into the hostile jungles of the Amazon. An effort he eventually had to abandon in order to crush a rebellion with his son in the field Pachacuti could manage the empire’s building program. Personally sculpting a model of his new capital from clay. And he continued improving Cusco, augmenting it to carry water to the city through underground channels. He raised forts in the hills and built lavish royal residences. Supposedly including Machu Picchu, though granted that is heavily disputed. But he did erect palaces, hospitals, and temples while laying roads to his new conquests. But Pachacuti’s greatest work was to rebuild the Golden Courtyard, a temple dedicated to the Sun God Inti. In Inca religion gold was the sweat of the Sun and silver the tears of the Moon. So he covered the walls of the courtyard Sun chamber with gold and the walls of the Moon chamber with silver. Emeralds and turquoise dotted the sheets of precious metal. And on the Solstice, he would enter the Sun Chamber and catch the dawn rays in a concave mirror, using it to light a fire. Seven previous Inca rulers, mummified in a high-altitude freeze-dry process sat on a golden bench watching the ritual, waiting to be consulted on matters of state. And it may have been here where Pachacuti wrote a group of sacred hymns still with us today. But Pachacuti’s engineering also had a dark side because he also decided to engineer the empire’s population. He forcibly moved whole ethnic groups to agricultural land he deemed more productive. Displacing entire societies in order to better stock the empire’s storehouses and arm its troops. Hundreds of thousands, some say millions of people from the lowest rung of Inca society, were forced to resettle in far flung corners of the burgeoning empire. And when Pachacuti died, his organs removed and his body freeze-dried in the Andean cold, his son, Topa Inca Yupanqui, rested him on a golden bench alongside his ancestors and kept conquering. Though Topa Inca would die young this father/son team were responsible for the largest territorial expansion in Inca history. And while later emperors would put down rebellions and nibble at the edges of nearby territories, never again would the Inca experience such explosive growth. So with all that said, what was this Empire they built actually like? Well, join us next time for a day in the life of several members of Inca society from agricultural workers to the surprising social life of a dead Inca emperor. And just a hint, it totally involves mummy parties. Man, history is metal! Special thanks to Educational Tier Patrons Ahmad Ziad Turk, Joseph Blaim, and Gerald “Spencer” Dinan.

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