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Inca Rulers

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The Inca History's Periods


The history of the Inca Empire can be split into 3 periods: the Kingdom of Cuzco (1200 - 1400 or 1438), the Tahuantinsuyo/Greater Inca Empire (1438 - 1525 or 1533), the Vilcabamba Empire (1525 - 1533 and 1571 - 1572).

Interruptions exists and also, some historians give different time frames for the periods.


The Cuzco Kingdom was the core of what had later become the Tahuantinsuyo - what we call "Inca Empire" today. Though, Tahuantinsuyo means rather "Four Regions", not "Inca Empire". In fact, all 3 periods constituted Inca Empires, only the strength and the territories variated.


To European standards, the rulers of these areas can be considered kings, but due to the wider extension of the area dominated by the Incas, sometimes they are called emperors.


The Tahuantinsuyo is referring only to the period between the 1430s and the 1530s. The Inca civilization had reached its peak during this period. It might have continues, but the Spanish Colonization has put an end to it.


The end period of the Incas, the Vilcabamba period is mostly about resistance against the conquistadores. The famous Vilcabamba was the "Last Capital of the Incas", there was Vitcos too, an important stronghold of the Incas lead by Manco Cápac II.

The Incas of the Vilcabamba Valley had been fighting with the Spaniards for roughly 40 years, until the Europeans have finally overcome, killing Túpac Amaru, the son of Manco Cápac II.




The Inca Rulers Within Power Structures in the Inca Society


The Inca rulers were venerated by the Incas, who considered them demigods, persons with deep connection with the gods


The Incas called their rulers "Sapa", which meant "The Only One" and also "Apu", which meant "Divinity".

The word "Inca" was also added to the name of the ruler, together with "Sapa", hence in the form "Sapa Inca", meaning "The Only Inca".

Examples of full Inca ruler names: Sapa Inca Pachacuti, Sapa Inca Yupanqui.


Moieties were leadership structures. In these, the lower level was called "hanan", the higher/upper one was "urin".

The urin and hanan moieties have completed each other during the rule.


The Inca leader was the supreme leader of the upper moiety, the "hanan". He was the most powerful individual with complete dominance, the biggest prestige.




List of Inca Rulers and Dynasties


Here is a comprehensive table containing rulers and what specialists call "dynasties".


We should note that there is little information about the first 8 rulers. Mostly sayings of the Quechuans and the Incas, legends left behind constitute the main sources of information. There are no written documents from those periods.

We know a little bit more about later rulers, whom the Spaniards met.


Also, note that the time frames are rather approximations.


 Domain  Period/Date  Ruler  Important Information
   early 1200s  Manco Cápac I.        
 1230s  Sinchi Roca        
 1260s  Lloque Yunpanqui        
 1290s  Mayta Cápac        
 1320s  Cápac Yupanqui        
 1350s  Inca Roca        
 1380s  Yahuár Huacác        
 1410 - 1438  Viracocha      

Son of Yahuar Huacác, father of Pachacuti. His original name was Hatun Tupaq (or Hatun Ripaq). He was name after the god of Viracocha, which with he mustn't be confused. Viracocha is attributed with the victory against the Chancas, whom he had defeated and saved the capital of Cuzco.

   1438 - 1471  Pachacuti (Pachacútec)      

Supposedly the constructor of Machu Picchu. One of the greatest and most venerated Inca rulers. During his rule, the Inca Empire had reached its highest level of development.

 1471 - 1493  Túpac Inca Yupanqui (Tópa Inca)      

The son of Pachacuti, probably the constructor of Choquequirao, also known as the "Sacred Sister of Machu Picchu".

 1493 - 1525 (-27?)  Huayna Cápac      

The last Inca ruler who had been in place before the arrival of the Spaniards.

 1525 (-27?) - 1532  Huascár      

Huascár had ruled in the Southern parts of the Inca Empire, following his father's death. He had rivaled his brother Atahualpa.

 1525 (-27?) - 1533  Atahualpa      

Had ruled the northern parts of the Empire and in the succession fight with his brother, he naively accepted Spanish help. Atahualpa had murdered his own brother, Huascár, after that he managed to take over the Empire.

Tragically, the Spaniards have betrayed him and had brutally murdered him.

   1525 or 1533  Tópa Huallpa      

Founder of the Vilcabamba Kingdom/State, in a valley beyond the Cordillera Vilcabamba, northwest of the Urubamba Valley.

 1533 - 1544  Manco Cápac II. (Manco Inca Yupanqui)      

Had been crowned the new Inca ruler by Francisco Pizarro in 1534. Because he was used by the Spaniards and was abused of, he had rebelled against them, uniting many Incas.

Manco Cápac II. had been one of the most powerful Inca rulers. Also, the strongest opponent of the Spaniards.

Manco Cápac II. had escaped from Cuzco and founded the fortress of Vilcabamba, where he had taken refuge and had periodically fought the powerful armoured Spanish forces. He had been successful in several battles against the Spaniards, including the reclaiming of Cuzco for several days.

In the end, he had fallen victim in 1544 to Diego de Almagro, who had him executed.

 1545 - 1560  Sayri Túpac      

Successor of Manco Cápac II., put in place by Diego de Almagro.

 1560 - 1570  Titu Cusi Yupanqui        
 1571 - 1572  Túpac Amaru      

The last Inca rule. Killed in 1572, when the Spaniards had managed to conquer the Vilcabamba and finally gained full control over all of the Inca lands.


      Kingdom of Cuzco


      Vilcabamba Empire







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