Building an empire to stand the test of time

This screenshot is a reasonable approximation of the Inca empire at its height. It stretched from the south of modern day Colombia to the north of modern day Chile, focused on the Andean mountains.
This screenshot is a reasonable approximation of the Inca empire at its height. It stretched from the south of modern day Colombia to the north of modern day Chile, focused on the Andean mountains.

The Incas were a kick ass civilisation until the Spanish conquistadores came along and kicked their ass. The book I’m reading on the fall of the Inca empire basically reads like a retelling of an epic, if one sided, game of Civilization. So far it goes like this…

The Inca were the dominant civilisation in South America. Because of their harsh environment they focused their development of technologies on things like bridge building, pottery and bronze working. They were all about the mysticism and agriculture. Their only immediate enemies were barbarians. They captured their cities and benefited from the treasure they found there. However there were occasional civil disorders within the Inca empire, often due to complaints about taxation. This was the case on the day a Spanish naval unit arrived on the coast.

The last Inca, Atahuapala was captured by the Spanish. He arranged the sacking of Incan cities in an effort to pay ransom, oblivious to the fact the Spainards were the vanguard of an invasion force. Poor guy, when the Spanish decided to execute him they said if he converted to Christianity he'd be hanged rather than burned. He acquiesced, hoping to be mummified with his possessions like all Incas. But the Spanish, because of his conversion, gave him a Christian burial.
The last Inca, Atahuapala was captured by the Spanish. He arranged the sacking of Incan cities in an effort to pay ransom, oblivious to the fact the Spainards were the vanguard of an invasion force.
Poor guy, when the Spanish decided to execute him they said if he converted to Christianity he’d be hanged rather than burned. He acquiesced, hoping to be mummified with his possessions like all Incas. But the Spanish, because of his conversion, gave him a Christian burial.

The Inca were stunned to find the Spanish unit contained knights, for they had not developed the horse riding technology. There was only a single Spanish naval unit but the knights it contained were able to progress without incident to a major Inca city. The Inca warriors and militia were no match for the Spanish knights who conquered the city, captured the Inca emperor and used it as a base for further conquests.

Reinforced with more knights arriving by sea the Spanish moved South and then North to conquer other Inca cities. As settlers followed their military units they founded their own capital on the continent and called it Lima.

 

7 thoughts on “Building an empire to stand the test of time

  1. See Guns, Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond, published about 1998; on how decisive horses were as a war technology: “the Sherman tanks” of the pre-industrial era. Incas had no horses, and no large domesticated animals.

    Another example of the devastating power of well-led well-organised horse riding warriors, was the Mongol Empire, one of the largest contiguous land empires in history, created by Genghis Khan and successors through successive invasions during the 13th and 14th centuries.

    Likely more important though, before the Spanish invaders arrived Inca authority was drastically weakened by an epidemic of smallpox, spreading from Columbia, probably aided by the efficient Inca road system. This was followed by epidemics of typhus (probably) in 1546, influenza and smallpox together in 1558, smallpox again in 1589, diphtheria in 1614, measles in 1618. The Spaniards were carriers of these diseases with relative immunity, the Inca people had not encountered them before and had no immunity. Estimates are that epidemics killed 60% to 94% of the Inca population.

    To complete Jared Diamond’s trifecta: iron weapons trump stone.

    1. Yes I can imagine that a horse would seem a lot like a tank if you had come across neither before. Poor Incas, despite their best efforts tying rocks to llama tendons and hurling them so they wrap around a horses legs, they were really no match.

      I had read about smallpox but understood it was post Spanish invasion. V interesting. Also significant was a recently concluded civil war when the Spanish arrived. Very useful for tiring and depleting a fighting population.

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