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Cusco the Capital Of the Incas

Cusco the Capital Of the IncasAccording to an Inca myth current at the time of the conquest, the founding Incas, “Manco Capac” and “Mama Ocllo” emerged from “LakeTiticaca” at the islands of the Sun and the Moon, sent to earth by the solar and lunar deities to bring culture to a barbarous world. From there they began a lengthy quest (about 500 km. if they took the shortest route over the La Raya pass) which ended in a valley far to the north, at the spot where “Manco” probed with his golden staff, and it disappeared into the ground. Here they founded their civilization, and the Inca city of Cusco.

The Archaeology indicates that the Titicaca myth may be closer in spirit to the truth, since the evidence suggests that the Incas established their hegemony in the region by peaceful means. Cusco began to dominate its neighbors as early as 1100 AD, and these proto—Incas eventually established political influence and a pattern of peaceful regional exchange, sparing this area the centuries of brutal rivalry and constant warfare that characterized the rest of the Andean region after the fall of the “Tiawanaku” and “Wari” civilizations.

The previous great periods of “horizon” civilization in ancient Peru—the ones that spread their influence over a wide area of the Andes—were the early “Chavin” of northern Peru (c. 800-200 BC), and the later “Tiawanaku” who spread out from Lake Titicaca (0. 600-1000 AD). Both of these civilizations first rose as centers of religious influence, pilgrimage sites which were also favorably located for trade and agriculture. Later on, in the case of “Tiawanaku” at least, they developed military and imperial characteristics. Cusco’s rise to dominance in the Andes may well have followed this same pattern.

The peaceful era of Cusco’s dominion came to an abrupt end around 1438, after Cusco was attacked from the north by a tribe called the “Chancas”. Rallied from near-defeat by the son of the reigning chief, the militarily unprepared inhabitants of Cusco triumphed. The very stones of the mountainsides were said to have sprung to life and fought on the Inca side. The son seized power and took the title “Pachacutec”, meaning “Shaker (or Transformer) of the Earth”; Thereafter, “Pachacutec” is credited with an astonishing series of accomplishments: the complete rebuilding of Cusco in the distinct and impressive masonry style whose remains are so admired today; the building of “Sacsaywaman”, “Ollantaytambo”, “Machu Picchu”, “Pisac” and other sites; the form of worship; the system of government and land tenure.

“Pachacutec” may also have been the instigator of the Titicaca origin myth of the Incas; it tended to legitimize Inca authority in the Titicaca region, which was an early target of Inca expansion. But the myth also established an extraordinary relationship between the Inca and his people: he was divinely descended from the Sun; the Coya, his queen (who was also his sister), was in turn the daughter of the Moon. Thus the Inca’s power was as absolute and unchallengeable as that of any ruler in history. To rebel was to defy God himself. This was the faith that underpinned the empire, until the rapacious Spaniards arrived and dashed the edifice to the ground.

Cusco the Capital Of the IncasPachacuteq’ 5 son Topa Inca carried on his father’s work, pushing the frontiers of the empire into modern Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile. A combination of techniques sustained this expansion. Military conquest played a part, but so did skillful diplomacy—some of the most important territories may have been allied chiefdoms with considerable autonomy, rather than totally subordinate domains. For example, “Chincha”, a coastal state which virtually monopolized maritime trade, was treated with great caution and respect.

The empire ’ s lifeblood was the practice of reciprocity: ritual generosity and favors to local rulers on a huge scale, in exchange for loyalty, labor and military levies, wives and concubines for the Inca nobility, specialized regional products, and so on. The emperor maintained fabulous stores of sumptuary goods—the “art” for which the Andean region is justly famous—to meet his ritual obligations and create new alliances.

By the time “Topa’s” son “Wayna Capac” came to power the empire had perhaps already overreached itself, and at Wayna Capac’s death it was beginning to fragment. A disastrous civil war broke out between factions of the north and south headed by two of Wayna Capac’s sons, Atawallpa and Huascar. After years of strife, the northern faction under Atawallpa prevailed. Perhaps Atawallpa, a strong if rather ferocious leader, would have succeeded in re-unifying the empire in time, but as he was celebrating his victory a mysterious group of bearded men landed on the coast of Peru.

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