Since the Inca combined much Aymara mythology with their own, their origin myth is obscure. The most common belief is that the legendary founder, Manco Capac (who seems to have been a historical figure), brought his people from mountain caves to the Cuzco Valley. During the early Inca period (c.1200–c.1440) the tribe gradually established its hegemony over other peoples of the valley and under the emperor named Viracocha (the name also of the supreme creator in Inca cosmology) allied themselves with the Quechua. However, it was not until the reigns of Pachacuti (c.1440–1471) and his son Topa Inca, or Tupac Yupanqui (1471–93), that the Inca made their great conquests. The present Ecuador (the kingdom of Quito) was subjugated by Huayna Capac, giving the empire its greatest extent and power. At his death it was divided between his sons, Huáscar and Atahualpa, and a long civil war ensued from which Atahualpa emerged triumphant just as Francisco Pizarro landed on the shores of Peru and the Spanish conquest began.
When Francisco Pizarro landed in South America in 1532, he was welcomed by Atahualpa. By strategem the conquistador lured the emperor into his camp, captured, and then executed him. Shortly thereafter (1533) Pizarro entered Cuzco. Although the Spaniards did not immediately subdue the Inca, the highly personal and centralized political structure of the Inca facilitated the Spanish conquest. Despite the heroic resistance carried on in many sections and the rebellion (1536–37) of Manco Capac, the conquest was assured. Under Spanish rule Inca culture was greatly modified and eventually Hispanicized. The natives were reduced to a subordinate status, and only in recent years have efforts been made to make the indigenous Peruvian population (about 50% of the total) an integral part of the national life.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.