The Inca Empire was the largest American empire before the arrival of the Spaniards. During its greatest glory, its population numbered over 10 million people and its area corresponded to the area of today's Mexico, which is the 13th largest country in the world. Nevertheless, the Inca Empire fell only a few years after its discovery by the Spaniards. Was only a small group of Spanish conquerors really behind its demise, or did something else cause its downfall?
The Inca Empire evolved from the legacy of the original Andean civilizations, which had lived in present-day Peru and surrounding states for several thousand years. It then took over most features from the great empires of Tiwanaku and Wari, both of which disappeared around 1100, probably after a series of natural disasters. The first known leader of the Incas was Manco Cápac, who in about 1197 founded the small city-state of Cuzco. It was not until the ninth ruler of Cuzco, Pachacuti Yupanqui, who began the expansion, divided the conquered territories into four provinces and de facto founded the Inca Empire. In addition, he probably founded the famous fortress of Machu Picchu. The conquered territories were administered in the case of cooperation by their original rulers, or in the case of non-cooperation by the children of the executed rulers, who were sent for re-education to Cuzco. These vassals then paid taxes in the form of human labor, and the Incas, on the contrary, gave them material support.
Pachacuti's son Topa Inca Yupanqui subsequently significantly expanded the empire, and his son Huayna Capac added certain parts in the north of the country. Overall, the empire stretched from today's Colombia through Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile to Argentina. In 1524 or 1527, however, Huayna Capac contracted smallpox in the north of the country, a disease brought to America by the conquerors of Europe along with the flu and measles, and which has already successfully decimated all of Central America. Huayna Capac died, and his son and successor died with him.
Huayna Capac had two sons who later became rivals. The first of these was Huáscar, whose rise was supported by the nobility and the church, and who was out of line because his parents were siblings at the same time. The second of the sons was Atahualpa, whose mother was not an Inca, but who was militarily capable and respected in the north of the country. Huáscar became king, but he was very suspicious and refused his brother's allegiance. Atahualpa declared war on his brother, which lasted from 1529 to 1532 and ended with Atahualpa's victory and the execution of Huáscar.
The Spaniards, under the leadership of Francisco Pizarro, learned about the Inca Empire as early as 1526. There were also reports of strange foreigners among the Incas. Pizzaro gradually undertook three expeditions to the Inca Empire, and on the third expedition in 1532 he found the country in a completely different state than before. The empire was ravaged by epidemics of European disease, against which the indigenous people had no immunity, and by a protracted civil war between the two brothers. The Spaniards even managed to persuade the local tribes, which were under Inca rule, to become vassals of Spain.
The Spaniards arrived just as Atahualpa was resting in Cajamarca after winning the war. Pizzaro's group of 168 men and 62 horses arrived on November 15, 1532, and arranged an audience the next day to show Atahualpa true faith in God. Atahualpa came to the square with 6,000 unarmed followers. Perhaps due to a poor translation of the negotiations, it ended in failure and Atahualpa asked the Spaniard to leave. However, although in a great numerical disadvantage, they chose the attack, which absolutely surprised the natives. The clash ended with the massacre of about 2,000 natives and the capture of Atahualpa.
Atahualpa was imprisoned for several months, paying a huge ransom in the form of gold and silver for his release, but was finally executed on August 29, 1533, despite the displeasure of some Spaniards. The Spaniards then slowly regained control of the empire and seated Alahualpa's younger brother, Túpac Huallpu, on the throne. He died very soon and another of the brothers, Manco Inca Yupanqui, took over the government. At first he cooperated with the Spaniards, but eventually rebelled, escaped from Cuzco and organized attacks on the city. However, the empire was already relatively destroyed and the Incas already had little support from the population. Manco Inca Yupanqui finally withdrew to Vilcabamba in 1537, where he founded the so-called Neo-Inca State. He organized occasional invasions against the Spaniards until 1572, when he was finally conquered, thus dispersing the last remnants of the Inca resistance.
Like the Aztec Empire, the Inca Empire died shortly after the arrival of the Spaniards. If it weren't for the devastating civil war between the two brothers, the empire would certainly be a great obstacle for the Spaniards. However, the diseases that the Spaniards brought to the continent would eventually inflict a huge blow on the empire. It is estimated that the diseases themselves wiped out about 95% of the entire population of the Inca Empire.