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Inca expansion under Tupac Inca and Huayna Capac

Tupac Inca (Topa Inka Yupanqui) and Huayna Capac (Wayna Qhapaq), the 10th and 11th Sapa Incas, were responsible for enormous expansion of the empire. Tupac Inca, ‘the noble Inca accountant’ was put in charge of Pachacuti’s army at the tender age of 23. What he lacked in experience he made up for with bravery and he was responsible for extending the empire across vast swathes of Northern Peru and present-day Ecuador. When his father died in 1471 he took over as Inca – a position he held until his death in 1493.

Huayna Capac, ‘the young mighty one’ succeeded his father in 1493. He was a relentless expansionist: strengthening the empire’s foothold in the North (he got as far as what is today Colombia) and making massive strides into the South, by annexing vast tracts of modern-day Chile and Argentina. He also did a lot of good for his people, building temples, roads and food storehouses throughout the empire.

Huayna Capac had scores of children, both with his official wives, and with the numerous concubines expected of the Inka elite. It was the battle for succession between two of his sons - Huascar, a legitimate heir, and Atahualpa, the son of a concubine - that would lead to the demise of the Empire at the hands of the Spanish. But more about that next week.


Huayna Capac was responsible for the development of Cochabamba in Bolivia. (Picture: Guillaime Bertocchi)

The Inca Empire reached its peak during Huayna Capac’s reign. Empires must rise and fall, but the Incas’ demise was quickened by the arrival of the Spanish and their silent, secret army of germs and bacteria. It is widely believed that Huayna Capac died of smallpox while campaigning in Colombia, and in the decades to follow hundreds of thousands of his countrymen would suffer the same fate.

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