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Inca Emperors
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Who were the Inca rulers?

The Inca empire lasted just two centuries. It is not known for sure when the empire began as such. The truth is that it expanded by thousands of kilometers, reaching part of the current territories of Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia, Chile and Argentina. Its first ruler was Manco Cápac (1200 – 1230) and the last was Túpac Amaru I (1570 – 1572). The apogee of the empire was achieved by the famous Inca Pachacutec (1430 – 1478).

When did the Inca Empire begin?

The Incas settled in Cusco from the altiplanic regions around 1230. Since then, they have made strategic alliances with local people. Little by little they grew in number until the sovereign Pachacutec (who had Machu Picchu built) founded the Inca empire in 1430. This era was characterized by large-scale territorial expansion as well as economic, architectural, and cultural development.

Inca emperors Machu Picchu
Staging of the Inca worshiping the Sun God

How many were the Inca rulers?

Historians consider that there were 18 governors, from their settlement in Cusco under the leadership of Manco Cápac. Of these, eight were the rulers of the pre-imperial era, six were the emperors, and four led the Inca rebellion in Vilcabamba.

The first incas

  • Manco Capac

    The first governor and organizer of the first Incas. Along with his wife Mama Ocllo, he stars in the Legend of the Ayar brothers and the Legend of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo. He organized the basic laws of the Incas and imposed severe penalties. He had the famous Coricancha temple built.

    • Government period: 1150 – 1178
    • Dynasty: Hurin Qosqo
    • Period: Legendary Inca
  • Sinchi Roca

    Sinchi Roca was the son of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo. He had to face wars against the ayllus neighboring the territory. He expanded the Coricancha and ordered the swamps that abounded in the territory of Cusco to be dried.

    • Government period: 1178 – 1190
    • Dynasty: Hurin Qosqo
    • Period: Legendary Inca
  • Lloque Yupanqui

    He had to face the constant wars for possession of the Cusco valley. He achieved a peace agreement with the Ayamarca, an ethnic group that was the enemy of the Incas for a long time. He died in the Coricancha.

    • Government period: 1197 – 1246
    • Dynasty: Hurin Qosqo
    • Period: Local Inca Confederation
  • Mayta Cápac

    The fourth Inca ruler who had to deal with hard battles by the Alcahuisa ethnic group and the Aymara kingdoms. He successfully defended the Inca territory in Cusco. He left the government to his son Tarco Huaman who suffered a coup d’état by Cápac Yupanqui.

    • Government period: 1246 – 1276
    • Dynasty: Hurin Qosqo
    • Period: Local Inca Confederation
  • Yupanqui Capac

    He came to power with a coup d’état over his cousin, the legitimate Inca Tarco Huaman. He achieved an alliance with the enemy Ayamarca tribe to fight the powerful Chanca army (much larger than the Incas at this time). However, he was unable to battle the Chancas because he was poisoned.

    • Government period: 1276 – 1321
    • Dynasty: Hurin Qosqo
    • Period: Local Inca Confederation
  • Inca Roca

    The first ruler of the Hanan dynasty. He came to power by poisoning Cápac Yupanqui. He left the Coricancha to the Hurin dynasty and moved to his own palace ( in the current Stone of the Twelve Angles of Cusco ). It began with the construction of buildings in the city of Cusco.

    • Government period: 1321 – 1348
    • Dynasty: Hanan Qosqo
    • Period: Local Inca Confederation
  • Yahuar Huácac

    Yahuar Huaca was the seventh Inca ruler. The chronicles tell that as a child he was kidnapped by the Ayamarca tribe who spared his life by being surprised that he was crying blood. He faced several wars and rebellions. It slightly expanded the territory although without being able to free itself from its fiercest enemies. He died without choosing his successor.

    • Government period: 1348 – 1370
    • Dynasty: Hanan Qosqo
    • Period: Local Inca Confederation
  • Huiracocha Inca

    Although he was not the son of Yahuar Huaca, he was elected governor for belonging to the royalty of the Hanan dynasty. He expanded the Inca territories to Yucay and Calca, where he built his palace. He fled from Cusco at the threat of the Chancas. He died in Calca far from Cusco and without being able to designate a successor.

    • Government period: 1370 – 1430
    • Dynasty: Hanan Qosqo
    • Period: Local Inca Confederation

Inca emperors

  • Pachacútec

    After his father’s surrender, he took military power and obtained strategic alliances with neighboring ethnic groups and managed to expel the Chancas from Cusco. His real name was Cusi Yupanqui. After obtaining the Chanca expulsion from Cusco and expanding the territory in all directions, he founded the ‘Tahuantinsuyo’ and was named the Inca Pachacutec. He expanded the territory, settled the laws and important political changes and ordered the construction of important citadels such as Machupicchu.

    • Government period: 1430 – 1478
    • Dynasty: Hanan Qosqo
    • Epoch: Initial Inca expansion
  • Amaru Inca Yupanqui

    He was the successor chosen by Pachacutec. According to the chronicles, he was a very peaceful ruler, inept to face the challenges of the nascent Inca empire. Thus, Pachacutec decided to dismiss him and name Túpac Yupanqui as his true successor.

    • Government period: 1478
    • Dynasty: Hurin Qosqo
    • Epoch: Initial Inca Expansion
  • Tupac Inca Yupanqui

    This Inca is known as the Inca explorer since he ventured on expeditions to all the limits of the empire (he is even said to have discovered Oceania). It achieved the maximum expansion of the Inca territory. He founded Quito in present-day Ecuador. He defeated the chimús, chachapoyas, huambos, the Aymara kingdoms and more. He died poisoned by his wife who did not like the appointment of Huayna Cápac as his successor.

    • Government period: 1478 – 1488
    • Dynasty: Hurin Qosqo
    • Period: Imperial Inca heyday
  • Huayna Cápac

    I continue with the expansionist missions in the north. He faced the harsh rebellions of the Huancas and Punás. He was recognized for his aggressiveness against the rebel peoples. Likewise, he had to deal with a group of rebel armies during his campaigns. According to some historians, in one of his campaigns in the north, Huayna Cápac heard information about the existence of the Spanish who were already in Inca territory at the time.

    • Government period: 1488 – 1525
    • Dynasty: Hurin Qosqo
    • Period: Imperial Inca heyday
  • Huascar

    Since his appointment, he has dedicated himself to fighting conspiracies against him (he ordered the death of several of his brothers), especially that of his brother Atahualpa. Once captured, he was taken half-naked to Atahualpa who ordered his immediate death since he was already captured by the Spanish.

    • Government period: 1525 – 1532
    • Dynasty: Hanan Qosqo
    • Epoch: Imperial Inca crisis
  • Atahualpa

    He fought and defeated his brother Huascar. He was the last Inca emperor. Captured and executed by the Spanish invaders in 1533. Atahualpa failed to claim his throne in Cusco from Quito. He is famous for the immense gold and silver fortune he paid for his ransom, which, however, never came. He died strangled in Cajamarca ending the Inca empire.

    • Government period: 1532 – 1533
    • Dynasty: Hanan Qosqo
    • Epoch: Imperial Inca crisis

The last incas

  • Manco Inca II

    With the intention of ruling from the shadows, the Spanish named Manco Inca as the new ruler. This one decided to rebel when seeing the abuses that the Spaniards committed against the Incas. He fled and established his reign in Vilcabamba, a remote compound in the jungle of Cusco. From there he fought the Spanish until his murder by poisoning due to treason.

    • Government period: 1533 – 1536
    • Dynasty: Huascarista (Huáscar family).
    • Period: Rebel Incas of Vilcabamba.
  • Sayri Tupac

    He continued with the uprising from Vilcabamba. He negotiated with the Spanish in Lima, obtaining lands, wealth and privileges. He established his new residence in Yucay. Finally, Sayri Túpac died in Yucay, probably due to poisoning.

    • Government period: 1545 – 1558
    • Dynasty: Huascarista (Huáscar family).
    • Period: Rebel Incas of Vilcabamba.
  • Titus Cusi

    After the death of his brother Sayri Túpac, he assumed power in Vilcabamba. He negotiated with the Spaniards with whom he signed a peace treaty in exchange for wealth and convert to Catholicism. It is famous for allowing missionaries to enter Vilcabamba, and for murdering them because of a misunderstanding.

    • Government period: 1558 – 1570
    • Dynasty: Huascarista (Huáscar family).
    • Period: Rebel Incas of Vilcabamba.
  • Tupac Amaru

    He had to fight bloody battles with the Spanish for control of Vilcabamba from where he fled in the face of imminent defeat. He was captured with his wife and executed in the Plaza de Armas in Cusco. His death meant the end of the rebellious Incas of Vilcabamba and the Inca rulers.

    • Government period: 1570 – 1572
    • Dynasty: Huascarista (Huáscar family).
    • Period: Rebel Incas of Vilcabamba.

How did the Incas start?

The Incas did not invent the writing, so there is no record of how they started. When the Spanish conquered their lands, the written history of the Incas began.

About the origin there are two legends that explain the arrival of the Inca people to Cusco from the cold lands of the altiplano: a) the Legend of the Ayar Brothers and b) the Legend of Manco Cápac and Mama Ocllo.

After the death of Manco Cápac, its first ruler, the Incas timidly expanded until the arrival of Pachacutec who founded the great empire of the Incas. It was this last Inca who founded the wonderful Inca city of Machupicchu.

How did they expand their empire?

Pachacutec was the first ruler of the Inca empire. It was he who initiated the great expansionism in the north and south. He created alliances that allowed him to dominate the territory without using force. He came to conquer the territory of Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia as well as half of Chile and part of Argentina and Colombia.

His son Tupac Yupanqui continued the process of expansion of the empire towards the north, reaching its most extensive expansion.

How was the fall of the empire?

Huayna Cápac, son of Tupac Yupanqui, was unable to establish a successor before his death. This caused a confrontation between his sons Huáscar and Atahualpa. It was in this context of civil war that the Spanish arrived.

The Spanish imposed themselves on the Incas mainly for the advantage of their weapons and for their alliances with the peoples subjected to force by the Incas who sought to free themselves from their oppressors. The last rebel Incas in Vilcabamba were unable to regain lost territory. Finally the Spanish occupied Cusco and the colonial system was established.


By Ticket Machu Picchu – Last updated, July 27, 2020