3 Crazy Things You Never Knew About the Inca Essay
The Inca are famous for great stonework, Machu Picchu, and getting conquered by the Spanish. But here’s somethings you might not have known.
1.) There was no Inca Empire or Inca People.
What we call the Inca Empire didn’t exist at all to the people that lived there. Inca was a title reserved for one man only–the Emperor or Sapa Inca. The empire he ruled was the Tawantinsuyu, or the “four quarters.”
So calling lands ruled by the god-king Inca the Inca Empire is like calling the United States of America “President’s Land.”
Likewise, the people would have never called themselves Inca. That’d be as dangerous as declaring yourself a Caesar in Rome. They probably referred to themselves as runakuna, which means “people” in Quechua.
2.) The Inca had people dedicated to eating his hair.
The Inca was a big deal. He was considered to be son of the Sun, a living god. He kept harems of women all over his kingdom, and was carried from place to place in a litter.
While history is full of megalomaniacal dictators, what really sets the Inca apart are the attendants he kept, whose sole purpose was to eat any hair that might fall from his head. That’s right. The Inca was considered so holy that his hairs couldn’t be left laying around like a mere mortal’s. A few lucky souls got the honor of eating every strand that fell from his beautiful locks.
3.) The love of music caused the Inca’s downfall.
Francisco Pizzaro only had 138 soldiers and yet managed to pluck the Inca Atahualpa from the middle of his army of 80,000. What gives?
Well, yes, the Spaniards did have Guns, Germs and Steel as Jerod Diamond notes in his excellent book. But the Inca sure made it a lot easier for the Spanish, thanks to arrogance and the love of a good time.
So little did Atahualpa fear that Spanish that before meeting them he replaced his soldiers’ weapons with instruments, ordering them to dance and sing. Not only was this decision undoubtedly embarrassing for his soldiers, it was fatal. Instead of facing the Inca’s version of the Navy Seals, the Spaniards fought a dance troupe. During the battle of Cajamarca some 2,000 Incan soldiers died, but a not a single Spaniard lost his life.
Atahualpa was captured, and paid the richest ransom in history. He ordered his subjects to fill a 22′ x 17′ x 8′ room once with gold, and twice with silver. In the end, he was executed by the Spanish anyways.
Without a doubt, had those soldier been armed, the battle, and history, would have turned out differently.