Postclassical Era (500-1500) |

Pizarro Traps Incan Emperor Atahualpa - 11/16/1532

Today in November 16, 1532, a Spanish explorer and conquistador Francisco Pizarro led an expedition that conquered Incan empire. With less than 200 men against a few thousand, Pizarro baits Incan's emperor, Atahualpa to a banquet in his honor and afterward starts shooting at the unarmed Incans. Pizarro's men slaughtered the Incans and catch Atahualpa, compelling him to change over to Christianity before in the end murdering him.

Pizarro had perfectly planned for his victory of the empire. In 1532, the Inca Empire was involved in a civil war that had crushed the population of the empire, divided them and they could no longer act like one. Atahualpa, the younger child of previous Incan ruler Huayna Capac, had quite recently ousted his half-brother Huascar and was amidst rejoining his kingdom when Pizarro landed in 1531, with the support of Spain's King Charles V. Pizarro heard of the war and started enlisting soldiers that were faithful to Huascar before he got to Incan's capital.

Atahualpa and his men were outside Cajamarca when he met Pizarro. They met in a little Incan town buried in the valley of Andes. Meeting Atahualpa, Pizarro sent his sibling Hernan as an emissary to the emperor and then invited Atahualpa back to Cajamarca for a banquet to pay tribute to Atahualpa's ascendance to the throne. With Atahualpa in the mountains were 80,000 soldiers, yet he decided to attend the banquet with just 5,000 unarmed men. On getting to the feast, he met Vicente de Valverde, a monk traveling with Pizarro, while Pizarro men lay in wait.

The monk Valverde advised Atahualpa to denounce his religion and acknowledge Charles V as sovereign, which he rebuffed angrily. The monk realized Atahualpa would not change his mind, and then gave the signal for Pizarro to start shooting. Caught in the middle with no way of escaping, the already frightened Incan men became an easy prey for the Spanish. Pizarro's men butchered the 5,000 Incans in only 60 minutes, with Pizarro being the only one who sustained a minor injury, a cut on his hand as he spared Atahualpa from death.

Acknowledging Atahualpa was more important alive than dead, the emperor was kept in bondage while Pizarro arranged to assume control over his empire. Realizing that his captors were greedy, Atahualpa offered them a room brimming with gold and silver in return for his freedom. Pizarro agreed, however, after he got the payoff, charges of insubordination was brought up against Atahualpa.

Fortunately, he was able to play his part in uniting the kingdom before Pizarro thought of him as a threat. Atahualpa was sentenced to death and was to be burned at the stake (the type of death Spanish believed pagans deserved). Eventually, Valverde offered him mercy if he would only denounce his faith and embrace Christianity, which he accepted. On August 29, 1533, Atahualpa was killed by strangling.

The battle between the Spanish and the Incas continued even after the death of Atahualpa. However, Pizarro's triumph at Cajamarca paved way for European colonization of South America and ended the Inca Empire. 

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Mark Hinderberg


Retired History Professor at Vanderbilt University. Love taking a portal through time and sharing my knowledge with anyone else who loves reading about history. It is my passion and my greatest hobby.