All the Inca Emperors of the Tawantinsuyo

The Inca Empire was one of South America's most powerful and advanced civilizations. It flourished between 1438 and 1533, and its legacy is still alive. The Incas were highly organized, employing a complex government, language, religion, and engineering system that left a lasting impact on the world. At the head of this mighty empire were a series of rulers known as SAPA INKA. Some emperors led with distinction, while others were more authoritarian. Let's learn about the inca emperors.

Who were the Incas?

The Inca people were a tribe that originated in the Cusco area of Peru. They began to form their empire in the early 13th century, and by the time of the Spanish conquest in 1533, they controlled a territory that extended from Ecuador to Chile. The Sapa Inca was the ruler of this empire, and there were many of them over the centuries.

Some of the most famous Inca Emperors include Pachacuti, who expanded the empire greatly; Tupac Amaru, the last emperor before the Spanish conquest; and Atahualpa, who was captured by the Spanish and executed. Many other lesser-known emperors ruled for shorter periods.

The Great Inca Emperors | TreXperience
Portraits of the 14 Inca governors before the Spanish arrival. On the left: Manco Capac, the founding ruler. On the right: Mama Ocllo, the first consort.

The first Inca Kings (Legendary Incas)

The first 8 Inca Kings are called legendary because their existence is mixed with mythology. They are said to have descended from the sun god, and they held great power over the people of the empire. These kings ruled over a small group in the valley of Cusco (Hurin Qosqo). 

  • Manco Capac (1200–1230)

In the 12th century, the empire's founder unified the kingdom of Cusco and led his people on the march to establish the Inca Empire. He and his wife, Mama Ocllo, were children of the sun god Inti. They emerged from Lake Titicaca to create an empire that would rule over all others.
Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo brought order to the land and its people. They taught them how to farm, build homes, and make clothes. The Inca Empire flourished under their leadership.

  • Sinchi Roca (1230–1260)

Sinchi Roca was the second legendary Inca ruler. He was the son of Manco Cápac and his wife, Mama Ocllo. He conquered the ayllus (villages) in the valley of Cusco. 

  • Lloque Yupanqui (1260–1290)

The third legendary Inca Ruler was the son of Sinchi Roca and Mama Qora. He began the construction of the Acllahuasi (the virgins of the sun)

  • Mayta Cápac (1290–1320)

Son of Lloque Yupanqui and Mama Qahua, he is the fourth Inca ruler and conqueror of the nearby Alcabisas and Culunchimas tribes.

  • Cápac Yupanqui (1320–1350)

The fifth Inca ruler constructed many buildings, bridges, roads, and aqueducts to enhance the city of Cuzco.

  • Inca Roca (1350–1380)

The sixth legendary Inca ruler is believed to have conquered the Chancas and built the first Yachaywasi, schools for teaching nobles. 

  • Yáhuar Huácac (1380–1410)

Son of Inca Roca and Mama Chikwa, he was kidnapped as a child by the Sinchi Today Ccapac of the Ayarmacas, where he cried bloody tears; this is why he is called Yahuar Huacac ( the one who cries blood). 

  • Viracocha (1410–1438)

He was not the son of Yahuar Huacac but belonged to the Hanan Qosqo's royal dynasty. He fled to the Sacred Valley during the Chanka offensive, where he died without being able to designate his successor. 

The great Inca Emperors

The Inca Empire reached its greatest size with these kings, extending from Ecuador to Chile. They were great military leaders and conquered many lands for the Tawantinsuyo. 

  • Pachacuti (1438-1471)

Pachacuti) was the ninth Sapa Inca of the Tawantinsuyo and is considered one of the most successful rulers in Inca history. He began his reign by famously defeating the Chanka people and expanding the Inca Empire into new territories. Pachacuti also initiated a series of reforms that strengthened the empire politically, economically, and militarily. He built many impressive monuments, including Machu Picchu, and developed a sophisticated system of roads and bridges. Under Pachacuti's rule, the Inca Empire reached its height of power and prosperity.

  • Tupac Yupanqui (1471–1493)

Tupac Yupanqui was the tenth Inca king of the Tawantincuyo. He ruled from 1471 to 1493. His reign was characterized by expansion into new territories, including the conquest of the Kingdom of Chimor. He is known as the Explorer; he traveled to Easter Island.

  • Huayna Capac (1493–1527)

Inca king Huayna Capac was the 11th ruler of the Inca Empire and is considered one of the most successful. He expanded the empire to its greatest size and initiated a period of prosperity and peace. Under his rule, the Inca built many new roads and temples and developed an extensive irrigation system. Huayna Capac was born in 1468 and became ruler in 1493. He began his reign by conquering new territories in present-day Ecuador and Chile. Huayna Capac died in 1527 of smallpox brought by Spaniards in Central America. 

  • Huascar (1527–1532)

Huascar was the 12th Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cuzco before it fell to the Spanish conquerors. He was born in 1527 and became Inca king upon his father's death, Huayna Capac, in 1532. During his brief reign, Huascar tried unsuccessfully to quash a rebellion by his half-brother Atahualpa, who had proclaimed himself emperor of a rival kingdom based in Quito. The rivalry between the two brothers led to a civil war, which ended when Athaualpa's forces captured and executed Huascar in 1533.

  • Atahualpa (1532–1533)

Atahualpa was the last emperor of the Inca Empire. He ruled from 1532 to 1533, when the Spanish conquistadors captured and executed him. Atahualpa became emperor after defeating his half-brother Huáscar in a civil war. Atahualpa's rule was brief; he was captured by Spanish forces led by Francisco Pizarro in November 1532. Pizarro ordered him to be executed, despite promises from Atahualpa that he would fill a room with gold and silver in exchange for his freedom. Atahualpa's execution ended Inca resistance to the Spanish conquest and marked the beginning of Spanish rule in Peru.

The last Inca Kings

They are known as the Neo-Inca State rulers, the Inca kings of Vilcabamba, the last capital of the Incas. 

  • Manco Inca (1533 – 1536)

Manco Inca was the founder and king (Sapa Inca) of the Neo-Inca State in Vilcabamba, despite initially being a puppet Inca Emperor named by Francisco Pizarro. At Easter 1536, Manco gathered a vast army and attacked the city of Cusco. The Inca battalions took the Sacsayhuaman fortress, positioned atop a hill overlooking Cuzco, and started attacking the Spanish from there. In 1544, at forty, Manco Inca was killed by Diego Mendez, a Spanish invader.

  • Sayri Tupac (1544–1560)

Sayri Túpac Inca, the last Sapa Inca of the Inca Empire, was born in the village of Vilcabamba in 1534. He was the son of Manco Inca Yupanqui and his wife, Queen Cura Ocllo. Sayri Túpac was proclaimed Sapa Inca in 1544 at nine after his father died. In 1588, Sayri Tupac Traveled to Lima, surrendered his Inca title, and embraced baptism under the Name of Diego Sayri Tupac. He also gained the title of Price of Yucay, where he got lands and wealthy properties, and he never returned to Vilcabamba. 

  • Titu Cusi Yupanqui (1563–1571)

Titu Cusi was the penultimate king of Vilcabamba after his half-brother Sayri Tupac's death. He reigned until 1571, when he died perhaps of pneumonia. However, Martín de Pando and the Augustinian Friar Diego Ortiz were blamed for poisoning him and were killed. 

Titu Cusi wrote a book called "An Inca Account of the Conquest of Peru" with the help of Martin Pando, which is possible to buy on Amazon. 

  • Túpac Amaru I (1571–1572)

The last Inca emperor, son of Manco Inca Yupanqui. Following Titu Cusi's death in 1571, the Inca generals gave him the Title of Sapa Inca. With him started the last bloody wars in the Vilcabamba region. 

Viceroy Antonio de Mendoza had recently arrived in Peru and thought Titu Cusi was still alive, so he sent delegates to negotiate a final peace and highland submission. Because he was worried by their quiet, the viceroy sought communication. The tensions were raised when Cuzco diplomat Atilano Ayala was executed in March 1572. 

Captain Garcia de Loyola captured Tupac Amaru on September 21, 1572; the prisoners were transported to Cuzco. The last Inca king was decapitated in the main plaza of Cusco, where his head was exhibited for two days. The last capital of the Incas was baptized as San Francisco de la Victoria.

  • Túpac Amaru II

Túpac Amaru II was an indigenous leader who rebelled against the Spanish in the late 18th century. He was born in 1738 in the village of Tinta, in the Cusco Region of Peru. His birth name was José Gabriel Condorcanqui, but he later took on the name of his Inca ancestor, Túpac Amaru. In 1780, after years of growing discontent with Spanish rule, Túpac Amaru II led a large-scale rebellion against the colonial government. The rebellion quickly spread throughout the southern Andes. The Spanish eventually crushed the rebellion, and Túpac Amaru II was captured and executed in 1781. His martyrdom helped inspire other rebellions against Spanish rule in Peru and elsewhere in South America.


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