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Jonathan Lindsell Trinity College 25/04/2011 How far was the power of the Incas dependent on their religious ideology?
Essay Summary Cuzco's inhabitants were obedient to the Inca royalty largely through religious ideology, but also thanks to the hopes of rewards and the benefits of empire. These core loyalists' devotion allowed for expansions and occupation into new regions. The Incas tried to impose their Solar Cult on captured areas with notable success, but the stability of the Tawantinsuyu Empire rested on the Incas' armies and administration. However, without the religion-dependent loyalty of Cuzco, neither army nor bureaucracy would be operable, so the power of the Incas was indeed very dependent on their religious ideology. When the invading Spaniards entered Tawantinsuyu in 1533, the Inca Empire stretched thousands of kilometres, from the glittering sub-capital Quito in the North to the untamed wilderness of Patagonia. The Incas ruled effectively over many different peoples and cultures from the sea, over the mountains to the edges of the Amazon. Prior to the civil war between rival claimants Huascar and Atahualpa, holding together so vast an empire surely required extensive power of some form. The ruling Inca's power was based on the religious ideology of the Inca people of Cuzco, who worshipped their kings as Gods. This devotion from their subjects allowed the rulers to develop a frighteningly efficient military-administrative framework through which the Incas' empire was conquered and maintained. Upon conquest, the body of Inca beliefs would be forced upon the defeated, whose own spiritual connection to guacas (universal to Andean civilisations, so itself an Inca belief set) allowed idols to be held hostage to guarantee the subject people's good behaviour. Thus, although the entire empire was held together by the network of warriors and bureaucrats, the power to maintain these tools depended on Inca religion. Inca foundation myths establish from their very inception the divinity of the royal family, and the superiority of the whole Inca people. The first ruler was Manco Capac, child of the Sun, the Inca's principle deity, and his first subjects were ayllus hand chosen to live with him in Cuzco1. According to Inca belief, the first notable king following Manco Capac was Viracocha Inca, who "said that God had talked to him at night"2 according to Juan de Betanzos' account of Inca 'history'. Virachocha, whilst a descendent of the Sun and visited by him, was apparently terrified by the powerful Chanca warlord Uscovilca, with the effect that he fled Cuzco with a large part of his people, leaving his obstinate son Inca Yupanque to protect his deserted homeland. Inca Yupanque "started praying to the creator of all things, and Viracocha (the creator-god) came him in the form of a man"3. The next day "there appeared twenty squadrons of soldiers never known to Inca Yupanque"4 who took command of these divine soldiers and routed Uscovilca, saving his city and effectively inheriting kingship. Inca Yupanque was the first of the successful Sapa Incas (paramount leaders) who, according to the legends, adapted Inca religion as a cult to the Sun with himself as the Sun's son, establishing the great solar temple and numerous fasts, fiestas and sacrifices to the temple's symbolic inferno5. 1
History of the Inca Empire, B. Cobo, p.187 Narrative of the Incas, J. de Betanzos, p.18 3 Ibid, p.29 4 Ibid, p.30 5 Ibid, p.44 2
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