At the height of its existence, the Inca Empire ran some 2,500 miles along the Andean range from Colombia to Chile, had more than 10 million subjects and was home to Cuzco, a city PBS called, “the richest city in the New World.”
Subjects paid taxes by working and earned food and clothing in return, silver and gold were abundant and over 14,000-miles of roads were created. Cuzco was the center of it all.
“This central nervous system of Inca transport and communication rivaled that of Rome,” says PBS.org about the Inca roads.
In describing the roads an early chronicler of Inca culture and conquistador, Ciezo de Leon says, the roads ran “through deep valleys and over mountains, through piles of snow, quagmires, living rock, along turbulent rivers; in some places it ran smooth and paved, carefully laid out; in others over sierras, cut through the rock, with walls skirting the rivers, and steps and rests through the snow; everywhere it was clean swept and kept free of rubbish, with lodgings, storehouses, temples to the sun, and posts along the way.”
Things were going great until Francisco Pizarro from Spain showed up in 1532. After learning of the riches in Cuzco, an Inca emperor, Atahualpa, was kidnapped and held for ransom. The ransom was paid, some $50 million by today’s standards, but Atahualpa was killed anyway.
Smallpox devastated the original peoples of North America and that’s just how Pizarro was able to gain an advantage over the Incas. Between the murder of Atahualpa and the spread of disease, Pizarro was able to take a lot of Inca riches to Spain with him.
In 1524 Pizarro formed an alliance with fellow conquistador Diego de Almagro, whom he granted the conquest of Chile once he became governor of Peru. But Pizarro didn’t give Almagro all the land he promised and Almagro wasn’t pleased, so he seized Cuzco in 1538. Hernando, Pizarro’s half brother was sent to deal with Almagro, who was put to death. Three years later, on June 26, 1541 in retaliation a group hired by Almagro’s supporters killed Pizarro.