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Inca Empire

The Inca Empire (Quechua: Tawantinsuyu,  "The Four Regions"), also known as the Incan Empire and the Inka Empire, was the largest empire in pre-Columbian America, and possibly the largest empire in the world in the early 16th century. Its political and administrative structure "was the most sophisticated found among native peoples" in the Americas. The administrative, political and military center of the empire was located in Cusco in modern-day Peru. The Inca civilization arose from the highlands of Peru sometime in the early 13th century. Its last stronghold was conquered by the Spanish in 1572.

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In the 1500’s, Spain had already started exploring other parts of the world. Pizarro, striving to be like many other explorers before him, set out to find God, glory, and gold. He eventually conquered the Incan empire with a great disadvantage in numbers. The main factor that supported his victory was the geography of the Incan territory versus Europe. The mountains reduced access of Incans to others, they had no influence from the brilliant Chinese, and they had less of a herding lifestyle. Overall, the mountains separated, while the European land provided for support. The Incan territory is settled in the Andes Mountains. The Incans expanded by forcibly taking over neighborhood tribes, and taking people for sacrifice, making them powerful but spread out. They ruled a despotic regime, which ultimately backfired on the Incans. Pizarro’s translator told him that he could turn these tribes against the powerful Incas and have an ally, which he then did. If not for the mountains, then it would be easier for other tribes to establish a successful competing tribe that would have possibly traded goods as well as technological ideas. The seclusion from other parts of the empire could have also been a reason that no writing system was ever established. The Spaniards read accounts of conquering and exploration, while the Incans only had word of mouth to help them try to achieve success in their battles. Trading was also a huge asset to the Spaniards. In Europe, there was influence throughout due to trade. The busy trading networks traded tools and weapon ideas from China, which brought gunpowder, and ultimately the idea of guns. The guns and superior weapons made the few Spaniards much more effective killers, as well as waged psychological warfare. Horses were also an item that the Spaniards knew through the commercial Europe. They led to an advantage on the battlefield. The Incans had never seen a horse before, and it was unnerving to them. The Incans had less communication through trade, which hindered the ability to transmit ideas and necessary goods in a symbiotic relationship with the other tribes of the nation. What made the superior weaponry of the guns possible was the use of steel in the Spain. Better technology always helps civilizations in struggles against weaker-technologically civilizations. The Incans were not able to make alloyed metal, so they were not able to make the protective steel armor and steel Toledo swords that the Spanish did. In comparison, the wood, copper, and stone weapons were much less effective. Disease was the main factor that killed the remaining, mainly smallpox. The Spaniards were used to living in close proximity to livestock due to their herding lifestyle. This, along with many plagues from the trading, led to increased resistance of European diseases. The Incans were more agricultural. Even the llamas they used were not pack animals and were not in close proximity. Thus, when the Europeans came, they were unprepared for the massive epidemic that would break out from the unvaccinated bodies. Spain had many disadvantages on its side when Pizarro decided to conquer the Incas, including the fact that they were not on their home turf. But the historical elements of how the geography had already affected the two civilizations made a greater impact. The closer-knit Europe provided for the transmission of ideas, unity, and perseverance, while the mountains made the Incans strong by itself, but with no support.

Contributed by Jessica Kalmazu Stimely

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