When you look into the many achievements of an ancient civilization like the Incas, it’s hard to imagine that it experienced a downfall to begin with. For example, the Incas were known for implementing a system so effective that you didn’t need money to build a society. Everyone knew their place, and those that took part were given everything they needed. Such a combination meant there likely wouldn’t have been too much infighting — but unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.
The Incas experienced the perfect storm of unfortunate events that other ancient civilizations did, which resulted in their downfall. There always seems to be a pattern that goes toward the decline of civilizations, but some aspects will always differ depending on the empire. If you want to learn more about the ancient Incas and what contributed to their eventual, unfortunate downfall, you’ve come to the right place! Hopefully, with this little blast to the past you can learn more about how ancient civilizations lived, as there were few more interesting than the Incas.
Fierce Civil War
Unfortunately, one of the primary contributing factors to the downfall of the Inca civilization came from an unlikely source — civil war. The Incas were well-known for their ability to keep people in check, even without the use of money. The fact that they were able to grow their empire to the point where they were considered the largest in the world is truly saying something, as they didn’t use money to get the job done.
The organized class system — extremely close to the modern government for such an ancient civilization, further showcases the ingenuity of the Incas. The unfortunate thing is that they became embroiled in a fierce civil war, one that would only get worse as time went on. For as progressive as they might have been with their system of government, squabbling between different cities still remains one of the primary reasons for the downfall of ancient civilizations.
The Manipulation of the Spaniards
It comes as no surprise that the fall of the Inca included the Spanish conquistadors. However, there was a time when it seemed extremely unlikely due to the sheer number of the Incas compared to the Spanish. The reason why the odds were tipped to the favor of the Spanish was due to skilled manipulation tactics. After all, the conquerors wouldn’t have stood a chance if they had tried to go after the Incas with brute force.
Francisco Pizzaro had successfully manipulated some of the Inca factions to turn against their own people, which caused further turmoil amongst the Inca Empire. Due to the wars fought by the Incas, there was enough civil unrest that the conquistadors managed to turn things around through manipulation and guile
The Fall of the Inca Kings
One of the reasons why the Incas managed to hold things together was due to their ideology, and how they viewed the Inca kings. Similar to ancient Egypt, the rulers were seen as literal gods among men. The Pharaohs of Egypt were also known to be living descendants of the gods.
What the Spaniards did to destroy the ideology of the Incas was to slowly but steadily go after the Inca kings. The more they were able to ruthlessly destroy the Inca kings, the easier it was to control the ideology of the subjects. All it took was their image of the kings to get tarnished for many of the Incas to submit.
What’s Done is Done
The defeat of the Inca kings did much to persuade the subjects to submit. The Spanish were able to do what the Incas thought to be impossible — they killed the Inca kings. In many ways, the Spanish were viewed with reverence, as those who could kill gods. The Incas were a superstitious lot, and seeing the Inca kings stripped of their power simply gave the people a means of transferring that mythical power to the Spanish.
For the Incas, what’s done is done. They saw what had happened to the kings who resisted, and it was obvious that they were outmaneuvered. The class system made it easier for the Incas to accept their lot, which made it easier for them to submit once they saw what happened. While it’s true the Spanish were outnumbered, they were able to conquer the Incas through manipulation.
A Lack of Competition from Other Civilizations
At this point, it’s clear that the Spanish were able to eventually fully conquer the Incas, effectively ending their empire. The reason why they were defeated by a much smaller force is due to a number of reasons — some of which were already explained above. Perhaps one of the more significant reasons has to do with a lack of competition from other civilizations.
The Incas never had to compete with a more technologically advanced civilization, and while they were used to warfare due to civil war, it wasn’t enough. The Incas were creative and skilled, but they were also easy to manipulate. The lack of competition from other civilizations eventually led to their downfall.
The Experience of the Conquerors
Aside from the Inca civilization’s relative lack of competition, the fact that the Spaniards were so skilled at what they did compounded the situation. As a matter of fact, there was no conquering force in the world quite like the Spaniards. By the time the Spanish were making plans to conquer the Incas, they had already done their fair share of conquering. They knew how to subjugate, and they knew how to play politics.
They were well aware of their shortcomings against the Incas, and they knew precisely how to break the hold of the Inca kinds. The experience of the conquerors was such that they were able to quickly gain an advantage over the Incas despite being severely outnumbered. They only had around 160 men, yet they somehow managed to bring a giant empire like the Inca to its knees.
The General Lack of Communication
There’s no denying that the Incas were able to make do with what they had. They didn’t have the wheel, but they managed to construct one of the largest highways in the history of ancient mankind. They also had messengers all around the highway to ensure that communication wasn’t too big an issue.
Unfortunately, during times of war, communication became a huge problem for the Incas. Communication wasn’t solid enough for the Incas to effectively get messages through, resulting in the Spaniards catching many of them by surprise.The result was the quick disintegration of the system — an unfortunate end for the Inca empire.
As if all of the reasons above weren’t enough to contribute to the downfall of the Incas, foreign epidemics reared its ugly head and caused all manner of chaos to ensue. Interestingly enough, the previous Inca king had died of a mysterious illness years before the arrival of the conquistadors, which raises some questions.
That said, there are few things that can destroy morale and take away the will to fight than an epidemic. Similar to the Aztecs, the Incas were not prepared to tackle the problems that came with foreign epidemics, and the Spanish used it to their advantage. While the Incas did fight back, the sheer speed at which the Inca Empire fell shows just how much the Incas suffered. It was an unfortunate turn of events for what was once the largest empire.
The Gap in Technology
As a conquering force, it’s only natural for the Spaniards to have a technological advantage over the Incas. That being said, the gap in technology wasn’t enough for it to be a primary contributing factor. While it’s true that the Spanish employed guns and horses during the battles with the Incas, there weren’t enough guns to make a sizable difference.
However, just because it didn’t have as big an effect doesn’t mean it wasn’t important. The very fact that the Spanish had guns was enough to help turn the tide in many situations.
A Lack of Trading Between Civilizations
Last but certainly not least, while the Incas created a centralized system to help build the empire, the lack of communication with other civilizations contributed to their fall. The Incas mostly kept to themselves, and it was often enough not to have as much control over the people compared to other civilizations. If the Incas had been left alone, perhaps that would’ve been enough for the empire to endure.
However, such a scenario did not help the potential of being attacked by a conquering force. It’s the reason why such a small force of Spaniards managed to do enough damage where the empire crumbled surprisingly quickly.