The ancient civilization of Peru was known as the Incan Empire. The Incan Empire was first built when the sun god, Inti, sent his four daughters and sons a golden shaft to help them find land. Manco Capac, one of the four children, would become the first king of this empire in Cuzco, Peru, the capital of the Incan Empire. From 1250 to 1400 A.D., the Incas built up a strong army around their empire. Their empire stretching from all of Peru, modern Ecuador, all of Bolivia, and the northern half of what is now Chile. This vast empire extended 2,000 miles down the western coast of South America and had a very thick population. The Incan army was known for their blockading and killing of all their external image 7.jpgenemies during war.

The Inca Empire

The Incas were also very sophisticated at the time and their accomplishments were impressive. By using irrigation throughout different territories, the Incas were able to build up many areas of farmland. Along with irrigation, the Incas created paved roads, rope bridges, and steps up mountains. They built magnificent temples through the use of their vast amounts of gold and silver. Although this ancient civilization seemed far ahead then many other civilizations, this great empire would fall to a disease known as smallpox.

Smallpox is a viral infection that enters in through someone’s nose or throat. Smallpox is contagious external image smallpox-virus-73335735-ga.jpgand once the infection gets into the body, the virus will move to the lungs. The virus will then multiply and affect the lymphatic system. Blisters will slowly appear over a period of three to five days, starting with the hands and face, and eventually spread to the rest of the body. These blisters are filled with smallpox DNA, and the DNA can get out and onto other surfaces if the blister breaks open. The incubation period is twelve days and if not monitored well, the disease can spread to many other people. For someone to get this disease though, they must be in very close human contact.

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Arrival of Smallpox
The Spanish first came to the New World in 1492 through the voyage of Christopher Columbus. More and more voyages to the New World began and the Spanish were able to conquer many territories on their voyages. One thing that played a vital role in conquering different territories was diseases. The Spanish brought many diseases with them to the New World and immense amounts of people died from these diseases. One disease that found its way into the New World and the Incan Empire was smallpox. Smallpox would play a key role in the conquering of the Incan Empire. Smallpox was first seen in Mexico, where it spread from there down to Central America and finally to the Incan Empire.

Although the Incan Empire had a strong Army, they would not be able to fight off smallpox. Over 200,000 Incas died of smallpox, cutting the empire in half. The Incan Empire was regarded as “virgin soil” because none of the external image smallpox.jpgdiseases brought over by the Spanish, including smallpox, had ever been seen by these people. The Incas were not immune to smallpox, so when everyone was hit at once, it caused a high death rate. The Spanish were immune to many diseases and their genes had become resistant, making it easier for them to survive.

One way that helped smallpox spread easily was the Inca Road System. The Inca Road System consisted of t
external image pers_atahualpa1.jpgwo roads that branched off, stretching over the whole empire. Many people traveled on the Inca Road System and they brought their diseases with them everywhere they went, infecting more people. A huge loss to the Incas was their emperor, Huayna Capac, who had died of smallpox. Huayna was loved by his people very much and many people looked up to him. Other big losses to the Incas were military and political leaders. The massive amounts of deaths from smallpox would help Francisco Pizarro conquer the Incan Empire.

War and Conquest

Huayna Capac and His Sons

After the unexpected death of Huayna Capac, which was due to smallpox, there was great confusion about who would become the next autocrat. Huayna Capac had chosen one of his sons to be the next successor, but also became ill with smallpox and soon died. This deadly disease hadexternal image atahualpa.jpg caused great confusion in this empire and eventually a civil war. Since there was noone else chosen to take the thrown, a war broke out between the emperors two sons who had survived: Atahualpa and Huascar. The war devastated the empire and this great external image DruryConq.jpgstruggle had split the empire into two factions. It was now easier for the Spanish to conquer the Incan Empire. In 1532, Atahualpa won the war with his brother and became the new emperor. His victory did not last very long though, as the Spanish, under the lead of Francisco Pizarro, soon invaded the empire. Disease and a civil war had opened way for this Spanish conquistador and his men.

Francisco Pizarro and Spanish Conquest

Francisco Pizarro arrived in 1532 with 67 horsemen and over 100 foot soldiers and invaded the Incan Empire. The Spanish had the advantage of guns, artillery, and horses, while the external image img-francisco-pizarro.gifIncas did not have much. Pizarro soon captured the empire’s recently appointed autocrat, Atahuualpa. The Incas paid a huge ransom in gold and silver to the Spaniards for the release of Atahualpa, but they killed him anyways. Pizarro and all the Spanish conquistadors then took control of the Incan Empire. Pizarro's capture of Atahualpa showed how much the loss of an emperor can affect and cause damage to society.

The Incas were not able to put up a fight with the Spanish conquistadors because of what the smallpox epidemic had done. Smallpox caused the emperor Huayna Capac and his chosen heir to die, therefore resulting in a civil war between his two sons, Atahualpa and Huascar. This war caused the empire to divide, which made it much easier for Francisco Pizarro and the Spaniards to invade and conquer the area. The Spaniards would not have been able to “enter or win the lands” (Crosby 56) if the land had not been divided in the first place. They may have been able to drive out the Spanish invaders if they had not been hit by smallpox.

As the disease caused many deaths and problems for the society, it had a strong psychological effect on the Incan Empire. With the death of the beloved emperor,
external image AtahualpaCapture.jpgHuayna Capac, the Incas became devastated. Disease causes great problems and can be terrifying; the outbreak of smallpox that hit the Incas must have “shaken the confidence of the Incas that they still enjoyed the esteem of their gods” (Crosby 57). The civil war was soon to come and that confused the people of the Incan Empire, who were accustomed to the autocracy. The Spanish invasion and conquest was the final disaster that devastated the Incas, affecting them psychologically.

Smallpox contributed to a lot of things in the Inca Empire including many deaths, the downfall of the empire, and the conquering of the empire. Incas were not able to fight off the disease and after the emperor, Huanya Capac, died, the empire slowly crumbled. Francisco Pizarro was easily able to come to the Inca Empire and take over it because of the downfall of the empire, which was caused by smallpox. Overall, the Incas suffered a lot because of smallpox and an ancient civilization fell.


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