Cieza de León, Pedro de (c. 1520–1554)

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Cieza de León, Pedro de (c. 1520–1554)

Pedro de Cieza de León (b. c. 1520; d. 2 July 1554), "prince of the Peruvian chroniclers." Born in Llerena, Spain, the son of Lope de León and Leonor de Cazalla, Pedro had at least three sisters and one brother. Little is known of his early years. On 3 June 1535 he set sail for the Indies, heading for Santo Domingo. He first entered South America via Cartagena on the north coast of present-day Colombia and participated in minor expeditions in search of riches, some of which were little more than grave-robbing episodes. In 1536 he joined the Entrada of Juan de Vadillo to explore the Gulf of Urabá; the next year he followed the same leader in the discovery of the province of Abibe—both were financial disasters. In 1539 he set out to explore the Cauca and Atrato basin with a new force under Jorge Robledo that later founded Ancerma and Cartago (1540) in the rich Quimbaya region. It was in Cartago in 1541 that Cieza first began to keep copious notes on what he saw and experienced. The following year he was representing Jorge Robledo in the Audiencia of Panamá, where he probably met for the first time those escaping the conflict in Peru. The same year he helped found the city of Arma and received an Encomienda for his efforts.

With the rising of Gonzalo Pizarro in Peru, Cieza traveled to serve the royalists under Pedro de la Gasca, president of the Audiencia of Lima. In September 1547 he crossed the Pacasmayo Valley with the king's forces, continued into highland Jauja, and marched southward toward Cuzco. He fought at the battle of Jaquijahuana (9 April 1548) and witnessed the execution of the rebels Gonzalo Pizarro and Francisco de Carvajal. Gasca must have been impressed by young Cieza's scholarly capabilities, for he seems to have appointed Cieza official chronicler of events in Peru. During 1549 the young chronicler traveled into southern Charcas (modern Bolivia) under the president's orders. For a few months in 1550 he resided in Cuzco, where he took oral testimony about the Inca past from several Indians, including Cayu Tupac, descendant of the ruler Huayna Capac. Cieza completed the first part of his multivolume history in Lima on 8 September 1550.

In 1551 Cieza voyaged back to Spain and was in Toledo by mid-1552 to present Philip II with a copy of the manuscript. Following his return to Spain, Cieza married Isabel López de Abreu, daughter of Maria de Abreu and the prosperous merchant Juan de Llerena. Cieza died before he could complete his massive narrative and was buried in Seville in the Church of San Vicente alongside his wife, who died at age thirty-four only two months earlier.

Cieza de León intended to publish a four-part history of Peru. Part one, the only section printed during the author's lifetime, was a geographical and ethnological account of South America's Andean region; part two, the "Señorío de los Incas," was a history of the Incas; part three was the account of the Spanish discovery and conquest of the realm; and part four, made up of five book-length manuscripts, examined the civil wars: Las Salinas, Chupas, Quito, Huarina, and Jaquijahuana. Cieza became a sixteenth-century "best-seller" with the 1553 Seville edition of part one, which was quickly followed by three Spanish editions in Amberes in 1554 and seven Italian translations between 1555 and 1576.

See alsoPeru: From the Conquest Through Independencexml .


Pedro De Cieza De León, The Incas of Pedro de Cieza de León (1959).

Francesca Cantu, ed., Pedro de Cieza de León e il "Descu-brimiento y Conquista del Perú" (1979).

Additional Bibliography

Estrada Ycaza, Julio. Andanzas de Cieza por tierras americanas. Guayaquil, Ecuador: Banco Central del Ecuador: Archivo Histórico del Guayas, 1987.

Figueroa, Luis Millones. Pedro de Cieza de León y su Crónica de Indias: La entrada de los incas en la historia universal. Lima: Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú Fondo Editorial, 2001.

                                      Noble David Cook