Inca creation myths
Son of Inti, the sun god
In the mythology of the Incas, Manco Capac was the founder of the Inca nation and a culture hero who set the Incas on the road to glory. He was the son of the sun god Inti (pronounced IN-tee) and the supreme teacher of the ways of civilization. There are several versions of Manco Capac's story. The best-known source, The Royal Commentaries of the Inca by El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, relates that the sun god was distressed because the people of earth did not live in a civilized way. As he crossed the sky each day, he saw that they wore only leaves and animal skins for clothing, lived in caves, and gathered wild plants and berries for food. So the sun god decided to send his son, Manco Capac, and daughter, Mama OcUo (pronounced MAH-muh oh-KEE-oh), to teach the people how to improve their way of life. He gave his children a golden rod and told them to push it into the ground wherever they stopped to rest. When they reached a spot where the rod sank completely into the ground with a single push, they should build a sacred city of the sun, to be named Cuzco (pronounced KOOZ-koh).
Setting out from Lake Titicaca (pronounced tee-tee-KAH-kah), Manco Capac and Mama OcUo wandered across the land and finally came to a valley where the golden rod sank easily into the soil. There they gathered all the people from near and far and taught them how to build homes, weave cloth, make tools, and grow crops. They also taught the people how to use weapons so that they could defend themselves and defeat others.
Another version of the myth says that Manco Capac was one of six siblings who emerged from a cave near Cuzco. The siblings gained control over the people of the earth, and Manco Capac became the first ruler of the Incas. Still another tale says that Manco Capac deceived people into believing that he was the son of the sun god. He did this by standing on a mountain wearing gold plaques that shone in the sun and made him look like a god.
Manco Capac in Context
The myth of Manco Capac reflects the Inca belief in the naturally primitive state of humans. Before Manco Capac arrives, humans live without clothing, houses, or agriculture. According to the Inca people, Manco Capac was an actual ruler who lived in the twelfth or thirteenth century. It is possible that Manco Capac was a human ruler, or series of rulers, who oversaw the basic changes that led to a well-defined Inca society, and was later granted a godlike status for his accomplishments.
When the Spaniards came to the land of the Incas, they removed the preserved bodies of many dead Incan rulers to keep people from worshipping them. They were not able to find the body of Manco Capac, however, because his body was buried outside the city of Cuzco. The Incas believed that his body turned into a stone, and this stone became one of their holiest objects.
Key Themes and Symbols
One of the main themes of the myth of Manco Capac is guidance, or teaching. Manco Capac descends to earth, shows the people the best place to live, and teaches them how to do all those things necessary for civilization: build houses, grow food, make clothes, and defend their land. In this way, Manco Capac is a symbol of everything the Incas achieved as a society.
Manco Capac in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life
Manco Capac is perhaps the most important figure in Inca mythology but has appeared only rarely in art and literature outside the Inca culture. He is mentioned in a short story by Herman Melville, the author of Moby Dick, and was a character in the 1987 Uncle Scrooge comic book story “The Son of the Sun,” featuring Disney's Scrooge McDuck and his nephews Huey, Dewey, and Louie.
Read, Write, Think, Discuss
The Inca people believed that the natural state of humankind was uncivilized and crude. This suggests that without a strong leader a society will fall back into disorder and lawlessness. Do you think humans require guidance from a central figure in order to maintain civilized behavior? Why or why not? Similarly, do you think specific individuals, such as inventors, are mostly responsible for human progress, or do large groups of people acting together help bring about advances in human societies?
SEE ALSO Inca Mythology
The Inca emperor Manco Capac (ca. 1500-1545), though initially used as a puppet by the Spaniards, later took to guerrilla warfare against them but could not stem their conquests.
Manco Capac, who carried the same name as a famed early (11th century) founder of Inca civilization, was one of the many sons of Huayna Capac, last ruler over an undivided Peruvian empire. Two of Manco's half brothers, Atahualpa and Huáscar, had divided the empire on the father's death (ca. 1528). In the civil war that ensued, Huáscar was assassinated by order of Atahualpa, who in turn was captured and executed in 1533 by the Spaniards who had just invaded Peru under the command of Francisco Pizarro.
In order to reinforce his authority over the Peruvians, Pizarro placed Manco on the throne of the Incas in the imperial city of Cuzco (1534). But the puppet emperor came to resent his role and the quickening Spanish destruction of Inca civilization. He fled from Cuzco, organized Indian forces, and returned in 1536 to lay siege to the capital, as well as to other Spanish bases in Peru.
Despite the great numbers of the besiegers, the destruction of many buildings, and the menace of starvation, the few hundred Spaniards in Cuzco managed to hold off the attackers for more than a year, until the siege was broken, in part by the return from Chile of a Spanish expedition commanded by Diego de Almagro, Pizarro's partner, and in part by the disaffection of the besieging natives, who returned to their homes and fields.
Manco fled with his supporters into the rugged backlands of Vilcabamba, northwest of Cuzco, where he sought to maintain the vestiges of royal power at a place called Vitcos. The Spaniards fell to quarreling among themselves over the spoils of empire, and Manco took up the cause of whichever side opposed Pizarro and his followers. Manco's sporadic forays against the Spaniards were of little significance in stemming the conquest, yet the inaccessibility of his retreat protected him from attack. Death came to the Inca when he was murdered in a quarrel over a game that he was playing with some renegade Spaniards whom he had sheltered in his camp.
Garcilaso de la Vega, The Incas: The Royal Commentaries of the Inca (trans. 1961; 2d ed., 2 vols., 1966), is an early Spanish chronicle on which all subsequent books draw heavily for knowledge of the Inca empire and its conquest by the Spaniards. John Hemming, The Conquest of the Incas (1970), is the best scholarly account of the conquest and of Manco Capac's role. William H. Prescott's vivid History of the Conquest of Peru (2 vols., 1847); many subsequent editions) is still indispensable. Also useful is Philip A. Means, Fall of the Inca Empire and the Spanish Rule in Peru, 1530-1780 (1932). □
In the mythology of the Incas, Manco Capac was the founder of their nation and a culture hero who set the Incas on the road to glory. There are several versions of his story.
The best-known source, The Royal Commentaries of the Inca by Inca Garcilaso de 1a Vega, relates that the sun god was distressed that the people of earth did not live in a civilized way. As he crossed the sky each day, he saw that they wore only leaves and animal skins for clothing, lived in caves, and gathered wild plants and berries for food. So the sun god decided to send his son Manco Capac and daughter Mama Ocllo to teach the people how to improve their way of life. He gave his children a golden rod and told them to push it into the ground wherever they stopped to rest. When they reached a spot where the rod sank completely into the ground with a single push, they should build a sacred city of the sun, to be named Cuzco.
Setting out from Lake Titicaca, Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo wandered across the land and finally came to a valley where the golden rod sank easily into the soil. There they gathered all the people from near and far and taught them how to build homes, weave cloth, make tools, and grow crops. They also taught the people how to use weapons so that they could defend themselves and defeat others.
culture hero mythical figure who gives people the tools of civilization, such as language and fire
Another version of the myth says that Manco Capac was one of six siblings who emerged from a cave near Cuzco. The siblings gained control over the people of the earth, and Manco Capac became the first ruler of the Incas. Still another tale says that Manco Capac deceived people into believing that he was the son of the sun god. He did this by standing on a mountain wearing silver plaques that shone in the sun and made him look like a god.
See also Inca Mythology.
Manco Capac, founder of the Inca dynasty (the dates of his reign are unknown). In Inca myth Manco Capac emerged, together with his three brothers and four sisters, from three caves at Pacariqtambo, the Inca place of origin in the Peruvian highlands, a few miles southwest of the valley of Cuzco. Manco married his sister Mama Ocllo, founding the Inca bloodline, and led his siblings into the valley of Cuzco, establishing the city of Cuzco and the Inca dynasty around 1200. According to the legend, at the end of his life, Manco Capac turned into a stone that became one of the most sacred huacas of the Incas.
See alsoIncas, The .
Sources on Manco Capac and the founding of the Inca dynasty include John H. Rowe, "Inca Culture at the Time of the Spanish Conquest," in Handbook of South American Indians, vol. 2 (1946), pp. 183-330; Burr Cartwright Brundage, The Empire of the Inca (1963); Gary Urton, The History of a Myth: Pacariqtambo and the Origin of the Incas (1990).
Espinoso Apolo, Manuel. Hablan los Incas: Crónicas de Collapiña, Supno, Inca Garcilasco, Felipe Guaman Poma, Titu Cusi y Juan Santacruz Pachacuti. Quito, Ecuador: Taller de Estudios Andinos, 2001.
Minelli, Laura Laurencich, ed. The Inca World: The Development of Pre-Columbian Peru, A.D. 1000–1534. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999.
Vilcapoma I., José Carlos. El retorno de los incas: De Manco Cápac a Pachacútec. Peru: Universidad Nacional Agraria la Molina, Instituto de Investigaciónes y Desarrollo Andino, 2002.
Gordon F. McEwan
Manco Capac (d. 1544, Inca ruler)
Manco Capac, d. 1544, last of the Inca rulers, son of Huayna Capac. After the deaths of Huáscar and Atahualpa, Manco Capac was crowned (1534) emperor by the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro but was tolerated only as a puppet. He escaped, levied a huge army, and in 1536 laid siege to Cuzco, the Inca capital; the defense was commanded by Hernando Pizarro. Although the Native Americans had by now learned some European tactics of war they were outclassed by technical advantages. Also, Manco Capac could not prevent dismemberment of his army at harvest time. The heroic siege, which virtually destroyed the city, was abandoned after ten months, but during the ensuing eight years the Inca's name became a terror throughout Peru. Manco Capac fought a bloody guerrilla war against soldiers and settlers. He was treacherously murdered after giving refuge to the defeated supporters of Diego de Almagro, who had rebelled against Pizarro.
Manco Capac (legendary founder of the Inca dynasty of Peru)
Manco Capac (mäng´kō käpäk´), legendary founder of the Inca dynasty of Peru. According to the most frequently told story, four brothers, Manco Capac, Ayar Anca, Ayar Cachi, and Ayar Uchu, and their four sisters, Mama Ocllo, Mama Huaco, Mama Cura (or Ipacura), and Mama Raua, lived at Paccari-Tampu [tavern of the dawn], several miles distant from Cuzco. They gathered together the tribes of their locality, marched on the Cuzco Valley, and conquered the tribes living there. Manco Capac had by his sister-wife, Mama Ocllo, a son called Sinchi Roca (or Cinchi Roca). Authorities concede that the first Inca chief to be a historical figure was called Sinchi Roca (c.1105–c.1140). Thus the foundation for an empire was laid. Another legend relates that the Sun created a man and a woman on an island in Lake Titicaca. They were given a golden staff by the Sun, their father, who bade them settle permanently at whatever place the staff should sink into the earth. At a hill overlooking the present city of Cuzco the staff of gold disappeared into the earth. They gathered around them a great many people and founded the city of Cuzco and the Inca state.