Siege of Cuzco

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Siege of Cuzco
Diego de Almagro conquers Cuzco (engraving, mid-16th century)
Diego de Almagro conquers Cuzco
(engraving, mid-16th century)
date May 06, 1536 to April 18, 1537
place Cuzco
output Failure
consequences Retreat of the Incas
Parties to the conflict

New Castile

Inca Empire


Hernando Pizarro
Gonzalo Pizarro
Juan Pizarro

Manco Cápac II.

Troop strength
170 Spaniards
1000 Indian Yanaconas
Tens of thousands

The siege of Cuzco was an attempt by the Inca ruler Manco Cápac II to drive the Spanish conquistadors from the capital and the country.


After the capture and execution of the Inca ruler Atahualpa , the Spanish conquerors under Francisco Pizarro came to the capital Cuzco on November 15, 1533. As the new Sapa Inka , they installed his young half-brother Manco. Manco initially cooperated and declared himself a vassal of the Spanish king.

In 1535 the Spanish forces split: Francisco Pizarro had traveled to the coast, where in January 1535 he founded the new capital Ciudad de los Reyes, today's Lima . Pizarro's partner Diego de Almagro had moved south with a large force in July 1535 to conquer the supposedly rich Chile. The Pizarro brothers Gonzalo and Juan ruled in Cuzco .

Manco's relations with the Spanish had originally been very good. At first he was respected as an Inca ruler and Almagro in particular had friendly relations with him. In the course of time, however, he was treated more and more disrespectful, especially by newly arrived Spaniards who had not been involved in distributing the booty and now demanded gold from him, as well as from other Inca nobles. Francisco Pizarro had done little about it, and when he and Almagro were gone it got worse. Manco was humiliated and ill-treated by Gonzalo and Juan Pizarro. Gonzalo Pizarro even asked his sister-wife Cura Ocllo from him. At the end of 1535 Manco tried to flee, but was caught and brought back in chains and imprisoned. Hernando Pizarro , who returned from Spain in January, ended the Inca humiliation and released him, but it was too late for a reconciliation.

The siege begins

The uprising was well prepared. Manco and Villac Umu, the religious chief, sent messengers throughout the empire, and the secret manufacture of weapons and supplies for a siege began. At the end of the rainy season, troops of soldiers were recruited to attack Cuzco and Lima at the same time.

The fortress of Sacsayhuamán above Cusco today

The beginning of the uprising was deliberately set for Easter 1536. On April 18, the Wednesday before Easter, Manco managed to escape by leaving the city on a pretext and heading north to the Yucay Valley, where his troops gathered. The siege was delayed because Manco wanted to wait for all the troops to arrive. At first they contented themselves with taking the fortress Sacsayhuamán on the northern edge of Cuzco.

On May 6, 1536, the attack on the city began. The Pizarros only had about 190 Spanish soldiers, 80 of them mounted. There were also around 1000 Indian Yanaconas , mostly Kañari , who had been deported by the Inca from the north and had now switched to the Spanish side. The Inca's armed forces numbered tens of thousands - the lowest estimates are 50,000. Manco ordered the roofs of the city to be burned and the water supply cut off. The Spaniards were pushed back into two buildings in the central square. They realized that they would only survive if they succeeded in retaking Sacsayhuamán. On May 16 they undertook a desperate attack with fifty horsemen, and in a battle waged bitterly on both sides, in which Juan Pizarro was killed, they succeeded in taking the fortress in the following days. Manco's troops tried several times to recapture Sacsayhuamán until the end of May.

Attacks on Jauja and Lima

Meanwhile, Manco's General Quizo Yupanqui destroyed the Spanish garrison in Jauja and the rescue teams that Francisco Pizarro sent from Ciudad de los Reyes (Lima) to support Cuzco. All Spaniards were killed except for a few men whom Manco kept as slaves.

In August Quizo Yupanqui led his army against Lima. The attack could be repulsed with difficulty by the Spaniards with a counter-attack in which Quizo Yupanqui was killed.

Cuzco remains cut off

After the fall of Sacsayhuamán, Manco moved his headquarters to the fortress Ollantaytambo , about 50 km from Cuzco, and tried to starve the Spaniards and their Indian allies. A siege with mutual skirmishes developed.

Francisco Pizarro had sent urgent requests for help to Mexico, Guatemala, Hispaniola and Panama and continued trying to help his brothers in Cuzco. But all the relief troops were destroyed, a total of over 300 men, and Cuzco was cut off from any aid for many months. Only daring raids by the Spaniards on supply troops of the Incas saved them from starvation.

Attack on Ollantaytambo

In return, Hernando Pizarro undertook an attack on Ollantaytambo with a large part of his armed forces - seventy horsemen, thirty Spanish foot soldiers and many Indian allies. The fortress with its steep terraces turned out to be stronger than expected. Manco had recruited " Antis " from the border area to the Amazon basin, who were feared as skilled archers. His army used captured Spanish swords and even firearms and horses. When they also flooded the area below the fortress through prepared channels, the Spaniards got into dire straits and had to flee.

Manco's retreat

In early 1537, the stalemate at Cuzco changed when Almagro approached, whose train to Chile had been a disaster and which is now returning. At the same time a relief force of 500 men was advancing from Lima, led by Alonso de Alvarado , who had come from Guatemala at Pizarro's request for help. Manco's attempt to win Almagro on his side failed due to mutual distrust and was thwarted by Hernando Pizarro and possibly Manco's half-brother Paullu . On April 18, 1537, Almagro took the city, and Manco withdrew with his remaining army to Antisuyu , the part located in the east of the empire on the slopes of the Andes to the Amazon basin .


With the failure of the siege the most promising attempt to shake off Spanish rule ended. Manco made further attempts to chase the Spaniards away in the following years. He switched from open battle to guerrilla tactics and withdrew to Vilcabamba . There he was murdered in 1544.

Even before his expedition to Chile, Almagro saw himself as the rightful lord of Cuzco. The quarrels between his people ("those of Chile") and Pizarro's men ("those of Pachacámac ") finally culminated in open combat until Almagro was defeated by the Pizarros in 1538 at the battle of Las Salinas and was executed.


  • Siegfried Huber: Pizarro - gold, blood and visions . Walter-Verlag, Olten 1978, ISBN 3-530-38581-6 , p. 378 ff .
  • Michael Wood: In the footsteps of the conquistadors . Philipp Reclam jun., Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-15-010515-3 .
  • John Hemming: The conquest of the Incas. Mariner Books, 2003, ISBN 978-0-15-602826-4 , pp. 184 ff .

References and comments

  1. According to Hemming, the attack on Ollantaytambo took place in August 1536, according to other sources in January 1537.