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Sapa Inca
Pachacuti as drawn by Guaman Poma
Reign 1438 – 1471/1472
Full name Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui
Quechua Pachakutiq
Spanish Pachacutec
Predecessor Viracocha
Successor Túpac Inca Yupanqui
Offspring Tupac Yupanqui, Amaru Yupanqui
Dynasty Hanan
Father Viracocha

Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui (or Pachacutec) was the ninth Sapa Inca (1438-1471/1472) of the Kingdom of Cusco, which he transformed into the empire Tawantinsuyu, or the Inca Empire. Most archaeologists now believe that the famous Inca site of Machu Picchu was built as an estate for Pachacuti.

In Quechua, Pachakutiq means "He who remakes the world".[1] During his reign, Cuzco grew from a hamlet into an empire that could compete with, and eventually overtake, the Chimu. He began an era of conquest that, within three generations, expanded the Inca dominion from the valley of Cuzco to nearly the whole of civilized South America.



Pachacuti, son of Inca Viracocha, was the fourth of the Hanan dynasty. His wife's name is given as Mama Anawarkhi or Coya Anahurque. He had two sons: Amaru Yupanqui and Tupac Inca Yupanqui. Amaru, the older son, was originally chosen to be co-regent and eventual successor. Pachacuti later chose Tupac because Amaru was not a warrior.[2]


Pachacuti's given name was Cusi Yupanqui and he was not supposed to succeed his father Inca Viracocha who had appointed his brother Urco as crown prince. However in the midst of an invasion of Cuzco by the Chankas, the Incas' traditional tribal archenemies, Pachacuti had a real opportunity to demonstrate his talent. While his father and brother fled the scene Pachacuti rallied the army and prepared for a desperate defense of his homeland. In the resulting battle the Chankas were defeated so severely that legend tells even the stones rose up to fight on Pachacuti's side. Thus "The Earth Shaker" won the support of his people and the recognition of his father as crown prince and joint ruler.

The Ninth Sapa Inca

After his father's death Pachacuti became sole ruler of the Incan empire. Immediately he initiated an energetic series of military campaigns which would transform the small state around Cuzco into a formidable nation. His conquests in collaboration with Tupac Yupanqui (Pachacuti's son and successor) were so successful that the 9th Incan emperor is sometimes referred to as "The Napoleon of the Andes." When Pachacuti died in 1471 the empire stretched from Chile to the south and Ecuador to the north also including the modern countries of Peru and Bolivia as well as most of northern Argentina.

Statue of Pachacuti in Machupicchu Pueblo in Peru.

Pachacuti also reorganized the new empire, the Tahuantinsuyu or "the united four provinces." Under his system, there were four apos that each controlled one of four provinces (suyu). Below these governors were t'oqrikoq, or local leaders, who ran a city, valley, or mine. By the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru, each apo had around 15 t'oqrikoq below him, but we can assume there were fewer when Pachacuti first organized this system. He also established a separate chain of command for the army and priesthood to establish a system of checks and balances on power.

Pachacuti rebuilt much of Cuzco, designing it to serve the needs of an imperial city, and indeed as a representation of the empire. There was a sector of the city for each suyu, centering on the road leading to that province; nobles and immigrants lived in the sector corresponding to their origin. Each sector was further divided into areas for the hanan (upper) and hurin (lower) moieties. The Inca and his family lived in the center; the more prestigious area. Many of the most renowned monuments around Cuzco, such as the great sun temple of Coricancha or the "fortress" of Sacsayhuamán, were constructed during Pachacuti's reign.

Despite Pachacuti's political and military talents, he did not improve upon the system of choosing the next Inca. His son became the next Inca without any known dispute after Pachacuti died in 1471 due to a terminal illness, but in future generations the next Inca had to gain control of the empire by winning enough support from the apos, priesthood, and military to either win a civil war or intimidate anyone else from trying to wrest control of the empire. Pachacuti is also credited with having displaced hundreds of thousands in massive programs of relocation and resettling to occupy the remotest corners of his empire. These forced colonists where called mitimaes and represented the lowest place in the Incan social ladder. In a way the Incan imperial government was highly despotic and repressive.

Machu Picchu is believed to date to the time of Pachacuti.

Pachacuti was a poet and author of the Sacred Hymns of the Situa city purification ceremony. Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa attributed one poem to Pachacuti on his deathbed: "I was born as a lily in the garden, and like the lily I grew, as my age advanced / I became old and had to die, and so I withered and died."[3]


Pachacuti is considered as somewhat of a national hero in modern Peru. During the 2000 Presidential elections candidate, the mestizo Indian population gave Alejandro Toledo the nickname Pachacuti.

1438 CE
1463 CE
1493 CE


  1. ^ Cameron, Ian (1990). Kingdom of the Sun God: a history of the Andes and their people. New York: Facts on File. p. 58. ISBN 0-8160-2581-9. 
  2. ^ Rostworowski, Maria. "Inca Succession" The Incas Peruvian Cultural Center.
  3. ^ Burger, Richard; Lucy C. Salazar (2004). Machu Picchu: Unveiling the Mystery of the Incas. New Haven: Yale University Press. pp. 32. ISBN 9780300097634.  "Nací como el lirio en el jardín, y ansí fui criado, y como vino mi edad envejecí y como había de morir, así me sequé y morí."
Preceded by
Inca Viracocha
Sapa Inca
c. 1471 CE
Succeeded by
Tupac Inca Yupanqui


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