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King Pachucutec: History & Overview

Instructor: Kelley Munson

Kelley has taught high school social studies as well as Advanced Placement and has a master's degree in international relations.

King Pachucutec was the ninth king of the Incas and ruled from 1438-1471. He was known as a great statesman, philosopher, builder, warrior, and visionary. He built the Incan Empire to its greatest size and prestige and was the first ruler to retire.

Background

King Pachucutec, also known as Pachacuti, was the ninth Incan king, and the first Incan king whose ruling dates are accurate in history. Pachucutec became king in 1438 and ruled until 1471. He is known as possibly the greatest Incan ruler as well as one of the greatest rulers in history.

Pachucutec
Statue of Pachucutec

Becoming a King

Pachucutec was not the first born or favorite son. His father Viracocha and his brother, the heir, fled when they were being attacked by a neighboring tribe. Pachucutec stayed, fought, and defeated the invaders.

The myth surrounding the battle claims that as Pachucutec was losing, the rocks turned into soldiers and helped defeat the enemy before turning back into rocks. As it happens, Pachucutec means 'he who transforms the earth,' as the people believed he had turned the rocks into soldiers.

After the battle, Pachucutec's father and brother were going to kill him, so he had his brother killed instead. Then his father abdicated the throne in favor of Pachucutec once it was evident of how popular he had become after winning the battle.

Building an Empire

Pachucutec inherited an empire of approximately 25 square miles and ended his rule with an empire of 2400 miles. His empire extended from the Amazon Valley to the Andean highlands and from Ecuador to southern Chile.

The empire was built using diplomacy as the first weapon and force if only necessary. Pachucutec developed Quechua, the official state Incan language, and created a common culture throughout the empire. This assisted in creating patriotism and helped to subdue any ideas of rebellion by the newly acquired territories.

Pachucutec would sometimes move tribes from their homelands so it would be harder to develop resistance, but he was a gentle and careful ruler as he moved the people to good parts of the empire. He did not move the people to the high mountains where the people would likely die due to the cold air and climate.

Inca Empire 1438
Inca Empire 1438

Inca Empire 1493. Pachucutec worked to expand the Cuzco area (red area).
Inca empire 1493

Advancements

Pachucutec unified and controlled his kingdom by a highly developed system of roads. The interesting fact is that he built 2500 miles of road throughout the mountainous empire without the use of the wheel and pack animals. The roads were made of stone and weaved through the mountains and the swamps. Rest stations were built alongside the roads so travelers could rest and refresh their supplies.

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