How to run an Empire the way Incas Did

The Spanish arrived in Cusco back in 1531. And they just couldn’t believe their eyes.
When Pizarro and his men arrived in the Inca capital, they saw a splendid city with palaces, halls, and temples made using huge stones fit together without mortar. Most incredible of all were the temples decorated with gold and precious jewels.

Qorikancha “House of the Sun”

Qorikancha  was the biggest temple they found. Dedicated to the Inca sun god, named Inti. Everything inside; doorways,  walls were covered with gold, both inside and out. There was a building containing a huge statue of Inti the god sun, made of solid gold and covered with precious stones. But the garden, that was a dream: Clods, maize, stalks, leaves, and cobs all out of gold. But they had as many as twenty llamas and their lambs, and the shepherds with their slings and crooks to watch them, all were made out of gold too.


If you want to know more about The amazing Qorikancha  there is a City Tour in Cusco that let you be so knowledgeable about it.

But shortly after they were out of astonishment, They asked themselves: How the Incas were able to organize and keep running such vast land and 12 million people without writing, money or wheel? Of course, they didn’t know that at the time, but they learned it later.

the answer lies in:

A little bit of luck and adaptation together.

Peruvians Andes

Although the Andes create extreme weather conditions and make transportation difficult; they have hidden advantages that Andean people learned to exploit.

The varying topography of the mountains creates a variety of ecological niches, which are zones stacked one on top of another where different types of animals and plants can survive. So, instead of having to travel hundreds of miles to arrive in a different climate, Andean people can walk as little as 60 miles to go from a tropical forest in the lowlands to the frozen tundra of the highlands.

The Ayllu.

The Ayllu,  basic unit of society in the Andes.

It was the basic unit of society in the Andes. People related by a common ancestor work together to maintain the lands belong to that ayllu. they cooperate with each other and with the government. Nowadays this is still a way of organization in Peruvian culture.

The Inca Hierarchy

The Empire was organized under a rigid hierarchy starting with the emperor and reaching all the way down to individual households. The Ultimate Inca had complete power. He was considered son of the sun god. The empire had four quarters, and a very loose relative of the emperor was lord (APU) of each quarter. The four apus made up the Supreme Council, which advised the Sapa Inca on important matters. The empire had over 80 provinces at its best. Each province had a hierarchy of curacas who were responsible for between 100 and 10,000 households. The curacas appointed foremen, who were in charge of between 10 and 50 tax paying households.


Inca Roads

To rule an empire as big as the Inca, the emperor realized they need a common language. so they create their language: Quechua and become the official language of the empire. They also needed ways to go to every province, so they designed a complex 25,000 miles road system throughout the empire. One road ran along the coast, and another lay inland along the Andes Mountains. Bridges crossed broad rivers as well as rushing streams that cut through deep mountain valleys. Shorter roads linked the two main roads.


The Incas did not have a currency. The government couldn’t collect taxes as it seems normal nowadays. So the way to pay to the state was working for the state a certain number of days per year. This system is called the mita system.


The Emperor and his administrators needed detailed information on what was happening in all parts of the empire. They needed to know how many people lived in each province, how much each province was producing. So how did the Incas keep records of all this important information if they did not have writing?

The Inca used an ingenious tool that had been developed by an earlier civilization in the region for keeping track of all kinds of information. The object, called a quipu, is simply a long string held horizontally with shorter strings of many colors tied to it.  The threads have different types of knots to represent the numbers 0 to 9.

And of course…



The Inca religion grew out of the beliefs of Andean people regarding natural forces. Andean people have long worshipped the natural world around them, including mountains, rivers, lakes, the ocean, and constellations. They identify natural features such as especially high mountains, springs and large stones as sacred places, called huacas.

Pachacuti reorganized the Inca religion. He created a special relationship between himself and the sun, proclaiming that the Inca emperor was the sun’s son. Pachacuti built the elaborate temple to the sun in Cuzco that awed the Spanish.

Author: Hector Parra.

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