conquistadors led by Francisco Pizarro explored south from Panama, reaching Inca territory by 1526. It was clear that they had reached a wealthy land with prospects of great treasure. After one more expedition in 1529, Pizarro returned to Spain and received royal approval to conquer the Inca region and become its viceroy.
At the time the Spanish returned to Peru in 1532, a war of succession between Huayna Capac's son Huascar and half brother Atahualpa was in full swing. Additionally, unrest among newly conquered territories, and smallpox, spreading from Central America, had considerably weakened the empire. The Spanish invaders told the Inca that the diseases decimating their population were sent from the Christian god as punishment for their idolatrous ways.
Pizarro did not have a formidable force. With just 180 men, 27 horses and 1 cannon, he often used diplomacy to talk his way out of potential confrontations that could have easily ended in defeat. Their first engagement was the Battle of Puná (near present-day Guayaquil, Ecuador) where his forces rapidly overcame the indigenous warriors of Puná Island. Pizarro then founded the city of Piura in July 1532. Hernando de Soto was sent inland to explore the interior; he returned with an invitation to meet Atahualpa, who had defeated his half brother in the civil war and was resting at Cajamarca with his army of 80,000 troops.
Pizarro met with the Inca, who had brought only a small retinue. Through interpreters, Pizarro requested the new Inca ruler convert to Christianity. A disputed legend claims that Atahualpa was handed a Bible and threw it... [continues]
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