Inca expansion and its government
The Inca empire was an absolute monarchy with the Sapa Inca exercising the ultimate government authority. His powers were not limited by law. The royal council helped him rule and was made up mostly of royalty or close family members, high priests and generals.
The empire was divided in two large areas: Hanan and Urin, north and south respectively. Each one included two of the four administrative governments or suyus: Antisuyu (Northeast), Chichasuyu (Northwest), Contisuyu (Southwest) and Collasuyu (Southeast). The suyus had a hierarchical government managed by a loyal bureaucracy and led by a governor, a male member of the nobility.
The governor appointed administrators to manage the households in his province, they were known as curacas. Curacas distributed the land each family was given, collected taxes and administered Inca law. As new territories were conquered loyal curacas were transferred to administer new households.
The government was highly organized without the benefits of a writing system. In order to control the population of such a vast territory they created laws that were rigidly enforced. Inca laws came from their customs and traditions and were imposed to newly conquered territories. The laws were administered by appointed officials in each territory. To enforce the laws punishments were very harsh; crimes against the state were considered crimes against the Sapa Inca.
Punishment such as public scolding was administered for minor crimes and first time offenders, death by hanging, pushing down a cliff or stoning for second time offenders. Murder, stealing and laziness were serious offenses and were punishable by death.
When the expansion started in 1438 under Pachacuti the empire covered 800,000 sq km or 308,882 sq mi. In 1527 at the height of the empire under the rule of Huascar it reached 2 million sq km or 772,204 sq mi. Its territory covered present day Peru, Ecuador, Bolivia, Colombia, Chile and part of Argentina.
The Incas conquered a vast territory using reciprocity or alliances. Once the Incas arrived in a new region they tried to establish a relationship with the tribe’s head. He offered gifts such as wool clothing, coca leaves and mullu (shell believed to be food for the Gods). If the gifts were accepted they also accepted the Inca’s authority. To consolidate this alliance they established family ties. If they did not accept the gifts they used force to subdue the tribe and since the Incas had a more powerful military force they always succeeded. The local leaders were executed to secure loyalty among the population..
When the Inca won new territories they moved groups of leaders around to ensure loyalty. A trusted leader, most likely a close relative of the Sapa Inca, would be relocated to a newly conquered territory while those less loyal would be relocated where someone could keep an eye on them. In order to keep in touch with all the corners of the empire the Inca Empire had a network of messengers known as chasquis.
The Inca collected taxes from all its conquered territories, this tax was known as mita. Everyone was obliged to work and contribute to the mita for the good of the state.
Pachacuti and his son Topa Inca expanded the territory to the east of the Andes reaching the Bolivian Altiplano. His descendants, Inca Huayna Capac and his sons Huascar and Atahualpa extended the empire to the north of Ecuador and part of Colombia and to the south to Chile and parts of Argentina. To control such a large territory was a challenge for the Incas and to ease its management they established an administrative capital in Quito. After the death of the Inca ruler Huayna Capac, conflict arose between his two sons Huascar and Atahualpa over who would be left in charge. Civil war broke out between the two factions just when the Spanish arrived.