29 August 1533 – Atahualpa



Curiosity killed the Inca today in 1533.

Once a former ruler of one of the most golden dynasties – the Incas – Atahualpa was executed after he served his useful purpose.

This was at a time when the Spanish were on the look-out to extend their territories. Christopher Columbus had been busy sailing the ocean blue 40-odd years back and they were now keen to extend their lands and gather booty as they went, headed up by Francisco Pizarro. So the Incas provided a real goldmine, literally.

The Spaniards were hell-bent on pillaging the lands and Atahualpa was inadvertently making it easy for them. They needed someone who could make pave the way for their takeover by minimising the resistance. Cue Atahualpa, who gave them an invitation, pretty much.

Don’t get us wrong, he was no pushover. He’d bumped off his milder-mannered half-brother (who was the legit heir) to get to where he was, just before the Spanish had appeared.

Andes realm

Naturally, the new leader was curious to know who they were, so he gave the Spaniards an invitation to enter the notoriously defensive Andean realm completely unopposed.

Having given up the supreme Incan advantage of inaccessibility, the tribe was now vulnerable and the Spanish wasted no time casing the joint and really liking what they saw.

But this was only a small deputation led by Pizarro’s brother, so the Spanish cunningly reciprocated by inviting the Inca ruler to meet their leader too. However, Pizarro had no intention of being friendly – his motives were far more sinister. They planned to jump Atahualpa as he unsuspectingly left his place of safety.

What good were the Incas’ axes and slingshots against Spanish guns – the relative weapons of mass destruction of the day? The Incas didn’t have a hope – many were killed, while others just legged it.

Rich pickings

Completely beaten into submission, Atahualpa soon cottoned on that they coveted gold and jewels, so he offered to provide them with a room full of riches.

This bought our man some time, but ultimately he became a burden and the Spanish sought ways to dispense with him. They used his religion and the fact that he’d killed his bruv to sentence him to death.

As for the date of his death, Atahualpa, Atabalipa or Atawallpa as he was also known is thought to have died on this day in 1533, aged roughly 31. Some sources, such as Wikipedia, go with 26 July 1533, however we’ve gone with the likes of Brainyhistory.com and the encyclopaedias.

Burning issue

On one thing they all agreed, the sentence for heresy was burning.

The Inca leader was beside himself – if he was burned, his soul would never proceed to the Incas’ coveted afterlife. So he was forced to become a convert, thus earning himself the more palatable method of garrotting.

If you had the gruesome and unenviable choice, which method would you opt for? Vote in our macabre poll…

Also on this day

29 August 1800 – Thomas Wilmott
29-August 1801 – Edward Hughes
29 August 1803 – John Clarke

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