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Biographies Unit Biographies

Atahualpa 1502–1533
The Last Incan Emperor

Atahualpa (Ah tuh WAHL puh) was the youngest son of a mighty Incan emperor. When Atahualpa was growing up, the Incan civilization stretched thousands of miles across the Andes Mountains of South America. It was the largest and most powerful nation in the Americas at that time. When his father died, Atahualpa and his brother Huáscar (HWUHS-kar) fought for control of the vast empire. The civil war that followed nearly destroyed the Inca. By 1532, Atahualpa had won control.

Atahualpa could not enjoy his victory for long. Later that year, a small Spanish army invaded the Incan empire. The Spanish leader, Francisco Pizarro, invited Atahualpa to a feast. He demanded that the emperor accept Christianity but Atahualpa refused. The Spanish captured him and fired their cannons and guns at thousands of Inca gathered nearby. Although the Inca were great warriors, their civil war had weakened their forces. The Spanish were able to conquer and end the Incan empire.

Comprehension Check

Why did Atahualpa and his brother fight a war?

Critical Thinking

Why was Pizarro's army able to defeat the Inca empire?