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Sapa Inca

Representation of the Sapa Inca, Pachacuti, wearing the "Mascapaicha" (royal crown), in the main square of Aguas Calientes, Peru

The Sapa Inca (in hispanicized spelling) or Sapa Inka (Quechua for "the only Inca"), also known as Apu ("divinity"), Inka Qhapaq ("mighty Inca"), or simply Sapa ("the only one") was the ruler of the Kingdom of Cusco and later, the Emperor of the Inca Empire (Tawantinsuyu) and the Neo-Inca State. The origins of the position are mythical and tied to the legendary foundation of the city of Cusco but historically it seems to have come into being around 1100. The position was hereditary, with son succeeding father.

There were two known dynasties, led by the Hurin and Hanan moieties respectively.[1] The latter was in power at the time of Spanish conquest. The last Sapa Inca of the Inca Empire was Atahualpa, who was executed by Francisco Pizarro and his conquistadors in 1533, though several successors later claimed the title.


  • Pre-Conquest Sapa Incas 1
    • First dynasty 1.1
    • Second dynasty 1.2
  • Post-Conquest Sapa Incas 2
  • In popular culture 3
    • Literature 3.1
  • See also 4
  • References 5

Pre-Conquest Sapa Incas

First dynasty

Little is known of the rulers of the first dynasty of Sapa Incas. Evidently, they were affiliated with the Hurin moiety and their rule did not extend beyond the Kingdom of Cusco. Their origins are tied to the mythical establishment of Cusco and are shrouded in later foundation myth. The dynasty was supposedly founded by Manco Cápac, considered the son of the sun god Inti.

Sapa Inca Picture Birth Death
Manco Cápac
c. 1200 CE – c. 1230
Considered the son of
the sun god Inti
c. 1230
Sinchi Roca
c. 1230 – c. 1260
son of Manco Cápac c. 1260
Lloque Yupanqui
c. 1260 – c. 1290
son of Sinchi Roca c. 1290
Mayta Cápac
c. 1290 – c. 1320
son of Lloque Yupanqui c. 1320
Cápac Yupanqui
c. 1320 – c. 1350
son of Mayta Cápac c. 1350

As a rough guide to the later reputation of the early Sapa Incas, in later years capac meant warlord and sinchi meant leader.

Second dynasty

The second dynasty was affiliated with the Hanan moiety and was founded under Inca Roca, the son of the last Hurin Sapa Inca, Cápac Yupanqui. After Cápac Yupanqui's death, another of his sons, Inca Roca's half-brother Quispe Yupanqui, was intended to succeed him. However, the Hanan revolted and installed Inca Roca instead.

Sapa Inca Picture Birth Death
Inca Roca
c. 1350 – c. 1380
son of Cápac Yupanqui c. 1380
Yáhuar Huácac
c. 1380 – c. 1410
son of Inca Roca c. 1410
c. 1410–1438
son of Yáhuar Huácac 1438
son of Viracocha 1471
Túpac Inca Yupanqui
son of Pachacuti 1493
Huayna Capac
son of Túpac Inca Yupanqui 1527
Ninan Cuyochi
son of Huayna Capac 1527
son of Huayna Capac 1533
Killed by Atahualpa
son of Huayna Capac 26 July 1533
Killed by the Spaniards

Ninan Cuyochi, who was Inca for only a few days in 1527, is sometimes left off the list of Sapa Incas because news of his death from smallpox arrived in Cusco shortly after he was declared Sapa Inca. He had been with Huayna Cápac when he died of smallpox. The death of Ninan, the presumed heir, led to the Inca Civil War between Huáscar and Atahualpa, a weakness that the Spanish exploited when they conquered the Inca Empire.

Post-Conquest Sapa Incas

Sapa Inca Picture Birth Death Notes
Túpac Huallpa
son of Huayna Capac 1533 Installed by Francisco Pizarro.
Manco Inca Yupanqui
son of Huayna Capac 1544 Installed by Francisco Pizarro. Led a revolt against the Spaniards in 1536; after his defeat, established the Neo-Inca State in Vilcabamba.
Paullu Inca
son of Huayna Capac 1549 Installed by the Spaniards after Manco Inca rebelled; ruled in Cuzco.
Sayri Túpac
son of Manco Inca Yupanqui 1560 Ruled in Vilcabamba.
Titu Cusi
son of Manco Inca Yupanqui 1571 Ruled in Vilcabamba.
Túpac Amaru
son of Manco Inca Yupanqui 24 September 1572
Killed by the Spaniards
Ruled in Vilcabamba. The last Sapa Inca.

This last Sapa Inca must not be confused with Túpac Amaru II, leader of an 18th-century Peruvian uprising.

In popular culture


  • Pachacutec , a resurrected Sapa Inca king who is over 500 years old, plays a major role in James Rollins' novel Excavation.

See also


  1. ^ Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa; Gabriel de Oviedo (1907). History of the Incas. Hakluyt Society. p. 72. 
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