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Properly ATAU-HUALLPA (etymology usually given as from huallpa, the name of some indigenous bird).

Son of the Inca war chief Huayna Capac and an Indian woman from Quito hence (descent being in the female line) not an Inca, but and Indian of Ecuador. The protracted wars, during which the Incas overpowered the Ecuadorian tribes, having brought about the permanent lodgment of Inca war parties in Ecuador, led to interformation of a new tribe and the descendants of Inca men with women and children from Quito. Collisions ensued between this tribe and the descendants of Inca women, and the strife, Atau-huallpa figured as the leader of the former, whilst the latter recognized Huascar, duly elected war chief at Cuzco. Atau-huallpa acted with great cruelty, nearly exterminating such Ecuadorian tribes as resisted. He finally prevailed, and sent his warriors southward along the backbone of the mountains, against Cuzco. When Pizarro landed at Tumbez (northern Peruvian coast) in 1532, the Quito people had already overthrown the Inca tribe at Cuzco, taken the settlement, and committed the most horrible cruelties, chiefly against the keepers of ancient traditions whom they attempted to exterminate, so as to wipe out the remembrance of the past of Cuzco and begin a new era. Atau-huallpa himself remained with a numerous war party at Caxamarca. There he awaited the whites, whom he despised. The Spaniards found Caxamarca deserted, and the warriors of Atau-hauallpa camping three miles from the place. Pizarro recognized that a trap had been set for him, and prepared for the worst.

On the evening of the 16th of November, 1532, Atau-hauallpa entered the squared of Caxamarca with a great retinue of men carrying their weapons concealed. They packed the court densely. Pizarro had placed on the roof of the building his artillery (two pedereros) that could not be pointed except horizontally. When the Indians thronged into the square, a Dominican friar, Fray Vicente Valverde, was sent by Pizarro to inform Atau-huallpa, through an interpreter, of the motives of the Spaniards' appearance in the country. This embassy was received with scorn, and the friar, seeing the Indians ready to begin hostilities, warned Pizarro. His action has been unjustly criticized; Valverde did what was his imperative duty under the circumstances. Then, not waiting for the Indians to attack the Spaniards to the offensive. The sound of cannon and musketry, and the sight of the horses frightened the Indians so that they fled in dismay, leaving Atau-huallpa a prisoner in the hands of Pizarro, who treated him with proper regard. The stories of a terrible slaughter of the Indians are inordinate exaggerations. While a prisoner, Atau-huallpa caused the greater portion of the gold and silver at Cuzco to be turned over to the Spaniards and having them massacred. When this was discovered Pizarro had him executed, on the 9th of August, 1633. The execution was not unjustifiable. Atau-huallpa, at the time of his death, was about thirty years of age.

About this page

APA citation. Bandelier, A.F. (1907). Atahuallpa. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company.

MLA citation. Bandelier, Adolph Francis. "Atahuallpa." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 2. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1907. <>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Terrie A. Harbour.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. 1907. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John M. Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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