Siege of Cusco

The Siege of Cusco (May 6, 1536 – March 1537) was the siege of the city of Cusco by the army of Sapa Inca Manco Inca Yupanqui against a garrison of Spanish conquistadors and Indian auxiliaries led by Hernando Pizarro in the hope to restore the Inca Empire (1438–1533). The siege lasted ten months and was ultimately unsuccessful.

Siege of Cusco
Part of Spanish conquest of Peru

The siege of Cusco according to Felipe Guaman Poma de Ayala
DateMay 6, 1536 – early March 1537
Cuzco, present-day Peru
Result Spanish victory
Retreat of Incan forces
Almagristas seizes power in Cuzco

Flag of Cross of Burgundy.svg Spanish Empire
Pizarro brothers
Native allies

Remnants of the Inca Empire
Commanders and leaders
Hernando Pizarro (POW)
Gonzalo Pizarro (POW)
Juan Pizarro II
Diego de Almagro
Rodrigo Orgóñez
Manco Inca Yupanqui
30,000 Indios auxiliares
190 Spaniards
700 Spaniards (as for early 1537) 100,000 to 200,000 Inca warriors
Casualties and losses
Unknown Unknown, but low Unknown
Almagro en el Cuzco
Almagro's forces took possession of Cusco


A Spanish expedition led by Francisco Pizarro had captured the Inca capital of Cusco on November 15, 1533 after defeating an Inca army headed by general Quisquis.[1] The following month, the conquistadors supported the coronation of Manco Inca as Inca emperor to facilitate their control over the empire.[2] Real power rested with the Spaniards who frequently humiliated Manco Inca and imprisoned him after an attempted escape in November 1535.[3] After his release in January 1536, Manco Inca left Cusco on April 18 promising the Spanish commander, Hernando Pizarro, to bring back a large gold statue when in fact he was already preparing a rebellion.[4]


Having realized their mistake, Hernando Pizarro led an expedition against Manco Inca's troops, which had gathered in the nearby Yucay Valley; the attack failed as the Spaniards had severely underestimated the size of the Inca army.[5] The Inca emperor did not attack Cusco at once, instead he waited to assemble his full army estimated at between 100,000 and 200,000 men strong around the city (some sources suggest numbers as low as 40,000); against them there were 190 Spaniards, 80 of them horsemen, and several thousand Indian auxiliaries.[6] The siege started on May 6, 1536 with a full-scale attack towards the main square of the city; the Inca army succeeded in capturing most of the city while the Spaniards took refuge in two large buildings near the main plaza.[7] The conquistadors fended off Inca attacks from these constructions and mounted frequent raids against their besiegers.[8]

To relieve their position, the Spaniards decided to assault the walled complex of Sacsayhuamán which served as the main base of operations for the Inca army. Fifty horsemen, led by Juan Pizarro, and accompanied by Indian auxiliaries broke through the Inca army files, turned around and attacked Sacsayhuamán from outside the city. During the frontal assault against the building's large walls, a stone struck Juan Pizarro in the head; he died days later from the injury sustained. The following day, the Spaniards resisted several Inca counterattacks and mounted a renewed assault at night using scaling ladders. In this way, they captured the terrace walls of Sacsayhuamán while the Inca army held on to the two tall towers of the complex. The Inca commanders, Paucar Huaman and the high priest or Willaq Umu, decided to leave the confinement of the towers and fight their way towards Calca, the site of Manco Inca's headquarters, to bring back reinforcements. The attempt was successful and the towers were left under the command of Titu Cusi Gualpa, an Inca nobleman. Despite Titu's fierce resistance, the Spaniards and their auxiliaries stormed the towers so that when the Inca commanders returned, Sacsayhuamán was firmly under their control.[9]

The capture of Sacsayhuamán eased the pressure on the Spanish garrison at Cusco; the fighting now turned in a series of daily skirmishes interrupted only by the Inca religious tradition of halting attacks during the new moon.[10] During this period, the Spaniards successfully implemented terror tactics to demoralize the Inca army, which included an order to kill any woman caught and cutting off the hands of captured men.[11] Encouraged by their successes, Hernando Pizarro led an attack against Manco Inca's headquarters which were now at Ollantaytambo, further away from Cusco. Manco Inca defeated the Spanish expedition at the Battle of Ollantaytambo by taking advantage of the fortifications and the difficult terrain around the site.[12] The Spanish garrison had more success with several raids to gather food from regions near Cusco; these incursions allowed them to replenish their almost exhausted provisions.[13] Meanwhile, Manco Inca tried to capitalize on his success at Ollantaytambo with a renewed assault on Cusco, but a Spanish cavalry party had a chance encounter with the Inca army thus ruining any hope of surprise. That same night the Spaniards mounted a full-scale attack which achieved complete surprise and inflicted severe casualties on Manco Inca's troops.[14]

After 10 months of vicious fighting in Cusco, with low morale playing a factor, Manco Inca decided to raise the siege at Cusco and withdraw to Ollantaytambo and then Vilcabamba, where he established the small Neo-Inca State. It is suggested by some that by this action he threw away his only real chance to rebuff the Spaniards from the lands of the Inca Empire, but it was probably the only realistic choice he had considering the arrival of Spanish reinforcements from Chile led by Diego de Almagro. Upon facing victory and the availability of expanding his own reign into Peru, Almagro seized the city once having achieved victory for Spain and had Hernando and Gonzalo imprisoned. Gonzalo escaped, to later face Almagro in a personal triumph at the Battle of Las Salinas.[15]:246–249,256–260


  1. ^ Hemming, The conquest, p. 115.
  2. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 123–125.
  3. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 178–180.
  4. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 181–182.
  5. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 184–185.
  6. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 185–186.
  7. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 187–188.
  8. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 189–190.
  9. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 192–196.
  10. ^ Hemming, The conquest, p. 197.
  11. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 198–199.
  12. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 207–209.
  13. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 210–211.
  14. ^ Hemming, The conquest, pp. 211–212.
  15. ^ Prescott, W.H., 2011, The History of the Conquest of Peru, Publishing, ISBN 9781420941142


  • Hemming, John. The conquest of the Incas. London: Macmillan, 1993. ISBN 0-333-10683-0
Battle of Abancay

The Battle of Abancay was a battle that took place during the Spanish conquest of Peru. Alonso de Alvarado, sent by Francisco Pizarro to relieve the siege of Cusco, was camped at Jauja with five hundred men. He guarded the bridge and a ford on the Rio de Abancay, awaiting Almagro's men. However, the soldier Alvarado placed in command of the ford, Pedro de Lerma, deserted, allowing Almagro to capture Alvarado's force almost intact.After emerging as the victor both in the siege of Cuzco and from initial disputes between the Pizarro brothers with allies and the Almagristas under Diego de Almagro, who had seized the former Inca capital upon rescuing Hernando Pizarro and Gonzalo Pizarro from emerging defeat, imprisoning them both.Unable to break the siege on his own, and having lost his youngest brother, Pizarro gathered a new army from Spanish settlers traveling to New Castile to find further wealth. The expedition force, commanded by Alonso de Alvarado, was completely defeated by Almagrist forces.

Alvarado was captured during the battle but managed to escape with Gonzalo Pizarro when Marshal Almagro left the main force with Hernando under his control. Hernando was later released as well with the condition that he would return to Spain within six weeks to ensure Francisco would not interfere in Almagro's future reign in Peru. This proved to be a mistake as the Pizarro brothers and Alvarado raised another army and faced Almagro yet again in a struggle for power at Las Salinas.

List of sieges

A siege is a prolonged military assault and blockade on a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by force or attrition. A chronological list of sieges follows.

Manco Inca Yupanqui

Manco Inca Yupanqui (c. 1515 – c. 1544) (Manqu Inka Yupanki in Quechua) was the founder and monarch (Sapa Inca) of the independent Neo-Inca State in Vilcabamba, although he was originally a puppet Inca Emperor installed by the Spaniards. He was also known as "Manco II" and "Manco Cápac II" ("Manqu Qhapaq II"). He was one of the sons of Huayna Capac and a younger brother of Huascar.

Neo-Inca State

The Neo-Inca State, also known as the Neo-Inca state of Vilcabamba, was the Inca state established by Inca emperor Huayna Capac's son Manco Inca Yupanqui in Vilcabamba, Peru in 1537. It is considered the remnants of the Inca Empire (1438–1533) after the Spanish conquest. It lasted until 1572, when the last Inca stronghold was conquered, and the last ruler, Túpac Amaru, Manco's son, was captured and executed. This ended the resistance to the Spanish conquest under the political authority of the Inca state.


Saqsaywaman, Sacsayhuamán, Sacsayhuaman, Sacsahuaman, Saxahuaman, Saksaywaman, Sasawaman, Saksawaman, Sacsahuayman, Sasaywaman or Saksaq Waman (possibly from Quechua language, waman falcon or variable hawk) is a citadel on the northern outskirts of the city of Cusco, Peru, the historic capital of the Inca Empire. Sections were first built by the Killke culture about 1100; they had occupied the area since 900. The complex was expanded and added to by the Inca from the 13th century; they built dry stone walls constructed of huge stones. The workers carefully cut the boulders to fit them together tightly without mortar. The site is at an altitude of 3,701 m (12,142 ft).

In 1983, Cusco and Sacsayhuamán together were added to the UNESCO World Heritage List for recognition and protection.

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