Organization of the Inca State

Prior to this class, I had not learned much about the Inca state. I had heard the name Inca before, but never knew them to be the well organized, largest state in the New World that they were. I can’t help but notice the similarities between the organization of the Inca state and the ancient Egyptian state.

The fact that the Inca state can be compared to ancient Egypt is a testament in itself to the success that the Inca state experienced during its time. As we previously have seen with the pharaohs in Egypt, the Inca state was controlled by one ruler, that is, the Sapa Inca, who was mummified after he passed away. The Sapa Inca was considered to be related the gods, also similar to the Egyptian pharaohs who had a divine right to rule. This Sapa Inca tradition began with the Manco Capac, the first Sapa Inca, who founded the short-lived Kingdom of Cuzco, from which the Inca state arose.

I was intrigued to learn in class how these Sapa Inca, even after their deaths, continued to be involved in the running of the state. The deceased Sapa Inca’s possessions remained entitled to him, and were not given to the next Sapa Inca, a practice called split inheritance. The fact that this split inheritance practice was created and adhered to demonstrates the respect the Sapa Inca had for each other. Because the possessions of the old Sapa Inca were not passed on, the new Sapa Inca needed to find ways to obtain his own wealth. To obtain wealth, it was necessary for the Sapa Inca to conquer new lands, from which tribute could be extracted. Each new Sapa Inca’s attempts to gain wealth is what caused the Kingdom of Cuzco to continue to expand and become the Inca state.

The lands conquered by the Sapa Inca gave tribute to the state, or as it was known by the Inca, Mit’a. Tribute, which also existed in ancient Egypt, was not only used as a means for the Sapa Inca to obtain wealth, but helped to support the construction of large public works, like terraces and roads, that, without tribute, could not have been built. Tribute existed as labor, which was helpful because many laborers were needed to build complex works. Tribute also existed in the form of food, which was needed to feed the laborers so that they would continue to have enough energy to work on and complete these large projects.

The organization of the Inca state is physically manifested in the roads that were constructed, which were extensive, spanning the entire Inca state so that even the most distant places were connected. The fact that the state was able to gather enough laborers to complete such a large project also demonstrates the high level of organization of the Inca state.

It has been truly intriguing to learn about the Inca state. Considering the large territory that it occupied, it is incredible that the Inca state was as well organized as it was.

2 thoughts on “Organization of the Inca State”

  1. I really liked your post comparing the Inca and Egyptian ancient states. Now that you point them out, I see there really are many similarities, but I would not have thought of them on my own. I like how you found the commonality of the divine right to rule, or the leader making himself a mediator between the public and the afterlife. This strategy of making one’s self God-like seems to have been used in many cultures throughout history, and usually to powerful results. Also, I think it’s important what you say about the new Sapa Inca not simply taking the dead Sapa Inca’s possessions and how this must have taken extreme respect. While mummification of the leaders is more of a finite, specific common feature between the Inca and the Egyptians, I can’t help but think that having the mummified remains of the previous Sapa Inca at the table helped the new Sapa Inca maintain this respect. I also think it is interesting to note that both the Inca Empire and the Egyptian Empire united a northern and southern region (“upper” and “lower” in Egypt’s case). The Mit’a form of taxation that the Inca designed fascinates me because rather than have the territories pay the Sapa Inca in some monetary form, the ruler elected forgo the accumulation of wealth and have the people work directly on maintaining and expanding infrastructure. Unlike the Egyptians, the Inca expanded and held their empire for only a very short amount of time. Also contrary to the Egyptians, the Incan collapse was caused by exogenous forces, not the decentralization of power.

  2. I really enjoyed the post of the Inca State since I found them one of the most interesting of the groups that we have learned about. What I found most interesting about them would be, as you mentioned before, would be their completion of long and winding roads that grew as their empire expanded and also provided a reason for these expansions. The use of the Mit’A as a tax in the form of required labor to continue the continuity of these roads as well as the conditions they were in was the most interesting of the topic. This idea just makes extraordinary amounts of sense as a manner of both showing continuing respect towards the Sapa Inca as well as keeping the ever expanding empire in relatively good condition. It just kills two birds with one stone as well as doesn’t act as a tax that will remove too much worth from the population unlike the monetary taxing of a population’s goods within a state. As you mention how the organization it took to maintain everything the way it was with the ever expanding Inca I continue to wonder how long it took them to figure out such a precise and effective manner of maintenance. We live in modern times with so much technology yet in Michigan there remains an ongoing battle with the potholes found within the state. It is a shame all of these states had to fall to the cruelty of the Spanish conquerors in the name of their own expansions towards new lands.

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