Primary source of information on pre-Conquest Incan history, traditions and chronology gives full details of ceremonies, festivals, and religious beliefs and provides detailed accounts of the origin of the Incas, ancient systems of land division, early settlements, biographical sketches, arrival of the Spaniards, execution of the last emperor, much more. 2 maps. Bibliography.
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History of the Incas

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Primary source of information on pre-Conquest Incan history, traditions and chronology gives full details of ceremonies, festivals, and religious beliefs and provides detailed accounts of the origin of the Incas, ancient systems of land division, early settlements, biographical sketches, arrival of the Spaniards, execution of the last emperor, much more. 2 maps. Bibliography.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780486147055
  • Publisher: Dover Publications
  • Publication date: 4/2/2012
  • Series: Native American
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 440
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

BRIAN S. BAUER is Professor of Anthropology at University of Illinois-Chicago.
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History of the Incas

By Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1999 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-14705-5



This general history of which I took charge by order of Don Francisco de Toledo, Viceroy of these kingdoms of Peru, will be divided into three Parts. The First will be the natural history of these lands, being a particular description of them. It will contain accounts of the marvellous works of nature, and other things of great profit and interest. I am now finishing it, that it may be sent to your Majesty after this, though it ought to have come before it. The Second and Third Parts treat of the people of these kingdoms and of their deeds in the following order. In the Second Part, which is the present one, the most ancient and first peoplers of this land will be discussed in general, and then, descending to particulars, I shall describe [the terrible and inveterate tyranny of] the Ccapac Incas of these kingdoms, down to the end and death of Huascar, the last of the Incas. The Third and Last Part will treat of the times of the Spaniards, and of their notable deeds in the discovery and settlement of this kingdom and others adjoining it, with the captains, governors, and viceroys who have ruled here, down to the present year 1572.



When historians wish to write, in an orderly way, of the world or some part of it, they generally first describe the situation containing it, which is the land, before they deal with what it contains, which is the population, to avoid the former in the historical part. If this is so in ancient and well known works, it is still more desirable that in treating of new and strange lands, like these, of such vast extent, a task which I have undertaken, the same order should be preserved. This will not only supply interesting information but also, which is more to be desired, it will be useful for navigation and new discoveries, by which God our Lord may be served, the territories of the crown of Spain extended, and Spaniards enriched and respected. As I have not yet finished the particular description of this land, which will contain everything relating to geography and the works of nature minutely dealt with, in this volume I shall only offer a general summary, following the most ancient authors, to recall the remains of those lands which are now held to be new and previously unknown, and of their inhabitants.

The land, which we read of as having existed in the first and second age of the world, was divided into five parts. The three continents, of which geographers usually write, Asia, Africa, and Europe, are divided by the river Tanais, the river Nile, and the Mediterranean Sea, which Pomponius calls "our" sea. Asia is divided from Europe by the river Tanais, now called Silin, and from Africa by the Nile, though Ptolemy divides it by the Red Sea and isthmus of the desert of Arabia Deserta. Africa is divided from Europe by "our" sea, commencing at the strait of Gibraltar and ending with the Lake of Meotis. The other two parts are thus divided. One was called, and still ought to be called, Catigara in the Indian Sea, a very extensive land now distinct from Asia. Ptolemy describes it as being, in his time and in the time of Alexander the Great, joined on to Asia in the direction of Malacca. I shall treat of this in its place, for it contains many and very precious secrets, and an infinity of souls, to whom the King our Lord may announce the holy catholic faith that they may be saved, for this is the object of his Majesty in these new lands of barbarous idolatry. The fifth part is or was called the Atlantic Island, as famous as extensive, and which exceeded all the others, each one by itself, and even some joined together. The inhabitants of it and their description will be treated of, because this is the land, or at least part of it, of these western Indies of Castille.



The cosmographers do not write of this ancient Atlantic Island because there was no memory, when they wrote, of its very rich commercial prosperity in the second, and perhaps in the first age. But from what the divine Plato tells us and from the vestiges we see which agree with what we read, we can not only say where it was and where parts of it were, as seen in our time, but we can describe it almost exactly, its grandeur and position. This is the truth, and the same Plato affirms it as true, in the Timæus, where he gives its truthful and marvellous history.

We will speak first of its situation, and then of its inhabitants. It is desirable that the reader should give his attention because, although it is very ancient history, it is so new to the ordinary teaching of cosmography that it may cause such surprise as to raise doubts of the story, whence may arise a want of appreciation.

From the words which Plato refers to Solon, the wisest of the seven of Greece, and which Solon had heard with attention from the most learned Egyptian priest in the city called Delta, we learn that this Atlantic Island was larger than Asia and Africa together, and that the eastern end of this immense island was near the strait which we now call of Gibraltar. In front of the mouth of the said strait, the island had a port with a narrow entrance; and Plato says that the island was truly continental. From it there was a passage by the sea, which surrounded it, to many other neighbouring islands, and to the main land of Europe and Africa. In this island there were kings of great and admirable power who ruled over that and many adjacent islands as well as the greater part of Europe and Africa, up to the confines of Egypt, of which I shall treat presently. The extent of the island was from the south, where were the highest mountains, to the north. The mountains exceeded in extent any that now exist, as well in their forests, as in height, and in beauty. These are the words of Plato in describing the situation of this most richly endowed and delightful Atlantic Island. It now remains for me to do my duty, which is to explain what has been said more clearly and from it to deduce the situation of the island.

From what Plato says that this island had a port near the mouth of the strait of the pillars of Hercules, that it was larger than Asia and Africa together, and that it extended to the south, I gather three things clearly towards the understanding of all that invites attention. The first is that the Atlantic Island began less than two leagues from the mouth of the strait, if more it was only a little more. The coast of the island then turned north close to that of Spain, and was joined to the island of Cadiz or Gadiz, or Caliz, as it is now called. I affirm this for two reasons, one by authority and the other by conjectural demonstration. The authority is that Plato in his Critias, telling how Neptune distributed the sovereignty of the island among his ten sons, said that the second son was called in the mother tongue "Gadirum," which in Greek we call "Eumelo." To this son he gave the extreme parts of the island near the columns of Hercules, and from his name the place was called Gadiricum which is Caliz. By demonstration we see, and I have seen with my own eyes, more than a league out at sea and in the neighbourhood of the island of Caliz, under the water, the remains of very large edifices of a cement which is almost imperishable1, an evident sign that this island was once much larger, which corroborates the narrative of Critias in Plato. The second point is that the Atlantic Island was larger than Asia and Africa. From this I deduce its size, which is incredible or at least immense. It would give the island 2300 leagues of longitude, that is from east to west. For Asia has 1500 leagues in a straight line from Malacca which is on its eastern front, to the boundary of Egypt; and Africa has 800 leagues from Egypt to the end of the Atlantic mountains or "Montes Claros" facing the Canary Islands; which together make 2300 leagues of longitude. If the island was larger it would be more in circuit. Round the coast it would have 7100 leagues, for Asia is 5300 and Africa 2700 leagues in circuit, a little more or less, which together makes 7100 leagues, and it is even said that it was more.

Having considered the measurement of its great size we come to the third point, which is the true position over which this great island extended. Plato says that the position of the island extended to the south; opposite to the north. From this we should understand that, the front conterminous with Spain from the strait of Gibraltar to Cadiz thence extended westward, making a curve along the coast of Barbary or Africa, but very close to it, between west and south, which is what sailors call southwest. For if it was opposite to north, which is between east and north, called north-east, it must necessarily have its direction in the said south-west, west-south-west, or south south-west. It would include and incorporate the Canary Islands which, according to this calculation, would be part of it, and from thence the land trended south-west. As regards the south, it would extend rather more to the south and south-south-west, finally following the route by which we go when we sail from Spain to the Indies, forming a continent or main land with these western Indies of Castille, joining on to them by the parts stretching south-west, and west-southwest, a little more or less from the Canaries. Thus there was sea on one side and on the other of this land, that is on the north and south, and the Indies united with it, and they were all one. The proof of this is that if the Atlantic Island had 2300 leagues of longitude, and the distance of Cadiz to the mouth of the river Marañon or Orellana and Trinidad, on the coast of Brazil, is not more than 1000, 000, or 1100 leagues, being the part where this land joined to America, it clearly appears that, to complete the complement of 2300 leagues, we have to include in the computation all the rest of the land from the mouth of the Marañon and Brazil to the South Sea, which is what they now call America. Following this course it would come to Coquimbo. Counting what is still wanting, this would be much less than 2300 leagues. Measuring the circumference, the island was more than 7100 leagues round, because that is about the circumference of Asia and Africa by their coasts. If this land is joined to the other, which in fact it was in conformity with the description, it would have a much greater circuit, for even now these parts of the western Indies, measured by compass, and latitude, have more than 7100 leagues.

From all this it may be inferred that the Indies of Castille formed a continent with the Atlantic Island, and consequently that the same Atlantic Island, which extended from Cadiz over the sea we traverse to the Indies, and which all cosmographers call the Atlantic Ocean because the Atlantic Island was in it, over which we now navigate, was land in ancient times. Finally we shall relate the sequel, first giving an account of the sphere at that time and of the inhabitants.



Having described the four parts of the world, for of Catigara, which is the fifth, we shall not speak except in its place which the ancients assigned to it, it will be right to come to the races which peopled them. All of which I have to treat has to be personal and heathen history. The chief value and perfection of history consists in its accuracy, thoroughly sifting each event, verifying the times and periods of what happened so that no doubt may remain of what passed. It is in this way that I desire to write the truth in so far as my ability enables me to do so respecting a thing so ancient as the first peopling of these new lands. I wish, for the better illustration of the present history, to precede it with the foundations that cannot be denied, counting the time in conformity with the chronology of the Hebrews in the days before our Saviour Jesus Christ, and the times after his most holy nativity according to the counting used by our mother the holy church, not making account of the calculations of Chaldean or Egyptian interpreters.

Thus, passing over the first age from Adam to the Deluge, which covers 1656 years, we will begin from the second age, which is that of the patriarch Noah, second universal father of mortals. The divine scriptures show us that eight persons were saved from the flood, in the ark. Noah and his wife Terra or Vesta, named from the first fire lighted by crystal for the first sacrifice as Berosus would have: and his three sons to wit, Cam and his wife Cataflua, Sem and his wife Prusia or Persia, Japhet and his wife Funda, as we read in the register of the chronicles. The names of some of these people remain, and to this day we can see clearly whence they were derived, as the Hebrews from Heber, the Assyrians from Asur, but most of them have been so changed that human intelligence is insufficient to investigate by this way. Besides the three sons, Noah had others after the flood.

The descendants of these men having multiplied and become very numerous, Noah divided the world among his first sons that they might people it, and then embarked on the Euxine Sea as we gather from Xenophon. The giant Noah then navigated along the Mediterranean Sea, as Filon says and Annius repeats, dividing the whole land among his sons. He gave it in charge to Sem to people Asia from the Nile to the eastern Indies, with some of the sons he got after the flood. To Cam he gave Africa from the Rinocoruras to the straits of Gibraltar with some more of the sons. Europe was chosen for Japhet to people with the rest of the sons begotten after the flood, who were all the sons of Tuscan, whence descend the Tadescos, Alemanes, and the nations adjacent to them.

In this voyage Noah founded some towns and colonies on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, and remained in them for ten years, until 112 years after the universal deluge. He ordered his daughter Araxa to remain in Armenia where the ark rested, with her husband and children, to people that country. Then he, with the rest of his companions, went to Mesopotamia and settled. There Nembrot was raised up for king, of the descendants of Cam. This Nembrot, says Berosus, built Babylon 130 years after the flood. The sons of Sem elected for their king, Jektan, son of Heber. Those of Japhet chose Fenec for their king, called Assenes by Moses. There were 300,000 men under him only 310 years after the deluge. Each king, with his companions, set out to people the part of the world chosen for them by the patriarch Noah. It is to be noted that, although Noah divided the parts of the world among his three sons and their descendants, many of them did not keep to the boundaries. For some of one lineage settled on the lands of another brother. Nembrot, being of the line of Cam, remained in the parts of Sem, and many others were mixed together in the same way.

Thus the three parts of the world were peopled by these and their descendants, of whom I do not propose to treat in detail, for our plan is to proceed in our narrative until we come to the inhabitants of the Atlantic Island, the subject of this history. This was so near Spain that, according to the common fame, Caliz used to be so close to the main land in the direction of the port of Santa Maria, that a plank would serve as a bridge to pass from the island to Spain. So that no one can doubt that the inhabitants of Spain, Jubal and his descendants, peopled that land, as well as the inhabitants of Africa which was also near. Hence it was called the Atlantic Island from having been peopled by Atlas, the giant and very wise astrologer who first settled Mauritania now called Barbary, as Godefridus and all the chronicles teach us. This Atlas was the son of Japhet by the nymph Asia, and grandson of Noah. For this there is no authority except the above, corroborated by the divine Plato as I began by explaining, and it will be necessary to seek his help to give the reader such evidence as merits belief respecting the inhabitants of this Atlantic Island.


Excerpted from History of the Incas by Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa. Copyright © 1999 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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