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Mayta Capac - The legend of the fourth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cuzco

Mayta Capac

The legend of the fourth Sapa Inca of the Kingdom of Cuzco


Mayta Capac was the fourth Sapa Inca (ruler and governor of the Inca Kingdom). This legend gives us an insight about his youth and his fierce personality winning many battles fighting the enemies of the empire. He is known to have conquered territories as far as Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, and Potosí. In 1134 he put the regions of Arequipa and Moquegua under the complete control of the Inca empire.

The Legend of the Inca Mayta Capac

The Inca Lloque Yupanqui had grown old without an heir. And now it was widely believed that he was too old and too weak to father a child. Yet one day as he sat grieving, deep in sorrow, the Sun appeared to him in human form and consoled him, saying, “Do not grieve, Lloque Yupanqui, for your descendants shall be great lords. You shall father a child.”

Upon hearing this, the Inca reported this to his kinsmen, who in turn made it known to the people. Then they set about to find him a wife. It was his own brother, being the one who knew best the Inca’s nature, who selected the bride. He found her in the town of Oma, asked permission of her relatives, obtained her, and brought her to Cuzco. This woman was called Mama Caua, and by her the Inca was to have a son, whose name would be Mayta Capac.

Mama Caua had been pregnant only three months when her son was born. He was born with teeth. He was lively. And so quickly did he grow that at the end of one year he was as large and as strong as an eight-year-old. By the time he was two he was fighting with young men and could beat them and injure them severely.

They say that he joined in games with certain youths of the Alcahuiza, the Culunchima tribe, who lived in the vicinity of Cuzco; and he hurt a great many of them, and some were even killed. One day, in a dispute over who might drink water from a particular fountain, he broke the leg of the son of the Alcahuizas’ chief lord, and he chased the other boys into their houses, where the Alcahuizas had been living in peace without troubling the Incas.

At last the Alcahuizas could no longer endure the attacks of Mayta Capac. And though they knew he was the Inca’s favorite and well-guarded by his kinsmen, they were nonetheless prepared to kill him. They were ready to risk their lives. They selected ten among themselves, and these were sent to the House of the Sun, where Lloque Yupanqui and Mayta Capac lived.

As they entered, intending to kill them both, Mayta Capac was playing ball with some other boys in the palace court. When he saw his enemies arriving, bearing arms, he hurled a ball in their direction, and one of them was hit and killed. Then he attacked the others and made them flee; and although they escaped, they fled with many wounds. This then is how they returned to their chief lord.

When the Alcahuizas, the Culunchimas, were made aware of the injury that had been done to their people, they were filled with fear. Mayta Capac was only a child. What might he do when he became a man? Now, truly, they were prepared to risk their lives. Gathering all their people together, they set out to make war against the Incas.

Lloque Yupanqui was troubled. He feared he would be destroyed, and he reprimanded his son, Mayta Capac, saying, “Child! Why have you injured these people? I am an old man. Would you have me die at the hands of our enemies?” But the Inca’s own subjects, who loved to pillage, who preferred war over peace and lived by thievery, spoke up in favor of Mayta Capac and told the Inca to keep still and not to speak against his son. Then indeed Lloque Yupanqui no longer reprimanded his son.

The Alcahuizas, the Culunchimas, prepared their troops. Mayta Capac likewise took command of his subjects. Both sides gave battle, and though at first the contest was even, with neither side prevailing, then at last when each party had fought long, each hoping to win the victory, the Alcahuizas, the Culunchimas, were defeated by the subjects of Mayta Capac.

But the Alcahuizas were not discouraged. They came again and with greater spirit. They attacked the House of the Sun and pounded it on three sides. At first Mayta Capac, having retired to his quarters, was unaware of what had happened. But then he emerged. He came out from behind the walls. He struggled fiercely with his enemies, and at last he defeated them.

Still the Alcahuizas would not desist. Again, they called Mayta Capac to battle, and again he accepted. But they say that now a hailstorm fell on the Alcahuizas, so that all of them were finally defeated. Mayta Capac took their chief lord and kept him in prison until he died. Mayta Capac was bold. He was the first since the days of Manco Capac to take up arms and win victories.

It is said that Mayta Capac inherited the Sun bird that Manco Capac had brought with him when he founded Cuzco. Always the bird had been locked within a basket of woven reeds, handed down from Inca to Inca, and no one had ventured to open it, for all were timid. But Mayta Capac was more daring than they. He wished to see what his forebears had kept so carefully hidden. He opened the basket. He took out the Sun bird and spoke to it. They say it answered him in oracles and because of it he grew wise. He knew what would happen and foretell the future.


Freely translated from Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa’s, Historia de los Incas, Chapter 16-17.

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