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The Oracle at Huamachuco – Atahualpa, one of the cruelest Sapa Incas

The Oracle at Huamachuco

One of the cruelest Sapa Incas


The Inca Atahualpa mentioned in this legend was the last Inca Emperor. After defeating his brother, Atahualpa became briefly the last Sapa Inca (ruler and governor of the Inca Kingdom) before the Spanish conquest ended his reign. The Spaniard Francisco Pizarro captured Atahualpa in November 1532, used him to control the Inca Empire and later excecuted him.

The Legend of The Oracle at Huamachuco

Atahualpa was inordinately cruel and murdered left and right. He razed. He burned. Whatever stood in his way he destroyed. As he marched from Quito to Huamachuco he committed the worst cruelties, ravages, and tyrannical abuses that had ever been known in this land.

When he reached Huamachuco he sent two of his chief lords to make sacrifices to the idol that presided there and to question it as to his future success. The lords went and made their sacrifices; but when they consulted the oracle, they were told that Atahualpa would come to an evil end as punishment for his cruelty and bloodshed.

The lords went and told the Inca what the oracle had said, and the Inca was enraged. Summoning his warriors, he started toward the temple where the oracle was kept. As he drew near, he armed himself with a golden ax and advanced with the two lords who had made the sacrifice.

When he reached the entrance to the temple, out came an aged priest, more than a hundred years old, dressed in a long, shaggy robe tangled with seashells, which reached to his feet. This was the priest of the oracle, and it was he who had spoken the prophecy. So informed, Atahualpa raised the ax and with a single blow cut off the old man's head.

He entered the little temple, and the oracle too he struck with the ax; he chopped off its head, although it was made of stone. Then he ordered the old priest's body set on fire and also the idol and its temple. When all had been burned, there was nothing but ashes, and these he allowed to fly off with the wind.


Freely translated from Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa’s "Historia de los Incas, Chapter 64".

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