The capital city of Cuzco
was the heart of the empire. It was situated
about 11,000 feet above sea level high in the Andes Mountains.
a beautiful city. There were palaces, temples, schools, houses, and
government buildings. It had gardens filled with exotic herbs, trees,
and flowers. There was a huge public square for ceremonies and
gatherings. The streets were paved. Water was brought in by aqueducts
to supply the palaces. (The Incas took frequent baths.)
Most of the buildings
were made of stone. The Incan were master
builders. Their stonework is shaped so that each piece fit together
perfectly, without the use of mortar. Inca stonework is still regarded
as the best in the world. Building stones were quarried in the
Thousands of men were organized to hack out enormous blocks
and to transport them to building sites.
The city was always
under construction. Each emperor ordered a new
palace to be built for his use. They had to, actually, as the palaces
of the former Incas were still in use. The Incas believed in an
afterlife. The mummy of a former Inca was housed in his palace. To
wait on him, his servants and family continued to live in the palace.
So new Incas had to build their own palace.
The famed Temple of the
Sun was in the center of the city. The temple
had six chapels built around a central courtyard. The walls were made
of perfectly fitted stone covered with sheets of gold.
Cuzco was the seat
of government as
well as a city. It was a busy place. Messengers traveled
back and forth with news from across the empire. Armies, engineers,
priests, and administrators arrived and left again, traveling to
wherever in the empire they were needed. Llama trains arrived with
loads of food and goods. There were religious celebrations every
month. Cuzco was the home of the Sapa Inca, as well as the home of all
former Sapa Incas, who were still in residence in spirit.
lived in his palace with his family. His
most important administrators lived in the palace as well. Only
important visitors and noblemen had access to the emperor. Few
commoners, except carefully selected servants, were ever seen in the
city. Less important officials lived in the suburbs outside the city.
They reported to higher up administrators, who reported to higher up
administrators, who ultimately reported to the Sapa Inca.
A massive fortress guarded
the city. You had to pass through a huge tollgate
to enter the city. The gateway guards checked everyone who came and
went. They noted everything coming in. They made sure nothing precious
was removed from the city without permission.
The guards also kept their eye on the criminals
positioned at the city gate. As part of their punishment, criminals
had to tell their tales of crime and punishment to all
those who entered and left the city. This was to remind the people of
what would happen if you broke the law.
Not very many of the common people
lived in the city. Most of the people were farmers. They
lived in farming communities. The only people who actually lived in or
just outside the city were the artisans who made artwork for the
temples. People who lived nearby might travel into town for festivals or
business. But the city was mainly used for the government.