Book One opens our saga in early 15th century Hispania. The Kingdoms of Castile and Aragon had yet to bootstrap themselves into a coherent power on the Iberian Peninsula. Isabella of Trastamara, third in line for the crown of Castile, is embraced by a few disgruntled nobles who improbably install her successfully as Queen. Through the tireless, clever, visionary intrigues, alliances, and wars of Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile, an impoverished, ungovernable patchwork of old fiefdoms was painfully corralled to face off against common enemies instead of themselves, the Muslins in Granada. When she succeeds in expelling the Muslims in 1492, she takes a gamble on a fellow visionary, Christopher Columbus, and authorizes his first three voyages that secures a vast New World of territory for the Crown.
The discovery spawns a generation of militant entrepreneurs, later called conquistadors, who set out to make the New World theirs. Many were born poor soldiers or peasant farmers from Extramadura. They were adventurers who saw an opportunity to leave the endless wars of 16th century Europe, particularly after Hernan Cortes toppled the Aztec empire of Montezuma. They did not know exactly what they would find in the unexplored New World to the south of Mexico, Hispaniola and Panama, but they were willing to gamble their lives for what they knew they would never have if they remained on the Iberian Peninsula. Many had seen the fragmented kingdoms of modern day Italy in the Italian Wars - and a life far better there than their homeland, which was still recovering from the decades of struggle against Muslin occupiers. They had fought, but were still poor. Intuitively, the leaders, such as young Francisco Pizarro, believed the unknown lands to the south of Panama would give them the chance to be something, with 2,000 miles of distance from the rules and reach of the Crown and the Church.
For the crown of Castile, the New World presented the chance to secure gold and silver treasure that could fund a renaissance for the people – and the nobility. Queen Isabella’s treasury was nearly empty and King Ferdinand needed funding for his Kingdom of Aragon’s interminable challenges from France for his Kingdom of Naples. Thus began a two century long dependency of the Crown on the flow of vast treasures from the conquistadors
Ensconced in their isolated, insulated world, Book Two recounts the Inca nation driving to its zenith as 1500 dawned. Over the course of five generations, the leadership had adapted the best elements of earlier civilizations of the Chavin, Tiuanuoco, Huari, Wari, Chimu, Moche, Nazca and the Amayra into an administrative masterpiece of government built on an astutely conceived ideology centered on a God King, the Sapa Inca. Stretching down two thousand five hundred miles of coastline and with at least six million people during the peak of this culture, the Inca leadership had crafted a practical, holistic style of communal living, which allowed people to survive passably well in harsh, multifaceted climates. The Inca “empire” was certainly reliant on military force at various times of it’s spectacular growth, but, this theocracy was also a delicate web of feigned or genuine alliances, secured through improving the productivity of the land, diplomacy and building infrastructure which arguably surpassed the Roman Empire in its scope. The “empire” flourished for a century because there was more food, water and security than in the past.
Three dynamic and tenacious men achieved this feat. Pachecutec, Topa Inca Yupanque and Huayna Capac, supported by a host of dedicated lieutenants, deftly applied their leadership skills while navigating the intrigues of rival family groups. The arrival of the “bearded men”, the Castilians, on their shores presented a challenge never encountered before.
About Paul M. Kochis
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Published November 28, 2012
by Mill City Press.
History, Literature & Fiction, War.