Lived: c.1460 - 1527
Huayna Capac was the son of the Incan Emperor Iupanqui. Under his father, Capac led armies against his nation's neighbors to the north. When his father died in 1483 and he became emperor in his own right, Capac continued the campaigns, eventually extending the empire's borders into what is modern Colombia.
The Inca Empire reached the height of its size and power under his rule, stretching over much of Bolivia, Peru, Argentine, Chile, Ecuador, and Colombia. It included varying terrain, from the high, frozen Andes to the densest swamps, and over 200 distinct ethnic groups, each with their own customs and languages.
Despite the geographical and cultural challenges, Inca - or Tawantinsuys, the "Realm of the Four Quarters" - was sophisticated for its time and place. At its height it had "monumental cities, temples and fortresses of stone, marvelously engineered roads cut through granite mountain slopes, and massive agricultural terraces and hydraulic works." A dedicated ruler, Huayna did much to improve the lives of his people. In addition to building temples and other works, Huayna greatly expanded the road network, along which he built storehouses for food so that aid could be quickly rushed to any who were in danger of starvation.
Huayna contracted smallpox while campaigning in Colombia. Smallpox had been introduced to South America by the Spaniards, and the Native Americans had no defense against it; Huayna and about 200,000 other South and Central Americans died in that one epidemic. Before his death Huayna divided his country, leaving the newly-conquered north to his favorite son, Atahualpa, and the rest to his legitimate heir, Huascar. The two brothers fought a long and debilitating war to reunite their country. Atahualpa eventually won, but the victory left his country exhausted and prostrate, unable to withstand attack from the Spaniard; Francisco Pizarro.
Very little is known about Huayna the man. As was their established practice, the Spanish conquerors did their best to obliterate Incan history in order to detach their subject people from their places in history and make them easier to enslave (and to be converted to Christianity). We know that Huayna was bloodthirsty and vindictive in war, but in his private life he was affectionate, even tender. We can assume that Huayna was smart enough to hold his empire together, ambitious enough to seek to extend its borders, ruthless enough to crush those in his path, and foolish enough to divide his empire to try to satisfy both of his sons.