In the 16th century, the Spanish conquistadors reached the town in the majestic Andes mountains that served as the political seat of the sprawling Incan Empire. For over three centuries, the Incas had developed a complex and thriving civilization. They built stunning strongholds in the mountains (if you need convincing, just take one look at Machu Picchu); they carved out a mind-boggling series of trails that extended over 14,000 mountainous miles and across what are now six different countries; and they collected gold, silver, and other opulent symbols of wealth…and lots of it.
It was stories of these riches that captured the explorer Francisco Pizarro’s attention. So, in 1524, he set sail from Spain, leading a crew of conquistadors headed for the New World with the gleam of gold in their eyes.
Nearly a decade and three expeditions later—after the soldiers had battled, pillaged, and proselytized their way down the South American coast—Pizarro’s army finally conquered the main Incan city of Cusco in Peru.