In 1438, the Inca were attacked by the Kingdom of Chancas. The Chancas desired the fertile soils that were controlled by the much smaller Inca Kingdom. In order to escape capture, the Inca king fled to a fortress in the Andes. This left his young son Cusi Yupanqui to defend the empire. As the Chancas approached from the east, victory seemed imminent because the Incas were few in number, weak, and politically divided. Cusi Yupanqui quickly made alliances with the nearby ethnic groups and marched out to meet the Chancas. As legend goes, Cusi who was dressed as a puma called for help from the sun god Inti. The Incas fought fiercely using wooden clubs tipped with copper spikes. Miraculously, Cusi Yupanqui led his men to victory on the battlefield and declared himself Sapa Inca. From that day on he was called Pachacuti which meant “earthshaker” or “he who turns the world upside down.”
At once, Pachacuti began reconstructing the entire Inca Empire. He ordered the construction of new buildings, palaces, and roads to the limits of the Inca realm. At the same time, he embarked on an extensive military campaign to expand the empire. Soon Pachacuti began seizing adjacent lands. Rapidly, he conquered kingdom after kingdom across the Andes. Before long, he conquered one of his biggest enemies, the Chimu Empire in the northwest. In his lifetime he, his son, and grandson expanded the Inca Empire 3,400 miles, from north to south along the Andes.
Pachacuti never walked, instead he was carried everywhere on a litter that was decorated in gold and gems. The litter rode on the shoulders of men, and these men had been trained on how to give a smooth ride since childhood. As he rode in his litter other men traveled in front of him clearing the paths so that Pachacuti’s travels would be as smooth as possible. Food was served to Pachacuti on silver and gold plates, and he was fed by his secondary wives. He did very little for himself, and no one could look him in the eye because he was considered the son of the sun.
Pachacuti called his new empire Tawantinsuyu or “the four parts united.” The named the four regions Chichaysuyu, Cuntisuyu, Collasuyu, and Antisuyu. Cuzco the capital laid in the intersections where they all four intersected. On a modern map these areas would include parts of Columbia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile, as well as most of modern Peru. In order to keep communications flowing in his enormous empire Pachacuti established a Pony Express type of system. Runners known as chasquis were positioned every few miles. The runners ran both day and night carrying messages across the empire. It took approximately one week for messages to travel from one end of the empire to the other. Pachacuti died in 1471.