Francisco Pizarro

Francisco Pizzaro
Spanish Conquistador
In Office 1529-1541
Born 1471 or 1476
Died 1541
Nationality Spanish
Religion Roman Catholic

Spanish Conquistador Francisco Pizarro is known for conquering the Inca, located in modern day Peru. Pizarro is often referred to by historians as a man of shocking cruelty, greed, and ambition.


Francisco Pizarro was born in Trujillo, Spain, in 1470 or 1471. He was the illegitimate child of Gonzalo Pizarro Rodríguez de Aguilam, an infantry colonel in the Spanish army, and Francisca González Mateos, a peasant woman from Trujillo. Though Pizarro grew up illiterate, the age of exploration afforded him the opportunity to expand his horizons.

Sailing to the New World

Pizarro was about 22 years old when Columbus discovered the Americas. And as Spain’s interest in the New World grew, Pizarro was able to secure a position on an expedition to Urabai with Alonzo de Ojeda in 1513. That same year, Pizarro joined another famous explorer, Vasco Núñez de Balboa, in his crossing of the Isthmus of Panama to the Pacific coast.

Gaining Power and Reputation

Pizarro later became an associate of the governor of Castilla de Oro, Pedrarias Dávila. The settlement was located between modern day Columbia and Panama. Dávila’s mistrust of Balboa created conflicts over a variety of issues which eventually led to Dávila ordering Pizarro to arrest and bring him to justice. Pizarro did so and Balboa was tried and executed. As a reward for his services, Dávila made Pizarro the mayor of a settlement that would eventually become Panama City. Pizarro held this title until 1523. While in Panama, Pizarro plotted his future and became determined to acquire the large amounts of gold rumored to be on the western coast where the Incan Empire existed.

Road to Conquest

Pizarro organized a number of expeditions to the western regions of South America. However, his first attempts to gain a foothold in these regions were rebuffed by resistance from a variety of native peoples, many of whom were raised fierce warriors. It was not until 1532 that Pizarro first came into contact with the Inca. The Incan Emperor, Atahualpa, had only recently solidified his rule by defeating his half-brother, Huascar, in battle near Cuzco. Pizarro arrived in the Inca Empire with less than 170 soldiers.

Setting a Trap for the Inca

Atahualpa had no reason to fear the arrival of Pizzaro and his handful of soldiers, as he had an army of 30,000 men at his disposal. On November 16, 1532, Pizarro set a surprise attack for the Inca forces, known as the Battle of Cajamarca. Before the meeting, Pizarro had set up an artillery ambush with cannons, guns and cavalry, all of which were completely mysterious to the Inca.

The Defeat of the Inca

Pizarro and his men easily overthrew thousands of Inca warriors within hours. With the leader of the Inca Empire in chains, Pizarro’s conquest of the mighty Inca nation was all but complete. In an attempt to bribe Pizarro, Atahualpa offered him a vast fortune in exchange for his release. Pizarro agreed and over a short period, 24 tons of gold and silver were gathered and delivered to Pizarro from the far corners of the Inca Empire.

Despite receiving the ransom, Pizarro had never intended to give Atahualpa his freedom. Instead, he took the gold and accused the emperor of plotting against the Spanish Empire, of murdering his half-brother Huascar and variety of other crimes.

Pizarro Executes the Emperor

Atahualpa was tried and sentenced to death. He was given a choice between converting to Christianity and dying by strangulation, or being burned alive at the stake. Atahualpa selected the former. He made his conversion to Christianity and was executed by means of strangulation.

A Violent Death

Pizarro was assassinated in 1541 by an armed group of 20 men who supported Diego de Almagro II, also known as El Mozo. Reportedly they broke into Pizarro’s mansion and stabbed him to death along with several of his companions in an attempt to avenge the death of Diego De Almagro I. Pizarro was only able to kill two of his attackers before meeting his violent end.