The Inca Emperor

The household of the Inca emperor was, indeed, a show place, as befitted the son of a god. The palace buildings were large one-room dwellings facing spacious patios. The walls were made of stone, skillfully laid by the best craftsmen and stonemasons of the Empire.

 The palace buildings did not have furniture, but floors were covered with soft mats and rugs and the interior walls were decorated with hangings. Some of these hangings were ornamented with hammered gold and silver designs, which depicted the sun, the moon and the stars and with birds, llamas and serpents, which the Inca people considered sacred.

Since the emperor had many wives and many children, his household was very large – a town in itself. It included numerous servants: craftsmen, silversmiths, pottery makers, and weavers; priests, philosophers and poets. The priest gave the emperors advice and the philosophers and poets taught and entertained him.

The emperor saw   very few people outside of these wise men and his own family. He was too sacred a person to be seen by common Inca people. When a nobleman was given the great honor of entering the emperor’s chambers, he first had to remove his sandals and tie a heavy burden on his back. Thus barefoot and burdened, even the highest noble appeared humble before the son of the sun.

The emperor ate his meals alone, served by one of his wives. The wives also prepared his food, each one taking her turn and cooking foods the emperor especially liked. Delicacies were carried in by runners from afar – fruits from tropics, fish from coast.

No one dared touch any of the food left over on the emperor’s plate. It was destroyed because it was too sacred to be eaten by a human being, even by one of royal blood. Even the dishes he ate from, it was said, were burned on certain festive days as offering to the sun.

It was also was that the Inca emperor never wore the same garments twice.  After wearing, the finely woven shirts of vicuna wool, the feathered capes and kilts, and breechcloths were taken to a storeroom. They too were burned on festive days, as an offering to the sun.

This was what the common people believed. It may be that the garments were worn more than once, but it was good for people who had so little extra food and clothing to talk of their emperor’s extravagances. It gave them the satisfaction and pride of abundance. Certainly no one was envious of the emperor. One is not envious of a god.


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