Country Listing

Peru Table of Contents


Changing Role Over Time: Preconquest

Military establishments have played a significant role in the different societies and polities that have operated in Peru over the centuries. Before the Incas gained prominence in the region in the fifteenth century, hundreds of native American groups controlled small areas of the coastal valleys, the small fertile intermontane plains of the highlands, and the banks of the jungle rivers. Armed conflict was an integral part of society to resolve disputes among groups or to deal with issues of territorial expansion. Hundreds of years later, local folk dances and ceremonies continued to portray many of these pre-Incaic battles. The Quechua-speaking Inca were, for the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries at least, one more of these many native groups, based in the Cusco (Cuzco) valley of the south-central Andes. During the fifteenth century, however, the Incas embarked on a major campaign of conquest by military force, which resulted by the end of the century in the hemisphere's most extensive empire (see The Incas , ch. 1). Conscription provided the resources for initial conquest and for the mita (see Glossary) system to construct public works--roads, granaries, rest stations, and forts. This infrastructure allowed for consolidation of these rapid advances. The latter were aided by several devices: the reeducation in Cusco of conquered nobility and their return to their communities; the stationing of lesser Inca nobility and military detachments in newly acquired territories; forced resettlement of obstreperous groups and communities to areas where they would pose less of a risk; and inculcation of a common language (Quechua), government organization, tribute system, and religious hierarchy (see The Incas , ch. 1).

Data as of September 1992