El Inca Garcilaso de la Vega, Primera parte de los Comentarios reales. Lisbon 1609.


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Garcilaso de la Vega, Primera parte de los Comentarios reales. Lisbon, 1609.


The son of a conquistador and an Inca noblewoman, Garcilaso de la Vega grew up in Cuzco, immersed equally in the worlds of the conquerors and of the conquered. As a young man he moved to Spain and made a career fighting in King Philip II’s wars; only late in life did he find his vocation as a writer. After translating the treatise of an Italian Jewish philosopher, and writing a chronicle of a Spanish expedition to Florida, Garcilaso began the great work of his life. It was a two-part history of his native land: the Comentarios reales about the Incas, and the Historia general del Perú about the Spanish conquest. Having left Peru as a young man, Garcilaso had to reconstruct Inca history from existing books, memories of what he had learned in childhood, correspondence with old friends, and his own vivid imagination. He portrayed the Incas as virtuous pagans much like the classical Romans. With a humanist’s attention to philology, he glossed Quechua words to show that they possessed a sophisticated natural religion. In their perfectly-regulated commonwealth, wise kings directed their subjects’ lives and sternly policed their conduct. Garcilaso’s portrait of the Incas, with affinities to Plato’s Republic and More’s Utopia, was for centuries the most influential portrait of the Incas.