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Garcilasso de la Vega (historian of Peru)

Historian of Peru; b. at Cuzco, Peru, April 12, 1539; d. at Cordoba, Spain, c. 1617

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Garcilasso de la Vega (THE INCA), historian of Peru; b. at Cuzco, Peru, April 12, 1539; d. at Cordoba, Spain, c. 1617. The name Garcilasso is a corruption of Garcia Laso, his real name. The historian’s father was the Spanish conqueror, Sebastian Garcilasso de la Vega y Vargas, who was born at Badajoz, Spain, and died at Cuzco, 1559. The elder Garcilasso had served in Mexico under Hernan Cortez, in Guatemala under Diego de Alvarado, and in Peru under Francisco Pizarro. In 1548, he had been named Governor of Cuzco, where, unlike others of the conquerors, he had done much to better the condition of the natives. Earlier in life, he had married an Inca princess, the historian’s mother. He died in 1559 while still Governor of Cuzco, being one of the very few Spanish conquerors of Peru who did not die a violent death. The Inca mother taught her son the language of the ancient inhabitants of Peru, and suggested to him the idea of writing a history of these people. For this purpose, Garcilasso travelled over the entire empire of the Incas, got as much information suitable his purpose as he could gather from both the natives and the new colonists, and consulted the few remaining monuments of that race. Being fearful of Garcilasso’s growing influence with the natives of Peru, Philip II ordered him to proceed to Spain, whither he went in 1559, shortly after the death of his father. He served there for some time under John of Austria in the Tatter’s campaign against the Moors of Granada. About 1584, he wrote his “Historia de la Florida“, describing the exploits of Hernando de Soto in that country, and published it at Lisbon. In 1600, he began the first part of his “Comentarios Reales”, which is a general history of Peru. This first part, dealing with the early history of the Incas, he finished in 1604, and published at Lisbon in 1609. In 1612, he finished the second part, dealing with the conquest of Peru by the Spaniards, and published it at Cordova in 1616. As a historian of Peru and its people, Garcilasso enjoyed singular advantages, for his mother, an Inca princess, and her relations told him everything concerning their ancestors, omitting nothing, as they considered him one of their race. On the other hand, his father, who was the Governor of Cuzco, was on intimate terms with many of the conquerors, so that from them the historian heard the accounts of their deeds. Garcilasso, therefore, was in a position to get information at first hand from both the natives and their conquerors. His work is of great historic value, as it constitutes practically the only document we possess of the ancient civilization of Peru. The first part was translated into French by Pradelle-Baudoin (Paris, 1633, and Amsterdam, 1737, 2 vols.), and again by Dalibard (Paris, 1744, 2 vols.); into German by Bottgeer (Nordhausen, 1786). The second part was translated into French by Pradelle-Baudoin (Paris, 1646, 1658, and 1707), and into English by Rigault (London, 1688).



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