Published online by Cambridge University Press: 19 August 2003
Imperial expansions tend to be legitimated by myths of empire that support the position of a particular group of ruling élite. In order to maintain their power, these élites must take this ideology seriously or risk losing their positions to those that will. In the Inca Empire of the Andes, expansion was justified in large part as a divine mandate to spread a true religion to the people. Although the Inca generally strove to maintain local religions, a long-standing ritual tradition involving painted tablets ended with the Inca conquest of southern Peru. The demise of this practice suggests a greater imperial concern for providing proper gifts to the gods than can be gleaned from the historical records.