“The city of Cuzco, being the primary place where the lords made their residence, is so great and so beautiful and with so many buildings that it would be worthy to be seen in Spain”:Footnote 1 with these words, Pedro Sancho (ca. 1514–47),Footnote 2 official secretary to the conquistador Francisco Pizarro (ca. 1478–1541), begins his rich description of the built environment that was the sacred center of the Inca Empire. The text, which Sancho probably composed in 1534, presents a spectacular vision of the city from the perspective of one of the first Spaniards to set foot there. Cuzco, he writes, is perched high in mountainous terrain between two rivers whose water rushes through its straight, paved streets in conduits of cut stone. Among its many fine buildings are several large stone houses. “All of the lords used to build their houses there, and all of the chiefs as well,” notes Sancho. “Most of the houses,” he continues, “are made of stone, and others have half of the facade in stone. There are many houses made of earth, and they are made with beautiful order.”Footnote 3 Rising high above the city on one of its sides, said Sancho, is an enormous fortress with windows that look over the city. “Many Spaniards who have seen it, and who went to Lombardy and other foreign kingdoms,” he adds, “say they have not seen another building like this fortress nor a stronger castle.”Footnote 4
Sancho’s description of Cuzco is remarkable for a number of reasons. It is the earliest substantial text on the architecture and plan of the Inca settlement written by a participant in the conquest of Peru who spent a significant amount of time there, and it provides enticing details about a place whose infrastructure remains incompletely known even today. Among the city’s most notable features, Sancho says, is a plaza. It is, he claims, “made in a square shape, and for the most part flat, and paved in small stones.”Footnote 5 Its streets, with their water channels running down the middle, are inconveniently narrow: “on one side of the conduit only one [person] on horseback can pass, and another on the other side.”Footnote 6 Of the structure Sancho calls the fortress, he writes that its stepped retaining walls, “each one taller than the other,” are “the most beautiful thing[s] one can see among the buildings in that land.”Footnote 7
The descriptive richness of this text has led modern historians and anthropologists to use it as a primary source for reconstructing the appearance of the sacred center of the Inca Empire as it appeared to Pizarro and his cohort at the moment of their arrival there on 15 November 1533.Footnote 8 That is one way to read it, and considered in connection with archaeological evidence and other early accounts of the city, Sancho’s description is an important source on architecture and urbanism in Inca Cuzco. It is, however, also a source for other kinds of historical information. In its emphasis on certain urban forms in Cuzco and its elision of others, the text — which is both conventional and complex — demonstrates how habits of description engaged in the production of space, an effect that was central to Spanish colonial expansion in the Americas and the construction of an empire of towns.Footnote 9 The impact of Sancho’s textual representation of Cuzco and its utility in the production of space is evident in a contemporary reaction to it — a woodcut print that accompanied the description when it was first published in Venice in 1556, and that would serve as an important source of images of Cuzco for at least two centuries (fig. 1).Footnote 10 Considered together, the text and the image reveal the ways in which modes of representation facilitated political, architectural, and urbanistic change in the sixteenth-century New World.
2. Pedro Sancho’s “Relatione”
Sancho’s description of Cuzco fills two printed pages in a much longer text he authored. Entitled “Relatione per sua maestà di quel che nel conquisto & pacificatione di queste provincie della nuova Castiglia” (“Report to His Majesty on the Conquest and Pacification of this Province of New Castile”; hereafter, “Relatione”), it narrates over the course of twenty-nine pages a series of events that took place in 1533 and 1534, when Pizarro and his followers marched southward through the Andes of South America from Cajamarca — where they held captive and ultimately killed the Inca king Atahualpa — to Cuzco, the sacred epicenter of the Inca Empire.Footnote 11 The “Relatione” first appeared in print in 1556 as an Italian translation of a now-lost Spanish original in a collection of texts on European exploration and conquest in the Americas. Published in Venice by the press of the Giunta family, that anthology was entitled Terzo volvme delle navigationi et viaggi (Third Volume of Voyages and Travels, hereafter Navigationi et viaggi). Its title page cited some of the most sensational events the reader would encounter in its folios, including “the discovery of the grand city of Tenochtitlan in Mexico, which now is called New Spain, and the grand province of Peru.”Footnote 12 No autograph manuscript of Sancho’s account is known, nor is any version that predates the text published in Navigationi et viaggi in Italian in 1556.
The texts in Navigationi et viaggi were compiled and edited by Giovanni Battista Ramusio (1485–1557), a prominent Venetian humanist who had served as secretary to his state’s Senate and Council of Ten.Footnote 13 Widely recognized as a collector of geographic literature, Ramusio earlier had edited a compendium of accounts on exploration in Africa and the Indian Ocean, also printed in Venice by the Giunta family, in 1550.Footnote 14 He and his publisher conceived of that volume and the 1556 anthology as elements in a four-part series, but only three of the books were ultimately printed.Footnote 15 In his prefaces to those publications, Ramusio said that his aim was to provide readers with an updated and accurate view of the entire world, a project he saw as an extension of the work of the ancient cosmographer Ptolemy.Footnote 16 Today his compilation is often regarded as an early example of travel writing, a versatile literary genre that flourished in the publishing centers of Western Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.Footnote 17 Venice, scholars have demonstrated amply, was an important center for the production and distribution of works in the genre.Footnote 18
In the table of contents to the Navigationi et viaggi, Ramusio describes Sancho’s “Relatione” in this way: “By a secretary of Francisco Pizarro, a report of the conquest made of the province of Peru, later called New Castile, with the description of the great city of Cuzco.”Footnote 19 The format of the entry is, in part, conventional, for like the others provided by Ramusio, it opens with a reference to the author of the text, identifies it by genre as a relatione, and briefly describes its subject.Footnote 20 It is anomalous with respect to the twenty-three other entries in the table of contents, however, in two ways. A consideration of those anomalies sheds light on the forces that motivated its publication and, ultimately, on its status as historical evidence.
First, Ramusio singles out the description of Cuzco as a noteworthy feature of the account, calling it “la descrittione della gran Città del Cuscho” (“description of the great City of Cuzco”). No reference to a subsection of a text appears in any of the other entries in the table of contents. The inclusion of this detail suggests that Ramusio considered the description of Cuzco to be an important or attractive part of the “Relatione” and, perhaps, one of the highlights of the entire volume. Indeed, to readers of books in 1556, it was a novelty, for a substantive description of Inca Cuzco penned by a person who had seen the city in person had never before appeared in print.Footnote 21 Ramusio and his publisher must have conceived of it as a counterpart to the lengthy description of Aztec Tenochtitlan in the so-called second letter of Hernán Cortés (1485–1547), the conqueror of Mexico. That letter, which was also included in Navigationi et viaggi, had circulated widely in print in several editions and languages by 1556.Footnote 22 Ramusio and the Giunti must have seen in Sancho’s “Relatione” a similarly interesting and hitherto-unknown narrative that would generate interest among buyers of books in the competitive market of sixteenth-century Venice.Footnote 23 It is unclear whether it was Sancho or Ramusio who entitled the account “Relatione per sua maestà,” but this reference to the king as the intended reader is another parallel with the letters of Córtes, which were similarly presented in publication as reports to Charles V.
The second anomalous feature of the entry in the table of contents is that it refers to the author of the account only as “a secretary of Francisco Pizarro,” a choice that is curious since Ramusio names the authors of most of the other texts in the volume, and the identity of the man who penned the “Relatione” was known to him. It appears in the text’s final paragraph: “This report was finished in the city of Jauja on 15 July 1534. Pedro Sancho, general scribe in this kingdom of New Castile and Secretary of the Governor Francisco Pizarro, wrote it rightly as it happened by order of Pizarro and the officials of his Majesty.”Footnote 24 The elision of Sancho’s name in the table of contents thus calls for explanation. One possibility is that Ramusio and his publisher believed, with reason, that buyers of books would not recognize it as readily as they would have recognized the names of Cortés, Peter Martyr (1457–1526), or Gonzálo Fernández de Oviedo (1478–1557), widely known authors whose works appeared alongside that of Sancho in Navigationi et viaggi. Identifying Sancho simply as Pizarro’s secretary effectively communicated the idea that the “Relatione,” with its description of Cuzco, was written by a participant in the conquest of Peru and thus, like the other texts included in the anthology, it was true.Footnote 25
The name of the author of the “Relatione” may not have been familiar to readers of books in mid-sixteenth-century Venice, but it was well known to Spaniards in Peru by 1533, when Sancho succeeded Francisco Xerez (ca. 1499–ca. 1565) as Pizarro’s official secretary.Footnote 26 Little, however, is known of his life prior to his arrival in Peru. He may have been born in Old Castile near Medina de Ríoseco, and his profession as a notary indicates that he was educated. His name does not appear in the catalog of passengers to the Indies. He probably joined the Pizarro expedition in Panama, for it is from there that he sailed with its members to Peru in 1530.Footnote 27 On the pages of the “Relatione,” Sancho claims that he was in the company of Pizarro when both men saw Cuzco for the first time in November 1533, and that he remained in the Inca capital until March 1534. At that point, he departed with the conquistador for Jauja, a town almost 800 kilometers (500 miles) to the northwest.Footnote 28 It is presumably during that time between November 1533 and March 1534 that he would have formed the impressions that are the basis for the description.
Sancho’s personal experience in Cuzco has led scholars to consider his description of the Inca capital as a special kind of document: an eyewitness report whose authorship by a participant in the conquest of Peru lends it a degree of reliability. The reliability of the text by modern standards, however, is complicated by a number of factors. Like many other sixteenth-century descriptions of cities in the Americas, it is not clear when and under what conditions Sancho composed it. Ramusio’s editorial claim that “this translation is taken from the original” appears at the end of the text and indicates that an earlier, now-lost version existed.Footnote 29 The date that appears in its final paragraph, 15 July 1534, can be regarded as a terminus post quem for its composition. The issue of dating is not insignificant, for conquest narratives — of which Sancho’s “Relatione” is an example — are inherently retrospective.Footnote 30 If the description of Cuzco was written in Jauja in July 1534, then it records a memory of a place Sancho had once seen rather than capturing an enduring snapshot of it at a moment in time.
The details of Ramusio’s acquisition of the now-lost manuscript by Sancho remain unknown, but there are a number of ways he could have gained access to it in the more than two decades that passed between the hypothetical date of its composition in July 1534 and the publication of the Italian translation in 1556. In that period, Ramusio is known to have collected information about the Americas with the aid of Fernández de Oviedo, the Italian scholars Pietro Bembo (1470–1547) and Girolamo Fracastoro (1478–1553), and Diego Hurtado de Mendoza (1503–75), the Spanish ambassador to Venice.Footnote 31 It would not have been unusual for an account like Sancho’s to have circulated informally among these men, for such texts were often passed from one reader to another in the form of manuscripts.Footnote 32 Fernández de Oviedo is especially likely to have been involved in the transactions that put the “Relatione” into Ramusio’s hands. Named Royal Chronicler of the Indies in 1532, he was in a position to receive official reports such as the one written by Sancho more directly than were Bembo, Fracastoro, or the Spanish ambassador.Footnote 33 The text Ramusio acquired would have been written in Spanish, and it is likely that the Venetian himself produced the translation that appeared in Navigationi et viaggi.Footnote 34
Scholarship on the work of editors and translators in early modern Italy sheds light on the degree to which Ramusio would have intervened in the description of Cuzco he published in Italian. Indeed, the correction, revision, and adaptation of early modern texts could be heavy-handed, particularly in the case of vernacular ones.Footnote 35 Translation, too, was a problematic practice. In anthologies like Ramusio’s, a desire for unity and uniformity masked the multiple languages, writers, sources, and tasks involved in publication.Footnote 36 More generally, the practice of literary translation often produced shifts in meaning, an effect that has been demonstrated to have occurred within multiple literary genres in early modernity.Footnote 37
Ultimately, Sancho would not live to see the publication of his text in Ramusio’s Italian translation. In April 1535, less than a year after he signed his name to the “Relatione,” he received authorization to return to Spain. One year later, he was in Seville, where he may have even coincided briefly with the Royal Chronicler of the Indies. In January 1539, he was authorized by the Crown to lead the exploration of the southwestern coast of South America and to hold the governorship of lands he encountered. By the end of that year, Sancho was once again in Peru, where he found that Pizarro had granted to another man — Pedro de Valdivia (ca. 1500–53) — the right to undertake explorations to the south. Sancho made his way into Chile, and in the following years, he was accused of making several attempts on Valdivia’s life. The struggle between Valdivia and Sancho for political authority in Chile ultimately led to the latter’s decapitation in December of 1547, nine years before his “Relatione” would appear in print.Footnote 38 One wonders, then, if Sancho’s death may have precipitated the circulation of the text.Footnote 39
In light of evidence for the commercial motivations for publishing the text, the absence of an autograph manuscript, and the intervention of both an editor and translator, Sancho’s description of Cuzco comes to be seen as a problematic source on architecture in the sacred center of the Inca Empire. Physical evidence in modern-day Cuzco supports some, but not all, of the text’s claims. For example, the author’s assertion that the city’s streets were “very straight” but with “the deficiency . . . of being narrow” is a reasonable characterization of the long passageway between the present-day Plaza de Armas and church of Santo Domingo, a street in modern Cuzco thought to date to Inca times (fig. 2).Footnote 40 Likewise, his description of three walls, “each one taller than the other,” near the complex he calls the fortress, brings to mind the monumental construction visible today at the archaeological site of Sacsayhuaman, on the mountaintop overlooking Cuzco’s historic center (fig. 3).Footnote 41
Other details in the description, however, are uncharacteristic of Inca architecture in Cuzco and elsewhere in the empire, and it is in those places that the modern reader suspects the intervention of someone who did not have firsthand knowledge about the subject of the text. For example, in the description of the four manor houses that, Sancho says, fronted the plaza, he singles out one of them and provides a curious detail about its ornamentation. “The best of these,” he writes, “is the house of Huayna Capac, the old chief, and its doorway is of red and white marble and of other colors.”Footnote 42 Red and white marble are materials that a sixteenth-century Spaniard like Sancho would have recognized, but they are not present in Inca royal architecture such as that found in Cuzco and its environs, and thus the passage raises questions about the words Sancho would have used to describe this house and how Ramusio might have translated them.Footnote 43 A similar problem surfaces in a passage on the complex of buildings Sancho calls the fortress, which had as its centerpiece, the author says, a tower made in the form of a cuba, a domed cubic structure of a type found in early modern Italy but not in Inca Peru.Footnote 44 The intervention of the translator is signaled in other, more straightforward ways, too. Not only does Ramusio note that the translation was “taken from the original,” but he also refers to the author in the third person: “Pedro Sancho . . . wrote it truly as it happened.”Footnote 45
Ramusio’s role in the production of the description comes to the fore in a close reading, but the materiality of the text as it was printed in Navigationi et viaggi more forcefully minimizes his presence and emphasizes Sancho’s authorship. It does so through the use of a typographic regime in which Ramusio’s voice is indicated through the use of italics. The editor’s introductory remarks, the table of contents, and editorial statements like “this translation is taken from the original” all appear in italics. The text of the “Relatione” and all other accounts that appear in the anthology, however, appear in roman typeface, thus distancing them from the voice and hand of the editor-translator. Another way in which the text of the “Relatione” emphasizes Sancho’s authorship is through its use of certain formulaic turns of phrase, an examination of which reveals some of the ways in which the practice of writing about architecture in early modern accounts of conquest contributed to the production of new kinds of spaces in the early modern Americas.
3. “Worthy of Being Seen in Spain”
One of the rhetorical themes of the description is signaled in its opening sentence, in which the author proclaims that “the city of Cuzco . . . is so great and so beautiful, and with so many buildings, that it would be worthy of being seen in Spain.”Footnote 46 Here the use of the phrase “worthy of being seen” (“degna da vedere”) suggests that the thing seen — the city of Cuzco — is so remarkable that it would be of visual interest to people in distant places, or, in a slightly different interpretation, that it would easily take its place among other attractive cities on the Iberian Peninsula. Similar turns of phrase appear throughout the “Relatione.” For example, in the text’s first paragraph, the author describes a finely worked golden basin taken from Cuzco by an advance party of Spaniards who raided the city as “a thing worthy of being seen.”Footnote 47 The conventionality of this rhetoric is evident when it is considered in relation to the broader corpus of descriptive literature on the sixteenth-century Americas. It also appears, for example, in the writings of Cortés, who in his third letter to Charles V describes skirmishes involving warriors from Tlaxcala in Central Mexico as “cosa para ver” (“something to see”).Footnote 48 Ramusio, who published that letter in Navigationi et viaggi in Italian, translates the phrase as “cosa degna da vedere,” thus expanding slightly upon the original Spanish text.Footnote 49
This rhetorical recourse to vision and worth permeates Sancho’s description of Cuzco. His strategy, however, entails more than simply the use of the phrase “worthy of being seen,” for the kind of seeing that is recorded throughout the text is often presented in terms that emphasize its embodiedness. For example, in describing Cuzco’s fortress, Sancho writes that “it has so many rooms and towers that one person would not be able to see all of it in one day.”Footnote 50 The passage conjures the vivid image of a person — indeed, of Sancho himself — roaming through the fortress, taking in his surroundings, and marveling at its expansiveness. Further emphasizing authorial vision in Sancho’s text is the frequent reference to the physical location of viewers within the urban spaces they occupy. For example, and simultaneously echoing the rhetoric of the description’s opening phrase, he writes of the many admirable buildings in Cuzco that are “worthy of being seen from terraces.”Footnote 51 In another passage, he considers the view of the city and its environs as seen from the vantage point of the fortress: “From this fortress, many houses can be seen around the town at a quarter of a league, and half a league, and a league. And in the valley that is half surrounded by hills, there are more than one hundred thousand houses.”Footnote 52 These passages and others situate the author in physically elevated positions — a terrace and a hilltop fortress — from which he takes in an expansive view of Cuzco’s architecture.
These references to eyewitnessing are, of course, not unique to Sancho’s “Relatione.” When Sancho writes of the fortress that “one person would not be able to see all of it in one day,” he contributes to the discourse on marvels and wonders that is so pervasive in the literature of the period and echoes passages from numerous other descriptive texts.Footnote 53 Among them is one by Xerez, who writes in his Verdadera relación de la conquista del Perú (True Report of the Conquest of Peru, 1534) that one of the Spaniards who had been to Cuzco reported to him that “in the eight days that they were there, they were not able to see everything.”Footnote 54 Moreover, Sancho’s description of his view of the surrounding valley from the hilltop fortress resonates with Cortés’s description of the central Mexican town of Cholula in his second letter to Charles V: “The city itself is more beautiful to look at than any in Spain, for it is very well proportioned and has many towers. And I assure Your Highness that from one temple I counted more than 430 towers, and they were all of temples.”Footnote 55 The conventionality of this rhetoric underscores the way in which Sancho’s description, like those of his contemporaries, insists upon the visual experience of the author. In this sense, the text itself conflicts with Luis Arocena’s assertion that, in the “Relatione” of Pedro Sancho, “the author does not make himself present in the text.”Footnote 56 Indeed, the author is present everywhere in the description of Cuzco as the embodied, emplaced, and experienced eye that suffuses the text with a sense of immediacy and veracity.
The accounts of Sancho and his contemporaries are united in their use of this rhetoric of visuality, but they are also interrelated in their emphasis on certain kinds of urbanistic details, and it is here that another kind of literary conventionality comes to the fore. Most notably, descriptive texts of the period frequently remark on the large size of cities in the Americas, the geometric regularity of their streets, and the presence of plazas and houses for their elites. Of Aztec Tenochtitlan, for example, Cortés writes that it is “as big as Seville or Córdoba. Its main streets are very wide and straight.”Footnote 57 He continues: “There are in this great city many very good and large houses, and the reason for having so many important houses is that all of the lords of the land, vassals of Moctezuma, have their houses in this city and reside in it at certain times of the year.”Footnote 58 Sancho, who also comments on the city’s size, the straightness of its streets, the presence of a plaza, and fine houses for the city’s lords and chiefs, further echoes Cortés in a comment on the nature of the sporadic residency of some of the city’s elites. “The chiefs,” he writes, “did not remain there constantly.”Footnote 59 These correspondences between Sancho’s description and that of Cortés may point to some structural similarities between Cuzco and Tenochtitlan, the capitals of two contemporary but unrelated American empires located some 4,700 kilometers (3,000 miles) from each another, but they also raise the possibility that there is something other than that which was actually seen by the authors that guided the production of the description. That guiding force is a mental inventory of things that make Cuzco (and Tenochtitlan, and other places) suitable for settlement by the Spaniards.
Key to Cuzco’s suitability in Sancho’s description is its identification as a familiar kind of built environment: a city. Sancho’s repeated use of the term city, which also appears throughout Cortés’s description of Tenochtitlan, might at first seem unremarkable. It was not, however, an empty or neutral term for literate sixteenth-century Spaniards like Pedro Sancho. The concept would have been understood in relation to the work of ancient and Renaissance historians for whom it comprised the dual entities of urbs — what could be called the built environment or infrastructure of the city — and civitas, the governed community of people who lived there.Footnote 60 Pedro Sancho’s Cuzco, however, is more urbs than civitas, for it is defined almost entirely by its houses, streets, plaza, and fortress. He mentions its inhabitants only rarely, in passing, and in the past tense. He writes, for example, that “the Lords used to build their houses there,” but he mentions only one of them by name: Huayna Capac, the king who ruled the Inca Empire from 1493 to 1525, and who had been dead for nearly a decade by the time Sancho was writing.Footnote 61 The effect of his rhetoric, then, is to present Inca Cuzco as an empty city that was both available and suitable for settlement by Spaniards. The city’s availability comes to the fore when Sancho discusses his understanding of the laws of inheritance among the Inca. He writes that “each past Lord has there [in Cuzco] his house of tribute goods that were given him in his life, because no succeeding Lord (so is the law among them) may after the death of the past Lord come to it in the inheritance.”Footnote 62 Cuzco’s buildings and their contents, Sancho implies, do not currently belong to any living person and are thus available for settlement.
The author’s view of Cuzco’s suitability as a place for Spanish settlement is contingent upon its fulfillment of a set of fundamental urbanistic requirements. These requirements were laid out in directives from the Crown to Pizarro and other leaders of expeditions to conquer and settle new territories, and they were both reinforced and modified through practical experience. The directive from Charles V to Pizarro, which was issued in Toledo on 26 July 1529, stipulates that “the residents and settlers be given by [Pizarro] the plots and lands appropriate to their persons, according to what was done and is done on the island of Española.”Footnote 63 The reference to Española is telling. It was on that island that, in 1502, the Spanish governor Nicolás de Ovando (1460–1518) founded Santo Domingo, a city that in the first decades of the century took shape as an irregular grid of streets. By the 1520s it accommodated houses for the citizenry as well as a church, a town hall, and several open plazas.Footnote 64 Pizarro would have known something about Santo Domingo from his experience there in 1502,Footnote 65 but the time he spent on the mainland some years later must have had an even-greater impact on his conception of the urbanistic requirements of Spanish settlements in the Americas. Indeed, he appears as a resident and office holder in the town of Panamá when it was founded by the colonial administrator Pedrarias Dávila (ca. 1440–1531) in 1519.Footnote 66 The Crown’s instructions to Dávila for the foundation of that and other towns in the region were more specific than those sent to Ovando, and they specify some of the key principles of settlement: “You must apportion the plots of land to make the houses, and those plots have to be apportioned according to the qualities of the people, and may they be from the beginning given in order. In that way, when the plots are distributed, the town will seem ordered, as much in the place where you put the plaza, as in the place where the church is, and as in the order that the streets have, for in places newly made with order in the beginning, they remain ordered without any work or cost, and the others are never ordered.”Footnote 67
The passage insists upon the importance of town planning and mentions a plaza and well-ordered houses and streets, precisely the elements that Sancho emphasizes in his description. Perhaps even more than Pizarro, who was illiterate, Sancho would have been aware of the principles articulated in these kinds of official instructions, in which architectural and urbanistic orderliness is always equated with social and political orderliness.Footnote 68 In light of the emphasis in official instructions on assigning plots of land for houses according to the social status of the town’s residents, it is not surprising that Sancho’s description is so focused on the wide range of fine houses that already existed in Cuzco when he and Pizarro arrived there in 1533. As he notes, and as cited above, “most of these houses are made of stone, and the others have half of the facade in stone. There are many houses made of earth and they are made with beautiful order.”Footnote 69
Cuzco’s fortress, the structure on which Sancho’s description dwells at greatest length, is another architectural element addressed in the Crown’s instructions to Pizarro: “You can make in the said lands and provinces of Peru up to four fortresses in the most appropriate regions and places that seem to you and to our said officials that they are necessary to guard and pacify the said lands . . . [and] you will make them at your own cost.”Footnote 70 Cuzco, Sancho emphasizes in the description, is already equipped with a superb fortress. “Five thousand Spaniards can stay within it,” he writes, adding that “it cannot be attacked, nor can it be mined, because it is set on top of a rock.”Footnote 71 In this light, Sancho’s description comes to be seen as an attempt to convince his intended readership of royal authorities that Cuzco, an already existing but uninhabited city in the Americas, was suitable for Spanish settlement in spite of its not having been designed by Pizarro or anyone in his company.
4. “Principal City of the Province of Peru”
Sancho’s textual image of Cuzco was enhanced for readers of Ramusio’s Navigationi et viaggi by a woodcut that appears on folios 411v and 412r in the anthology, precisely at the point in the “Relatione” at which Sancho launches into his description of the city (fig. 1). The print depicts the Inca capital as a walled, rectangular town set in a sparsely vegetated and hilly landscape dotted with four or five smaller settlements. Thirteen human figures, some of them in suits of armor, and five horses populate spaces outside of the city’s crenellated walls. Seven fortified gates provide access to a grid of streets and canals that divides the city into densely built blocks whose buildings feature towers, domes, pediments, and arches. On one side rises a stepped structure consisting of three platforms topped with a domed building surrounded by a fortified wall. In an open space in front of that structure, four figures escort a litter, carried by four porters, on which another figure reclines. Above them is the word Atabalipa, a variant on Atahualpa, the name of the Inca king who ruled the empire when Pizarro and his followers arrived in his realms in the 1530s. Twenty-one additional figures stand on the lower levels of the stepped platform, and a lone figure stands guard at the city gate that is closest to it. A banner floating above this built environment identifies it as “Cuzco, principal city of the province of Peru” (“città principale della provincia del Peru”).
Like the text it accompanied, the image had never before appeared in print, and thus it too may have made the volume attractive to collectors of books in sixteenth-century Venice and elsewhere. But while early modern readers may have found the view of Cuzco to be exciting in its novelty, modern scholarship has been less enthusiastic about it, often emphasizing an issue that by now seems obvious: it is unreliable as evidence for the appearance of Inca Cuzco. Sabine MacCormack, for example, wrote that it “bears no realistic resemblance to Cuzco as it then was but instead transforms it into an imaginary Renaissance city of sorts.”Footnote 72 Noting that the historian Joaquín García Icazbalceta had, as early as the nineteenth century, described the view as a capricho (capricious image), Richard Kagan suggests that the maker of the image, like the author of the related text, attempted to convey the sophistication and wealth of the Inca through recourse to the symmetrical forms of the ideal city that would be understood by a sixteenth-century European audience.Footnote 73 A closer look at the conditions surrounding the image’s production as well as an examination of its composition and architectural iconography sheds light on some of the ways in which Ramusio’s sixteenth-century audience may have understood the description and the larger narrative of the conquest of Peru in which it was embedded. Indeed, this image of Cuzco, while not a photographic likeness of the city, is evidence of its maker’s interpretation of Sancho’s “Relatione” as it was translated by Ramusio.
The making of visual images for Navigationi et viaggi is mentioned by Ramusio himself in his dedicatory epistle to Fracastoro, which appears at the beginning of the book and is dated to 20 June 1553.Footnote 74 Ramusio indicates that Fracastoro had suggested the inclusion of tavole (plates) in the volume, and that in response to this suggestion, the editor commissioned Giacomo de Gastaldi, whom he identifies as “cosmografo eccelente” (“an excellent cosmographer”), to make them.Footnote 75 The image of Cuzco, which had never before appeared in print, must have been one of these. In the absence of additional clues about those involved in the woodcut’s production, Gastaldi remains the leading candidate for its authorship.
Gastaldi had never traveled to Cuzco, and thus, unlike the text, the woodcut cannot claim to be the product of eyewitness engagement with its subject. Close correspondences between the text and the image, however, suggest that its maker relied heavily on the accompanying description, for points of commonality between them are numerous. Perhaps most obviously, the high point of view provides visual access to the entire city and gives graphic form to the language of embodied and experienced visuality that is so pervasive in the text. In its use of this high vantage point, the image, too, is conventional, calling to mind other oblique views of cities, such as those in Hartman Schedel’s Liber cronicarum (Book of Chronicles, 1493) or Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia (Cosmography, 1550).Footnote 76 Many of the views in Münster’s volume, such as that of Cagliari, Sardinia (fig. 4), also utilize the convention of the banner that floats above the city and bear its name, a feature shared by the image of Cuzco.
Other details of Cuzco’s infrastructure as represented in the woodcut resonate with specific passages from Sancho’s text. For example, the disposition of the city’s streets in the image echoes Sancho’s assertion that “the roads are made in cruciform [and] very straight.”Footnote 77 The plaza, through which the litter-borne figure is carried, is — as the author writes — “in a square shape,” and in the image, as in the text, two rivers pass along the sides of the city.Footnote 78 The houses surrounding the plaza that Sancho described as “residences of the lords” are multistoried constructions, many of them with arched windows, pediments, and other forms of classical architectural ornament.Footnote 79
The largest and most unusual structure in the city is the one Sancho calls the fortress, and its representation in the woodcut as a walled precinct set atop a stepped platform corresponds in some ways to the text. For example, Sancho writes that “inside of [the fortress] are many housing quarters and a main tower in the middle made in the style of a domed cube.”Footnote 80 The graphic counterpart to “the main tower in the middle made in the style of a domed cube” is clear, but the textual referent to the stepped platform is less apparent. It may possibly be found in the passage in which Sancho describes the fortress as having “four or five walls, each one taller than the other.”Footnote 81
The crenellated perimeter wall that encloses Inca Cuzco in the woodcut, however, has no counterpart in Sancho’s description, but its presence may relate in part to the appearance of the city in the only other image of it that circulated in print in the sixteenth century. First published in Seville in 1553, the year before the publication of Navigationi et viaggi in Venice, that illustration appeared in Pedro de Cieza de León’s Parte primera de la chronica del Peru (First Part of the Chronicle of Peru) (fig. 5). Also a woodcut, it depicted Cuzco as a city with crenellated wall and towers seen from a distance. That image, however, would not have provided the only cue to the maker of the print in Navigationi et viaggi to include a city wall. Cuzco, as it is evoked in the text, is an orthogonally planned city with a fortress on one of its sides. This urban typology, the fortress city, would have been visible to the sixteenth-century maker of the image in the form of actual cities in Italy and elsewhere, as well as in printed and painted imagery, and it invariably included a perimeter wall.Footnote 82 This urban form was also the subject of treatises on military architecture that circulated in the mid-sixteenth century, a number of which were published in Venice. Among them was Pietro Cataneo’s I quattro primi libri di architettura, first published in Venice in 1554, which included several woodcut images of walled cities with fortresses (fig. 6). The images in the treatises of Cataneo and his contemporaries, however, tended to represent those ideal urban spaces as polygonal rather than rectangular. Polygonal forms, and especially the pentagon, dominated military architecture in the sixteenth century. Quadrangular forms with pointed bastions, however, also were sometimes used for citadels, castles, and fortress cities. In the case of the latter, they have been interpreted as having developed from the form of the Roman castrum.Footnote 83
The architectural typology of the walled, rectangular citadel that developed from the Roman castrum may also have served as a point of reference for the maker of the image of Cuzco, for it calls to mind a number of passages in Sancho’s text in which the author compares the stonework of Cuzco’s fortress to works of Roman architecture.Footnote 84 For example, he writes that “the Spaniards that see it say that neither the aqueduct of Segovia nor the other buildings that Hercules or the Romans made, are so worthy to see as this. The city of Tarragona has some work in its wall made in this manner, but it is not so sturdy nor of stones as grand.”Footnote 85 This passage, which compares the stonework of the city wall of Tarragona with that of Cuzco, associates architectural forms seen in the New World with ancient structures in peninsular Spain, but its rhetoric also participates in a broader phenomenon in which the people, places, and institutions of Roman antiquity informed European conceptions of those in the Andes and elsewhere in the Americas.Footnote 86 In light of this, the view’s representation of Atahualpa and the armed inhabitants of Inca Cuzco, with their cloaks, helmets, and long spears, might be seen to make a comparison to Roman elites and warriors.
The presence of Atahualpa and his retinue in the woodcut image is, like the presence of the perimeter wall, a way in which the image, which is in so many ways tied closely to the text, departs from the story told by Pedro Sancho. With the inclusion of figures, the woodcut constructs a narrative about Cuzco in which a small group of Spaniards, with their horses and plumed helmets, moves through the landscape outside of the city’s walls and approach its gates while the Inca emperor, near the center of the city, is carried through its plaza. The image employs some of the graphic conventions of early modern siege views, but the scene is not one of violent militaristic engagement. Instead it suggests a less confrontational encounter. But in stark contrast to the pictorial narrative in the city view, Sancho never locates Atahualpa in Cuzco. His text begins in 1533 at a time when the emperor was already being held captive by the Spaniards in Cajamarca, “three hundred leagues,” Sancho says, from Cuzco.Footnote 87 The account of Atahualpa’s execution appears in the first chapter of the “Relatione,” long before the description of Cuzco, which appears near its end.
Atahualpa’s presence in Cuzco is also absent from the accounts of the conquest of Peru by Xerez and the anonymous Spanish captain included by Ramusio in Navigationi et viaggi.Footnote 88 Xerez’s account, however, may have served as a point of reference for one of the details in the woodcut image of Cuzco. His text describes the first encounter between the Spaniards and Atahualpa in the plaza of Cajamarca where, the author writes, the Inca emperor was carried “on a litter with parrot feathers of many colors, and adorned with gold and silver plates. Many Indians carried it on their shoulders on high.”Footnote 89 That scene of encounter appeared as a woodcut on the title page to the 1534 edition of Xerez’s Relación published in Seville (fig. 7), and that image may have informed the depiction in Navigationi et viaggi, where Atahualpa is also carried through the plaza on a litter.
It is clear, however, that the larger narrative conveyed by the woodcut of Cuzco does not correspond to any of the accompanying conquest texts, for in them, Atahualpa and the Spaniards are never present in or near Cuzco at the same time. This disjunction between the text and image, however, is not necessarily a case of misunderstanding on the part of the maker of the view. It may be, for example, that he was making use of the convention of continuous narrative. But at the same time, his commingling of the real and the ideal in his view of Cuzco reveals the epistemic values that guided the practice of urban representation in early modernity. To the designer of the image, who clearly had read Sancho’s description, Cuzco’s urban form was that of a fortress city that was governed at one time by a king, but which would ultimately be taken by the Spaniards. Portraying the presence of the Inca king and, simultaneously, that of the Spaniards in Cuzco, is disturbing to modern conceptions of objectivity, but this practice calls to mind the similar impulses that governed other modes of representation in early modernity. The plural temporality of the image captures the early modern ideal of truth to nature, in which characteristics believed to be essential to any entity take precedence over particularities.Footnote 90 A similar engagement of mimesis and artifice, of likeness and character, and of the real and the ideal characterizes some modes of Renaissance portraiture, and Gastaldi’s image of Cuzco is profitably seen in this broader context of visual representation in early modernity.Footnote 91
Within the representational episteme of truth to nature, it may have been possible that Ramusio and his audience considered the woodcut image of Cuzco to be, in some sense, truer than Sancho’s description, for it conveyed the city’s character as a wondrous, well-planned, captured capital of a kingdom in a more economical way than did the text it accompanied. The greater import of the image in the construction of ideas about Cuzco, however, may be gauged by its wider dissemination in early modern Europe and, presumably, elsewhere. Slightly altered versions of it appeared in the two subsequent editions of Navigationi et viaggi published in Venice (1565, 1606), and it served as the point of departure for countless other images of Cuzco that circulated in print throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. These included, for example, the one in Braun and Hogenberg’s Civitates orbis terrarum (Cities of the World, 1572) (fig. 8), in which the scene of Atahualpa’s procession on a litter is repeated in larger scale in the foreground, and in Mallet’s Description de l’Univers (Description of the World, 1683), in which the orientation of the view is reversed (fig. 9).Footnote 92 The most radical transformation of Gastaldi’s view of Cuzco, however, occurred in the eighteenth century, when it was transformed into a widely reproduced plan (fig. 10). The shift in point of view and genre (that is, a plan instead of a view) is indicative of changing notions of historical objectivity: the embodied spectator is effaced, and the city’s contours are conveyed in the more mechanical way that is characteristic of the work of archaeologists and city planners.
In contrast to the woodcut’s afterlife, which was characterized by widespread dissemination for two centuries, followed by abandonment as a source of information about the appearance of Inca Cuzco, Sancho’s text — which was not widely reproduced in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries — was revived in the nineteenth century when it was published in a Spanish translation by García Icazbalceta and, subsequently, used by historians and anthropologists as a source for reconstructing the architecture and plan of Inca Cuzco. The description, however, is evidence of more than the appearance of Inca Cuzco, for its rhetoric — conventional though it may be — had agency. Indeed, its effect was that of producing for Ramusio’s readers an image of Inca Cuzco as a sophisticated urban setting well suited for Spanish colonial settlement even before any new construction there was initiated. The open ceremonial place in the Inca capital that scholars today call Haucaypata (Quechua, “terrace of repose” or “open terrace”), was transformed in the pages of Ramusio’s anthology into a plaza mayor, a key feature of Spanish peninsular and colonial towns. Similarly, the walled precincts that pertained to the descendants of Inca kings from the past became, in Sancho’s “Relatione,” abandoned manor houses to be distributed among the city’s new lords, its first Spanish settlers. In Ramusio’s Navigationi et viaggi, the production of space occurs through the use of words and images to project new ideas and values onto a pre-Hispanic built environment and to thus render it intelligible to readers of books from the Andes to the Adriatic and beyond.