Robert Kerr.

A General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 04 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a online

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battles with the Tlascalans. The affair of Cholula. On our entry into
Mexico, I was at the seizure of Montezuma, which I do not enumerate as a
warlike exploit, but on account of its great boldness. Four months
afterwards, when with 276 men, Cortes defeated Narvaez who had 1300. The
relief of Alvarado, when the Mexicans made incessant attacks upon us
during eight days and nights, during which I reckon eight several battles,
at all of which I was present, and in the course of which we lost 870 men.
The battle of Obtumba or Otompan. A battle at Tepeaca. A battle at Tezcuco.
Two battles, in one of which I was wounded in the throat by a lance. Two
actions about the maize fields near Chalco. The rash attack on the
fortresses called the Rocks of the Marquis in our expedition round the
lake. The battle of Cuernavaca. Three battles at Xochimilco. During the
siege of Mexico, which lasted _ninety-three_ days, I find by my account
that I was engaged in upwards of eighty battles and skirmishes. After the
conquest, I was sent out on various expeditions to reduce Coatzacualco,
Chiapa, and the Zapotecans, in which we had several engagements. In
Chamula and Cuitlan, two engagements. In Teapa and Chematlan two others,
in one of which I was badly wounded in the throat. I forgot to mention,
that we were pursued for nine days in our flight from Mexico, and had to
fight four battles before the great one at Otompan. Several actions in our
expedition to Higueras and Honduras, during which in a battle at Culacotu
I had a horse killed under me which cost 600 crowns. After my return to
Mexico, I went upon an expedition into the mountains against the Zapotecas
and Mixtecas. I have on the whole been present in _one hundred and
nineteen_ battles, engagements, and skirmishes; so that it is not
wonderful if I praise myself for the many and notable services which I
have rendered to God, his majesty and all Christendom: And I give thanks
and praise to the Lord Jesus Christ, who hath preserved me in so many


[1] In this section Diaz gives a minute enumeration _of the valiant
companions who passed over to the conquest of Mexico with the most
adventurous and most magnanimous Don Hernando Cortes, Marquis of the
Valley_. This must assuredly be a most valuable document to vast
numbers of the present inhabitants of New Spain, by enabling them to
trace their honourable descent from the conquerors; but, as totally
uninteresting to the English reader, is here omitted. - E.

[2] These are the ordinary municipal officers of Spanish townships,
answerable to our mayors, aldermen, bailiffs, constables, &c. - E.

* * * * *




The present chapter, like that immediately preceding from the pen of
Bernal Diaz, although in strict language neither a journey nor a voyage,
records in every step of the conquerors a new _discovery_ of coasts,
islands, rivers, districts, and tribes, that had never been visited before.
In conformity with our uniform desire to have recourse upon all occasions
to the most authentic original authorities for every article admitted into
this collection, so far as in our power, the work of Zarate has been
chosen as the record of the discovery and conquest of Peru, in preference
to any modern compilation on the same subject. As we learn from himself,
Zarate was a person of rank and education, who went into Peru in 1543,
only _eighteen_ years after the first movements of Pizarro and Almagro
towards the discovery of that extensive country, and only _eleven_ years
after its actual invasion by Pizarro in 1532. From the illustrious
historian of America, Dr William Robertson, the work which we now offer to
the public for the first time in the English language, has the following
high character: "The history of Zarate, whether we attend to its matter or
composition, is a book of considerable merit, and great credit is due to
his testimony." Besides this general eulogy; in his enumeration of six
original authors whom he had consulted in the composition of that portion
of his History of America which refers to Peru, he clearly shews that
Zarate alone can be considered as at the same time perfectly authentic and
sufficiently copious for the purpose we have at present in view. The
substance of his account of all the six is as follows.

"_Two_ of the more early writers on the subject of the discovery and
conquest of Peru, Francisco de Xeres, the secretary of Pizarro, and Pedro
Sanchez, an officer who served under the conqueror, break off almost in
the introduction to the narrative, going no farther into the history of
the conquest than the death of Atahualpa in 1533, only one year after the
invasion of Peru. The _third_ in point of time, Pedro Cioca de Leon, only
two years earlier in his publication than Zarate, gives nothing more than
a description of the country, and an account of the institutions and
customs of the natives. Zarate is the _fourth_. The _fifth_, Don Diego
Fernandez, solely relates to the dissentions and civil wars among the
Spanish conquerors. The _sixth_ and last of these original authors,
Garcilasso de la Vega _Inca_, the son of a Spanish officer of distinction
by a _Coya_, or Peruvian female of the royal race, gives little more than
a commentary on the before mentioned writers, and was not published till
1609, seventy five years after the invasion of Peru by Pizarro[1]."

In the Bibliotheque des Voyages, VI. 319. mention is made of a Description
of Peru as published in French in 1480, and said to be a very rare work:
_Rare_, indeed, if the imprint be not an error, _fifty-two_ years before
the actual invasion and discovery. In the same useful work, the
performance of Zarate is thus characterized. "The author has not confined
his views to the history and conquest of Peru, but has given us a
statement of the natural features of the country, an account of the
manners of the inhabitants, and a curious picture of the religious
opinions and institutions of the Peruvians."

Four of the six original authors respecting Peru which are noticed by
Robertson, we have not seen; having confined our views to that of Zarate,
which is not only the best according to the opinion of that excellent
judge, but the only one which could answer the purpose of our present
collection. In preparing this original work for publication, it is proper
to acknowledge that we have been satisfied with translating from the
French edition of Paris, 1742; but, besides every attention to fidelity of
translation, it has been carefully collated throughout with the _Royal
Commentary_ of the Inca Garcilasso de la Vega, as published in English by
Sir Paul Rycaut, knight, in 1688; and with the excellent work of Dr
Robertson. It may be proper to mention, however, that the following
translation, though faithful, has been made with some freedom of
retrenching a superfluity of useless language; though nothing has been
omitted in point of fact, and nothing altered.

Having mentioned the work of Garcilasso de la Vega, which we have employed
as an auxiliary on the present occasion, it may be worth while to give a
short account of it in this place: For there never was, perhaps, a
literary composition so strangely mixed up of unconnected and discordant
sense and nonsense, and so totally devoid of any thing like order or
arrangement, in the whole chronology of authorship, or rather of
book-making, as has been produced by this scion of the Incas. No
consideration short of our duty to the public, could have induced us to
wade through such a labyrinth of absurdity in quest of information. It is
astonishing how the honest knight could have patience to translate 1019
closely printed folio pages of such a farrago; and on closing the work of
the Inca for ever, we heartily joined in the concluding pious thanksgiving
of the translator, _Praised be God_. This enormous literary production of
the _Inca_ Garcilasso, is most regularly divided and subdivided into parts,
books, and chapters; which contain here a little history, then digressions
on manners, customs, opinions, ceremonies, laws, policy, arts, animals,
vegetables, agriculture, buildings, &c. &c. &c. intermixed with bits and
scraps of history, in an endless jumble; so that for every individual
circumstance on any one of these topics, the pains-taking reader must turn
over the whole work with the most anxious attention. We quote an example,
taken absolutely at random, the titles of the Chapters of Part I. Book ix.

Chap. I. Huayna Capac makes a gold chain as big as a cable, and why. II.
Reduces ten vallies of the coast. III. Punishes some murderers. IV.-VII.
Incidents of his reign, confusedly related. VIII. Gods and customs of the
Mantas. IX. Of giants formerly in Peru. X. Philosophical sentiments of the
Inca concerning the sun. XI. and XII. Some incidents of his reign. XIII.
Construction of two extensive roads. XIV. Intelligence of the Spaniards
being on the coast. XV. Testament and death of Huayna Capac. XVI. How
horses and mares were first bred in Peru. XVII. Of cows and oxen.
XVIII.-XXIII. Of various animals, all introduced after the conquest.
XXIV.-XXXI. Of various productions, some indigenous, and others introduced
by the Spaniards. XXXII. Huascar claims homage from Atahualpa. XXXIII.-XL.
Historical incidents, confusedly arranged, all without dates.

The whole work is equally confused at best, and often much more so; often
consisting of extracts from other writers, with commentaries,
argumentations, ridiculous speeches, miracles, and tales recited by old
_Incas_ and _Coyas_, uncles aunts and cousins of the author. To add to the
difficulty of consultation, Sir Paul, having exhausted his industry in the
translation, gives no table of contents whatever, and a most miserable
Index which hardly contains an hundredth part of the substance of the work.
Yet the author of the Bibliotheque des Voyages, says "that this work is
_very precious_, as it contains the only remaining notices of the
government, laws, manners, and customs of the Peruvians." - Ed.

[1] History of America, _note_ cxxv.


After having enjoyed the office of secretary to the royal council of
Castille for fifteen years, the king was graciously pleased to order me to
Peru in 1543, as treasurer-general of that province and of the Tierra
Firma; in which employment I was entrusted with the entire receipt of the
royal revenues and rights, and the payment of all his majesties officers
in those countries. I sailed thither in the fleet which conveyed Blasco
Nugnez Vela the viceroy of Peru; and immediately on my arrival in the New
World, I observed so many insurrections, disputes, and novelties, that I
felt much inclined to transmit their memory to posterity. I accordingly
wrote down every transaction as it occurred; but soon discovered that
these could not be understood unless the previous events were explained
from which they originated. I found it necessary, therefore, to go back to
the epoch of the discovery of the country, to give a detail of the
occurrences in their just order and connection. My work might perhaps have
been somewhat more perfect, if I had been able to compose it in regular
order while in Peru; but a brutal major-general, who had served under
Gonzalo Pizarro[1], threatened to put any one to death who should presume
to write a history of his transactions, so that I was obliged to satisfy
myself with collecting all the documents I could procure for enabling me
to compose my history after returning into Spain. He was perhaps right in
wishing these transactions might fall into oblivion, instead of being
transmitted to posterity.

Should my style of writing be found not to possess all the polish that my
readers may desire, it will at least record the true state of events; and
I shall not be disappointed if it only serve to enable another to present
a history of the same period in more elegant language and more orderly
arrangement. I have principally directed my attention to a strict regard
for truth, the soul of history, using neither art nor disguise in my
description of things and events which I have seen and known; and in
relating those matters which happened before my arrival, I have trusted to
the information of dispassionate persons, worthy of credit. These were not
easy to find in Peru, most persons having received either benefits or
injuries from the party of Pizarro or that of Almagro; which were as
violent in their mutual resentments as the adherents of Marius and Sylla,
or of Caesar and Pompey of old.

In all histories there are three chief requisites: the designs, the
actions, and the consequences. In the two latter particulars I have used
all possible care to be accurate. If I may not always agree with other
authors in regard to the first of these circumstances, I can only say that
such is often the case with the most accurate and faithful historians.
After I had finished this work, it was my intention to have kept it long
unpublished, lest I might offend the families of those persons whose
improper conduct is therein pourtrayed. But some persons to whom I had
communicated my manuscript, shewed it to the king during his voyage to
England, who had it read to him as an amusement from the tiresomeness of
the voyage. My work had the good fortune to please his majesty, who
honoured it with his approbation, and graciously commanded me to have it
printed; and which I have the more readily complied with, as his royal
commands may protect my book from the cavils of the censorious readers.

* * * * *

Much difficulty occurs respecting the origin of the people who inhabited
Peru and the other provinces of America, and by what means their ancestors
could have crossed the vast extent of sea which separates that country
from the old world. In my opinion this may be explained from what is said
by Plato in his _Timaeus_, and the subsequent dialogue entitled _Atlantis_.
He says: "That the Egyptians report, to the honour of the Athenians, that
they contributed to defeat certain kings who came with a numerous army by
sea from the great island of Atlantis, which, beginning beyond the Pillars
of Hercules, is larger than all Asia and Africa together, and is divided
into ten kingdoms which Neptune gave among his ten sons, Atlas, the eldest,
having the largest and most valuable share." Plato adds several remarkable
particulars concerning the customs and riches of that island; especially
concerning a magnificent temple in the chief city, the walls of which were
entirely covered over with gold and silver, having a roof of copper, and
many other circumstances which are here omitted for the sake of brevity;
though it is certain that several customs and ceremonies mentioned by
Plato are still practised in the provinces of Peru. Beyond the great
island of Atlantis, there were other large islands not far distant from
the _Firm Land_, beyond which again was the _True Sea_. The following are
the words which Plato attributes, in his Timaeus, to Socrates, as spoken
to the Athenians. "It is held certain, that in ancient times your city
resisted an immense number of enemies from the Atlantic Ocean, who had
conquered almost all Europe and Asia. In those days the _Straits_ were
navigable, and immediately beyond them there was an island, commencing
almost at the _Pillars of Hercules_, which was said to be larger than Asia
and Africa united; from whence the passage was easy to other islands near
and opposite to the continent of the _True Sea_." A little after this
passage, it is added. "That nine thousand years before his days, a great
change took place, as the sea adjoining that island was so increased by
the accession of a prodigious quantity of water, that in the course of one
day it swallowed up the whole island; since when that sea has remained so
full of shallows and sand banks as to be no longer navigable, neither has
any one been able to reach the other islands and the _Firm Land_."

Some authors hare believed this recital to be merely allegorical, while
most of the commentators on Plato considered it as a real historical
narrative. The _nine thousand years_, mentioned by Plato, must not be
considered as an indication of this discourse being fabulous; since,
according to Eudoxus, we must understand them as lunar years or _moons_,
after the Egyptian mode of computation, _or nine thousand months_, which
are _seven hundred and fifty years_. All historians and cosmographers,
ancient as well as modern, have concurred to name the sea by which that
great island was swallowed up, the _Atlantic Ocean_, in which the name of
that ancient island is retained, giving a strong evidence of its former
existence. Adopting, therefore the truth of this historical fact, it must
be granted that this island of Atlantis, beginning from the Straits of
Gibraltar near Cadiz, must have stretched a vast way from north to south,
and from east to west, since it was larger than all Asia and Africa. The
_other_ islands in the neighbourhood must have been those now named
Hispaniola, Cuba, Porto Rico, Jamaica, and others of the West Indies; and
the _Firm Land_, that part of the Continent to which we still give the
name of _Tierra Firma_, together with the other countries and provinces of
America, from the Straits of Magellan in the south to the extreme north;
as Peru, Popayan, Golden Castille, Veragua, Nicaragua, Guatimala, New
Spain, _the Seven Cities_, Florida, _Baccalaos_, and so on along the north
to Norway. The authority of Plato is conclusive that the _New World_ which
has been discovered in our time, is the same Continent or Firm Land
mentioned by that philosopher; and his _True Sea_ must be that which we
name the _South Sea_, or Pacific Ocean; for the whole Mediterranean, and
all that was before known of the Ocean, which we call the _North Sea_, can
only be considered as rivers or lakes in comparison with the vast extent
of that other sea. After these explanations, it is not difficult to
conceive how mankind in ancient times may have passed from the great
island of _Atlantis_ and the _other_ neighbouring isles, to what we now
call the Tierra Firma, or _Firm Land_, and thence by land, or by the South
Sea, into Peru: As we must believe that the inhabitants of these islands
practised navigation, which they must have learned by intercourse with the
great island, in which Plato expressly says there were many ships, and
carefully constructed harbours. These, in my opinion, are the most
probable conjectures which can be formed on this obscure subject of
antiquity; more especially as we can derive no lights from the Peruvians,
who have no writing by which to preserve the memory of ancient times. In
New Spain, indeed, they had certain pictures, which answered in some
measure instead of books and writings; but in Peru, they only used certain
strings of different colours with several knots, by means of which and the
distances between them, they were able to express some things in a very
confused and uncertain manner, as shall be explained in the course of this

So much of the following history as relates to the discovery of the
country, has been derived from the information of Rodrigo Lozan, an
inhabitant of Truxillo in Peru, and from others who were witnesses of and
actors in the transactions which I have detailed.

[1] Even the orthography of the name of Pizarro is handed down to us with
some variety. In the work of Garcilasso de la Vega it is always spelt
Piçarro: Besides which, the Inca Garcilasso, in his almost perpetual
quotations of our author Zarate, always gives the name Carate; the _ç_,
or cerilla _c_, being equivalent in Spanish to the _z_ in the other
languages of Europe. - E.


_Of the discovery of Peru, with some account of the country and its

The city of Panama is a port on the South Sea, in that province of the
continent of America which is called Golden Castille. In the year 1524,
three inhabitants of that city entered into an association for the purpose
of discovering the western coast of the continent by the South Sea, in
that direction which has been since named Peru. These were Don Francisco
Pizarro of Truxillo, Don Diego de Almagro of Malagon, and Hernando de
Luque, an ecclesiastic. No one knew the family or origin of Almagro,
though some said that he had been found at a church door[1]. These men,
being among the richest of the colonists of Panama, proposed to themselves
to enrich and aggrandize themselves by means of discovering new countries,
and to do important service to the emperor, Don Carlos V. by extending his
dominions. Having received permission from Pedro Arias de Avila[2], who
then governed that country, Francisco Pizarro fitted out a vessel with
considerable difficulty, in which he embarked with 114 men. About fifty
leagues from Panama, he discovered a small and poor district, named _Peru_,
from which that name has been since improperly extended to all the country
afterwards discovered along that coast to the south for more than 1200
leagues. Beyond that Peru, he discovered another district, to which the
Spaniards gave the name of _El Pueblo quemado_, or the _Burnt People_. The
Indians of that country made war upon him with so much obstinacy, and
killed so many of his men, that he was constrained to retreat to
_Chinchama_ or Chuchama, not far from Panama.

In the mean time, Almagro fitted out another vessel at Panama, in which he
embarked with 70 men, and went along the coast in search of Pizarro as far
as the river San Juan, a hundred leagues from Panama. Not finding him
there, Almagro returned along the coast to the _Pueblo quemado_, where,
from certain indications of Pizarro having been there, he landed with his
men. The Indians, puffed up with the remembrance of the victory they had
gained over Pizarro, attacked Almagro with great courage, and did him
considerable injury; and one day they even penetrated the entrenchment he
had thrown up for defence, through some negligence in the guards, and put
the Spaniards to flight, who were forced to retreat with loss to their
vessel and put to sea, on which occasion Almagro lost an eye. Following
the shore on the way back towards Panama, Almagro found Pizarro at
Chinchama[3]. Pizarro was much pleased by the junction of Almagro, as by
means of his men, and some additional soldiers they procured in Chinchama,
they had now a force of two hundred Spaniards. They accordingly
recommenced the expedition, endeavouring to sail down the coast to the
southwards in two vessels and three large canoes. In this navigation they
suffered great fatigue from contrary winds and currents, and were much
incommoded when they attempted to land in any of the numerous small rivers
which fall into the South Sea, as they all swarmed at their mouths with
large lizards, or alligators, called caymans by the natives. These animals,
are ordinarily from twenty to twenty-five feet long, and kill either men
or beasts when in the water. They come out of the water to lay their eggs,
which they bury in great numbers in the sand, leaving them to be hatched
by the heat of the sun. These caymans have a strong resemblance to the
crocodiles of the river Nile. The Spaniards suffered much from hunger in
this voyage, as they could find nothing fit to eat along this coast except
the fruit of a tree called mangles, which grew in great abundance
everywhere along the shore. These trees are tall and straight, and have a
very hard wood; but as they grow on the shore, their roots being drenched
in sea water, their fruit is salt and bitter; yet necessity obliged the
Spaniards to subsist on them, along with such fish as they could find,
particularly crabs; as on the whole of that coast no maize was grown by
the natives. From the currents along this coast, which always set strongly
to the north, they were obliged to make their way by dint of constant
rowing; always harassed by the Indians, who assailed them with loud cries,
calling them banished men, and _hairy faces_, who were formed from the
spray of the sea, and wandered about without cultivating the earth, like
outcasts and vagabonds.

Having lost several of his men through famine and by the incessant attacks
of the Indians, it was agreed that Almagro should return to Panama for
recruits and provisions. Having procured twenty-four, they advanced with

Online LibraryRobert KerrA General History and Collection of Voyages and Travels — Volume 04 Arranged in Systematic Order: Forming a Complete History of the Origin and Progress of Navigation, Discovery, and Commerce, by Sea a → online text (page 34 of 52)