9 julio, 2024

Social organization of the Incas: social classes and their representatives

The Inca social organization It was characterized by being inflexible. The social classes that made it up were very different from each other and absolute power rested on a single man, the Inca.

Historical records indicate that there were three well-defined social classes. On one side was royalty, which corresponded to the most powerful sector; below this were the nobles, who could be by consanguinity or privileges obtained; and finally, in the lowest line of the pyramid was the town.

Despite this marked hierarchization, the Inca society gave great importance to the collective, and even the idea of ​​a group could surpass the idea of ​​the individual. For example, researchers indicate that the basic principles of this community were reciprocal work and the redistribution of the elements obtained as a result of that work.

The Inca Empire spread widely and covered a large amount of territory over time; this implied that they had to govern in spaces where they were not the original settlers.

Social classes and their representatives

– Royalty

The Inca royalty was made up of only three figures: the Inca, the coya and the auqui. Next we will describe the characteristics of each one:


He was also known as Sapa Inca and was the head of the government. The right to rule was dictated by divinity, so the Inca was considered to be the direct link between men and women and the gods.

The Inca was in charge of relating to other empires, with which he could ally or confront through war conflicts. He was also in charge of managing community resources and approving public works.

This ruler had many privileges, he chose the women with whom he lived and was the one who made the important decisions of the community.


It was the wife of the Inca. According to the organization of this civilization, the Inca could have an intimate relationship with several women, but the coya was the main partner of the ruler.

It is said that the coya was part of the ruler’s panaca. The panacas were those lineages that were directly connected to an Inca; They represented the presence and the constant vainglory towards the memory of the Inca who was on the throne.


The auqui was the next Inca, the one who would inherit the throne. According to several sources, the auqui was chosen among the children of the Inca; however, he did not necessarily have to be the first son, but he could be anyone who had the necessary skills to govern.

This character was within the panaca of the ruler of the moment. Every next ruler of the Empire had to be here first, and had to be here while the Inca was reigning.

– Nobility

In the Inca Empire it was easy to distinguish the nobles from those who were not: the former sported large ears as a result of huge earrings that had the function of expanding the area.

The nobles enjoyed power within the Empire and could be noble by consanguinity or by privilege. Next we will describe the most important characteristics of each group:

blood nobility

They were those men belonging to the ruler’s panaca, as well as the descendants of those who belonged to these lineages.

These nobles were in charge of administrative and military tasks, and they were quite numerous: it is estimated that at the decline of the Inca Empire there were at least 10,000 nobles.

privileged nobility

The privileged nobles were not related by blood to the Inca, but offered services to the Empire that earned them this appointment.

The Inca directly (or also members of his close circle) was the one who promoted a man to a privileged nobleman. Within this category were found priests and officials.

– Ayllu

This level of the Inca organization included the largest number of inhabitants. It was about the community as such, made up of the different people who made life in the Empire and who carried out the tasks that guaranteed its operation.

The general feeling was that all the members of the ayllu were descendants of a common ancestor, which generated in them the willingness to work together and with solidarity values.

Within this category there were groups that fulfilled different functions; among these, the mitimaes, the yanaconas, the piñas and the hatun runa stand out.


They were family groups that moved to other areas by order of the Empire to colonize and administer the colonized spaces. These families directed the economic, cultural, social and political spheres of the new subjugated territory.

Some sources indicate that they had few freedoms and that they had to fulfill their functions until the Empire decided otherwise.


They were slaves for the exclusive use of the nobles. They carried out agricultural and livestock work for them, and did not consider themselves linked to another social group. The children of the yanaconas inherited this condition.


They were also slaves, but they were considered more dangerous. Within this category were included those who rose up against the Empire; for this reason they were treated with less consideration, since they were constantly punished for having made that decision.

They were prisoners of war who were unable to admit that they had been defeated by the Empire. Both the wives and children of the prisoner were considered gang members, and all were assigned difficult tasks in unhealthy environments.

There are records that indicate that the State even granted them some land so that they could survive with their own labor. Likewise, some piñas could become yanaconas whenever a noble made the decision to promote them.

Hatun rune

The hatun rana were the bulk of the population and were especially in charge of agricultural, livestock and fishing work. Without deciding for themselves, they could be used to work on land that belonged to the government or to participate in military exercises.

The State was assigning responsibilities to the hatun runa from an early age, and these were increasing as the men approached the age of majority. When they married, they would serve exclusively the State for the rest of their lives.


«Inca Empire» on Wikipedia. Retrieved on October 17, 2019 from Wikipedia: wikipedia.org
«Social organization in the Inca Empire» in History of Peru. Retrieved on October 17, 2019 from History of Peru: historiaperuana.pe
«Political and Social Organization» at Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. Retrieved on October 17, 2019 from Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile: uc.cl
«The Inca Empire: the social organization» in El Popular. Retrieved on October 17, 2019 from El Popular: elpopular.pe
«Inca society» in Discover Peru. Retrieved on October 17, 2019 from Discover Peru: discover-peru.org
“Incas Social Hierarchy”in Hierarchy Structure. Retrieved on October 17, 2019 from Hierarchy Structure: hierarchystructure.com

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