KINGDOM OF THE SUN: The Inca, Empire Builders of the Americas by Ruth Karen

KINGDOM OF THE SUN: The Inca, Empire Builders of the Americas

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There are really two books here, not meant for quite the same audience, and the second negates many of the virtues of the first. Karen begins with a cultural history of the Inca Empire, emphasizing the unparalleled security that this hierarchic, centralized system provided in exchange for the loss of mobility, social and geographic, and any notion of personal privacy. Also in the forefront of this sober essay is a discussion of how the Incas assimilated the best features of conquered societies--everything from textiles and pottery-making to architecture, and the organization of the Inca army, which proved invincible until it met up with a small band of conquistadors who were clever (or just irreverent) enough to break time-honored rules, such as the one against fighting at night. Later, Karen applies this assimilated material in two fictionalized vignettes which describe, first, the ""graduation exercises"" of a vassal prince, Huaman, and his secret doubts about the lack of individual liberty and creativity under Inca rule and, later, an apprentice Chosen Woman, Ima Sumac (sic), who is pondering her future vocation and decides to become a Virgin of the Sun rather than a wife of concubine because ""she found it difficult to think of herself as a possession."" If one assumes that human nature is everywhere the same, these portraits might well have validity, but in the absence of any real evidence they do little more than parrot contemporary criticisms. Karen has used this same bifocal method in her treatment of the Mayas, Song of the Quail; here the results are suspect and while this volume may be more attractively put together and far more inviting than, say, Beals' Incredible Incas (1973) we can only recommend it for readers sophisticated enough to realize the extent to which Huaman and Ima Sumac are hypothetical constructs.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1975
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Four Winds