The European discovery and conquest of the New World has been justly characterized by historians as a momentous event whose impact affected the future course of humanity both positively and negatively. For while it gave the Europeans, inter alia, immeasurable riches and imperial glory, it conversely brought calamity to the indigenous peoples of the Americas, whose states and empires were eradicated by the conquerors. Yet, the subsequent "exchanges" of European and Indian, both cultural and biological, ultimately resulted in the ethnogenesis of the modern Latin American nations, whose native component in such regions as the Andean, remains vital, even dominant.
This synoptic study purports to examine the role played by the Greek artillery officer Pedro de Candia in the conquest of the Incas, a cataclysmic occurrence causing the demise of the greatest native empire of the New World, which stretched over 2500 miles along the western coast of South America. Incidentally, it points to the fact that the perpetrators of this dastardly deed were not exclusively Spaniards, or Iberian peninsulares generally, but also Levantine mercenaries in the service of Castille, who had fled to the West as a consequence of the expansion of the Ottoman Muslims into the Byzantine East. Thus, victims of a brutal conquest at one end of the world had, mutatis mutandis, joined the ranks of conquerors at the other end. The study, based primarily on the translated works of Pedro`s nearly contemporary Garcilaso de la Vega and the classic work of Prescott which incorporates additional early sources of the conquista, along with relevant materials on the Greek presence in Spain and its provenance, constitutes an undergraduate`s attempt to gain some understanding of one of the most colorful of the conquistadores, whose actions contributed to the obliteration of the most majestic of the indigenous empires of the Americas!
One of our primary sources of information regarding Pedro de Candia consists of the memoirs of Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616), the son of an Inca princess and a conquistador who belonged to the first generation of Spaniards coming to the Americas after Columbus. This monumental work masterfully edited and introduced by Alain Gheerbrant (The Incas, The Royal Commentaries of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega 1539-1616. London: Cassel, 1963) is an indispensable guide to the student of the conquest of the Incas. Though Garcilaso had left Peru in 1560, at the age of 21 to serve for 30 years in the Spanish army, his dual loyalties and historical experiences emanating from his mixed ancestry, enabled him to gain a profound understanding of both the Inca and Spanish perspectives on the clash of the two cultures. It is to be noted that some modern scholars have questioned his accounts of the evolution of the Inca empire and its institutions prior to Pizarro`s time, noting discrepancies with other chroniclers (see, J. Malden Mason, The Ancient Civilization of Peru, Pelican ed. Reprinted 1961, pp. 109-110). However, in matters relating to the conquest, his credibility is rarely challenged. Regarding Pedro de Candia, Garcilaso speaks authoritatively, perhaps drawing information on the conqueror inter alia, from Pedro`s son, whom he knew personally from grammar school in Cuzco. This acquaintance suggests that Garcilaso may have been exposed to family traditions or versions of Pedro`s role in the Inca drama, which could have colored his own interpretation of the persona and exploits of the Greek conquistador. Similarly, Garcilaso`s royal Inca ancestry through his mother Isabel Chimp pu Ocelo, cousin of Huascar, Atahualpa`s brother and challenger for the throne, might have disposed him to be inimical to the Inca emperor who in 1532 had ordered the mass slaughter of Huascar`s family, a fate his mother barely escaped (Mason, p. 131). Scholars, however, such as P.A. Means, generally consider Garcilaso`s work to be the basis of the pro-Inca tradition of the conquest in opposition to interpretations following Francisco of Toledo`s Spanish perspective (Cf. Gheerbrant, The Royal Commentaries, pp. XL-XLVIII).
In recounting the first exploits of Pizarro, Garcilaso (Royal Commentaries, p. 313) records that among the 13 companions of the conqueror was a Greek named Pedro de Candia = Peter of Crete, (the island was known as Candia then), whom he describes as a strong, brave, good Christian man of imposing size and physique. Though Garcilaso had not seen Pedro personally, he could assign to him these physical characteristics with confidence, since he knew in school his 12 year old son, whose size was twice that of his schoolmates. In this account, it was Pedro who requested permission from Pizarro to explore singly the valley of Tumbez, thus becoming the first European to land in Inca territory. However, Mason, (p.131f.), following Prescott and his primary sources, places the first invasion of Inca territory much earlier, in 1523, when Alejo Garcia invaded their land through Paraguay. Garcilaso`s description of Pedro`s landing in Tumbez is colorful and dramatic: Dressed in an impressive military manner, armed with a sword and shield and holding in his right hand a wooden cross, 3 feet long, he proceeded to the city with confidence and an air of dominance, to the great amazement of the natives who wondered whether the bearded newcomer was human or a god! Thus, the elders of Tumbez and the Inca official known as Curaca, determined to solve this enigma by releasing on Pedro the untamed tiger and lion (Jaguar), kept for their king Huaina Kapac. Then, a miraculous event occurred: The wild beasts approached and sat quietly at Pedro`s feet while he held the cross above them, thus demonstrating to the Indians the power of the Christian symbol. Convinced of his divinity, they began to worship him as the son of the Sun and revealed to him their immense treasures, amazing him as much as he had amazed them!
Subsequently, Garcilaso relates that Pedro failed to convince his companions of the many wonders he had witnessed; thus, the ship returned to Panama leaving behind 2-3 Spaniards to await the future return of the rest. The remaining account of Pedro`s story is disjointed in Gheerbrant`s discussion which makes no reference to other sources (Royal Commentaries, pp. 414-415 n. 5): Pedro`s life, like that of many other conquistadores ended tragically. While serving as a chief artillery officer of the younger Diego de Almagro against the government forces of Vaca de Castro at the battle of Chupas in 1542, he was struck and killed by his employer who suspected him, perhaps justifiably, of treachery and complicity with the enemy. Gheerbrant also records the origins of the 13 companions of Pizarro, a motley force consisting of 3 Castillans, 4 Andalucians, 5 others and one Greek (pp. 414-415 n. 4). Thus, the data relating to Pedro de Candia`s exploits in Garcilaso and his editor, though important, are incomplete.
Fortunately Prescott, one of the giants of 19th century historiography, whose literary style and acumen recall the greatness of Gibbon and Thucydides, has provided us with additional information on Pedro`s activities drawn from sources that supplement Garcilaso (William H. Prescott, History of the Conquest of Peru, Everyman`s Library, 1963). Thus, he is one of the 13 men on the island of Gallo who crossed the symbolic line drawn by Pizarro inviting them to follow him in a campaign to the land of the Incas (p. 159 and n. 1-3). In Prescott`s account, the pilot Ruiz was the first to do so, followed by Pedro de Candia, who is identified as a cavalier, a man of noble status. This information, based on Montecinos` Anales, refers to Pedro de Candia as Griego, natural de Candia and gives the names of the other 12 companions of Pizarro.
A second mention of Pedro de Candia in Prescott`s account of the conquest of the Incas is associated with the landing at Tumbez (pp. 165-169). In this version, it was Alonso de Molina with a Negro companion who, at the invitation of a local Inca official (orejon), a previous visitor to Pizarro`s ship, first landed at Tumbez. Molina`s description of the riches he encountered there, however, failed to convince Pizarro who questioned his veracity and "resolved to send a more discreet and trustworthy emissary on the "following day" (p. 167) to provide him with a more reliable report. This information, drawn from Herrera and Zarate, if trustworthy, reveals the special relationship of Pizarro with his Greek companion, whom he entrusted with such an undertaking in preference to his own Spanish compatriots! For it was Pedro de Candia, the "Greek cavalier" who, armed with his sword and his arquebuse, was sent on shore and dazzled the natives with his splendid appearance and magnificent display of military skills. In this instance, Prescott also records the jaguar incident, basing his version on Herrera, Cieza de Leon and Garcilaso, as he claims (p. 168 n.1): "But Don Pedro was a good Catholic and he gently laid the cross which he wore around his neck on the animal`s back," which was crouching at his feet." In Garcilaso`s narrative, however, Pedro carried a large wooden cross in his hand, which suggests that Prescott`s account is not based on him, but the other sources cited. This discrepancy, along with the claim that Pedro de Candia, rather than Alonso de Molina, was the first European to land at Tumbez, reinforce the suspicion that Garcilaso`s source was Pedro de Candia`s son who may well have recalled his family`s version of these events. Given the fact that both Pedro`s and de Molina`s narratives of the Tumbez landing had been questioned by their companions, Pedro`s family claims have as much validity as the competing account. The subsequent description of the marvels Pedro witnessed at Tumbez (pp.168-169), especially that of the gardens of the convent destined for Inca brides, "glowing with imitation of fruits and vegetables all in pure gold and silver," which was drawn from Mentocinos` Anales, does not appear to have been convincing to Pizarro, as Prescott notes. However, when the conqueror left Panama for Spain in 1528 to report on the discoveries and request the endorsement of a campaign for the conquest of Peru, a scheme opposed by the governor of Panama, Pedro de los Rios, he took with him Pedro de Candia, along with some natives, 3 llamas, and Inca golden objects, to help him make his case (Prescott, based on Montesinos, pp. 175-177). The selection of Pedro suggests again that he was Pizarro`s close confidant, the most talented and influential of his legendary 13 companions and possibly a man of considerable reputation in Spain. Thus, Charles I was convinced by the two men to approve the plan for the conquest of the Incas, and appointed Pizarro governor of Peru, while Pedro de Candia was officially named chief of artillery of the fleet dispatched to the New World, a position he held until his tragic death (Prescott, p. 187).
Pedro`s crucial role in the conquest of the Incas was again manifested at the battle of Cajamarca in 1534, where he appeared with a few soldiers and his artillery, which he stationed in the city`s fortress. It was from this locality that the fatal artillery blast was fired, perhaps by Pedro himself, that gave the signal for the fierce attack of the Spaniards which resulted in the slaughter and destruction of the Inca people and army and the capture of King Atahualpa (pp. 254-256). The use of artillery, commanded by Pedro, was the decisive factor causing the defeat of the Incas, for as Prescott relates: "The latter (Incas) taken by surprise, stunned by the report of artillery and muskets, the echoes of which reverberated like thunder from the surrounding buildings, and blinded by the smoke which rolled in sulphurous volumes along the square, were seized with a panic" (pp. 253-254). For they were literally "helpless before Spanish guns, armor and horses," as historians note (See e.g. J.A. Ellis, Latin America: Its People and Institutions. New York: The Bruce Publishing Co., 1971, p. 45).
In discussing the subsequent wars of the Almagros against the Pizarros, Prescott also provides materials drawn from other sources that shed additional light on Pedro`s activities in the land of the Incas (pp. 444-445). In the uprising of 1542, the younger Almagro`s forces were strengthened by the large cannons built under the supervision of Pedro de Candia, "who, with a number of his countrymen-Levantines as they were called-was well acquainted with this manufacture." This account takes into consideration facts which were either ignored or considered by Garcilaso to be trivial, i.e. the presence of a group of Levantine Greeks in the Spanish conquista. Moreover, the association of these Levantines with the manufacture of weapons and cannons, which had played decisive roles in the defeat of the Incas at Cajamarca and affected to a considerable degree the outcome of the Almagro-Pizarro wars, makes their presence in the New World significant. Clearly, the contribution of Pedro and his Greeks to these events also signifies the introduction of the art of manufacture of superior weapons of war to Peru, weapons not inferior to those of Milan, as Ventura Beltran had noted (Prescott, p. 445 no 2 and cf. n.1). It was, in fact, the guns cast by Pedro and his Greeks on which the young Almagro, whom Pedro had joined after his mistreatment by Hernando Pizarro, relied for victory at Chupas. Pedro`s allegiance to Almagro, however, was questionable and his ineffective use of weapons during the battle, viewed as an act of treason, led Almagro to kill him with his own hands! (Prescott, 453-454). Thus, Almagro`s dependence on Pedro`s guns for victory, proved to be disastrous. Had Pedro de Candia remained loyal to him, the fate of Peru might have taken a different course, giving victory to the half-Indian Almagro and the indigenous Incas, on whom he had to depend in order to withstand the royal Spanish reaction to his schemes. Therefore, Pedro`s role in the events that shaped the destiny of the Incas, from his landing at Tumbez until his ignominious death in 1542, was considerable, if not pivotal.
It is interesting to note that while Prescott was aware of the presence of Levantine soldiers in the Spanish armies that conquered the New World, he did not place them in the broader historical context to which they belong. For it was the fall of Byzantium to the Ottomans that led waves of Greek immigrants to Catholic Europe, from Venice, where they served as stradioti against the Turks, to Spain where they established a small community in Toledo and distinguished themselves as humanists, artists, soldiers, and experts in the manufacture of cannons and firearms (Deno Geanakoplos, Byzantine East and Latin West, Harper Torchbooks, 1963, p. 148f.). It was only natural that in the epoch-making voyages of exploration of an unknown world, landlocked Castille would use the expertise and services of the Greek professional soldiers, sailors and adventurers seeking refuge and employment in the Iberian peninsula. Thus, a historical paradox occurred: the displaced victims of the demise of a great empire in the East fought for the destruction of another great empire in the West, in a striking metamorphosis of the conquered into conquerors.
On the basis of the limited source materials available to the non-specialist then, a synoptic account of Pedro de Candia`s life emerges: Like many of his Greek compatriots, he probably fought in Venetian service against the Turks and then came to Spain from where he followed Pedro de los Rios to America. In the New World, he joined Francisco Pizarro`s and Diego de Almagro`s first exploration of the coast of Peru. Pedro was one of the legendary 13 men of Pizarro in the islands of Gallo and Gorgona and perhaps the first European to land in the Inca land of Tumbez. Though his report on the Incas was viewed as hyperbolic, Pizarro took him with him to Spain to inform Charles I of the discoveries of the land of the Incas and was rewarded by the Crown with a title of the Spanish nobility and the rank of chief gunner. Pedro played an important role in the battle of Cajamarca and the capture of Atahualpa. Subsequently, he seems to have established himself at Cuzco, where his son attended grammar school, and made weapons and ammunition for Pizarro in his war against the Almagros. However, his arrest by Hernando Pizarro after an unsuccessful expedition beyond the Andes, led Pedro to the camp of Almagro at the battle of Chupas, where his betrayal of the latter, resulted in the tragic death of the Greek conquistador. As Gheerbrant notes (Royal Commentaries, pp. XXII-XXIII), the legendary soldier who had been portrayed by Garcilaso as the first European to set foot on Inca soil, the man who dared walk the streets of Tumbez alone, the Christian warrior who tamed the wild beasts of the Incas with the cross in a manner recalling scenes of Byzantine hagiography, died the most ignominious of deaths at the hands of Almagro: a fate unworthy of his protagonistic role in the tragic drama of the European conquest of the majestic empire of the Incas! But then, sic transit gloria mundi!
Demetrios Spyridakis is a doctoral student at Columbia University`s Graduate School of Education. He is currently pursuing the Ed.D. (Doctor of Education) degree and his research interests involve an interdisciplinary study of issues of democracy in education. During his time at Columbia, Demetrios earned an Ed.M. (Master of Education) degree in the concentration of "Philosophy and Education." Before moving to New York City, Demetrios earned an M.A. from the University of California, Davis Graduate School of Education. In the Fall of 2006, Demetrios served as an intern for the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Members of the committee included, among others, Senator Edward Kennedy, Vice President Joseph Biden, Arlen Specter, Diane Feinstein, and Samuel Brownback.
Ellis, Joseph A. Latin America: Its People and Institutions. (New York: Bruce Publishing Co., 1971). Geanakoplos, Deno J. Byzantine East and Latin West. (Harper Torchbooks, 1966). Gheerbrant, Alain, ed. The Incas, The Royal Commentaries of the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega (1539-1616), edited and introduced by Alain Gheerbrant (Cassel: London 1963).
Hemming, John. The Conquest of the Incas. (Hancourt, 1973).
Mason, J. Malden. The Ancient Civilizations of Peru (A Pelican Book, 1963 reprint).
Prescott, William H. A History of the Conquest of Peru (Everyman`s Library, 1963).
* Photos 1-2-3-4-5 In the Land of Peru by Barbara Kasselouris