Francisco Pizarro was born in Spain. After1502 he lived on the island of Hispaniola and later in Panama, where he became fascinated by reports of the rich Inca empire in Peru. He teamed up with an illiterate adventurer, Diego de Almagro, and a priest, Fernando de Luque, to conquer this empire. After several failed attempts Pizarro, with a force of 168 men, reached the Inca city of Tumbez in 1532.

The Inca empire was in the midst of a civil war. Atahualpa had rebelled against his brother, Huascar, the ruler of the empire. Pizarro massacred Atahualpa's followers, and took him prisoner. Atahualpa paid a huge ransom treasure, but Pizarro collected the treasure and then strangled the prisoner.

The Spaniards captured Cuzco, the Inca capital, and put a relative of Huascar on the throne as a puppet. In 1538 Almagro revolted, but was defeated and put to death by Pizarro's brother, Hernando. Pizarro ruled Peru until 1541 when a group of former followers of Almagro assassinated him.