I'm reading the Wikipedia page about the execution of Atahualpa.

It says he was garroted:

In accordance with his request, he was executed by strangling with a garrote on July 26, 1533

But the picture on the right, which is taken from the Library of Congress, clearly shows him being burned at the stake:

enter image description here

So which is true? Why does the description vary from the depiction?

  • It looks like some diligent research is needed. For example, the German Wikipedia states (Google translation): "In a sham trial, Atahualpa was sentenced to death by burning for charges including usurpation, idolatry, incest, fratricide and rebellion. [...] The execution took place immediately afterwards, on July 26, 1533, in the central square of Cajamarca. When Atahualpa was assured that if he were baptized he would not be burned at the stake, he agreed and was strangled with the garrotte." This description of events jibes with the picture.
    – njuffa
    Aug 20, 2023 at 10:50
  • George Kubler, "The behavior of Atahualpa, 1531-1533." The Hispanic American Historical Review, Vol. 25, No. 4, Nov. 1945, pp. 413-427: " He accepted baptism at the moment of execution, after the most cursory of catechetical exercises, to escape being burned to death, and in the hope that his body might be given the customary funeral honors. " Kubler cites Christóbal de Molina and Pedro Pizarro for this.
    – njuffa
    Aug 20, 2023 at 11:15
  • 1
    Pedro Pizarro (tr. Philip Ainsworth Means), Relation of the Discovery and Conquest of the Kingdoms of Peru. New York: The Cortes Society 1921, pp. 218-219: "And so they filled him with apprehension and against his will he sentenced Atabalipa to death, commanding that they give him the garrote and that when he was dead he should be burned because he had his sisters for wives. ...
    – njuffa
    Aug 20, 2023 at 11:32
  • 1
    ... And he asked if they would burn him should he become a Christian and they told him no, and he said that if they would not burn him, he would be baptized and so Fray Vicente baptized him, and they gave him the garrote, and on another day they interred him in the church which we Spaniards have in Caxamalca."
    – njuffa
    Aug 20, 2023 at 11:32
  • 1
    @njuffa But in our picture there is hay under his feet and a soldier with a fire. It's clearly burning at the stake Aug 20, 2023 at 12:46

1 Answer 1


He was garroted then burned.

From Narrative of the Incas,

Since the marquis was now determined to kill him, he ordered that the sentence be read and that they take him out to be burned. So they took Atahualpa out to burn him without waiting for the captain who had gone looking for these warriors. When Atahualpa was tied to the stake, Dray Vixene de alverde asked him if he wished to become a Christian. He said yes and he was baptized and given the name Francisco. Since he was now a Christian, they begged the marquis to permit him to be garroted.

To carry out the sentence, he ordered that some straw be thrown over him and be lighted. Atahualpa was then garroted and they threw straw over him and scorched him. Thus Atahualpa died. When he was dead, Fray Vicente had him removed from the stake and buried him in the church there in Cajamarca.

Here is a 1596 piece by Theodor de Bry depicting the garroting:

enter image description here
[Science Photo Library]


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