1902 Encyclopedia > Francisco Pizarro

Francisco Pizarro
Spanish explorer and discoverer of Peru
(c. 1471-1541)

FRANCISCO PIZARRO (c. 1471-1541), discover of Peru, and the principal hero of its conquest, born at Truxillo in Estremadura, Spain, about the year 1471, was an illegitimate son of Gonzalo Pizarro, who as colonel of infantry afterwards served in Italy under Gonsalvo de Cordova and in Navarre, with some distinction.

Francisco Pizarro image

Francisco Pizarro

Of Pizarro’s early years hardly anything is known; but he appears to have been only poorly cared for, and his education was certainly neglected.

Shortly after the news of the discovery of the New World had reached Spain he was in Seville, and thence found his across the Atlantic; there he is first head of in 1510 as having taken part in an expedition from Hispaniola to Urabá under Alonzo de Ojeda, by whom, in his absence, he was entrusted with the charge of the unfortunate settlement at San Sebastian.

Afterwards he accomplished Balboa to Darien; and under Balboa’s successor, Pedrarias, he received a "repartimento," and became a cattle farmer at Panama, where in 1522 he entered into a partnership with a priest named Hernando de Luque and a soldier named Diego de Almagro for purposes of exploration and conquest towards the south. An expedition along the coast at New Granada (November 1524) was unfortunate, but supplied various confirmations of rumours previously heard as to the existence of a great and opulent empire farther to the south.

On March 10, 1526, Pizarro, Almagro, and Luque renewed their compact, but in a much more solemn and explicit manner, to conquer and divide equally among themselves this empire still undiscovered this empire still undiscovered, and Pizarro and Almagro, with a force of about one hundred and sixty men, again sailed from Panama. The force was too small to effect much at the time, and was at length recalled by the governor, but Pizarro was not to be shaken, and, though he was left for months with but thirteen followers on a small island without ship or stores, persisted in his enterprise till at length he had coasted as far as to about 9° S. lat., and obtained distinct accounts of the Peruvian empire.

The governor still showing little disposition to encourage the adventurers, Pizarro resolved to apply to the sovereign in person for help, and with this object sailed from Panama for Spain in the spring of 1528, reaching Seville in early summer. After long and tedious delays, the queen, in Charles’s absence, executed at Toledo on 26th July 1529 the famous capitulacion by which Pizarro was upon certain conditions made governor and captain-general of the province of "New Castile" for the distance of 200 leagues along the newly discovered coast, and invested with all the authority and grant was that within six months he should raise a sufficiently equipped force of two hundred and fifty men, of whom one hundred might be drawn from the colonies; but this he had some difficulty in fulfilling.

Sailing from San Lucar clandestinely (for his due complement was not yet made up) in January 1530, Pizarro was afterwards joined by his brother Hernando with the remaining vessels, and when the expedition left Panama in January of the following year it numbered three ships, one hundred and eighty men, and twenty-seven horses. A footing was established on the mainland at Tumbez, whence Pizarro set out for the interior in May 1532. San Miguel de Piura was founded a few weeks afterwards, and Caxamarca entered on November 15th. The subsequent movements of Pizarro belong to the history of PERU (see vol. xviii. p. 677 ; and, for authorities, comp. p. 679).

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