What Was the Incas’ Social Structure?

Gustavo M/CC-BY 2.0

The Incas’ social structure was divided into four levels: Sapa Inca, royalty, nobility and the ayllu. The Sapa Inca was the most powerful person in the entire empire; he served as the king of the Incas and was believed to be the “son of the sun.”

Below the Sapa Inca were the royalty, or descendants of the leader. These were the only people who had a chance to be future leaders. The Sapa Inca’s wife was called the “coya.” She served as the queen of society. The son of the Sapa Inca was called the “auqyi.” Relatives of the Sapa Inca were referred to as “royals.”

Beneath the royals were the nobility. These people were other members of the royal relative family and were referred to as “royal panacas.” Another way to be in the nobility class was to achieve distinction through education or other training fields.

The majority of Inca society was composed of the ayllu. These people were the basis for economic activity. The ayllu was led by the curaca. Ayllu members were expected to work the land, take care of the cattle and pay taxes. In exchange for their work, the Sapa Inca provided the people with provisions found elsewhere in the world.