The illegitimate son of a Spanish gentleman, Pizarro served under Spanish conquistador Alonso de Ojeda during his expedition to Colombia in 1510 and was with Vasco Nunez de Balboa when he discovered the Pacific Ocean in 1513. Hearing legends of the great wealth of the Incas in South America, Pizarro formed an alliance with fellow conquistador Diego de Almagro in 1524 and sailed back to the Americas. Their first expedition only penetrated as far as present-day Ecuador, but their second reached farther and discovered evidence of the existence of the Inca kingdom.
Securing aid from Emperor Charles V, and a guarantee that he, not Almagro, would receive the majority of the expedition’s future profits, Pizarro sailed to Peru and landed at Tumbes in 1532. He led his army up the Andes Mountains to the Inca city of Cajamarca and met with Atahualpa, the king of the Inca kingdom of Quito. After winning his trust, Pizarro captured Atahualpa, exacted a room full of gold as ransom for his life, and then treacherously had him executed. The conquest of Peru came quickly to Pizarro and his army, and in 1533 Inca resistance came to an end with their defeat at Cuzco.
Pizarro, now the governor of Peru, founded new settlements, including Lima, and granted Almagro the conquest of Chile as appeasement for claiming the riches of the Inca civilization for himself. However, Pizarro failed to provide Almagro with all the land he had promised, and Almagro responded by seizing Cuzco in 1538. Pizarro sent his half brother, Hernando, to reclaim the city, and Almagro was defeated and put to death. Three years later, on June 26, 1541, a group hired by Almagro’s former adherents penetrated Pizarro’s palace and slew the conquistador while he was eating dinner. Shortly after his death, Diego el Monzo, Almagro’s son, proclaimed himself governor of Peru.