Translatio imperii

Translatio imperii (Latin for "transfer of rule") is a historiographical concept that originated from the Middle Ages, in which history is viewed as a linear succession of transfers of an imperium that invests supreme power in a singular ruler, an "emperor" (or sometimes even several emperors, e.g., the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Holy Roman Empire). The concept is closely linked to translatio studii (the geographic movement of learning). Both terms are thought to have their origins in the second chapter of the Book of Daniel in the Hebrew Bible (verses 39–40).[1]


Jacques Le Goff describes the translatio imperii concept as "typical" for the Middle Ages for several reasons:[2]

  • The idea of linearity of time and history was typical for the Middle Ages;
  • The translatio imperii idea typically also neglected simultaneous developments in other parts of the world (of no importance to medieval Europeans);
  • The translatio imperii idea didn't separate "divine" history from the history of "worldly power": medieval Europeans considered divine (supernatural) and material things as part of the same continuum, which was their reality. Also the causality of one reign necessarily leading to its successor was often detailed by the medieval chroniclers, and is seen as a typical medieval approach.

Each medieval author described the translatio imperii as a succession leaving the supreme power in the hands of the monarch ruling the region of the author's provenance:

Later, continued and reinterpreted by modern and contemporary movements and authors (some known examples):

Medieval and Renaissance authors often linked this transfer of power by genealogically attaching a ruling family to an ancient Greek or Trojan hero; this schema was modeled on Virgil's use of Aeneas (a Trojan hero) as progenitor of the city of Rome in his Aeneid. Continuing with this tradition, the twelfth-century Anglo-Norman authors Geoffrey of Monmouth (in his Historia Regum Britanniae) and Wace (in his Brut) linked the founding of Britain to the arrival of Brutus of Troy, son of Aeneas.[7]

In a similar way, the French Renaissance author Jean Lemaire de Belges (in his Les Illustrations de Gaule et Singularités de Troie) linked the founding of Celtic Gaul to the arrival of the Trojan Francus (i.e. Astyanax), the son of Hector; and of Celtic Germany to the arrival of Bavo, the cousin of Priam; in this way he established an illustrious genealogy for Pepin and Charlemagne (the legend of Francus would also serve as the basis for Ronsard's epic poem, "La Franciade").

From the Roman Empire/Byzantine Empire to the Holy Roman EmpireEdit

The cardinal point in the idea of the translatio imperii is the link between the Eastern Roman Empire and the Holy Roman Empire.

From the Inca Empire to the Spanish EmpireEdit

Sayri Túpac, second Inca of Vilcabamba, after negotiating with the viceroy Andrés Hurtado de Mendoza on January 5, 1558, in Lima ceded the rights of his crown to the King of Castile, renouncing his claims as sovereign of the Inca Empire and converting to Catholicism; in exchange, he received a pardon from the "superior government", obtained titles to land and income, recognition of the primogeniture of his lineage, and obtaining the Encomienda del Valle de Yucay [Mayorazgo de Oropesa].[9][10] Later, his successor Titu Cusi Yupanqui, would ratify this transfer with the signing of the treaty of Acobamba [es].

One of the Efigies de los incas o reyes del Perú, in which the Kings of Spain are portrayed as heirs to the rights of the Inca Emperors.

This application of the Translatio Imperii, for the Kingdoms of Peru, was invoked as the legitimacy tool, by the Spanish Empire, for its domain in the Viceroyalty of Peru, while, from these treaties, the incorporation of the Tahuantinsuyo in the Spanish Monarchy, with the official recognition of the Inca royal House [es], which consider the Monarchs of Spain as Kings of Peru, which would encourage the loyalty and fidelity of the Peruvian Monarchists [es] (especially the royalists from the Royal Army of Peru [es]) towards the Spanish monarchy and its promotion of miscegenation.[11]

Given this, the Kings of Spain would be the legitimate successors of the Sapa Incas, therefore, Carlos I of Spain would be succeeding Atahualpa as Emperor of the Kingdoms of Peru, not only in fact, but also in law.[12] Which was referenced in multiple paintings of viceregal art (especially from the School of Cuzco and the Cathedral of Lima), such as the iconic Efigies de los incas o reyes del Perú,[13] present in the Museum of Art of Lima, in which Atahualpa bestows his Scepter of Power to the Spanish Habsburgs (marked with a cross),[14] or the painting by Juan Núñez Vela y Ribera, in the Copacabana monastery, where reference is made to the “poderosissimo Inga D. Carlos II Augustissimo Emperador de la América”.[15] Meanwhile, the King of Spain would flaunt his rights as Sapa Inca, through the title King of the West Indies, which is the sum of the rights of the Inca and Aztec crowns, which has been commemorated with the statues of the Aztec and Inca Emperors at the main entrance of the Royal Palace of Madrid.[16]

This in turn gave guarantees to the Inca Nobility to have recognition of their titles (and traditions of their peoples) in Spanish law, considering themselves twinned with the Spanish Nobility, the indigenous nobility receiving multiple shields and privileges from the Crown. Authors like the Inca Garcilaso de la Vega would make a lot of reference to this Translatio imperii in his works.[17]

The claims of Spanish rights in the Kingdoms of Peru is in this way: Pre-Inca Kingdoms and Andean civilizationsIncan Empire/TahuantinsuyoChristianitySpanish Empire

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Carol Ann Newsom and Brennan W. Breed, Daniel: A Commentary, Westminster John Knox Press, 2014, p. 89.
  2. ^ Le Goff, Jacques. La civilisation de l'Occident médieval. Paris. 1964; English translation (1988): Medieval Civilization, ISBN 0-631-17566-0 – "translatio imperii" is discussed in Part II, Chapter VI, section on "Time, eternity and history".
  3. ^ Latowsky, Anne A. (2013). Emperor of the World: Charlemagne and the Construction of Imperial Authority, 800–1229. Cornell UP. p. 71. ISBN 9780801451485.
  4. ^ De Troyes, Chrétien. Cligès. Circa 1176.
  5. ^ Cipa, H. Erdem; Fetvaci, Emine (2013). Writing History at the Ottoman Court: Editing the Past, Fashioning the Future. Indiana University Press. pp. 86–89. ISBN 978-0253008749.
  6. ^ Prose Edda Prologue
  7. ^ Bratu, Cristian. "Translatio, autorité et affirmation de soi chez Gaimar, Wace et Benoît de Sainte-Maure." The Medieval Chronicle 8 (2013): 135–164.
  8. ^ See Garland, p. 89, who explains that Aetios was attempting to usurp power on behalf of his brother Leo.
  9. ^ Incas, virreyes y presidentes del Perú, Gustavo Siles (1970).
  10. ^ Juan de Betanzos y el Tahuantinsuyo. Nueva edición de la Suma y Narración de los Incas, Rodolfo Cerrón-Palomino (2016).
  11. ^ Calvo, Thomas (2022-05-11), Gaudin, Guillaume; Stumpf, Roberta (eds.), "La omnipresencia de un rey ausente", Las distancias en el gobierno de los imperios ibéricos : Concepciones, experiencias y vínculos, Collection de la Casa de Velázquez, Madrid: Casa de Velázquez, pp. 145–166, ISBN 978-84-9096-345-6, retrieved 2023-02-16
  12. ^ "En busca del Inca, por Rafael Aita – Revista Cocktail" (in Spanish). Retrieved 2023-02-16.
  13. ^ "Efigies de los incas, la legitimación dinástica de la conquista a través del arte". Efigies de los incas, la legitimación dinástica de la conquista a través del arte. Retrieved 2023-02-16.
  15. ^ «Efigie de los Incas o Reyes». Cusco School. Century XVIII. Collection of the Carmen Museum of Maipú, Chile.
  16. ^ "¿Qué pintan Moctezuma y Atahualpa en el Palacio Real?". abc (in Spanish). 2014-12-13. Retrieved 2023-02-16.
  17. ^ Travelling Concepts, Transformation of Values, Opening of New Ways – The Inca Garcilaso de la Vega as Transcultural Translator-_eleonore_zapf.pdf