PIZARRO, FRANCISCO, the conqueror of Peru, was the illegitimate son of Gonzales Pizarro, a colonel of infantry and a soldier of some distinction. He was born at Truxillo, in Estremadura, Spain, about 1471. Of his youth little is known, but it appears that he was wholly neglected by his parents, was taught neither to read or write, and that in his youth, his principal employment was that of a swineherd. Abandoning this uncongenial employment, he sought the port of Seville and there embarked to seek fortune in the new world. He was in Hispaniola in 1510; later he joined Balboa, and was with that cavalier when he crossed the Isthmus of Panama, and discovered the Pacific. About this time, when a fresh and powerful impulse was given to adventure by the achievements of Cortez, rumors of a country far south, in which gold and silver were said to be as plentiful as iron in Spain, reached Panama, and kindled Pizarro's ambition. He formed a sort of copartnership with Diego de Almagro, an adventurer and a foundling like himself, and Hernando Lugue, an ecclesiastic; and with the funds which the three friends amassed, they were enabled to fit out a small expedition, of which Pizarro took command.
In November 1524, he set sail southward, but went no farther than Quemada Point. Making an agreement (dated March 10th 1526), that all lands, treasures, vassals, etc., that should be discovered, were to be divided equally between them, the three friends, Pizarro, Almagro and Lugue, organized a second expedition consisting of two ships, which set sail for the South Seas. Having reached the port of Santa, in lat. about 9° S., and having really discovered Peru, Pizarro returned to Panama, carrying with him, however, many beautiful and valuable ornaments in gold and silver, which he had obtained from the friendly and generous natives, as well as specimens of wooled cloths of silky texture and brilliant hues, as well as some lamas or alpacas. Unable to find in Panama a sufficient number of volunteers for the invasion of the newly discovered country, the indomitable adventurer returned to Spain in 1525, narrated the story of his discoveries before Charles V and his ministers, described the wealth of the territories, and showed as proof, the gold and silver ornaments and utensils, the manufactures, etc., that he had brought with him. The result of his representation was, that the right of discovery and conquest of Peru, and honorary titles - among others those of Governor and Captain-general of Peru - were conferred upon him. On his side he agreed to raise a certain number of followers, and to send to the Crown of Spain, a fifth of all the treasures he should obtain. Returning to Panama, he set out for Peru for the third and last time, with a well equipped but small force, the number not being more than 180 men, of whom 27 were cavalry. Within ten years, the conquistador made the empire of Peru his own; but he who had surmounted so many stupendous difficulties, who had broken through the lofty barrier of the Andes, and with his group of followers been a victor in so many fields, fell a victim to conspiracy, June 26th, 1541. His conquest of Peru is a drama, in every act of which there is bloodshed; but the drama is at least consistent to the end. Pizarro lived a life of violence, and died a violent and bloody death.