Civilization V CIVILOPEDIA Online
Civilizations and Leaders


603 AD - 683 AD




Leader of the Maya

Game Info:

The Long Count

After researching Theology, receive a bonus Great Person at the end of every Maya Long Count calendar cycle (every 394 years). Each bonus person can only be chosen once.


Commonly known as "Pacal the Great," the Mayan king K'inich Janaab' Pakal is perhaps the most renowned of all Mayan rulers. Ascending to the throne at the tender age of 12 and ruling for nearly 70 years thereafter, Pacal inherited the city-state of Palenque during a time of great turmoil. Although the historical details surrounding his reign are often hazy, Pacal is best known for reinvigorating the ravaged city, which had been sacked repeatedly during the rule of his predecessors. Leading a vast construction effort, Pacal oversaw the creation of immense and remarkably detailed structures throughout his domain. Most famously, Pacal's burial tomb, known as the Temple of Inscriptions, features an intricately carved history of the king's life presented in Mayan glyphs. With an astonishing number of well preserved inscriptions, the temple has given contemporary archaeologists crucial insight into the once lost history and culture of this great Mayan city.

Early Life

Pacal's mother, Lady Zac-Kuk, was one of few women to ever rule independently over a Mayan city-state. Typically the crown was only passed on to the son of a king, but in the absence of a suitable male heir, leadership was bestowed upon Lady Zac-Kuk, who asserted her right to the throne as the granddaughter of a past queen. Ruling for 3 years until Pacal came of age, this unusual deviation in the traditionally patriarchal society led directly to the later efforts of Pacal to legitimize his reign and the rule of his family line.

When Pacal did take the throne in 615, the city of Palenque was in a tumultuous position, having been the target of frequent incursions from the neighboring kingdom of Calakmul in the preceding years. Making a clear statement to Palenque's rivals early in his reign, Pacal sent his own raiding parties against the Calakmul, capturing several of their leaders and sacrificing them in retribution for the attacks.

Rejuvenation of Palenque

With the intention of both returning Palenque to its former glory, and also establishing the legitimacy of his rule, Pacal initiated the construction of grand monuments throughout the city, with reliefs extolling the virtues of his family line. A number of impressive structures were built, including the Temple of the Count and the large central complex known simply as "The Palace," featuring a peculiar four-story tower unlike any seen throughout the Mayan realm. Yet, of the many edifices assembled during his reign, none surpassed the Temple of Inscriptions. Built to serve as Pacal's burial tomb, construction began on the stepped pyramid during the final years of his life and continued under his successor, Chan Bahlum II.

Featuring intricate carvings and hieroglyphic text, the temple is best known for housing Pacal's ornate sarcophagus. First discovered by Mexican archeologists in 1952, the walls of Pacal's tomb in the lower level of the temple contain the longest set of Mayan glyphs ever found. Although still the subject of interpretation today, the glyphs appear to chronicle the events of Pacal's life leading up to his death and the ascension of his heir.

The sarcophagus itself features an elaborately detailed stone lid with glyphs representing the planets and several constellations. These celestial elements in particular have contributed to controversial theories regarding the involvement of extraterrestrials in the Mayan culture, similar to theories surrounding the ancient Egyptian pyramids. While most esteemed researchers believe the sarcophagus depicts Pacal's journey to the underworld, other sources interpret this imagery as Pacal at the controls of a spaceship preparing for launch. Inside the sarcophagus, archaeologists discovered the skeletal remains of Pacal, wearing a finely crafted jade mosaic in the form of a mask.

Judgment of History

Pacal the Great is considered by historians to be one of the most revered leaders in Mayan history, based on the remarkable monuments and sculptural creations found throughout Palenque. In his time as king, nearly 1000 structures were assembled in the city, requiring stones that weighed up to 15 tons. Although his past is still being uncovered today, we can say with certainty that his efforts to restore the kingdom of Palenque led to the assembly of some of the greatest monuments and art ever created by the Maya.