Almost five hundred years ago, Hernando Cortez walked into the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, now Mexico City, and presented their leader, Montezuma II with an ultimatum. Give me your gold or you'll die.
Cortex had been amazed by the great highways leading to the city, it's complex aqueducts, sheer size and beauty of it's temples and pyramids.
He had expected to find savages, but instead found a civilization of 15 million, it’s own language, an advanced calendar and a central government.
Cortez marched into Montezuma’s grand palace, which was big enough to house the entire Spanish army and presented his demand. On the off chance Cortez was a god, Montezuma handed over his gold.
Cortez killed him anyway and surrounded the city. Cut off from food and water, it’s 240,000 inhabitants died 80 days later.
A civilization that traced it’s roots back to centuries before Christ—had collapsed overnight.
By the 1680s the Spanish controlled the whole continent and appeared unstoppable. That is, until they turned north and took on the Apaches.
The Apaches seemed primitive. Unlike the Aztecs and the Incas, they hadn’t put up a single pyramid, paved a single highway, or even built a town to speak of.
Yet, while it took just two years for the Spanish to conquer the mighty Aztec and Inca civilizations, the Apaches successfully held off the Spanish for 200 years.
Source for this post: “The Starfish and the Spider: The Unstoppable Power of Leaderless Organizations” (Ori Brafman, Rod Beckstrom), ch 1.