The Richest People of All Time – Hall of Fame

Given all the recent talk about Jeff Bezos becoming the world’s richest person, I thought it would be worthwhile looking back through history to work out who have been the richest people of all time to grace this Earth.

Conveniently, I came across the following graphic from Visual Capital, which does the job for us. If you haven’t come across Visual Capital, they do a great job of sharing quality content in graphical format. I would highly recommend subscribing if you haven’t done so previously.

Richest-people-of-ancient-history-full by-Visual-Capitalist
via Visual-Capitalist

Obviously given the challenges of converting historic wealth into today’s terms, the above analysis should not be taken too seriously. The list also does not consider anyone from the Industrial Revolution onward, so does not include the likes of John D. Rockefeller. That being said what floored me was the amount of wealth controlled by some of the people on the list like Augustus Caesar. I had just assumed that much like today, that rulers while wealthy, would not have been the wealthiest of their era. I guess as in Augustus’ case, when your possessions include Egypt, it certainly contributes to accelerating your wealth! There were also a few names that I had not come across before including Alan Rufus, Jakob Fogger and Empress Wu. The one that intrigued me the most was Mansa Musa who hailed from a part of the world which we don’t often hear from.

Catalan Atlas BNF Sheet 6 Mansa Musa
via Wikimedia Commons

Musa Keita I (c. 1280—c. 1337) was the tenth Mansa or Sultan of the Mali Empire of West Africa. The Mali Empire included parts of modern day Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia and surrounding areas. His wealth is attributed to the cities he conquered during his rule and the production of vast quantities of gold from his empire.

Although difficult to quantify his wealth, the following account of his procession on the near 4,000 mile pilgrimage to Mecca provides an insight:

“….Mansa Mūsā was accompanied by an impressive caravan consisting of 60,000 men including a personal retinue of 12,000 slaves, all clad in brocade and Persian silk. The emperor himself rode on horseback and was directly preceded by 500 slaves, each carrying a gold-adorned staff. In addition, Mansa Mūsā had a baggage train of 80 camels, each carrying 300 pounds of gold.”1

Sankore Mosque Timbuktu
Sankore Mosque (Baz Lecocq, 20 January 2007)

During his reign, Mansa Musa, also embarked on an extensive construction program raising various institutions such as mosques, libraries and mausoleums within his empire. Notable works include the ancient center of learning, Sankore Madrasah, or University of Sankore (pictured right), which remain to this day as testament to his legacy.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *