11 Richest People in History
Since we live in a digital age, we get used to hearing about every little movement from the world’s richest people. We watch Paris Hilton cavort around Cannes, or hear all about the tropical island the newest Silicon Valley billionaire purchased. We’ve gotten so used to hearing about the billionaires alive in our time that we forget that these people aren’t actually the richest people that the world has ever known.
A list compiled recently ranked the richest people in history, and only three are alive today. Check out a few of the ones you may not have heard about on the list below.
Mansa Musa I of Mali
The person who topped the list of the richest people to ever live is one that no one really has heard of before. His name was Mansa Musa I, and he was an emperor who ruled the Malian Empire in the 14th century. He made himself extraordinarily wealthy by exploiting the rich natural resources that his country was famous for: salt and gold. Researchers estimate that today, his net worth would sit at around $400 billion.
Unfortunately, his heirs were unable to hang on to the family fortune — although he did build many beneficial public buildings like mosques, by the next generation, the entire fortune had evaporated.
Every kid in school learns about Augustus Caesar and the Roman Empire that he built at the beginning of the 1st century. What people may not realize is that Caesar was one of the wealthiest men who ever lived, since his personal wealth made up almost one-fifth of the entire economy of the Empire.
For a while, he was the owner of all of the land in Egypt — that’s hard to top. Plus, it would have been politically dangerous for any other citizen to aspire to own more land than the emperor himself, which is probably why no one else owned entire countries.
John D. Rockefeller
It’s easy to see the influence that John D. Rockefeller and the rest of the Rockefeller Family had on the United States. In every major city in the country, there’s a building named for them, and in New York City where they lived and worked, there’s an especially visible presence.
John D. Rockefeller, the patriarch of the family, began investing his money in oil in 1863, and less than 20 years later, he had cornered the market. By 1880, economic historians estimate that he owned 90% of American-produced oil. When he died, his net worth was 2% of the economic output of America. Can you imagine someone now owning 2% of the entire nation’s wealth? With inflation, Rockefeller would have been worth about $341 billion now.