Neither Bill Gates nor Elon Musk could compare their wealth to that of Mansa Musa , a 14th-century ruler of the Mali empire .
Billionaires have existed throughout history, but it seems that today they are more media and extravagant. However, neither Elon Musk nor Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos could compare to who has been the true richest man in history .
According to historians, that name belongs to Mansa Musa , the 14th century West African ruler of the Mali Empire , who ruled from 1312 until his death in 1337. How much money did he have and how did he get it?
The richest man in the world
Mansa Musa was the tenth mansa (king of kings) of the Mali Empire . Adjusting his wealth for our times – including inflation – his fortune would be $400 billion. The richest man these days, Bernard Arnault, maintains 186 billion.
He inherited the kingdom when the meek Abu-Bakr abdicated his position in 1312 to embark on an expedition across the Atlantic, never to return.
Mali was a wealthy and successful empire, where trade, people, and ideas traveled freely across the Sahara between West Africa, the Middle East, and even East Asia. Stretching 3,200 kilometers from the Atlantic coast, it included parts of what are now Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, the Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Mauritania, and Chad.
Musa was an ambitious ruler, but it was the natural resources found on his lands that offered him unimaginable wealth. The most famous, gold, was the most valuable in the world at that time. He also owned copper, cowrie shells, spices, salt, and other luxuries.
His determination to increase the wealth, trade, and economic influence of his lands, as well as his devotion to Islam, led him to make his famous epic pilgrimage to Mecca in 1324.
His journey to Mecca
Most of what we know about this lavish pilgrimage comes from the writings of Al-Umari, an Arab scholar and historian in Egypt 10 years after Musa’s visit, who described, based on firsthand accounts, Musa’s stay. in Cairo on the way to Mecca.
“They [the witnesses] talk about the gifts that he has given, but also about the gold that he has brought with him and his generosity,” said Kathleen Berzock, curator of Caravans of Gold, an exhibition exploring the global impact of medieval West Africa, to IFL Science.
Mansa Musa is physically described by the chronicler Al-Maqrizi upon his arrival in Egypt as “A young man of swarthy colour, with a pleasant face and a handsome figure”.
The story points out that Musa’s gold gifts were so high that their value plummeted, causing great damage to Cairo’s economy. The caravan was approximately 60 thousand people.
Mansa Musa is believed to have died in 1332, but what actually happened is debated. Some records indicate that he may have died in 1325, but others indicate that in 1337.