Have you ever wondered who is the richest person who ever lived? Many historians believe the answer is Mansa Musa, the ruler of the mighty Mali empire.
According to BBC, historians think that the wealth of Mansa Musa far surpassed that of all modern-day billionaires. The huge amounts of gold he possessed made him probably the richest man to have ever lived.
Mansa Musa ruled the enormous Mali empire in the 14th century, and he had so much gold, that even his slaves were covered in this precious metal.
"Musa was the crowning jewel, so to speak, of a long lineage of West African imperial rulers. Depending on who makes the estimate, many say that his inflation-adjusted fortune would be the equivalent of 400-600 billion dollars today, no one knows for sure”, says Dr. Rudolf Ware of the University of California.
"Such estimates are subjective, but they are based on the quantities of gold that Mansa Musa had access to," explained Kathleen Bickford Berzock of The Bloc Museum of Art.
By contrast, the fortune of Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, considered to be the richest person in the world today, is estimated at just over 180 billion dollars.
An Unimaginable Scene
In 1324, the city of Cairo was stunned by one of the most awe-inspiring sights its citizens had ever seen.
Marching through its streets was an entourage of thousands of African soldiers, courtiers, traders, scholars, and slaves all covered in gold.
Horses and camels with gold leafing on their fur pulled vast amounts of riches that were handed out to the poor and traded for goods. You can all imagine this incredible scene!
So much gold was handed out that the Cairo economy basically crashed and would not recover for ten years.
At the helm, sitting on a gold throne and holding a gold staff was their leader, widely believed to be the richest
human in the history of the world, Mansa Musa, the ruler of the Mali empire.
The Great Mali Empire
The Mali empire was a vast and powerful entity that stretched from the Atlantic coast of West Africa to the desert of today's Niger.
"This region that the Mali Empire extended across was a source for some of the purest gold circulating at that time when the most powerful polities were largely based in a gold standard," says Kathleen Bickford Berzock.
"In medieval times, there was probably only one state that had as much political, military, and economic power such aș the empire of Mali, and that is probably China," commented Dr. Rudolf Ware.
Mansa Musa started a golden age of education and invested huge resources of the empire in this key point. In Timbuktu, for example, there were 80 universities in the 1400s. It was a complex, literate society. Scholars from all over the world came to study things such as astronomy, theology, and sciences in this West African empire.
The Mali Empire prospered during the life of Mansa Musa. He died in 1337, but the legacy was continued by his sons. Only after the emergence of rival empires and new forms of trade, did the empire declined in the 15th century.
Very little is known today in the West about the great African emperor Mansa Musa, the richest person who ever lived.