Who is the richest man in human history? No, it wasn’t Jeff Bezos or Bill Gates. Nor is it Carnegie, Rockefeller, or even Augustus Caesar – though our ancient Roman Emperor is in second place.
The richer Augustus Caesar is the richest man ever to live on Earth. He was so rich that when he spent money, the entire economy of medieval Egypt was disrupted.
With his meaningless wealth, this man gave gold and silver to all the poor and poor people he met. Unfortunately, that kindness caused the gold market in Egypt and the Middle East to plunge without braking for 12 years.
We are talking about Mansa Musa, king of the Malian Empire, who ruled West Africa from 1312 until his death in 1337. During his reign on the throne, Musa accumulated a fortune. so large that even historians could not understand.
Perhaps the wealth of the Malian Empire came from the natural gold mines in West Africa. In addition, they also have copper mines and an endless source of cow shells (once used as currency for centuries in Africa). The Malian Empire also possessed a lot of raw materials to create the so-called luxury goods in the Middle Ages such as salt, spices, beads …
If you estimate the wealth of King Musa at the current rate, he once owned a fortune twice as much as Jeff Bezos, or more than 400 billion dollars.
A legendary character but little known
King Musa was born in 1280 in the Empire of Mali. He inherited the kingdom when emperor Mansa Abu-Bakr abdicated in 1312 to begin his unrequited transatlantic expedition.
Musa himself later took part in such a legendary pilgrimage, and that is what wrote his name in history – a history not well known outside Africa.
Kathleen Berzock, curator of the Caravans of Gold, an exhibition that aims to showcase the role of medieval West African nations and their impact on the global economy and culture, said:
Before the pilgrimages of Abu-Bakr and Musa, West African history had been unknown mysteries. We often see Africa today only through the lens of transatlantic slave exchanges without knowing that they once had literally gilded historical pages.
Take for example Mali was a very wealthy and prosperous empire, an influential cultural and commercial hub that spanned both the Sahara and West Africa, spread to the Middle East and even to the East. ASIAN.
Stretching 3,200 km from the Atlantic coast, the Malian Empire is as large as the 9 African countries of today combined, including Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Cote d’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger. , Mauritania, and Chad.
During his reign, King Musa made great contributions to the triple expansion of his empire. He annexed 24 cities, including Timbuktu, which was already an important commercial and academic center. Musa then built great palaces, mosques and universities here. Two of those monuments still exist to this day.
Djinguereber Mosque in Timbuktu was built by Musa in 1327 after the pilgrimage to Mecca. Currently this relic still exists until today.
Musa is, in fact, an ambitious king. But what gave him riches was not wealth stolen from conquests or mergers. It is the natural resource found in Mali that gives him an unbelievable wealth.
The most famous of these were the pure gold mines, the most valuable metal in the world at the time.
“Mansu Musa rules a country with large gold reserves”, Berzock said. “Documents describing the empire of Mali in Arabic written at that time say that, for every diamond that someone found in the land of Mali, they would give to the king half. ”
“I don’t know if you wanted to call it a ‘tax’, the tribute you had to give the king was probably very different at the time. But there’s no doubt that Musa was paid. a lot of gold “.
The 14th century was a time when European nations were struggling with civil war and resource shortages. Meanwhile, Mali’s economy is thriving thanks to its large reserves of natural resources.
According to British Museum estimates, during the reign of Musa, the Malian Empire owned nearly half of the Old World gold reserves (lands known to the Europeans before Christopher Columbus discovered America. 1492, including: Europe, Asia, Africa and surrounding islands).
Pilgrimage goes down in history, cornering the Egyptian market
Despite this wealth, Musa’s reputation became known only after he made a pilgrimage to the legendary Mecca in 1324. It was a calculated trip by Musa. Historians think that through the trip, King Musa wanted to both promote the wealth of his empire of Mali and show his devotion at the same time.
According to the documents of Ibn Faḍl Allah al-Umarī (1301-1349), an Arab scholar and historian living at the same time as King Musa in Egypt, the scale of the Malian Empire’s 1324 pilgrimage was extremely large. . King Musa is said to have brought his entire court with him on this expedition, including more than 60,000 servants, bureaucrats, merchants, camel drivers and 12,000 slaves.
He also built long trains just to carry cattle and cargo and of course a great deal of wealth, all in gold and gold. “He is very, very rich“, Explained Berzock. “His entourage is a reflection of his power and wealth”.
Ibn Khaldun, a historian at that time asked one of the Musa pilgrims and was told: “Every time he stopped, Musa treated his entourage with rare foods and candies.
Arriving in Cairo, he immediately showed his arrogance. After being invited to meet the king of Egypt, al-Malik al-Nasir, he refused because he did not want to have to kneel and kiss the king’s hands.
Historians estimate that Musa’s pilgrimage spent a total of 12.3 tons of gold.
During his time in Cairo, King Musa spent very generously. He gave gold to the poor in Cairo, so much gold that it inflated and devalued the gold in Egypt for 12 consecutive years.
Historians estimate that Musa’s pilgrimage spent a total of 12.3 tons of gold leading to a devaluation across the Middle East, costing the economy around $ 1.5 billion in the period. there.
According to the Al-Umari articles, King Musa had consumed all the gold in Egypt, but when it ran out, he continued to borrow from Cairo merchants to spend it. The king of Mali is willing to pay an extremely large interest to keep anyone’s eyesight, secured by the gold reserves still in the ground in his hometown of Mali.
Returning from Mecca, Musa brought in several Muslim scholars including descendants of the prophet Muhammad, a poet and architect Abu Es Haq es Saheli. It is reported that the king has paid the poet 200 kilograms of gold equivalent to $ 8.2 million at the present time to get his service.
Not only flaunting his wealth, King Musa is credited with building many of the most elaborate mosques in history, some of which still exist today. In addition, he built schools and libraries and turned Timbuktu into an educational center.
In 1337, after 25 years of reigning the Malian Empire, King Musa died at the age of 57 and passed the throne to his son, Mansa Maghan. However, the young king was unable to maintain Mali’s wealth and peace.
By the end of the 14th century, the lands of Mali were gradually occupied by the Songhay empire. So also the nation’s wealth is exhausted. In the 15th century, Mali became a Portuguese colony. The arrival of Europeans in West Africa marked the end of the once prosperous Mali Empire along with the richest king in human history.