5) Jakob Fugger (lived from 1459 AD to 1525 AD) – Peak wealth: $221 billion
As opposed to the nobles, kings and emperors mentioned in this list, Jakob Fugger was a pure ‘businessman’ in every sense of the word. Descending from the Augsburg-based merchant family of Fuggers, Jacob made his fortune in various fields including banking, mining and trading. The monetary transactions were mainly made with the powerful House of Hapsburg, which was the leading dynasty of Europe during that time.
On the other hand, his extensive mining operations covered various regions including Tyrol and Bohemia, with the mines of different exotic minerals like silver, copper, quicksilver and cinnabar. And, in spite of all these profitable commercial endeavors, Jakob remained a senior member of the clergy for the most of his life.
4) William the Conqueror (lived from 1028 AD to 1087 AD) – Peak wealth: $229.5 billion
A descendant of the Vikings and the last man in the history of mankind to successfully invade Britain (an elusive feat for both Napoleon and Hitler), William the Conqueror came from the region of Normandy, in northern France. His earlier life was spent on consolidating his power as the Duke of Normandy – an incredible achievement considering his ‘bastard’ origins. But the momentous turn of destiny came when he became the contender for the throne of England during the 1060’s.
He launched an invasion of the Anglo-Saxon dominated island in 1066, and decisively defeated the English king King Harold II at the Battle of Hastings. Finally, William himself was crowned the new king on Christmas Day, in 25th December, 1066 – a defining episode that changed the very English way of living with the introduction of Norman-French nobility and continental European customs. The dramatic increase in royal land holdings also allowed the conqueror from Normandy to become one of the richest men/rulers from history.
3) Akbar the Great (lived from 1542 AD to 1605 AD) – Peak wealth: $340 billion
Perhaps the greatest emperor of the fabled Mughal Dynasty, and a man far ahead of his time, Akbar’s tremendous influence in his state mirrored the economic, cultural and political evolution of the Indian subcontinent. But where Akbar truly surpassed his peers was not his grandeur, but his adaptability to practical scenarios – a ruling pattern which was epitomized by a centralized system of administration throughout the Mughal empire.
The administrative scope was equally complemented by huge engineering as well as land reclamation projects, many of which led to huge agricultural outputs of cash crops. This was bolstered by an efficient and streamlined tax system that was inclusive yet unbiased pertaining to most of the communities within the Indian state. In regard to all these advancements, it comes as no surprise that the wealth of the flourishing empire almost tripled during Akbar’s reign – a figure which translated around 99 million rupees belonging to just the emperor’s treasury.
2) Mansa Musa I (lived from 1280 AD to 1337 AD) – Peak wealth: $400 billion
Mansa Musa, the tenth Mansa (king of kings) of the wealthy Malian Empire, made his legendary pilgrimage to Mecca with 60,000 companions and 12,000 slaves, each of whom carried 4 lb gold bars. The magnificent procession also included heralds who dressed ostentatiously in fine silk from head to toe and carried gold staffs, while being accompanied by a host of baggage animals including horses, donkeys and camels. The logistical support and the vast quantity of food for the ‘company’ was of course provided from the king’s purse.
Each of these 80 camels also carried around 300 lbs of gold dust, an impressive quantity which was given away to many poor people along the long route from Central Africa to Arabia via Egypt. However, Musa’s generosity came with a price – with so much wealth distribution and influx of gold devaluing the precious metal’s worth in the region. As a result, inflation shot up to all time high for the next ten years; which to some degree was rectified when Musa borrowed huge quantities of gold from money lenders of Cairo at an especially high interest. In any case, this was the only time recorded in history when a single man controlled the gold prices around the relatively wealthy region of the Mediterranean!
1) King Solomon (reigned from 970 BC to 931 BC) – Peak wealth: $2.1 trillion
We have decided to take a route of conjecture with our final entry, with the most of the information coming from Biblical as well as apocryphal references. To that end, the Bible clearly states that Solomon (or Jedidiah in Hebrew) was the richest person than any man who came before him. Sources also mentioned how Solomon reigned nearly for 40 years, and every year he received tributes of 25 tons of gold – which alone equates to the wondrous sum of $64.3 billion in current monetary values.
Of course, the king had a myriad of other sources of income too, including business, trade and other annual tributes paid to him from the neighboring realms of Arabia and Levant. All of his palace items were created from gold – which reportedly even led to devaluing of other precious stuff like silver and cedar wood. And perhaps King Solomon’s throne epitomized such opulence – with its pure gold coating and ivory inlays, along with twelve lion statues and even a mere foot stool entirely crafted from solid gold.