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The Story of the Richest Man in History

Who do you think was the richest man in human history? Drop stereotypes: this is neither Rothschild, nor Rockefeller, nor Bill Gates. The most incredible wealth belonged to a medieval black emperor named Mansa Musa. Translated to the current rate, his fortune is estimated at $400 billion, and it turned out to be enough to create a long economic crisis for half the world.

Who was the richest man in history

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Mansa Musa (aka Kanku Musa) was the ruler of the 14th century Mali empire and, not surprisingly, a man with an unusual fate. By 1312, that is, at the time of Musa’s ascension to the throne, the state of Mali was a completely prosperous power and was not in vain called the “empire”. Thanks to the conquests, it became larger than the whole of Western Europe in size, and in terms of development and culture was not inferior to most of its countries. You can imagine an alternative story in which it was Mali who invented gunpowder and captured half the world, but everything turned out as it turned out.

The remaining descriptions of Mansa Musa are incredibly contradictory, even if they are given by the same witness. The historian and traveler al-Omari tells the following about the emperor:

“This king is the greatest of the black kings – Muslims. His country is the most extensive, with the largest army. The Malian king is the most powerful of them, the greatest of kings in the possession, the most beautiful in his circumstances, the most victorious in relation to enemies and the most powerful to do good ”

However, all the same, al-Omari, talking about his appearance, describes one of the most influential rulers of the world to him as ridiculous, dressed like a farce jester king with a bad taste:

“The royal attire was distinguished by the fact that the king lowered the end of the turban cloth on his forehead and that his trousers were sewn from 20 strips, no one else would risk dressing like that… The sultan of that country sits in his palace on a large platform, on the sides of which there are elephant tusks… His golden weapon is nearby… Behind him is a crowd of sons of the kings of his country… One of them holds a silk umbrella with golden tops and a bird. “

Mans Musa’s extravagant pilgrimage

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But even the wisest ruler, who allows everything to develop in his own way, will certainly have his own oddity. For Mansa Musa, such a weird idea was the desire to show the whole world that Mali is not an outback, but a rich country and an empire that everyone should reckon with. In other words, it seemed to him insufficient to be the richest king of the world, he wanted the whole world to know about it. In 1324, after 12 years of rule, Mansa Musa went on a hajj. That is a pilgrimage to Mecca, which every Muslim is obligated to make. But we understand that the richest man in the world could not just go there like a mere mortal.

For the sake of the hajj, all the money was squeezed out of the country: 80 thousand servants of both sexes accompanied the emperor on a campaign. The rulers of the countries through which Mansa Musa passed, not without reason, feared that he had come in order to start the invasion. All this horde lined up in a huge caravan, loaded with supplies, goods, gifts, weapons, and, of course, gold.

At the head of the column were 500 slaves, each of whom relied on a staff of gold. Mansa Musa himself daily released one of these slaves, thereby showing magnanimity to his people. According to modern estimates, the ruler of Mali took at least 12,750 tons of gold on this path, each of which, as a result, he lost on the road. He returned home not even empty, but with huge debts.

Thanks to the postal system, even in the middle of the Sahara, the emperor feasted on fresh fish and fruits. But most of all contemporaries remember his indulgence in the bizarre whims of his wife, Nieriba Conde, who also participated in the Hajj. Right in the middle of the desert, she became ill, and then Musa ordered to create a pool in this place. Eight thousand workers worked all night, and by the next morning, the empress and five hundred of her concubines frolic in the man-made lake, while the servants, using wineskins, arranged something like a jacuzzi. All this looks like anything, but a modest pilgrimage to the holy places.

On his way to Mecca and back, Mansa Musa gave away gold to everyone. Having reached Egypt, with whose ruler he was in good relations, the emperor bestowed with gold literally every official in the country. Everyone was delighted with the ruler: they passed the stories he told by word of mouth, and the whole city remembered a generous pilgrim with tears of joy in his eyes even twelve years after the events.

People began to prey on a caravan full of gold: upon seeing black people, merchants raised prices. Begging Mansa Musa for money could become a source of instant wealth. As a result, before reaching Mecca, the emperor spent all his gold reserves and even managed to get into debt. Instead of kindness and generosity, he became hostile and bitter towards the Egyptians. Musa realized that he had been deceived in the most brutal way.

And here begins the most interesting part of the story with gold. It turned out to be so many that all these gifts collapsed the markets of noble metals, first in Egypt, and then throughout the Mediterranean. Terrible inflation and financial crisis began, gold went down in value for at least the next 12 years. In a sense, the ruler of Mali managed to take revenge on the exorbitantly greedy owners who stripped the guest to the skin.

After a year, Mansa Musa, probably not the richest man in the world anymore, returned to his homeland. In his absence, imperial military leaders captured the kingdom of Songhai and a powerful trading hub with it. Perhaps only because of this, Mali was able to withstand the loss of its gold and even blossom. In addition, he brought from the journey many talented people: poets, architects, theologians. And with them a huge library, which made Mali a bastion of culture and scientific thought.