The History Rich List: The 5 Wealthiest People to Have Ever Lived

Who is the wealthiest person to have ever walked the Earth? The world’s all-time list of rich people features some interesting individuals, but none of them can match the following five men.

The History Rich List: The 5 Wealthiest People to Have Ever Lived
Mansa Musa of Mali – The King Who Almost Devaluated Gold

Mansa Musa ruled the Mali Empire from 1312 to 1337. His kingdom stretched across Africa and was home to some of the world’s most abundant stores of gold. Musa also controlled several vital trading routes, which contributed considerably to his immense wealth. Known for his affluence and gift-giving, the Malian Emperor once shocked onlookers during a pilgrimage to Mecca by displaying a parade of camels transporting gold staffs, bars, and dust. During his stay in Cairo, he gave away so much of the precious metal that gold almost lost its value among local merchants.

Detail from the Catalan Atlas, 1375 (vellum)
John D Rockefeller – America’s Prime Oil Producer

One of the wealthiest men in history, John D Rockefeller was the founder and major shareholder in Standard Oil Company, which at its prime produced between 90% and 95% of the US’s oil. Rockefeller became the first American billionaire, and according to different sources, donated at least $540 million of his wealth to charity.

Marcus Licinius Crassus – The Wealthiest Roman in History

Known as the richest Roman to have ever lived, Marcus Licinius Crassus was a statesman with multiple ventures. He amassed his vast fortune, which is estimated at 200 million sesterces ($565.9 million in today’s money), mainly through lucrative real estate deals. Crassus acquired most of his properties either by buying them at knock-down prices while they were burning or by confiscating them from their owners.

Andrew Carnegie – From Rags to Riches

A contemporary of John D Rockefeller, Andrew Carnegie was a Scottish-American tycoon. After working for the Pennsylvania Railroad Company, he founded his own steel business, which he later sold to financier J. P. Morgan for a record sum of $480 million. Carnegie received about $250 million as his share from the deal, which made him instantly the second wealthiest person in the world, second only to Rockefeller. However, by the time of his passing, most of his fortune was gone, thanks to massive philanthropic donations.

Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919), the Scottish-born American industrialist and philanthropist.
Mir Osman Ali Khan – The Last Prince of Hyderabad

The last Nizam of the Princely State of Hyderabad, Mir Osman Ali Khan inherited a significant fortune, which included a booming pearl industry and some of the world’s most productive diamond mines. He used his wealth to fund state education programs and an affordable public transportation system.

A portrait of the Nizam of Hyderabad, Osman Ali Khan. The seventh and last nizam ruled Hyderabad between 1911 and 1948, until it was merged back into independent India.These are only five of the wealthiest men to have ever lived, other honorable mentions are Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jakob Fugger, Henry Ford, Nicholas II of Russia, and William the Conqueror. Every one of these men has managed to gather an impressive fortune in their lifetime.