Bill Gates, Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos are the world’s three richest people, in that order. When it comes to wealth, the world is just mesmerized and often marvels at how these men got to be so rich, with each of them having net worth of tens and tens of billions of dollars. However, a recent post lists the world’s wealthiest people in the history, dating before the industrial revolution. Turns out, the wealth of today’s richest people doesn’t even come close to that of some people in the pre-historic times, though, there is a caveat: valuation.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates’ total wealth is estimated at $86 billion, according to a Forbes list of the world’s richest men. That of legendary investor Warren Buffett is at less than $76 billion. Jeff Bezos, the boss of Amazon, who briefly became the richest person with a surge in the stock price but then slid back to number 3, is worth about $73 billion.
But a recent post by the Visual Capitalist estimates that the richest person in the history had wealth worth a staggering $4.6 trillion. Yes, that’s ‘trillion’. It was the first Roman emperor Augustus Caesar of 63 BCE, who controlled many of the world’s most powerful states and had significant personal holdings as well, the Visual Capitalist wrote in the post. Augustus Caesar’s wealth peaked when he personally owned as his private property the nation of Egypt, which made up of 25-30% of global GDP at the time and had some of the best agricultural land in the Mediterranean, the Visual Capitalist noted.
Among the other trillionaires on the list include King Solomon of Israel in 970 BCE, who finds a mention even in the Bible. Most of King Solomon’s riches came from business, trade and tributes from Arabia and Levant, the Visual Capitalist wrote, adding that the emperor was so rich that his wealth caused silver to become worthless as rocks.
Mughal Indian ruler Akbar The Great (Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar) from the 16th century AD, is also on the list, though his wealth is not quantified in dollar terms. The Visual Capitalist estimates that Akbar controlled 25% of the global GDP at the time as the ruler of most of the Indian subcontinent, or the Mughal empire. During Akbar’s reign, the Mughal empire tripled in size and wealth, with the Mughals’ GDP per capita comparable to the Elizabethan England. The post notes that the Mughal Dynasty was also one of the most effective empires of all times in extracting wealth from the population.
Other than the kings and emperors, and a Chinese empress, one banker and one businessman also make it to the list of the richest people in the history. Jakob Fugger of Germany (1459-1525 AD), who had an estimated $277 billion in wealth with interests in mining, banking and trading, funded kings and popes, and backed wars. On the other hand, Marcus Licinius Crassus of 115 BCE Rome, with his $170 billion in wealth, had a personal net worth equal to the Roman treasury.
The Visual Capitalist is emphatic in pointing out that the list is just for fun, and that there are too many reasons why it cannot be considered as a definitive compilation. It is hard to accurately calculate the wealth during those times as most of it was tied to land or entire empires. Further, the records are often exaggerated and based on oral history, which makes it even more difficult.